Entries Tagged as "Conflict"

Hitting the Nail on the Head

One of the differences we often talk about between Thinking types and Feeling types is their approach to a “problem.”  Usually Thinking types want to fix or solve the problem and Feeling types prefer first that someone just listen and offer empathy.  They are both showing how they “care” but do so in very different ways.

This came home to me years ago when my daughter, a Feeling type, asked me to download pictures of a trip with her boyfriend onto a laptop and then erase them from her camera.  I am technologically challenged but did the best I could; at least I knew enough not to trash the pictures from her camera. 

I then promptly left town to visit an elderly aunt.  When I arrived, I got a desperate tear-filled voice message from my daughter, “Where are those pictures?” 

As a Thinking type, I rushed into problem-solving mode (even with my limited technological expertise).  Did she try this, that, and the other thing? (See, I am limited!) I had actually only downloaded one.  But I had not trashed the pictures so I was somewhat saved (literally and figuratively).

Her boyfriend (a Feeling type), on the other hand, sent her flowers with the message, “I’m so sorry. We’ll make more memories together.  Love, S.”  Keep in mind that he lived 6 time zones away and did this in the middle of the night. The flowers arrived before I returned the phone call.

Guess which one she preferred! 

So I now monitor myself, some of the time anyway – it’s hard to suspend using a natural preference!  Is it the “empathy thing” or the “fix it thing” that works the best for that other person in that particular moment? 

I also pay attention to how others are dealing with me – do I just want someone to listen or do I want help and give advice on moving forward to rectify the problem?  And sometimes I find myself annoyed when the other person is using the “wrong” approach.  Ahhh, that’s how it feels – I know how to fix the darned problem, but I just want some TLC (tender loving care)!! 

I also know that not everything can be fixed or solved, but at least I can listen to the person and empathize.

So why the title of this blog?  Check out this video about a woman who has a nail stuck in her forehead complaining about headaches, snagged sweaters, etc.  Her partner is trying to get her to simply remove the nail.  She just wants him to simply listen! 

Ah yes, two different approaches…which one is appropriate and when?  Thinking or Feeling?


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The Amazing Power of ENTJs and the Price They Often Pay

Shulamith Firestone I read a profile in The New Yorker of a woman named Shulamith Firestone. She was the author of The Dialectic of Sex, and she launched some of the first major radical feminist groups in the 60’s. I was really intrigued by her story, because all the organizations she started either disbanded following internal dissention, or the members drove her out of the group. I wondered what type Firestone was, and what went wrong.

I guessed that Firestone was an extravert because she was described as a “firebrand,” “fireball,” and “incandescent.” One woman said, “It was thrilling to be in her company.” Not all extraverts are like that, but the people that I would describe with those words are all extraverts. When they walk into a room, others immediately feel energized by their confidence, talkativeness, and direct gaze. 

I would guess that Firestone was an intuitive for one simple reason. She wanted our society to change completely, so that gender would make no difference at all to a person’s position in the family or at work. She called for an immediate and total break from the past. A sensing type, on the other hand, would more likely be engaged in trying to bring back the good qualities of the past, preserve the present, or make gradual changes toward the future.

The evidence in the article suggested that she was a thinking type, because, like many thinking women, she was often perceived as having the masculine quality of seeking power. Women accused her of having “male hormones,” “male ambitions,” and being “too male identified.” Also, it seemed like harmony and cooperation were not high priorities for her as they would be for a feeling type. She was described as being “divisive,” and “unsisterly.”  Once, after a feminist group was cleaning up after a meeting, she announced, “I’m an intellectual – I don’t sweep floors.”

The evidence in the article also suggested that she was a judging type, and her judging helped her to be an effective organizer. One woman commented that, “She already had the arguments, already had a plan.” Another woman said, “She knew that groups have to have an organizing structure and principles… or else you are just higgledy-piggledy all over the place.” On the down side of judging, people said she “wouldn’t bend, and was “very, very opinionated.”

I think that Firestone was an ENTJ, and the reason this article hit home with me is that I have personally known four ENTJs who suffered the same fate as Firestone. They were all going along full speed, rising very fast in their work, but completely unaware of the discontent brewing around them. When they were suddenly “fired” from their organizations or marriages, it was such a shock that one had a mild heart attack, one attempted suicide, and one had a mental breakdown. We all get shot down sometimes, but it seems to be especially dramatic for ENTJs, because they tend to rise higher than most people, and have farther to fall.

People feeling powerless find ways to take back their power, and ENTJs can make people feel powerless. It’s easy for them to be unaware of this because they are so focused on the forward progress of their work or their cause. Also, it can be hard to get through to them. It was said of Firestone that she had a “tendency to be dismissive of others’ grievances,” and that was certainly true of the four ENTJs we knew. Their colleagues and spouses often mentioned that they were not heard or taken seriously.

