Have you ever met someone for the first time and the two of you just clicked? Sometimes this happens when we interact with people with the same personality type as ours. And if those interactions turn into lasting relationships, reunions—even after a long separation—often feel as if no time has passed at all. It’s wonderful when that happens, but this isn’t to say that these relationships necessarily have to be richer, more intimate, or more rewarding than those we have with folks who aren’t our “type twin.”
Life is built on relationships (romantic and otherwise), and while technology and social media have changed some aspects of how we find kindred spirits and keep up with relationships, the fact remains that most people with whom we need or want to form a relationship will have a different personality type from our own. Understanding MBTI type theory can be a powerful source for forming and strengthening relationships and make us feel luckier in love, family and friendship.
Rules of Engagement
Before engaging in relationship building, keep in mind two rules from MBTI expert Judy Grutter:
- It’s the responsibility of the initiator to adapt to the receiver’s favored communication mode, if you both know your MBTI type. If you want to build a relationship with someone, you have to figure out how that person naturally communicates—don’t expect that he or she is going to figure out how you naturally communicate. In fact, it may be a mistake to assume that the person is ever going to magically just “get” you—you may have to teach him or her about your communication preferences.
- It’s the responsibility of the person who understands psychological type to adapt to the favorite way of communication of the person who doesn’t know type. If you know type, you’re the one with the knowledge to identify the common ground and bridge the gaps—the other person most likely does not.
In sum, assume that the onus is on you (the reader who knows about MBTI type) to improve communication in your relationships. This may be true of relationships you need to cultivate, such as with a family member whom you don’t naturally click with, or a relationship you want to cultivate, such as one with that charming person you ran into at the coffee shop the other day.
Finding the Common Ground
Connection happens when each type meets its needs for:
- Discussion and reflection (Extraverted and Introverted preferences)
- Structure and flexibility (Judging and Perceiving preferences)
- Reaching conclusions (Thinking and Feeling preferences) and getting information (Sensing and Intuition preferences)
So the more that both participants in a relationship can meet these needs, the more satisfying and productive the relationship will be. In some cases, it may be best to start by identifying what you have in common. For example, if you both have a preference for Intuition, you both perceive the world in terms of possibilities.
Extraverted Intuitive types for example, often talk about the possibilities out loud, while Introverted Intuitive types tend to want to go over the possibilities internally. However, Extraverts, following their natural approach to exploring possibilities, might overwhelm Introverts, who might in turn be tempted to shut down the conversation, even though they both might actually come to the same conclusion once they’ve had time to think about it. It’s about the approach rather than the ideas.
Imagine a couple planning a short road trip together. One of them (with preferences for Extraversion and Perceiving) is rattling off all the amazing places they could possibly go—Disneyland, Seaworld, the Golden Gate Bridge—while the other (with preferences for Introversion and Judging) is trying to figure out (in their head) how in the world they’re going to fit 20-plus hours of driving time into a four-day excursion.
With a little knowledge of type, the person preferring Extraversion and Perceiving might alter his approach by refraining from immediately unloading all his ideas at once onto the one who prefers Introversion and Judging, perhaps allowing that person to take them in one at a time. “Hey, are you interested in Disneyland? Let’s talk about what it would take to make that happen.”
Or, the person with the preference for Introversion, rather than shutting down the conversation, may learn to guide it in a way that’s a little more productive for both of them. “Those are great ideas! Is there one of them that would top your list that I can start researching?” Making a few modifications like this may sound trivial to your relationship at first, but they’re actually small steps that can lead to a big and meaningful conclusion – a better relationship.