Accepting Personality Differences

17 Jan

Family 1If you’re married or in a committed relationship, you’ve probably realized that your significant other is different from you. If you’re a parent of two or more children, you’ve almost assuredly found that one of your children is different from you. If you haven’t, they just aren’t old enough yet.

About a decade ago, I read a couple of books that changed my life, Positive Personality Profiles by Robert A Rohm and Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. I also had the privilege of hearing both authors speak on the subject of personality profiles. In simplest terms, people are either introverted or extroverted. They are also either task oriented or people oriented. Within those two realms there are several levels and variations, but when you learn about them more in depth, it explains so much about your own life, the views of others who are different than you and why you have conflict, especially conflict that you cannot seem to resolve. I’ll share an example from my own life to illustrate.

In case you haven’t noticed or don’t know me at all, I am very outgoing. I am also a huge people person. Nothing energizes me more than hanging out with friends, going to sporting events and just being around others. It took me years to figure out how to keep a house because tasks always felt like punishment to me, especially if I had to do it alone. I have a relative who is also outgoing, but is extremely task oriented. When we were much younger, I would drive by her house and see her working in her yard and stop to visit. Many times, she barely looked up, and she never stopped working. I would be hurt because I would think she was being rude by not stopping to visit with me, and I would leave with a wounded heart. It wasn’t until I read the books that I realized while I was busy being wounded because she wouldn’t visit, she was busy being irritated by my presence because I was slowing down her progress with her task. Neither was right or wrong; we just have a different way of being in the world. Now, when I see her working in her yard, I stop without getting out of my car and honk my horn. We exchange a greeting, and I drive on. I’m happy to make a quick connection, and she’s happy to get back to her task. I know we’ll talk later at some family function when she isn’t focused on her task, and she knows I won’t interrupt her for more than a few seconds.

Those types of situations are easy, because I don’t live with her. But what if you live with someone who is very different from you? Well, I do. As outgoing as I am, that is how reserved my husband is. When we go to a party, I flit from one group to the next talking to as many people as I can and enjoying the flow. My husband sits in one place for the most part, talking if someone sits with him or people watching if he’s alone. At one time, I would have tried to bring him into conversations and introduce him to everyone. I now realize that exhausts him. I get fired up from being with others. He gets drained. If it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t go to parties, except for family and not even many of those. Again, neither is right or wrong, but fortunately, we’ve learned each other’s style, and I honestly believe those books are a huge part of the reason we have such a solid and intimate marriage. We understand each other deeply and respect each others’ differences.

Then there are the children; we have three, and they are all so very different from one another. Our oldest is very task driven and more on the introverted side. He has always done very well in school no matter the circumstances because he wants to complete the task and complete it well, and he almost always does. On the people side, though, we’ve had to have several discussions about awareness of others’ feelings. He is a tough cookie and forgets sometimes that others are not, especially his brothers and mom. We know that he never intends to hurt, and fortunately, his more tender, task oriented father is helping him to be a bit softer. Then there’s our middle child who is so very much like his father. I probably have the least amount of conflict with him because he is so much like his dad. He is more task oriented and more reserved. A more social set of parents might worry about him, but after knowing his father for over two decades, I realize that my introvert will be just fine. In school, though, a mean or undisciplined teacher can unravel him for a while until he learns to adapt. He is truly that person that reflects back to you how you behave toward him. If you’re kind, you get kindness. If you’re anything else, you get little to nothing from him. With him, we have to remind him that everyone does their best, and sometimes you have to weather even the meanest of teachers, and he has. Finally, there is my youngest. I get him more than he knows because in a lot of ways, I was just like him. He is social and can talk to almost anyone. He is curious and bright. He loves life. Unlike me, he is not a big fan of school. He just doesn’t like tasks like class work, homework and tests. School for him is like housework for me, a necessary evil. Like me, he has almost made peace with having to do what has to be done, but for him, keeping it fun is the way to go. If only school could be a series of video games, then he would most definitely be a straight A student.

So, do you see yourself here? Do you see your spouse, parent or children here? If not, they’re probably some other combination, and that’s ok. The bottom line is we need all types of people in this world. We need detail oriented people who love to do accounting, which would be like prison for me. We need people who love people to be counselors and therapists. We need outgoing, determined people to lead. We even need fun, outgoing people to keep life light and interesting. It took a while to realize that every personality is valuable because every person is valuable. If you have someone in your life that is “difficult”, check out these books. You may realize that your difficulty with them is based solely on a personality difference and when you see how important each personality is, your difficulty may disappear. You may even learn to appreciate the difference and learn a few things from that person. If you can do that, you’ll feel better about everyone out there and maybe become a better person yourself. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

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One Response to “Accepting Personality Differences”

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  1. Accepting Personality Differences « karenbemmes - January 17, 2013

    […] Accepting Personality Differences. […]

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