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Don’t Understand Each Other November 14, 2008

Posted by downton in Don't Understand Each Other.
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Don’t Understand Each Other

     Most people are blind to the fact that they are different animals living in a human zoo. No kidding! The odds are great that you and your mate are different animals. In fact, there’s a high probability that your temperaments are diametrically opposed. Do you know why?

     In life, opposites are attracted to each other. Quiet people are drawn toward talkative ones. Talkative ones, needing an attentive audience, are attracted to quiet ones. People who are rational and like to make decisions in a logical way will be fascinated by those who “shoot from the hip” without thinking. The hip shooters will find the logical ones mysterious and useful, especially when tax time rolls around. People who are planners and like everything in its proper place will be charmed by the creative and spontaneous types, who unfortunately can’t see the messes they make. The messy ones will love and admire the planners and “picker uppers,” while criticizing them for being so anal. Isn’t it crazy that the folks we fall in love with become a big pain in the you know what?

     Why does nature do this to us? Well, it doesn’t mean to mess up our lives; it’s just trying to create balance and wholeness. So, being that nature is stronger than we are, we’d better understand what we’re up against.

     Carl Jung, one of the great thinkers of our time, was the first to notice psychological patterns that made people different. He realized that people of opposite temperaments are attracted to each other. He noted the attraction between extroverts and introverts, thinking and feeling types, planning and spontaneous types, and intuitive and sensation types. Much later, his thinking became personality tests developed by Myers-Briggs and then David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates in Please Understand Me. By taking these tests, you learn what kind of human animal you are and how you’re similar or different from your mate. In a hurry, you’ll see all the points of conflict and cooperation that arise from your human natures. Isn’t that great? You get to see what kind of human animal you and your mate are and how the differences and similarities affect your relationship.

     When you don’t understand this about each other, you’re going to do something automatically that will add a fair amount of conflict to your relationship. How’s that? You’ll try to change your mate while your mate tries to change you. Isn’t that a wonderful source of irritation?  So, it will go like this. What if you’re the quiet type and love time to yourself, but you’re in a relationship with someone who likes to talk and party? It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? You’ll turn down repeated requests to go out, while your mate complains that you’re a “drag.” Secretly, what you want to happen is a transformation. Not that you will change, but that your mate will become more like you–outgoing and fun to take to a party.

     For most people, the animal in the human zoo that is best is the animal that they are. Knowing that, they will do everything within their power to change their mates and children to be like them. A “nightmare” mate or child is the one most unlike them. Since most mates don’t understand each other at the deeper level of psychological temperament, they grow critical and disenchanted with each other. They want the other person to change while they strongly resist changing themselves. Under these circumstances, the relationship becomes a battleground with two animals of different temperaments fighting for supremacy. Oh, by the way, this might include screaming matches, which might sound like this.

     Picker upper: “Why don’t you pick up your clothes? Everywhere I look, there’s a pile of dirty clothes that could have been easily dropped in the hamper?

     Messer upper: “Why are you so damn tidy! Can’t you give me a bit of slack? What’s wrong with having a few of my clothes laying around. I like it. It makes me feel at home.”

     Picker upper: “Why it irritates the hell out of me! I like order and you’re the messiest person I’ve ever known. I’m at the end of my patience.”

     Messer upper: “Well, I like disorder.”

     What comes next I can’t share because it becomes a shouting match with a large number of swear words I shouldn’t repeat here.

     If two people don’t understand each other as being two different animals, they are bound to have fights, which, if they occur frequently, can undermine their relationship and their love for each other. Now, let’s turn to you, the person who is taking responsibility for understanding and changing your relationship. What do you know about the psychological differences between you and your mate? How often do you try to change your mate? How often do you feel angry or disappointed that your mate isn’t more like you? Seeing what you see, what is one change you could make in yourself and in your relationship that would make a difference?

     At this point, you might be feeling a bit of despair, so let’s go for a bit of hope. If you and your mate grow to understand your basic differences in temperament, you will discover how your types can compliment each other. For example, a planner and a spontaneous type can have great vacations together. The planner will have fun planning the trip and the spontaneous partner will insist on moments of adventure outside that plan to keep things open and fresh.

     Another nice thing that happens is that opposite types can learn from each other. A quiet type can learn to speak up more by imitating the mate that finds speaking a piece of cake. A messer upper can learn to tidy up a bit more, for no other reason than to keep the peace. Now for the miracle. In time, by understanding each others’ differences, you come to appreciate them. Plus, you realize that your mate isn’t trying to irritate you but is just being the animal he or she is. This brings in just the right amount of humor to be able to make the relationship work, in fact, to even make it great.

     So, in a funny kind of way, the irritations and arguments that arise from two partners being different animals, can create wholeness in the relationship and also greater wholeness in the partners as they pick up some of the qualities of their opposite mate. Life moves in mysterious ways. When you not only understand this but can live it, you can buy my sweat shirt with the inscription: “When you can appreciate your differences, love will deepen.”

Coaching Tips

■ Take the Myers-Briggs temperament test or the test in David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates’ Please Understand Me. David Keirsey also has a website (www.keirsey.com) where the test can be taken for a small fee. In Keirsey and Bates’ book, the chapter on mating will be especially illuminating for you, so don’t miss it. Also, this will help you understand your children, if you have any.

■ After you both read Keirsey and Bates’ book, work for more understanding between each other. Know that you’re different animals doing what nature makes you do. You don’t intend to irritate each other. Learn to laugh at what you both do as human animals with a fate you never chose.

■ Seek to balance your conflicting temperaments to produce greater wholeness in your relationship.

■ Develop traits from your mate that will help you create greater wholeness within yourself.

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