Entries Tagged as "Conflict"

Citizenship

Is looking at nationality and citizenship (synonyms in the dictionary, by the way) the same as looking at a personality typological system like the Myers-Briggs® theory?

When I used to teach the MBTI® Certification course, we’d always search for real life examples of typologies (versus traits).  A typology is a category, like ESTJ (my type) or INFP.  Traits are distinguished by measuring how much you have of a particular characteristic, such as dominance.

And then there’s nationality and citizenship – a typology.  Are you an American or a Brit? Even though we all speak English, there are differences!  Perhaps some might argue that they are more American than another American. Both people would be in the same category and the “more” or “less” label is irrelevant.  (And yes, I know there are dual citizens, but bear with me, please)

In the present political climate, the issue of citizenship has come to the forefront.
Many of us, including me, take citizenship for granted.  We are born into it.  My Father was not – he was a German immigrant in 1923, but he was awarded citizenship as a minor when his parents received their citizenship papers.

I volunteer in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class and occasionally the topic of citizenship comes up, although that is not our focus. We often have discussions like this to encourage the use of language. 

Once we were talking about why people volunteer and one student piped up, “because it makes you look good for the citizenship process.” 

Another time we were discussing famous women in the world, including Susan B. Anthony.  Those who had recently taken the U.S. citizenship exam knew that she was an early leader in the struggle to gain equality for women, including the right to vote. 

Recently some European friends of mine looked at their citizenship status and decided to make some changes. Both were British and both really liked and were proud of being part of Europe.  With the European Union, they could easily go between different countries and work anywhere in Europe.  They felt comfortable being Europeans! 

That feeling came crashing down the day after the Brexit vote, when Great Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU).  Suddenly that comfort was gone. 

Patricia held British and Canadian citizenship papers, but she wanted to be part of the European Union.  She found a way to gain Irish citizenship which keeps her in the EU.   

Ki is a British citizen married to Guenther, a German citizen and they have been together nearly 30 years.  In fact, one of their first dates was in Berlin the day the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989. 

Ki decided to apply for German citizenship; she wanted to remain a European. She had lived in Germany for at least eight years, she knew the German language, and she knew the German legal system and society.  This past Spring, she was awarded it. 

Here is what Guenther wrote about this momentous occasion and I include this with their permission:

“Greetings from a truly European couple:
 
Against the dark background of both our parents’ countries' history I feel especially thankful that Ki, myself and our children have been privileged to enjoy more than SIXTY years of relative prosperity and peace in Central Europe.

And happy that our continuing love for each other has proven that there is a different way to hatred, division, war and bloodshed that our parents had to go through!!
 
 Let us not take any of that for granted,
 Let us fight to preserve what has been achieved,
 Let us work for improvements where changes are needed.
 Without destroying and betraying the ideals!!”


Perhaps the typology of citizenship is not what is important here.  What is important is the peace that is achieved when differences are overcome. As I.F. Stone wrote, we look for “… the hope of someday bringing about one world, in which men [and women] will enjoy the differences of the human garden instead of killing each other over them.”

The typology of personality type may help us understand what is in that garden and the importance of those differences.

 

 

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The Perennial Pleasures of ISTJs

Every year, my ISTJ sister spends a week at her condo in Florida and for the last few years, I’ve been joining her. We do the same things she’s been doing every year: kayak on the Manatee River, swim in the condo’s pool, go out on a sunset sail, sit on the beach, walk along the sound, and eat crab legs at three different restaurants.

If you’re an ENFP, you may think that sounds like hell, repeating the same activities year after year. You would prefer to go to a place you’ve never been to, and explore all of its possibilities.

But wait a minute, let me make a case for the ISTJ way of vacationing, because I suspect that anyone, of any type, might enjoy it.  

