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How Myers-Briggs Affects Communication in Relationships

R. D. Langr is an at-home dad and entrepreneur. He has a background in psychology and theology and an intuitive grasp of relationships.

Discover how a person's Myers-Briggs type can influence their communication in relationships.

Discover how a person's Myers-Briggs type can influence their communication in relationships.

Relationship Communication and the MBTI

Almost everyone will agree that good communication is essential to any healthy relationship. No matter how good you are at expressing yourself, no one is ever perfect. Since communication is a two-person art, it's twice as likely to get messed up.

Communication is a multifaceted skill, so many factors can affect how well we do it. These include the situation that inspired the communication, the mood of each person, their body language, as well as deeper issues such as the family of origin, unconscious motives, and how we have been brought up to behave and think on various psychological levels.

What Is Your Myers-Briggs Type Based On?

One of these dynamics is how people cognitively process information, which can be measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). This personality assessment is arguably the most used and popular measurement, but it's still limited. It deals in four areas:

  1. How one gathers energy
  2. How one gathers information
  3. How one makes decisions
  4. Preference for consistency and closure

All of this happens in the person's cognitive process and influences the broad spectrum of behaviors and thoughts that each person has each day.

Introduction to the MBTI

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one of the more popular personality inventories out there, and it is primarily a measurement of how one thinks and organizes their world from a cognitive perspective. While temperaments have to do with behavior, this profile deals more with what's going on inside the person's head (although this does have behavioral ramifications). There are four different spectrums (measurements) to the MBTI, and since this information can be gained in numerous other places, I give a brief overview according to my understanding:

Introverted vs. Extroverted

This dynamic mostly has to do with where people draw their energy from. Introverts (typically about 40% of the population) prefer to spend quiet time in self-reflection. They may take longer to respond, and prefer to observe before acting. Extroverts draw their energy from being actively around other people and may feel tired or lonely if left alone for an extended period of time. They prefer to act quickly without taking time to think.

Intuitive vs. Sensing

This continuum mostly concerns how people take in and focus on information. People who are oriented towards the intuitive tend to focus on the abstract, the future, and the possible. People who are "sense oriented" tend to focus on information that is more concrete, experiential or present, and detailed. Whereas "N's" tend to be big idea/visionary people, "S's" are detailed oriented and practical.

Thinking vs. Feeling

This facet deals with how people go about making decisions. People who are "thinkers" prefer to make decisions based on logic, experience, and proven methods. People who are "feelers" however, prefer to make decisions based on their gut reaction, their emotion, and the most appealing solution. Whereas "T's" make decisions with their head, "F's" make them with their heart.

Judging vs. Perceiving

This final dimension deals with how much closure we prefer to have in our day to day organization. "Judger's" prefer to make lists, plan ahead, and maintain consistency (sitting in the same place in the restaurant, ordering the same thing, and going to the same place for vacation every year). Perceivers, however, prefer to be random, avoid planning, and will lose any list they make. "J's" could be thought of as "Type-A", whereas "P's" may be seen as "flaky or spacey".

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Here is a brief overview of the 16 types.

Here is a brief overview of the 16 types.

Concerning Communication

I'll use the example of planning a vacation together, because road trips and stressful travel often bring out the worst in people, especially when the need to plan and communicate arrives. I'll also bring in a few other examples when appropriate.

E vs. I

In things such as planning a vacation, the extrovert will typically like to engage in many activities and won't mind crowds or engaging in the nightlife of a particular area. The introvert, while probably being interested in the history or culture of a particular area, will need time during the day (or most likely at night) to recharge their batteries. This may include a quiet night of wine and hot bath in the hotel, reading about the local history in a brochure, or a quiet dinner for two in a dimly lit restaurant. It is important to be aware of such differences when planning what will happen each day on the trip.

Furthermore, after an argument, the extrovert may want to talk about the problem and resolve it right away, whereas the introvert will need some time to process how they are feeling and why. The introvert may feel more comfortable initially writing a letter to the other person, and then follow up by talking about it if needed. Both the needs of the extrovert and the introvert should be considered when deciding how to resolve a conflict.

N vs. S

This is the hardest area to pinpoint where conflicts may occur. When planning a vacation, finances, or organizing something, the N will want to just look at the big picture and not worry about details until they need to. They may be more "destination" oriented while the "S" will be more interested in how to get there. In my opinion, this facet tends to be more complimentary than divisive, as long as the couple appreciates their differences.

T vs. F

This area, as well as the J/P, is the most common problem in communication. When traveling, the Feeler may want to take a detour or decide what sites to visit based on the emotional appeal of the attraction. This is a huge risk as it can either lead to tourist traps or hidden gems. The Thinker will only want to visit those things that are logical... things not off the beaten path, that are consistent with the tastes of the travelers, and which they know are not tourist traps catering to mere "feeling".

In an argument, the Feeler will think the Thinker insensitive, and the Thinker will believe the Feeler's perception to be illogical, non-nonsensical, and silly. It is important to note that each perception isn't wrong in the sense that the person is seeing it that way... but remember that this is somewhat a product of how they see the world, and both parties need to compromise and try to at least understand what the other person is feeling/thinking and reach a reconciliation through it.

J vs. P

In matters of organization and planning especially, the J/P dynamic will be the most important factor in miscommunication. In trip planning, the J will most likely want to plan out every little step, while the P will want to fly by the seat of their pants, go with the wind, and not be tied down with plans. The attitudes are likely to clash if not consciously mediated.

In everyday life, the P is likely to annoy the J (some days more than others) when they forget chores to do, lose their list, forget important dates (anniversaries), are late, or change plans last minute. It is important for the P and J to work together so that the P can try to be at least a little more aware, and for the J to try and "go with the flow" a little more when needed.

Important Things to Remember

The above is in no way meant to be an absolute portrayal or predictor of communication manifestations. Every single person is unique, and thus even people with the same personality type will have nuances about how they communicate.

However, it is a good general predictor of how people will tend to communicate and process information based on their personality type.

The purpose of this article is also not a "cure all", a panacea, for communication difficulties. Good communication is a skill that must be developed, and one must choose to do it out of love and respect. Rather, this article is a tool to help one understand and be more aware of why a particular person may be communicating or process information in a particular way. It is my firm belief that understanding of a person is the first step in loving and respecting them.

© 2012 R D Langr

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