Understanding and Accepting Personality Differences

HOW ARE PERSONALITIES DIFFERENT?
During childhood, every person develops a unique pattern of behaving and thinking. We learn to lean toward certain ways of processing information and interacting with others. This pattern is our personality, and it is based on the ways we prefer to act and think. Each of us was born with these preferences, and as we grow up, we learn to behave in ways that fit our preferences. When we are in a situation in which we can behave according to our person-ality preferences, it feels natural and comfort-able. When a situation requires us to behave in ways that don’t fit our preferences, we feel uncomfortable.
As we progress through life, the pattern of preferences we are born with is altered by our environment: our childhood experiences, the feedback we get from others, and so on. As we mature, under normal conditions, our personality becomes stable and is expressed in a set of behaviors, skills, and attitudes.
None of these preferences is good or bad. None of them is better than the others. They are simply descriptions of how people function in the world. Each pattern of preferences has both strengths and weaknesses. Those of us who are open to learning about ourselves can make the most of those preferences that bring us success and learn to minimize the less effective ways of being.
There are several ways that psychologists look at personality differences. One of the most well-known today is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It is based on a personality theory developed by psychiatrist Carl Jung and expanded by Isabel Briggs Myers. The MBTI is a simple questionnaire with 93 items. After it is scored, the results provide a simple description of a person’s personality preferences. There are other ways of assessing personality characteristics, including the Enneagram and the DISC, but the MBTI is one of the best known and has been extensively validated and written about.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF UNDERSTANDING PERSONALITY DIFFERENCES?
Knowing about personalities and how they work makes you more effective in life. It helps you to:
Understand yourself better. When you understand your own personality type, you have a better understanding of what motivates you. If you can seek out experiences, work environments, and relationships in which you can express yourself and be appreciated for who you are, you will experience more satisfaction in life.
Understand others better. When you understand people’s personality preferences, you are better able to manage relationships productively. It is easier to resolve conflicts and prevent stress when you understand what makes others tick. You also have more tolerance for differences when you understand that people are different.
Make the most of your strengths. We have all been in relationships or work situations in which we were not appreciated for who we are. Perhaps if we had known more about our own needs and preferences, we would have sought out something different.
Minimize your weaknesses.
If you know what your personality weaknesses are, you can avoid situations where they will be likely to create problems for you.
Be a more effective part of your work team. You can be more productive in a group when you understand the others’ personalities. Teams get along better when the members understand each other.
Make good career choices. You will be most satisfied if you choose a career that makes use of your personality preferences and minimizes situations that make you uncomfortable.
Be a better parent. When you understand that your children’s personalities are different from yours, you can help them learn in ways that fit their learning styles. Knowing that their needs and preferences are different from yours means there are fewer sources of conflict.
Be a better spouse or partner. When you understand that your partner’s personality is different from yours, there are fewer sources of conflict.

HOW CAN MY PARTNER AND I ACCEPT OUR PERSONALITY DIFFERENCES?
It is important to remember that no set of personality traits is better or worse than any other. People respond to the world based on their unique combination of traits. Understanding that each of us is wired in our own unique way is the first step toward accepting and honoring each other’s differences. You can use this information to improve your relationship in the following ways:
• Learn about your own likes and dislikes and those of your family members. Understanding how differences can cause conflict and misunderstandings can help you prevent them in the future.
• Have a family conversation about how each of you is different and alike. Talk about what those differences mean. Explore how each of you prefers to communicate, learn, and solve problems.
• Discuss how opposites can work together to be more productive and harmonious.
• Explore what communication skills could be improved to minimize differences and maximize strengths.
• Talk about what kind of activities and situations each of you is most comfortable with, based on your personality traits.

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