Interpersonal compatibility is such a mystery.
I have no simple answers on the subject, but today I would like to recommend an approach I find to be both useful and entertaining.
“Why can’t we just get along?”
Anyone who found a definitive answer to that question could retire tomorrow. No such Rosetta stone is forthcoming, though. Vast literary and therapeutic industries have sprung up to address the need for partial solutions.
For me, the most helpful – and the most enlightening – compatibility tool in the marketplace of ideas is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
I’m sure many of you have heard of Myers-Briggs Types before and/or measured your own. I took my first test some years ago and have found MBTI categories to be extremely valuable for understanding family and work relationships.
The MBTI measures character and temperament in four areas:
- Introversion/Extroversion – Do crowds exhaust you, or do they feed you? How much do you rely upon the opinions of your peer group? etc.
- iNtuiting/Sensing – How do you take in information? Are you focused item by item and point by point, or do you have a more diffuse awareness of a “big picture”?
- Thinking/Feeling – How do you make decisions: based upon your thoughts, or based upon your feelings?
- Judging/Perceiving – Do you prefer to make a definite decision, or do you prefer to leave your options open? Do others criticize you for being too rigid or for being impossible to pin down? If you make an appointment for 6 p.m., are you there at 6, or are you unaware of the passage of time? Do you fill out your datebook in ink or in pencil?
The MBTI assigns one of two letters to each personality category. The options are highlighted in blue above: I or E, N or S, T or F, and J or P, yielding a total of sixteen possible Types such as “ESFP.”
Once you know your Type and the Types of your loved ones, your relatives, or your colleagues, you might shake your head and say, “So THAT’S why…”
…why she is never willing to make travel plans until the last minute.
…why it seems that we are arguing at cross purposes whenever we discuss politics.
…why our tastes in evening entertainment are diametrically opposed.
…why we don’t seem to understand each other when working together on a home improvement project.
Compatibility can be a painfully serious subject, but I find that working with Myers-Briggs Types often leads to laughs, especially if families or other groups take the tests together.
Much has been written about which Types are most and least compatible in personal and professional settings. This site offers extensive discussion, as do several books. I can recommend Type Talk: The 16 Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love, and Work by Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen.
Most resources agree that the P/J incompatibility is most destructive and most frustrating in relationships, perhaps because issues of day-to-day and long-term commitment are so thorny.
If you have not taken a Myers-Briggs test, I recommend doing so. It is easy, enlightening, and fun.
(As an aside, it is important to note that the Myers-Briggs approach is limited and does not address, for example, the matter of good and evil.)
You might also enjoy trying to guess the Types of your relatives, your boss, politicians, athletes, or other famous figures, dead or alive.
For the record, I am an ISTJ.
More soon (and not in an open-ended way 🙂 ).
Quote for Today
“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.” – Mark Twain