Vanessa, MBTIonline Contributing Writer
4 min. read
There’s a new level of relational connection that gets unlocked when you learn your personality type – and the types of the people closest to you.
In my life, it’s been refreshing to realize that the differences between me and my husband, parents, siblings and friends are to be celebrated, not changed.
This becomes especially clear when you look at relationships through the lens of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment. Melissa went live on Instagram with MBTI Master Practitioner and TEDx speaker Michael Segovia to talk about exactly this. Their 30-minute discussion was jam-packed with info and real-life stories about how personality differences can invite growth. Here’s the recap:
Frustrated with your partner? It’s just data.
Do you ever get so frustrated with your partner’s behavior or routines that you chalk it up to them just being annoying? Been there.
But here’s the thing about all those “annoying” traits and habits: it’s just data.
During the Instagram Live, Michael pointed out that in relationships, this data serves as an invitation to ask one very important question: How can we work together more effectively?
Because if we can learn to unpack the data and understand a person’s preferences, we can learn to make a relationship more fulfilling, healthy, and communicative. With their permission, Michael spoke about some friends of his – an ENFJ woman and her INFP husband.
The woman’s preference for Judging (the J in her four-letter personality type) means she likes closure. She wants things to be done and decided. Her husband’s preference for Perceiving (P) means he likes to keep his options open. He doesn’t want to be boxed in. After they learned more about the MBTI, she makes an effort to back off a bit. And he remembers to update her on his progress so she doesn’t get aggravated or anxious by what she perceives as a lack of decision and/or closure.
The couple also differs on how they recharge. She’s energized by an outer world of people and experiences (E). And her husband is energized by spending time alone, in his own inner world (I). So she tries not to overwhelm him with too many social engagements, and he tries not to underwhelm her by staying in too much. Like most good things in life, it’s all about balance.
Flex your personality preferences for a better relationship
Michael mentioned one of the keys to a better relationship is to flex your preferences from time to time. This means doing the opposite of what might feel natural (i.e., an introvert intentionally socializing because they know it’s important to their partner). Personality flexing can be a compassionate, thoughtful way to meet the needs of the people you love.
In another example, Michael (INFP) spoke about his own life. His partner’s personality type is ISFJ. Because of his own preference for Intuition (N) Michael tends to tell stories and offer information in a big picture way – with lots of metaphors. But his partner takes in information using Sensing (S). This means he learns best in a very concrete, matter-of-fact way.
To strengthen their relationship, Michael makes an effort to flex his preference a bit. When he’s talking through something with his partner, he tries to cut back on metaphors and be specific. He also does his best to stay on track instead of jumping from point to point. In turn, Michael’s partner tries not overwhelm him with too many details.
How personality types affect sibling relationships
Our siblings are often our first friends. It can be a challenge to nurture those relationships as we grow up. During the video, Melissa said knowing about MBTI type has significantly improved her relationships with her siblings, Monica and Max.
Melissa has preferences for INFJ. Monica is an ENFJ. Both sisters are aligned on so many things but also have their differences. While traveling, their shared preference for Judging (J) means they love to plan excursions and decide what to do before they leave for the trip. There’s usually a Google Doc with a full agenda. But they also know that Melissa isn't going to want to do all social activities that Monica usually wants to do. The same social meetups that give Monica her the never-ending battery of an Energizer bunny will drain Melissa after a few hours.
Max, their brother, has preferences for INTP. And though Melissa and Max are both introverted types, he needs significantly more alone time than Melissa. And his preference for Perceiving (P) means he needs flexibility and doesn’t want the structure of a full agenda. As a workaround, Melissa and Monica share their agenda with Max so he can choose which activities he’d like to participate in, but also know that he needs that flexibility in his schedule to be happy.
Do opposites really attract? And other burning questions . . .
At the end of the Instagram Live, Michael answered some questions. Here are five of the heavy hitters:
Do opposites really attract?
Not necessarily. There are several factors besides personality that affect who we’re attracted to. However, some people intentionally seek out differences in a partner because they believe they can change the other person. (Not always a good idea BTW.)
Should you share your personality type on your dating profile?
Michael says probably not. There are many people who don’t understand the full meaning of Myers-Briggs types. They might see those four letters of your personality type and have all kinds of assumptions – or write you off entirely.
Do couples with the same MBTI type get along better?
They can. But there’s a caveat: what we dislike in others, we dislike in ourselves. There are probably little things you don’t like about your personality. Now imagine witnessing those same traits in someone else every single day. For example, two INFPs in a relationship might end up in a loop of indecision about what to eat, where to live, etc. Any MBTI combination can work if both people flex on occasion.
What if only one person in the relationship knows their MBTI and the other doesn’t know or care?
It still helps. You can even hypothesize about your partner’s preference as a way to maintain awareness and be more forgiving. And continue to encourage them to take the MBTI assessment. Maybe they’ll be open to it one day.
Can your MBTI type change over time?
While our preferences don’t change, what should change is how you use your preferences. Let’s say you’re an ESTJ. As you move through life, you should get more comfortable understanding your opposite type. In this case, it’s INFP. As you mature, you should be able to use these opposite preferences when the situation calls for it. It’s not about becoming someone you’re not. It’s about flexing when it’s important or impactful enough to do so.
Give the MBTI assessment as a gift
You know the saying, “the magic happens outside your comfort zone”? That’s especially true in relationships. Romantic relationships, friendships, family dynamics – it all applies. If you want to give the magic of self-awareness and deeper connection, consider gifting the MBTI assessment to someone you love. In the meantime, here’re some other resources you might be interested in:
Personality & Relationships (podcast episode)
The ultimate guide to Extraversion and Introversion (eBook)
Watch the full video replay on Instagram.