The secret to good relationships? Know your MBTI personality type
Vanessa, MBTIonline Contributing Writer
You know that stale, uninspired feeling you get when you’ve been cooped up inside for a long time? What usually helps is to get some fresh air and soak up the sunshine.
Relationships are kind of like that. When things start to fizzle out or get too one-sided, it doesn’t have to end (though sometimes that’s the healthiest option). Learning about personality type dynamics could breathe new life into your relationships and shed light on some of your most bothersome issues. And we’re not just talking about romantic relationships. This applies to friends, family, colleagues, and so much more.
Knowing about MBTI personality type can dramatically improve your relationships
Even though relationships can add a tremendous richness and happiness to our lives, we can’t fully experience this unless there’s growth and appreciation on all sides. One solution is to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®(MBTI) personality assessment. It helps you get to know yourself better and gives you a framework for understanding others too.
On episode eight of The Myers-Briggs Company Podcast, Certified MBTI Master Practitioner Michael Segovia discussed this at length. Michael is the Principal Consultant at The Myers-Briggs Company and is known for his brilliant TEDx Talk about the joy and pain of being different. He was the perfect person for host Melissa Summer to interview.
During the podcast episode, Michael shared how self-awareness and knowledge about personality types can lead to fruitful relationships. He was also kind enough to share several personal anecdotes to help illustrate how our personality affects us in the real world. Here are a few overarching themes and lessons from the first half of that episode (quotes slightly edited for clarity):
Good relationships honor who you are, and who the other person is too
At the end of the day, a relationship is about two people who need to find common ground and coexist in some way – whether it’s in a personal or professional setting. Good relationships require us to honor people for who they are without trying to change them into someone we think they should be. Michael shared this example:
“I can think of someone I know who has a preference for Extraversion. She shared with me how her partner just doesn't communicate like she would like him to. She believes her partner has a preference for Introversion. And so what my friend needed to understand was that when she was ready to talk, her partner wasn't ready yet. It doesn't mean he wasn't interested. It doesn't mean he doesn't care.”
“When they got to that place of understanding, she could bring up the topic and then say, ‘How about we talk about it tomorrow so you have some time to think about it?’ And then make sure you both get that time tomorrow. Our personality can impact relationships in a positive way. But when we don't work around those differences, it can impact them in more of a negative way.”
Don’t write off a relationship just because you have different personality types
Because the MBTI assessment measures four opposing preference pairs (Extraversion–Introversion, Sensing–Intuition, Thinking–Feeling, Judging–Perceiving) it tells us a lot about how these preferences could cause friction in real life. It also tells us how they invite positive growth. In this example, Michael explained that even people with the same preferences have their fair share of challenges:
“Any relationship can be amazing if people understand and appreciate their differences. Imagine two people of the same type. That could work. It could also maybe not work if you have two people who prefer Extraversion and they find the other person isn’t listening enough to them. Or if you have two people who prefer Introversion. My partner and I, we both prefer Introversion. I have permission to share – his preferences are ISFJ. There are times where we both need space. I did this maybe about three weeks ago: he was out doing some gardening and he gets so focused on those details, on those specifics. And I opened the door and yelled, ‘Do you want lunch?’ And he jumped and dropped whatever tool he was holding. I've learned that he needs more quiet. And so what I've learned to do instead is approach him quietly so I'm not interrupting his space.”
Most people know what Introvert and Extravert mean, but it goes deeper than that
Even within the MBTI framework, people are more than just their four-letter personality type. It may sound odd, but the words Introvert and Extravert can also be verbs, not just ways of describing people. For example, all of us either extravert or introvert certain parts of our personality. If it sounds complex, that’s because it is. But these personality nuances are worth knowing because they can help deepen your relationships. Michael’s example helps explain this:
“When it comes to how we take in information (that’s Sensing and Intuition) and how we make decisions (that's Thinking and Feeling) all of us have a part in there that we extravert (I’m using that word as a verb) or use in the outside world. And all of us have a part that we use in our inner world. It's much more rich than just looking at it from the one dimensional perspective like INFP, INFJ, ESTP.”
“It's looking at how we use those middle two letters – which are often referred to as the heartbeat of our type. And we need a balance of doing that, because if we just used our preferences in the outer world, that can actually be a problem. If we just used our preferences in the inner world, that's also a problem.”
“In my own relationship, my partner and I share a preference for Feeling. But I introvert Feeling; my partner extraverts Feeling. I had to learn early on that it's a very different understanding of Feeling where he’s all about outward harmony.”
“And I take more of an internal value system approach to making decisions. I've had people tell me, ‘Are you sure you prefer Feeling? I don't see it.’ They don't see it because I introvert it. I've actually had people say to me, ‘I thought you didn't like me.’ But I’m thinking they’re my favorite person in this program. They don't see it because I don't extravert it. I introvert it, by using this internal value system that helps guide and drive me.”
Consider how personality type may have affected past relationships
Imagine how useful it would be if more people discussed personality type right at the beginning of a relationship. The MBTI is like a map that helps people navigate their way through any terrain. Think back to a relationship you had that didn’t work out. Even if it wouldn’t have lasted anyway, would knowledge of personality type have helped in any way? Michael reflected on one of his past relationships:
“I can think of a relationship I was in for 15 years. I had to learn that my partner’s – whose preference was for Thinking – way of saying I love you to me was, ‘Oh, I fixed the faucet’ or ‘There's a new shelf in the closet.’ Early on I wanted to hear the words, ‘I love you.’ To me, that's what a relationship was about. For him, it was more about, ‘Here's what I did for you.’ And it really helped me understand things a little bit better. Now, we didn't last forever, and I don't think every relationship is meant to be forever. And while type can help, it's not going to resolve every issue.”
Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll recap the second half of the episode. In the meantime, check out these resources on relationships and connection:
- Listen to this podcast: MBTI personality type and relationships (interview with Michael Segovia)
- Read this blog: Your top personality type relationship questions, answered
- Watch this webinar: How a better understanding of communication and behavior styles increases trust, influence and engagement