Firestone never recovered from her experiences with the feminists, because she suffered from schizophrenia later in life, but the four ENTJs I know have recovered. They are all on top again, with a difference. Now they are more tuned into the people around them. They have developed the habit of listening and drawing people out. When one of our ENTJ friends comes to visit, after she has described all of the world-changing work she is doing, she takes the time to ask, “So, Sue, what’s exciting in your life?” Then she listens with genuine interest, as if I can tell her something really useful. Who knows, maybe I can.  

We can all learn to be better listeners, but the stakes are especially high with ENTJs, because they have an amazing talent for leadership. If their vision, energy and verbal dexterity are balanced with the habit of good listening, they can attract hundreds, thousands, even millions of people to come together and move mountains. ENTJs can have incredible power…if they take the time to tune into the power of others. It’s a lifelong struggle for them, but no one said it’s easy to change the world.



Balloons Bursting

My 25-year-old daughter is living back at home temporarily. She’s an ISFJ and I’m an INFJ, and we usually have a great time when we’re together...talking for hours, walking the dogs, and watching Downton Abbey. However, as F’s, we’re both very sensitive, and if either of us shows a little anger, the other one takes it very hard. 

When the hurt feelings blow up into an argument, we do all the usual nonsense, like telling our victim stories, and going back and forth on who’s in the wrong. Eventually, however, we get to a point where the nonsense stops. Instead of talking about how unjust the other person was, we begin talking about the real problem, which is how unjust we are on ourselves. We admit things like, “When you said that, I felt like the worst person in the world,” or "It seemed like I’d been all wrong about myself."

Those moments of candor and openness are wonderful. We can almost hear angels singing when they happen, because from that point on, we stop defending ourselves, and start taking care of each other.  

I've noticed that when my daughter tells me how she interprets my criticism, I always end up telling her, “But that’s not what I meant. I don’t think you’re a bad person. I just want you to do one small thing differently.” And she’s equally surprised by the way I interpret her criticism.     

I'm glad my daughter and I can get those severe interpretations out in the open, so we can see how crazy they are, and reassure each other that they’re not true. But now, I’m starting to wonder, why do we make them? Why do we have to feel like the worst people in the world because someone asked us to put the defrosting meat onto a plate, or not to use Windex on the kitchen counters?

I remembered something that Elizabeth Murphy, the co-author of the Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children® assessment, once said to me when I was interviewing her for an issue of The Type Reporter.  “When Ts get criticized," she said, "it's like they take a few buckets of sand from a pile. When Fs get criticized, it's like you stuck a pin in their balloon."

Now I’m wondering, does it really have to be like that for Fs? Is there anything we can tell ourselves to stop feeling like a deflated balloon every time we're not in perfect harmony with other people? Is there anything we can do to stop taking small criticisms from others and turning them into exaggerated criticisms of ourselves?

It’s obvious that the first thing we have to do is what my daughter and I did, and ask ourselves, How am I interpreting this? To do that, we have to recall the moment right after the criticism was received. Then, as painful as it may be, we have to describe how we felt in that shocked moment about ourselves. We know we’ve got it right when we come up with something very humbling, like “worthless” “a fool,” or “the worst person in the world.”

Now that our first interpretation is out in the open, we can examine it, and ask ourselves another question: Is that true? Are we the worst people in the world? The answer is probably, “Of course not.” We are not even close to being the terrible people that we feel like. If we make a list of the things we did right just today, we soon realize that we are competent and caring people who spend our days adding to the lives of others, and trying to live life to its fullest. 

Finally, we can ask ourselves, If that's not true, what is? If the other person is not telling us that we're completely bad people, what are they telling us? That's when we can see that they're not asking us to change our whole being, only one small behavior, and we don't have to feel like we're stupid or insensitive because we couldn't see this coming. None of us can know the needs of everyone else all the time.

I tried those three questions on myself recently after my daughter showed some anger at me. At first, the balloon burst, and it probably always will. But after about ten minutes, I was able to ask myself, How am I interpreting this? Is that true? and If that isn't true, what is? As I answered the questions, my interpretation of what happened started to change. It went from, “I’m all bad, and anyone who can make me feel that way is all bad,” to, “She loves me, but she's asking me to do one small thing differently because it really upsets her."

If you're the one giving negative feedback to an F, please don't tell them they are being too extreme in their reactions. That is the last thing they need to hear. Instead, try to give them an overall positive picture of themselves, and after they hear that, describe the  one small thing that upsets you ? for example, "I love the way the kitchen smells when you're cooking; it's like heaven. It's just the Windex on the counters...for me, that smell doesn't go with food." 

You can also resist the urge to preach about how wrong their behavior is according to logic, morality, or some objective standard, (“Windex wasn’t made for counters!”) and instead describe to them how it hurts you. (“I lose my appetite when I smell ammonia.”) One thing I have learned about feeling types is that we're not going to change because someone tells us that we're wrong, but once we understand that another person is hurting from our behavior, we want to do whatever we can to ease their pain.

