Creating a Relationship Based on Personality Type
Learn the real reason why your strong quiet type has trouble expressing his feelings. Or why your social butterfly is always flirting... or why the neatnik in your life just can't leave that dirty sock where it is... or why the hopeless romantic really is blinded by the stars in his eyes.
Barbara Barron-Tieger and Paul Tieger explain that it's not gender but personality type -- your natural tendency to be outgoing or quiet, methodical or whimsical -- that rules the way men and women relate. Drawing on 20 years of experience as well as groundbreaking new research, they offer a book filled with practical advice about the relationship you care most about -- your own. Once you have discovered which personality type describes you and your partner (or potential partner) best, you'll recognize your own behavior patters, understand more about your partner's strengths and quirks, and learn how to navigate the frustrations or rewards of your own specific pairing of personality types.
So take heart -- men and women may not be from different planets after all. Whether you're evaluating a new relationship or looking to strengthen the one you have, this savvy guide will provide fresh insight to help you understand and appreciate your partner as never before.
Susan and Jeff thought they were perfect for each other. They met in college, enjoyed some of the same interests, came from similar backgrounds, and married after both had had time to establish their careers. Although they knew they were different in many ways, they felt a powerful attraction that they attributed to those very differences. Jeff was enthusiastic, outgoing and creative; Susan was gentle, down-to-earth and responsible. Each balanced the other's weaknesses, and together they complemented each other's strengths. But a few months after they were married, their bliss began to fade, replaced by a low-grade, constant tension. Susan's traditional nature surfaced. She was a conservative person at heart and wanted a stable, predictable life. Hardworking, quiet and extremely diligent with all her commitments, she planned carefully for the future, saved their money to buy nice things, and was eager to settle down and raise a family in the town where she'd grown up. But Jeff was the quintessential Renaissance man -- constantly reinventing himself and talking about his many creative ideas. A natural entrepreneur who kept busy developing new ventures -- often on a shoestring -- Jeff was outgoing, flexible, insightful about people and curious about new experiences. Far from wanting to settle down, he longed to travel the globe with Susan, learning as much as he could about other cultures. What was initially a strong attraction between Susan and Jeff was slowly becoming an inescapable source of frustration. Susan tried to get Jeff to commit to buying a house in their community, and Jeff tried to get Susan to consider borrowing a friend's camper so they could at least spend some time traveling and exploring the country. Instead of feeling supported and encouraged for his ideas and curiosity, Jeff felt undermined, criticized and stifled. Try as she might, Susan couldn't help but see the practical problems with most of his ideas. Because she couldn't get Jeff to commit to a definite plan, Susan grew increasingly worried about their future and their financial stability.
Although they tried to talk about their frustrations, their inability to reach each other only led to more frustration and defensiveness. Feeling hurt and unsupported, Susan withdrew, while Jeff vacillated between trying to cajole her into giving it one more try and storming off to spend time with his friends. After 3 years of bickering, retreating and building walls between them, they decided they were just too incompatible and joined the estimated 53 percent of marriages that end in divorce.
What might have happened if Susan and Jeff had had a better, more constructive way of communicating with each other? What if they had not only understood their differences but also viewed them positively and as a source of richness? And what if instead of trying to change each other, they had reveled in their individuality and worked together to establish common ground? Maybe they could have avoided some of the pain they both felt and saved their marriage. Perhaps.
Although not all couples are as seemingly mismatched as Susan and Jeff, many are. According to our latest research -- an extensive couples survey project comprising a scientific survey and in-depth interviews -- more than 40 percent of couples report experiencing regular relationship difficulties that range from vague dissatisfaction and frustration to outright misery. Most couples sincerely want things to be better between them, but because they don't even understand the problems, they can't figure out how to fix them. Why are so many people so dissatisfied? Why is it so difficult to make a relationship work? After all, doesn't "love conquer all?"
Obviously, there are many reasons relationships fail, but an important one is that most people enter into relationships when they're young and inexperienced and simply don't know much about themselves, let alone their partners. When you add to this the enormous pressure put on young people to "settle down" (and get married) by well-meaning parents, friends, religious institutions and media, it's not surprising that so many jump into marriage assuming this is the way it's supposed to be. And despite the fact that the life expectancy today far outpaces that of only a couple of generations ago -- when being married for life meant maybe 20 years -- we still have the expectation that we'll live happily ever after with our one true love, even though that could be as long as 60 years. That's a long time, even for a great marriage!
