“Helping you gain control over the things you want to change”
How understanding your personality type can make life happier, healthier and more fun
7th July 2020
Are you an INTJ or an ESTP? Do not worry if you do not know what I am talking about, all will become clear. It is all about personality types and how understanding our own type and that of those around us can make our lives easier, happier and more fulfilled.
The alphabet soup above comes from one of the best-known personality test tools, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
I use a version of this system with many of my clients. As well as working to clear the negative beliefs and blocks that are holding someone back, I find it can help to open a discussion of how our personality types influence our behaviour and our lives. I often discover, when discussing these issues with clients, that one aspect of their problems is their perception of themselves. If individuals make life choices based on a misconstrued perception of themselves and how they should be, those are not always the best choices.
For example, they may be in the wrong job. Or they may feel their partner does not understand them or does silly things. They may tell themselves off because they find some aspects of life difficult, being in big gatherings and parties for example, or perhaps they feel guilty because they cannot settle down to routine tasks.
In all these cases understanding personality types can help.
What is the Myers Briggs test?
Myers Briggs is based on the personality types described by the writer Carl Jung in the early part of the 20th century. It focuses on four areas.
The focus of your attention: do you focus on the outside world or on your inner world? (this is called extroversion E or introversion I).
How you process information, do you focus just on the information you receive or do you prefer to interpret it and add your own meaning? (this is called sensing S or intuition N)
How you make decisions, do you focus on logic or do you focus on the people behind the decisions? (this is called thinking T or feeling F).
How you deal with the world around you, do you take a decision and get on with it or do you prefer to keep looking for new information? (this is called judging J or perceiving P)
Myers and Briggs, a mother and daughter team, took these basic categories and developed a set of questionnaires to give people insight on to how they deal with the world. Since its development in the 1940s it has been used in many settings, including in workplaces and to help family and relationship dynamics.
There are 16 main personality types, according to the system. You can take the test yourself online for free by going to these sites.
Myers Briggs is the probably best-known personality test, but there are many others out there. You may have come across some through your work. One is The Belbin test which helps build balanced teams https://www.belbin.com/about/belbin-team-roles/ Here you get names not letters, you may be a shaper, a plant, or a completer-finisher (there are nine types in this test).
If you are interested in this area then click around Google and you will find many different options and you may find one which seems to exactly fit your personality type!
I like Myers Briggs but I am fairly relaxed about choosing between the different tests. Let me explain why.
I my view, the importance of these tests is not just in the results you get. I think their main power is that they enable you to start to change your mindset. By exploring your personality type, you will meet the often startling fact that your way of seeing the world is not necessarily the same as those around you.
Your world view is not the only one
In my job I spend most of my time dealing with the different world views of my clients, that is my job. Most people are not therapists and they never think about this but nearly every day I see the amazed look on the faces of my clients when I introduce this idea. Most people have absolutely no notion that their way of seeing the world is not necessarily shared by others. Yet once people grasp this, they have a key to start changing many of the things which are blocking them or making them unhappy.
Here are a couple of examples I have recently come across when working with clients.
A woman who I was seeing for the first time wanted some advice on helping her son deal with a trauma he had suffered. She was seeing me because she wanted to know how she could best support her son. But she had a problem. Her husband, who she dearly loved and felt very close to, seemed not to be helping at all. She wanted to spend time with him talking through how she felt about the situations with the son, she wanted an acknowledgement of how difficult the situation was.
Her husband on the other hand was approaching the situation by doing research on the Internet, by marshalling all the possible information and making plans ‘to solve this’. My client said she and her husband seemed to be in different worlds. She described it as if they were each ‘dealing with a completely different situation and even a completely different son.’
I spent some time helping my client explore different personality types and she quickly realised that her husband was a senser, working with the information he had gathered, while she was intuitive, wanted to add her own meaning to her information.
She went away from the session and got her husband to do an online Myers-Briggs test with her. Not surprisingly, it showed they were very different personality types.
She came back for another session with me to talk all this through. She had begun to see that these differences were not necessarily a bad thing. And, of course she was right.
Once you are aware of the differences between different personality types, you can begin to appreciate that your partner may have strengths which you do not have and you will have strengths which they lack. By appreciating the differences, you can be stronger together in solving problems. More than that, you can develop a much richer and deeper relationship as you begin to appreciate and explore each other’s world views.
Understanding why you argue with your partner
I often notice how understanding personality types helps people to understand why they argue or sometimes feel frustrated with each other. As you find out more about personality types, you will get an insight into why you can feel uncomfortable with certain aspects of your relationship. A very common example is when an extrovert and an introvert are together. It can be very difficult for an extrovert to understand that their loved-one needs quiet time alone. They can exhaust their partner by wanting to constantly do things and be busy, possibly chatter away and go out all the time.
The introvert can get completely exhausted and overwhelmed by being constantly dragged out to parties and the pub or coming home to find themselves with a houseful of people when they just want some quiet time. On the other hand, the extrovert can feel unloved and unwanted and suspect their partner is ignoring them, when all their partner is doing is recharging by taking some quiet time. The extrovert may also get bored and feel isolated if they cannot see their friends all the time. But once each side understands the other it is usually possible to work out compromises and appreciate each other’s different needs.
Understanding workplace tensions
Clashes of different personality types can affect all the relationships we have, not just our most intimate ones. Another client of mine was having a tough time at work.
She was working on a big change project which was difficult, complex and would make her career if it was successful. She believed that a close colleague, whom she liked a great deal, was blocking her progress.
Every time she came up with a suggestion the colleague seemed unenthusiastic and negative. Luckily, my client worked at a very go-ahead workplace which took team-building and personality types seriously. Both the colleagues took the opportunity to do a Myers-Briggs test which was set up by the HR department. It was soon obvious that my client was a ‘judger’ she had collected all the information, worked out a plan and she was off down the racecourse. Her colleague, on the other hand, was a ‘perceiver’, she kept going back to reconsider and to look for more information.
With this recognition they were able to go forward. My colleague recognised that new information could be useful and ensure the project was not derailed. Her colleague recognised her way of processing things could lead to procrastination and nothing getting finished. With the new insight they could both contribute and make the project a success.
Useful in the time of Coronavirus
An acceptance that different personality types need different things will open up the space for compromise and understanding. In both our personal lives and out work lives we need this like never before. Many of us have been at home with just our partners for very long periods of time and tensions have inevitably arisen. As we return to work, we are having to find new ways of doing things. It has also been a time of fear and pressure, for our health, our finances and our futures. In this situation to understand how we process the world, and to appreciate how our loved ones and out valued colleagues may process it differently is invaluable.
I have been working via Zoom from my home in Henley on Thames for the past months. Now I am heading back to my office in Central London and will be seeing people face to face in Henley as well. If you want to come and see me to try cognitive hypnotherapy and the other techniques and tools I use then do contact me.