First of all, because my sister has been doing these things for so many years, she knows how to do them right. For example, when we go kayaking, we go on Monday because that’s when we’re most likely to be alone on the river. The night before, she takes two bottles of “Simply Lemonade,” empties a little off the top, replaces it with vodka and puts the bottles in the freezer. The next morning, she packs a bag for each of us with a bottle of spiked lemonade, a bottle of frozen water, and a hefty serving of dry roasted peanuts. We each bring a small cushion to put behind us, which makes the seat very comfortable, and for three hours, we drift quietly down the river, paddling only to steer the kayak, admiring the trees and flowers, eating peanuts and getting a pleasant vodka buzz. It’s heaven, and I look forward to it all year.

Of course there are surprises; there are always surprises. One year the kayak rental owners had a peacock on the premises who was showing off his plumage, another year, an owl was perched in a tree right above us and hooted down at us. One year we saw an alligator sunning himself, and one year we actually saw a manatee. 

The point is, my sister has done this so many times she has worked out the kinks, and she knows how to make the experience simply perfect.

I once read a quote by a world famous chef. His advice to young cooks is to make a dish so many times that you have experienced almost everything that can go wrong with it, so you know how to avoid the possible errors. When it comes to vacations, my sister is like that famous chef. She has made all of the errors, and she knows how to avoid them.

ISTJs get a lot of flack for being resistant to change, but there are good reasons for their resistance. It’s because the routines and traditions that they have developed were hard won. They made all of the mistakes and learned all of the lessons, so now their finished product works every time. We need to remember that when we go in with our ideas for big changes. First, we need to ask why things are the way they are, and to acknowledge all of the painful lessons that have been learned.

I know that when I first arrive at the condo, the chicken salad and gazpacho that my sister has prepared will taste absolutely delicious and just the way I expect it. I know that while I’m with her I’ll never be hungry, thirsty, hot, cold, uncomfortable, bored or afraid, because my sister has experienced it all before me and now knows how to avoid it. I don’t have to repeat her mistakes, and that’s a great gift she gives to me.

This year, we did some new things, mostly because so many people had recommended them to my sister that their experience almost made up for her lack of experience. The new things were fun, but they weren’t perfect, like the old things. We came away with a little bit of dissatisfaction and things we would change if we came back next year.

For years, the people at my sister’s condo community complained about the temperature of their swimming pool. It always seemed too warm or too cold. But now the maintenance men seemed to have found the perfect temperature, where you don’t get any shock when you jump in, but it still feels refreshing after the hot sun. It took at least 20 years and a lot of aggravation to find that perfect temperature. I never jump in now without remembering what went into that lovely water. Thank god for the things that are perfect every time, and for the people (mostly ISTJs) who finally got them to that place.

 

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Going with the Flow and Over the Cliff

My son’s girlfriend, Amy, is an ISFP. One night last summer, my son made a fire in our fire pit and we were all sitting around admiring it. “There’s a trick to making a good fire,” said my son. Amy jumped up and said, “Show me.” Pretty soon she was helping him move logs around the fire and collect sticks from the woods.

That struck me. It’s rare that people show that much interest in other people’s activities. Even if we think it would be nice to know the trick to a good fire, most of us would probably just ask. Getting up from a comfortable chair to actually participate in fire-making, well that’s something very few of us would do.

You might think it’s because she’s in love, but I see her do it with everyone. With my daughter – a real foodie – Amy has long, animated conversations about good restaurants. Even with our family on New Year’s Day, Amy seemed to really enjoy listening to us read out the family memories of the year that I have been recording each month, and asked me questions about how I keep the records.

Amy reminds me of two of my friends who are also SFPs.  Over the years, I have always been impressed with how “present” they are. When they are with me, they seem to be completely with me. The attentive, happy look on their faces makes me feel like there is nowhere else they’d rather be, and they are just having a marvelous time.

If I suggest an outing or a get together, they are always up for it. Whatever is going on in the moment is the most interesting thing in the world to them.

