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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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1 19 Golden Pieces of Relationship Advice From the Experts 2 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know 3 How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship 4 How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future 5 This Is What Happens When You Move Out Of the Comfort Zone

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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