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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 January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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