MBTI type can tell you a lot about a person. Most people who know about the Myers-Briggs assessment know there are four letters that make up the MBTI personality type, but each of those letters is really just scratching the surface. You can then start looking at how each of the letters work together in combination, how your interests and upbringing and learned behaviors change the lens with which your preferences shine through. Then you can start seeing how each of the letters interact with each other, and how your non-dominant preference starts to appear at different times in your life and as you mature emotionally.
And this is all just about you. Now, imagine looking at a relationship and factoring in an additional personality — the complexity skyrockets.
Once you know your four-letter MBTI type preferences (you can take the assessment here), you can start any conversation about relationships by first looking at each of your preferences.
Extraversion and Introversion
Extraversion and introversion preferences are the first letters of your Myers-Briggs personality type, and they tell you how you direct your energy and focus your attention. Remember that preferences are like rooms in a house: you can go either room at any time, though one of them you’ll prefer more than the other. If you have preferences for extraversion, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever use your introverted preference, but that you feel more comfortable with your extraverted preference and it’s the one that comes to you more naturally. If you and the person you’re dating have opposite preferences for extraversion and introversion, it can be a great way to bring a little balance into your life, but it can also be the cause for some major hiccups along the way. For example, after a long day at work someone with preferences for Introversion might want some quiet time to reflect on their day or do a relaxing activity (probably a solo activity – though doing a solo activity together like reading on a couch with legs intertwined is usually acceptable), while someone with preferences for extraversion who’s had a grueling day would come home and want to talk about all the things that happened during work to re-energize themselves. Misunderstandings that arise from differences in this preference pair usually come from one or neither person in the relationship understanding each other’s needs and behaviors based on their type.
If both people in the relationship have the same preferences, there might be less hiccups along the way but you also might wear each other out with activities (the saying, “too much of a good thing”) could apply here. Often when both people have a preference for extraversion or introversion, one of the people in the relationship will unconsciously “flex” their preferences to create balance between the two personalities. Flexing is when you consciously or unconsciously use the opposite preference of the one you naturally prefer. So if two people in a relationship prefer introversion, one of those people might flex their preference for extraversion by suggesting the two of you go out to an event instead of your usual quiet night in, suggesting it might be a good way to “mix things up” or to try this, “for a change.” We naturally look for harmony through balance in most parts of our lives, so it makes sense that if both people have the same preference, one would flex to incorporate more of that balance occasionally.
Sensing and Intuition
The preferences for sensing and intuition tell us about how we naturally prefer to take in information and learn new things. This preference pair (and one other one) is one of the two of the pairs with the potential to cause the most strife in a relationship. Starting a new relationship means doing a lot of learning, especially about each other. Those with a preference for sensing tend to be more detail-oriented and want step-by-step, concrete information and are more focused on what’s going on in the present. Those with preference for intuition are more big-picture oriented and generally want to know how things are connected and where it’s going in the future. So imagine you have couple on a first date learning about each other, one with a preference for sensing and the other with a preference for intuition. The sensing preference person asks about the other person’s job, and the person (with the preference for intuition) answers about how the department is doing, where the company’s going, where their job is going in the next few years and that they may be looking for other jobs soon in these certain areas. Meanwhile, the person with the preference for sensing was expecting an answer more along the lines of a job description – what the person is responsible for, what they do on a day-to-day basis, what part of their job they liked today and what irked them today. Neither approach is right or wrong, but remember that the person asking the question is coming from a sensing preference background and expecting an answer to the question the way THEY would have answered the question – in more of a detail-oriented way. While the difference in sensing and intuition preferences can be exciting (you’re learning new things from a different perspective), it also has the most potential to cause frustration if one or both of you is oblivious to these personality differences and how to speak to them without creating a conflict. This is why a lot of premarital counseling sessions employ the Myers-Briggs assessment for relationships – it gives the couple a common language to use to address differences that doesn’t lead to one person or the other being wrong or bad while the other person is right.
Thinking and Feeling
Thinking and feeling preferences indicate differences in how people like to make decisions or come to closure. If you and your romantic interest have the same personality preference here, it is probably one of the more advantageous of all the preference pairs to get both of you on the same page. As you know, once you get past the dating stage into a relationship there are a lot of decisions to be made, especially as your relationship gets more serious. People who prefer thinking make decisions based on logic and a more impersonal analysis, while people who prefer feeling make decisions based on their own values and empathy. Reconciling these two when preferences in a couple differs is the hardest compared to any other preference pair. For example, imagine making the decision about who to invite to your wedding. The person with the preferences for thinking might start with the budget, how many people can be invited total, how many from each side of the family, and then start with immediate relatives and closest friends and work their way through from there. Someone with a preference for feeling might start by separating people in groups – those who they absolutely must invite, those who they’d like to invite, and those who they should invite because someone will be hurt if this person is not invited (be that another guest or a member of one of the families). Or perhaps the decision is moving to a new city – the factors that each person would research and want to make a decision about where to move would be very different with two different preferences for thinking and feeling. Just like with the sensing and intuition preference pair, differences with the thinking and feeling preference pair have the potential to round out perspectives and inputs into the couple’s lives, but also have the most potential for conflict along the way.
Judging and Perceiving
Judging and perceiving preferences are all about how we like to organize (or not organize) our outside worlds. Granted, how we like to organize our outside worlds and how they actually ARE organized are sometimes not in sync. If you have a preference for judging (planful, scheduled, organized, to-do list central), but grew up in a family where everyone else had preferences for perceiving (open to changes in schedule, like to be spontaneous, enjoy the pressure of a deadline) you may not have had a choice in how your outside world or your day was organized because your parents led that initiative. Or maybe you have a preference for perceiving but work at a very structured, planful company whose culture does not include working on projects as your desires allow – they need each part of the project organized, scheduled and reported on and tend to micromanage all aspects of work. Sometimes, you don’t have a choice in how your outside world is organized. For couples, differences in this preference pair can really bring balance to a relationship and make for some really fun times, BUT it can also make the relationship difficult if (big if) there isn’t trust in the other person. The reason trust is important in this preference pair is because however you organize your outside world, that’s how you’re working towards accomplishing something…most things… ok, almost all things. Think about the differences in planning a vacation between these two preferences. If there’s a good amount of trust in the relationship, each person won’t because as anxious because they know that the other person will get things done, just maybe not in the same way they’d approach the situation. Without trust, neither person has confidence in the other to accomplish what they should and then often become frustrated because those with the judging preference have already locked down plans and aren’t leaving any room for bigger, better opportunities while those with a preference for perceiving seem like they’re waiting until the last minute and haven’t made any progress towards the end goal yet.
With any of the preferences, without at least one side of the relationship understanding these differences, friction can build and ultimately someone could be left saying, “this person doesn’t care for me enough to know my needs.” Then again, friction can also occur between people of the same preference if one person is always having to flex (use their non-dominant preference) and balance out the other person.
Ultimately, self-awareness first is key. You are more than four preferences and your personality is extremely complex, but having a common language to understand differences and being able to communicate about those differences is ultimately a great contributor to a long relationship. And if you’re reading this blog series right now – then you’re already ahead of the game.
Interested in having your significant other take the MBTI assessment and learning more about yourselves and each other? We’ve got a couple of options for you.
Here at MBTIonline.com you can gift the assessment to someone else, or if you’ve already got an account with us you can invite your significant other to sign up where you’ll both get a complimentary comparison report. The report speaks directly to the differences in your two MBTI types. Just log in, go to “Share the MBTI” and click “Invite a Friend.”
Also, make sure you follow our Facebook page in the coming days as we have a special thank you for all of our followers for Valentine’s Day!