They are both mothers, and when I used to watch them with their kids, I’d think, “It must be nice to grow up with someone who looks like she just loves being with you, and would not want to change a thing about you,” because that is just the vibe they sent to their children. My SFP friends send that vibe to me as well. When they leave, I always feel as if I am perfect just the way I am.

I wish I could return that vibe. Unfortunately, there is one thing that I would really like to change about them.

That sensing and perceiving ability to enjoy the present moment, to go with the flow, to adapt to what is in front of you, can be a real handicap when the flow is going in a bad direction. Over the years, I often heard my SFP friends complain about the way they felt in their marriages. I can’t count how many times I said to them, “Did you tell him? Does he know?”

They never did tell them though, and over time things built up to a point where it became intolerable for them, and they suddenly walked out. Their spouses were completely shocked. The children were too, and took sides with their dads, and my friends are now, for the most part, alone.

I could never understand why they never said to their husbands, “This is the way I’m feeling when I’m with you,” or “This is what I need and am not getting.” I also didn’t understand why they never confided their feelings to their children. But I realize now that talking about negative feelings is a lot easier for me than for them.

We both share the feeling types’ dread of confrontation, but being an intuitive, I’m more comfortable with language and discussions about anything. The secret to initiating a difficult conversation is finding words that aren’t going to bring retaliation on your head, and even though I tried to give my friends examples of things they could say to their spouses, like, “When you said that, I felt unwanted,” they didn’t seem to trust words or expressing vulnerability. It was more natural for them to express their feelings in sudden and dramatic action.

Part of the reason they didn’t trust words may have been that they both had a history of getting “out-talked” by their husbands and being confused and silenced by them, whereas no one has ever been able to leave me at a loss for words, at least not for long.

Also, being a judging type, I’m more comfortable with directing the action than going with the flow. I believe that bad things just keep getting worse unless you do something to stop them, whereas my friends seemed to believe that if they just waited long enough, things would sort themselves out on their own.

Thank goodness that Amy, my son’s girlfriend, doesn’t remind me of my friends in that way. When my son has done something thoughtless and bone-headed, she tells him soon afterwards, in a nice way, that the action hurt her, and they talk it out. Amy only reminds me of the things I love about my SFP friends - that it’s wonderful to be with someone who thoroughly enjoys you and whatever you are doing.

 

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Easy People

We just got back from visiting four National Parks in Utah. I was amazed by the spectacular sights we saw, like the towering rock walls in Zion, and the strange looking  “hoodoo” rocks in Bryce Canyon.

I was even more amazed, however, that we could spend eight days traveling with another couple, and at the end of the trip, be even fonder of them than when we began.     

I proposed a toast to the other couple at the end of our Utah trip, and I gave them the highest compliment I can give someone. I told them they were “easy” people.

We spend a lot of time talking about difficult people, and they are obviously on our minds more than easy people. This time, however, it was easy people who were on my mind. What makes a person easy, I wondered?

It’s not their types. The man we were traveling with is an ISFJ, and his wife is an ESTJ. ISFJs can be over-sensitive and anxious in new situations. He was not. ESTJs can be controlling and critical. She was not. In fact, if I had not known their types from years ago, I would have had a very hard time figuring them out. They were clearly mature people who had learned to control the negative tendencies of their types in consideration for others.

We had a lot of time in the car and at dinner to talk. We all told anecdotes about our work, relationships, and past vacations, but our friends made sure that everyone got equal talking time. They had traveled extensively, so their stories were interesting, but if they had talked for a while, they would ask questions to get stories from us. When it came time to listen, they showed interest, and let us know that we’d been heard.

They made no demands on us, like keeping us waiting, being inflexible or making us listen to bickering between spouses. They looked after our needs, making sure there was a Diet Coke in the backpack for me every day, for instance, and that our hikes were easy enough not to hurt my husband’s knees. If there were plans to make, they made sure we were involved in the decision-making. When we did something for them, we were heartily thanked. They remained calm and good-natured even when circumstances got trying, like standing in the sun waiting for a bus to the rental car center, or when we couldn’t buy a package of Tums because the local Mormons don’t open their shops on Sunday. They smiled and laughed often, bringing sunshine to our group, and to the taxi drivers and other tourists we met.

