Who am I? Who are you?
By Carol Kuykendall
Even before we finished our phone conversation, I felt the familiar pangs of irritation growing inside me. Why did this person always seem to annoy me? I’d just told her that I felt sorry for my daughter because her first-grade-best-friend told her she didn’t want to be her friend anymore. And Miss Annoying came back with some spiritual answer that made my feelings seem shallow and unhealthy.
Why was I surprised? Whether the conversation was about mothering or relationships or fears about finances, Miss Annoying always assumed she had the right answer straight from God. And she always gave her answer without even acknowledging my feelings. She had absolutely no awareness.
“Gotta’ go,” I told her. “I’m off to aerobics.”
All the way through my lunges and crunches, I carried on profound imaginary conversations with this woman. I told her how hurtful and arrogant she was. Of course she listened, amazed at my insights. In my imagination, that is!
I came out of aerobics feeling much better … which only lasted until my next encounter with Miss Annoying.
“Why continue the relationship?” one might ask. Answer: We couldn’t ignore each other. Our lives crossed paths in many unavoidable places. To cross her off my path would be an obvious insult. And relationships are important to me. So are loyalty and sensitivity.
I just continued to feel annoyed … until … I took a personality test that not only revealed something to me about myself, but also about people like this friend who is annoyingly different from me.
She and I were both in a church class that offered this test. At first, I resisted taking it because I didn’t want to be “labeled.” But this well-known Myers Briggs Personality Profile promised “there are no right or wrong answers.” And also that the results can help us understand each other better and work together in our marriages, friendships and even church committees.
So off I went on this journey of self-discovery, answering lots of questions such as “Do you more often let: a) your heart rule your head or b) your head rule your heart?” Or, “Is it a higher compliment to be called a) a person with real feelings or b) a consistently reasonable person?”
As we tallied our own results, I discovered that I came out high on the “feeling” side. And surprise! My friend landed off-the-charts opposite as a “thinking” person. Whoa! This isn’t just about an annoyance factor in our relationship. The reality is, we are wired totally differently.
The facilitator went on to explain personality differences. God created us as unique individuals, but there are patterns in the way we differ, and those differences can cause misunderstandings and hurt feelings if we don’t recognize and appreciate them in ourselves and others. A thinker will be truthful before tactful. A feeler will be tactful before truthful. A thinker is concerned for truth and justice. A feeler is concerned about relationships and harmony.
Bottom line: This person and I truly respond to life and live out our faith… differently. Not rightly or wrongly. Simply, differently. Could I accept that?
I began to try, and now, some 20 years later, we are good friends. Not best friends, but really good friends, even though she moved away a few years ago. Today, I appreciate the fact that she is a really good Sunday school and Bible study teacher, while my passion is to help women tell their personal stories about the challenges they face in living out their faith.
I see our differences like the contrast between IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotional quotient). The combination of both strengths brings balance in our marriages, friendships and team efforts in our job responsibilities.
I’ve taken many more tests since that first one. All are aimed at increasing my self-awareness as they measure interests, behavioral styles, spiritual gifts and love languages. “No right or wrong answers,” I’m always told. They’re just good ways to understand my own patterns of response – and even more importantly, to appreciate the differences in others’ responses.
Your personality type has an impact on all your relationships.
For helpful resources on personality type and tests, including ideas on parenting different personality types, go to MOPS.org/personality.
Carol Kuykendall is the author of "Five Simple Ways to Grow a Great Family" and co-author of "What Every Mom Needs", available at MOPShop.org.