When it comes to receiving criticism, we Fs can learn a lot from Ts. Instead of letting our balloons burst, we can try taking one bucket of sand from the pile. We can try telling ourselves, "I'm a good person who is being asked to do one small thing differently, because someone else seems to need it."


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Type Under the Tree

My best Christmas had to be the year I first learned about type. I traveled back to my childhood home in Ohio, anxious to share the new knowledge with my large family of ten brothers and sisters. I had a lot of fun as, one by one, they were able to identify their types. 

Happy Holidays!The best moments, however, happened after that. In response to what I told them about their type, they started revealing things to me that I had never known about them. The one that really sticks with me is my ISFP sister. When I pointed out that she was the only perceiver among six judging sisters, she said something to the effect of, “I always felt like I was different from you guys. You were always so sure of things, but I never thought it was that simple.”

This sister had shared a bedroom with me all through my childhood. They used to call her “Me too, also,” because as a little girl she followed me around all the time and wanted to do everything I did. We often talked late into the night, and shared all of our thoughts. In those two decades of being close friends, however, I never knew her as well as I did after she told me that she was an ISFP. I never knew that she wasn’t just my little follower; she was a strong individual with a strong belief in staying open to life and its uncertainties.

When I told my ISFJ mother that her type values tradition, she told us how much it had hurt her in the last few decades to see her traditional ideas of womanhood being trampled on by screaming Beatles’ fans, bra-burning feminists, and the smart-mouthed character of Roseanne. We were all surprised to hear that the cultural changes we had found so exciting were a source of pain to her.

When I told my ESFJ sister that her type was very attentive to people’s needs, she revealed that she used to have nightmares about not being able to take care of all of us. None of us knew that underneath her confidence and social charm there were such feelings of responsibility for her family. 

When I told my ISTJ sister that she was the only thinking type among seven sisters, she could suddenly understand why she had such difficulties with us. “All I’ve ever wanted is to be able to be honest with people,” she said, “and not have to waste time being nice.” After that we understood her direct speaking style much better, and we realized that it was motivated by a desire for efficient solutions, not a desire to hurt. 

When I told my family that I was an INFJ, and intuitives prefer to be original rather than conventional, my mother said, “I never knew what you would be when you grew up, but I knew it would be something different.”

I sometimes take psychological type for granted, as if the knowledge it brings was always there. It’s good to recall how little I knew about people, even the people closest to me, before I knew their types. It’s good to remember those conversations when thinking about the sudden realizations that came from learning about type. The people who meant so much to me came to mean so much more, because I could see not just what they were to me, but what they were to the whole human race.

It’s the best Christmas gift I ever gave, and the best one I ever received.  



Blessing or Curse?

They say that Js spend as much time preparing for a task as they do on the task itself. I spend more. This summer, I realized that for every week that I went on vacation, or entertained relatives, I spent about two weeks preparing for it. And when I say preparing, I mostly mean worrying. I tried to anticipate every need my family would have on vacation, and every need my guests would have when they came.

It’s hard work being a planner, because you’re focused on what can go wrong, and trying to avoid it. It can cast a cloud over those days before the big events in your life. I wish I could only plan so much and then let it go, but it’s hard to know when I’ve planned enough. I keep remembering something I hadn’t thought of, and of course, I have memories of all of those other events where no matter how hard I planned, something went wrong anyway. 

I look at my ESFP friend, who always seems carefree and cheerful, and deals with everything as it comes up, and not a minute sooner, and sometimes I wish I could be more like her. She just came over the other day with a big box of invitations to her daughter’s wedding. She had asked friends and relatives to help her send them out, and we were making a party out of it. I thought, what a nice way to do a boring, difficult job -  to bring all of these people together and turn it into something fun. And with her smiling, happy personality, everyone looks forward to an evening with her. 
After a few minutes, however, it became clear that she had not spent much time in preparation for this. We had a total of 14 separate tasks that needed to be done for each invitation, (no, really, it’s true) and she had not thought ahead as to how she would organize people and materials. It became a case of, “Do it first, think about how to do it right, then do it over again.” And with six people all talking and trying to be helpful, I often had to go to a “Zen place” in my head to keep my outer calm.

What should have taken one evening, ended up taking a whole week to finish, with everyone doing separate jobs at home and my friend driving all around the city trying to bring it all together. In the end, people were annoyed at her for the extra work she caused, and her daughter wasn’t speaking to her because so many of the invitations didn’t go out right.   

I was thinking about what I had learned from all that, and I realized that I’m stupid to envy people who don’t do much worrying beforehand. Life will take its tax from us when we try to increase our income of happiness, whether we pay by quietly worrying beforehand or, like my friend, running around trying to repair damage afterwards. In the end, we all have to pay.

What I really wish is that I could have my friend’s always cheerful personality, but keep my ability to plan and organize. Then I would be perfect. That’s probably never going to happen, but what has happened is that I have a new attitude about my tendency to worry. I now think of it as part of my charm.


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