The best description I know of a personality overall is given by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI – based on Carl Jung’s Psychological Types).

In this description of people we have pairs of preferences. Everyone has all preferences but prefers one of each pair. The pairs are:

  • introversion and extraversion,
  • sensation and intuition,
  • thinking and feeling, and
  • judging and perceiving

– some of these words are unfortunate, not giving a clear idea of what the preference is.

Most of the conflict in our relationships (in the way the MBTI pictures it) is between the preference for judging and perceiving.

This is the preference for just knowing what is going on (perceiving) and making decisions (judging). To make a decision means to step away from what is going on to decide. For instance we stop tasting our food when we have had enough, we decide we now want to do something with the knowledge we have acquired. When perceiving we just stay with what is going on, (the taste of the food, our interest in the subject we are learning).

Perhaps the easiest way to know if you prefer deciding (judging) or a staying-with-what-is-going-on person (perceiving) is how you do the shopping.

  • If you prefer deciding you will probably make a list and stick to the list.
  • If you prefer perceiving you will probably walk around and be reminded of what you need by what is on the shelf.

I have found no way to find a satisfactory way to compromise – my ex-wife and I just simply agreed that only one of us would do the shopping, otherwise we just annoyed each other.

This cannot be settled rationally – they are just preferences, there is no point arguing. So how does knowing this help? Firstly it helps to know that the other person is not just being annoying or perverse (they just prefer a different way of living to me). Secondly it gives a place to start talking. If you can let the other person know your preference and that you understand that their preference this helps a lot.

If you are having a conflict with someone where they just don’t seem to understand, ask yourself if this may be the problem. Then see if letting them know you understand their preference makes a difference. In this way much conflict can be reduced. We will live more happily with each other.

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