When I work with recovering couples who are still fighting over personality differences, I suggest they take The Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator. This test identifies sixteen types of personalities.
I like the Myers-Briggs because it shows partners how they are different from each other and how they are similar, in a non-biased way. This information helps partners negotiate their differences instead of getting into a tug-of-war over whose personality is right and whose is wrong.
I encounter couples in my office all the time who fight because one wants, for example, to stay home and read a good book, while the other wants to go out and socialize. The first ends up getting framed as an anti-social nerd, and the other as a needy approval seeker. After taking the Myers-Briggs test, instead of being seen as an antisocial nerd and a needy approval seeker, they understand that one is an introvert and the other is an extrovert. This distinction has the potential to dramatically change the critical lens through which partners can end up looking at each other, and gives them the freedom to be true to their own personality type.
I thought it might be helpful to outline a few characteristics of the extrovert and the introvert in this blog, and hopefully it can shed some light on understanding your partner more deeply, and grease the wheels toward more empathy. Of course, we are all capable of being both an introvert and an extrovert, but there is a lead preference for one over the other for every person.
Tend to get energized being around groups of people. These folks love going to 12-Step meetings, love group therapy, and can't wait to go on spiritual retreats for days on end with lots of strangers.
Need high doses of interaction, such as talking or texting with friends each day. They are vulnerable to feeling lonely and depressed if deprived of interaction for too long. These are the recovering folks who have lots of sponsees, and who love to go out for fellowship after meetings.
Love planning dinner parties and could happily do this every weekend. They sign up for commitments when groups of people are involved. They will joyfully spend their days off work volunteering to be on a committee to plan recovery events.
Very interested in the external world and always want to know what is going on around them. These recovering folks are on committees and plan their best friend's AA birthday for them.
Often think most clearly and intelligently when they are thinking out loud. You see these people at the podium regularly, speaking at meetings or sharing each week.
Will talk with a stranger rather than sit quietly alone. They are experts at small talk. Their internal thought when being approached by a stranger is, "Oh, how nice! A friend I don't know yet." These folks go up to newcomers and hand out their phone number readily, don't hesitate to take a call from another recovering person, and will call the newcomer without waiting to be called first.
Tend to lose energy after being around groups of people. These folks want down time to put gas back in their emotional tank. They would rather listen to a podcast of a speaker from A.A. or Alanon than actually go to the meeting.
Like to socialize in small groups with friends they are already close to. The idea of going for fellowship with a bunch of people they do not know makes their skin crawl.
A good time consists of reading a good book, meditation, and hobbies that don't include other people. While these folks feel they are taking good care of themselves by doing these activities, extrovert partners may feel they are isolating themselves or being unavailable.
Choose their words carefully and do not like needless chit-chat. These are the folks who come in after a meeting starts, stand in the back of the room, and leave before the meeting ends.
Think best when they are alone. These are the folks who tell you they are "fine" when you ask them how they are.
Feel alone in a crowd, and feel phony when they are called upon to network for work purposes. Their internal thought when approached by a stranger is, "Thanks, I already have a friend." These folks can be mistakenly viewed as shy, aloof, or socially awkward, but in reality, they are just trying to hold onto themselves in front of other people.
The next time you want to look down on your partner for being an extrovert or an introvert, think twice. Wouldn't it be nice instead to stop and appreciate your partner for how he or she naturally operates? You could even consider respecting your partner enough to borrow some his or her traits, which would probably be a great complement to your own personality.
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