Social scientists have found that one of the key ingredients to our success as a species is our ability to cooperate, and we’re able to cooperate because we have an instinctive desire to reciprocate, to return “tit for tat.” Think about how hard it is not to return a smile with a smile, or a frown with a frown.

On our Utah trip, it was all kindness being volleyed back and forth. Our friends were thoughtful and respectful in their words and deeds, and it was easy to send that back to them. That’s what we mean by “easy” people, I guess. They are skilled at keeping the cooperative ball in play.  

On this trip, I was amazed by how beautiful nature can be, but also by how beautiful people can be. We all have them in our lives - people who are easy to be with - and every once in awhile, we should probably spend some time thinking about them, learning from them, and thanking them. After all, it’s not easy to be an easy person, it takes practice, and they deserve something extra in return for the extra they give - tit for tat.  

 

 

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2016

I never talk about politics outside of my family, but during election years people often let their views get into the conversation. Then I’m stuck with hard knots in my stomach concerning friends and relatives that I usually get along with. There are so many good reasons to be annoyed at people, why do we have to add silly reasons, choosing sides in the game of politics and wishing the worst on each other for nothing that we have actually done or ever will do. I wish I could move to another place during election years, and just come back when it’s all over.

I don’t know how it is for people of other types, but for an NF, who wants to feel in harmony with the human race, politics can cause a very painful disconnect from half of humanity. I have been trying my whole life to find some way to keep the good feelings toward my friends and relatives going through election years.

There is one thing that has helped a lot in recent years. It’s an insight I heard from Craig Rider, CEO of the consulting firm, the Rider Group, and an ENFP. I was interviewing him for an issue of The Type Reporter with the theme, “Our Favorite Type Breakthroughs.” I loved his insight so much that I made it the last paragraph of the last issue of The Type Reporter

Once, we asked people to get into type-alike groups and start writing down how they would describe their ideal community. The Fs came up with things like “inclusion,” “beauty” and “diversity.” The Ts came up with things like “good infrastructure,” “solid financial situation” and “low crime rates.”

I noticed however, that after awhile, the Fs started writing down Thinking-related things, and the Ts started writing down Feeling-related things. You could draw a line at the point where they started to switch over to the other side.

I had a big breakthrough that day. I realized that most of our conversations take place above the line, where we’re talking about our priorities, and that’s why we start digging trenches and getting into arguments. If you let people go for about five minutes more however, it becomes clear that they all want the same list of things; they just differ on what is most important. If we could remember that, it would make it a lot easier to keep listening to each other, and problems would get solved a lot faster.

When I showed this to my husband, John, he loved it too because he’s often experienced it in his consulting work. “We tell people they are in ‘violent agreement,’” John said. “They really agree, but they can’t let themselves see that because they’re passionate about their own priorities. They need a facilitator to put their ideas on the board and point out how they are both important to the organization’s goals, and to focus the group on how they can do both.

“What it boils down to is that people need to acknowledge each other’s points of view. It’s as simple as that. If people could just preface their opinions with something like, ‘I agree that what you are saying is important because….’ the other person would feel that they were heard, and be more able to listen to other ideas.”

I don’t use Rider’s insight to calm a group, but I use it to calm myself. When I feel myself reacting like Pavlov’s dog to political differences, I try to remind myself that we all have the same items on our list for an Ideal America, but different things on the top half. The people from the “other” party, so angry and certain that the world is going to hell, are protecting things I also want to preserve, but I am not inspired to take care of myself. If I can get past the nastiness, I can see through to a natural order, very much like the type theory, where all of the work is divided and all of the work is taken care of. It’s a much better place to spend an election year.  

 

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