Monday, May 18, 2015

Improving relationships with MBTI

On the internet, it's common to find all kinds of quick tests that assess your personality type. What colour are you? What occupation should you have? What Harry Potter character are you? And so on. Most of these are for fun and a little hokey because we all know that there is more to someone's personality than can be prescribed by just answering a few simple questions.

However, I've always felt that there is some merit to understanding your family members' personalities for pragmatic purposes. Knowing what makes them tick, what they need, the circumstances under which they function best, etc, can be helpful in growing an appreciation of each other and reducing conflicts.

By far, the most comprehensive personality test out there is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Some people find this doesn't work for them as their personality might not fall anywhere within the 16 types but for our family, it's pretty accurate.

The MBTI test is not free but you can try a very similar one here. Kenneth, Lesley-Anne and I tried it and we got the same results as when we did the MBTI previously. When kids are too young, their personality might still be forming so it's better to take the test when they're older. Andre only took the test about a year ago and his results surprised me a little. I always thought he was an ENFP but it turns out he's an ESFJ. This means he's caring, social and popular (think cheerleader!) but needs structure and certainty (it explains why every time I ask him to try something new, he will get anxious and bombard me with all sorts of "what if" questions).

Knowing personality types can be very helpful for parenting and learning how best to respond to our kids. Eg Kenneth, the ESTJ, focuses on discipline and structure while I, the INTP, focuses on knowledge. So together, we provide a good deal of physical and intellectual support. Unfortunately, since Kenneth and I are both T on the Thinking-Feeling scale, we tend to overlook emotional support and the double whammy is that both our kids are Fs (Lesley-Anne is an INFP), meaning this is precisely what they need! When our kids encounter a setback, Kenneth is likely to lecture and I tend to lead them through where they went wrong. But what they actually crave is emotional support and comfort. Understanding this, we now consciously try to offer this when they're feeling discouraged (even though it's quite counter-intuitive to us).

The knowledge can also allow for more effective assignment of tasks. Hypothetically if we're going on a holiday and we want to divvy up the tasks as such:

1) Logistics: transport and hotel arrangements, planning meals, getting tickets etc
2) Knowledge: do research on the historical and cultural background of the places we visit, significance of attractions, etc
3) Social: mingling with the locals, talking and spending time with them to understand how they live
4) Journaling: creating a visual and written record of photos, pictures and blog of the trip

Based on our personality types, the ideal assignment would be:

Logistics: Kenneth (Administrator extraordinaire)
Knowledge: Me ("There's always an opportunity for learning!")
Social: Andre (Mr Personality)
Journaling: Lesley-Anne (Inspired by beauty everywhere)

The nightmare version of this would be:

Logistics: Me ("Is the train leaving in 15 or 50 minutes?")
Knowledge: Andre ("Leaning Tower of wonder if there's anything to eat...")
Social: Lesley-Anne ("Just say hello...*10 minutes later*... just say hello...")
Journaling: Kenneth ("I think I'll just stick a smiley face after every picture.")

As mentioned, not everyone finds that MBTI works for them but it does for us. If you can find a type that describes you very well, the MBTI can be useful in many ways, such as pointing the way to career types and understanding the way you learn. Do know though, then over time, one's personality can also change slightly so you shouldn't let it define you.

Even if you don't take it too seriously, it's fun checking out the many MBTI charts out there to find out which Star Wars character you are, which Disney character you are and so on. Here's a funny one on prayer - spot on for me!  

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