And is it any surprise that we are attracted to people who are different from us? Like Susan and Jeff, most of us are inexplicably drawn to people who are very different than we are. The qualities that we find charming or exciting during the magical courtship period become much less appealing when we discover that our partners are like that every day! Rather than understand, accept and appreciate our partners for who they are, we unwittingly turn the differences between us into the chief source of our frustration, irritation and dissatisfaction. Instead of celebrating our differences, we resist them; we try to make our partners more like us. And as we do, we chip away at the foundations of our relationships by constantly criticizing, complaining, blaming and dismissing our partners' characteristics and natural tendencies. Most couples engage in this undermining campaign in very subtle and indirect ways; they rarely address the problem honestly and openly. They just stop talking -- really talking. So the overwhelming reason relationships fail is poor communication. This is hardly news. But given the abundance of advice available to people today, it's still amazing and sad that we haven't yet learned how to communicate more effectively with our partners. Many have offered their pet theories about why people have such a hard time finding and sustaining satisfying relationships. Most offer simple, quick-fix approaches, not unlike the latest fad diet that promises a 20-pound weight loss in as many days. And some of these programs deliver, at least temporarily. But ultimately they fail, because they are based on bad science, fail to appreciate the way human beings really act, or both. A whole industry has been created around the notion that gender is to blame, that men and women are so inherently different that they don't even come from the same planet! Since they don't, won't and can't speak the same language, they can never be expected to understand each other, much less communicate well.
Debunking the Myth That It's All About Gender
There's no denying that those who espouse the viewpoint that gender is an inevitable barrier to good communication have struck a chord with millions of people who are frustrated with the way they deal with their partners. Most people would agree that men and women are different, and in some very profound ways. Some women do fit the female stereotype of being sensitive, emotional, nurturing and open, just as some men fit the male stereotype of being tough, competitive, emotionally self-contained and independent. But as our research study demonstrated, it turns out these men and women represent only between 30 and 40 percent of the American population. Although advice based on such gender stereotypes often is helpful to these individuals, it doesn't accurately describe the 60 to 70 percent of people who don't fit the stereotype.
So if it isn't gender that accounts for the communication failures between people that are the leading cause of conflict, what is it? It is our personality differences, our basic natures. People are not all the same. We have different energy levels, notice different aspects of the world around us, make decisions based on different criteria, and structure our lives in different ways depending on what makes us most comfortable. These important and fundamental characteristics combine to create the whole personality, a sum total that goes way beyond our gender. This is a comprehensive perspective we get through the powerful insights of Personality Type.
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Personality Type
Actually, there's a pretty good chance you're already familiar with Personality Type, and perhaps you've even discovered your own type by reading one of the many books on the subject, taking a psychological inventory called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI),* or attending a workshop or seminar. Over the past 25 years, Personality Type has helped more than 30 million people gain valuable insights into themselves and others and become more successful in their personal and professional lives. Originally based on the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, the popularity of Personality Type is due to the work of two remarkable American women, Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. It is such an exceptional tool that it is used by thousands of counselors, therapists, and educators every day, and it is considered by many Fortune 500 companies to be the most effective tool for improving interpersonal communication.
So what is Personality Type, and how does knowing about it help people communicate better? Personality Type is a system of understanding human behavior. There are sixteen distinctly different personality types -- all equally valuable, each with its own natural strengths and potential weaknesses. And although every individual is unique, people of the same type are often remarkably similar in important ways, such as how outgoing or private, realistic or imaginative, logical or emotional, or serious or playful they are. Rather than relying on limiting stereotypes about men and women, Personality Type paints a clearer and richer portrait of a person by enabling each individual to understand his or her values, drives and motivations. In hundreds of in-depth interviews with couples of each combination who know and use Personality Type to better understand each other, it wasn't at all surprising that practically all of them echoed the same sentiment: "I only wish we had learned about Type earlier in our relationship. It would have made all the difference in the world!" And when asked what advice they would give to other couples of their same type combination, virtually all said the same thing: "Learn about Personality Type."