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How the Myers-Briggs Test Saved My Relationship with My Sister

How the Myers-Briggs Test Saved My Relationship with My Sister

Once upon a time, an ENFP fell in love with an INTJ and followed her around until she agreed to marry him. Their letters combined to create two baby girls – another ENFP and an INFJ. As the children grew, their personalities and differences grew as well.

ENFP: Gosh you’re just too uptight.

INFJ: Wow I’m so organized.

ENFP: Can’t we sleep in and go to breakfast later?

INFJ: I have a busy agenda today so we need to leave by 8:27.

ENFP: Just relax.

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INFJ: Get your act together!

I’m the INFJ. The ENFP? That’s my big sister.

I don’t get how her brain works. I really don’t. More often than not it drives me insane. How the heck does “be there at 1pm” morph into “show up at 1:30ish” inside her maze of a mind?

She doesn’t get how my brain works. She just doesn’t. Time and time again I’ve driven her all the way to and from and back down to crazy town. The way I love to stick to carefully arranged plans is something she can’t even begin to fathom.

Even though we share genes, parents, upbringings, and two out of four letters of our Myers-Briggs results, it doesn’t mean we understand each other. When you change one letter, the way the other letters operate shift. Plus, within the trait each letter represents, there are various versions.

The Myers-Briggs test operates on a spectrum.

It’s far from a yes or no question and answer kind of thing. Complex, right? And then you throw in the whole “every person is unique” thing, and BOOM – you don’t even understand your own flesh and blood.

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Welcome to my life.

ENFP. INFJ. Apparently, they’re supposed to be super compatible personality types. My sister, being her typical people-pleasing ENFP self, would absolutely agree. She loves me.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my sister more than I could ever explain, but I wouldn’t exactly call us compatible. Maybe on a good day I’d call us semi-complementary. But we should never share an apartment. Someone’s head would get chopped off… and I’m pretty 100% sure I’d be the one holding the knife.

“Awwwwww you loveeeeeee me sooooo much!!”

That, plus a suffocating snuggle, was my sister’s response when I told her I was writing this. (Such an ENFP reaction.)

I laughed nervously as I pried her hands from my shoulders and explained how it’s about our differences…. our very, very, VERY different differences.

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In reality, I can’t wait for her to read this.

Because while it is about how opposite we are – and how sometimes I pretend I’m asleep so I don’t have to participate in a sister snuggle session – this is more about understanding each other. That’s something I couldn’t do before the Myers-Briggs test.

It me a glimpse of what her creative, colorful, fly by the seat of her pants brain looks like. Let me tell you, it does NOT look like mine. Sure, there are some similarities (we are sisters after all), but for the most part they’re two separate paintings on two separate canvases. Thanks to the extensive personality descriptions available all over the Internet, I’m learning how to approach her painting. I’m starting to get it… I’m starting to get her.

I used to see her actions as deliberate attacks on me. When I’m on a tight schedule and ready to get in the car, 95% of the time my sister will still have a few pieces of hair left to curl. *Cue suspenseful music* Why is she always trying to purposefully make my life miserable?!

Reality check – she’s not. She’s just an ENFP, and I’m just an INFJ. I remind myself that we’re not wired the same way. I sit in the car, count down the minutes until we’ll be late, send her a few more “hurry up” texts, and I wait. When she gets in the car, I let out a “finally” and we drive off analyzing the latest radio hit like we always do.

Crisis averted.

I ain’t even mad about it later.

I don’t hold a grudge or harbor resentment like my passive-aggressive self would like to do. It’s okay because I know our brains aren’t set up the same way. They’re not clones – they’re unique, special snowflakes. Sometimes they clash, and sometimes they harmonize just like our voices.

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Turns out her aversion to schedules isn’t her way of firing shots in my organization-obsessed direction. Coming up with a new plan last minute isn’t her way of insulting my to-do list. She’s not trying to rip it up or burn it or tell me I’m stupid. Her brain just came up with a brilliant idea. Why should I see that as offensive? It’s just an ENFP thing.

Even though I don’t love her perpetual lateness or the way she turns her nose up at the sight of structure, I love my sister. And I’m starting to understand how to love her brain the way it needs to be loved.

After all, we’re just two four-letter acronyms learning how to appreciate the letters we don’t share.

Thank you, Myers-Briggs.

Featured photo credit: Sister Dance/Donnie Ray Jones via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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