| Just Your Type |
By Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger
Genre: Inspirational & Self-Help
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"You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto"
Susan and Jeff thought they were perfect for each other. They met in college, enjoyed some of the same interests, came from similar backgrounds, and married after both had had time to establish their careers. Although they knew they were different in many ways, they felt a powerful attraction that they attributed to those very differences. Jeff was enthusiastic, outgoing, and creative; Susan was gentle, down-to-earth, and responsible. Each balanced the other's weaknesses, and together they complemented each other's strengths. But a few months after they were married, their bliss began to fade, replaced by a low-grade, constant tension. Susan's traditional nature surfaced. She was a conservative person at heart and wanted a stable, predictable life. Hardworking, quiet, and extremely diligent with all her commitments, she planned carefully for the future, saved their money to buy nice things, and was eager to settle down and raise a family in the town where she'd grown up. But Jeff was the quintessential Renaissance man constantly reinventing himself and talking about his many creative ideas. A natural entrepreneur who kept busy developing new ventures often on a shoestring Jeff was outgoing, flexible, insightful about people, and curious about new experiences. Far from wanting to settle down, he longed to travel the globe with Susan, learning as much as he could about other cultures.
What was initially a strong attraction between Susan and Jeff was slowly becoming an inescapable source of frustration. Susan tried to get Jeff to commit to buying a house in their community, and Jeff tried to get Susan to consider borrowing a friend's camper so they could at least spend some time traveling and exploring the country. Instead of feeling supported and encouraged for his ideas and curiosity, Jeff felt undermined, criticized, and stifled. Try as she might, Susan couldn't help but see the practical problems with most of his ideas. Because she couldn't get Jeff to commit to a definite plan, Susan grew increasingly worried about their future and their financial stability.
Although they tried to talk about their frustrations, their inability to reach each other only led to more frustration and defensiveness. Feeling hurt and unsupported, Susan withdrew, while Jeff vacillated between trying to cajole her into giving it one more try and storming off to spend time with his friends. After three years of bickering, retreating, and building walls between them, they decided they were just too incompatible and joined the estimated 53 percent of marriages that end in divorce.
What might have happened if Susan and Jeff had had a better, more constructive way of communicating with each other? What if they had not only understood their differences but also viewed them positively and as a source of richness? And what if instead of trying to change each other, they had reveled in their individuality and worked together to establish common ground? Maybe they could have avoided some of the pain they both felt and saved their marriage. Perhaps.
Although not all couples are as seemingly mismatched as Susan and Jeff, many are. According to our latest research an extensive couples survey project comprising a scientific survey and in-depth interviews more than 40 percent of couples report experiencing regular relationship difficulties that range from vague dissatisfaction and frustration to outright misery. Most couples sincerely want things to be better between them, but because they don't even understand the problems, they can't figure out how to fix them. Why are so many people so dissatisfied? Why is it so difficult to make a relationship work? After all, doesn't "love conquer all"?
Obviously, there are many reasons relationships fail, but an important one is that most people enter into relationships when they're young and inexperienced and simply don't know much about themselves, let alone their partners. When you add to this the enormous pressure put on young people to "settle down" (and get married) by well-meaning parents, friends, religious institutions, and media, it's not surprising that so many jump into marriage assuming this is the way it's supposed to be. And despite the fact that the life expectancy today far outpaces that of only a couple of generations ago when being married for life meant maybe twenty years we still have the expectation that we'll live happily ever after with our one true love, even though that could be as long as sixty years. That's a long time, even for a great marriage!
And is it any surprise that we are attracted to people who are different from us? Like Susan and Jeff, most of us are inexplicably drawn to people who are very different than we are. The qualities that we find charming or exciting during the magical courtship period become much less appealing when we discover that our partners are like that every day! Rather than understand, accept, and appreciate our partners for who they are, we unwittingly turn the differences between us into the chief source of our frustration, irritation, and dissatisfaction. Instead of celebrating our differences, we resist them; we try to make our partners more like us. And as we do, we chip away at the foundations of our relationships by constantly criticizing, complaining, blaming, and dismissing our partners' characteristics and natural tendencies. Most couples engage in this undermining campaign in very subtle and indirect ways; they rarely address the problem honestly and openly. They just stop talking really talking. So the overwhelming reason relationships fail is poor communication.
This is hardly news. But given the abundance of advice available to people today, it's still amazing and sad that we haven't yet learned how to communicate more effectively with our partners. Many have offered their pet theories about why people have such a hard time finding and sustaining satisfying relationships. Most offer simple, quick-fix approaches, not unlike the latest fad diet that promises a twenty-pound weight loss in as many days. And some of these programs deliver, at least temporarily. But ultimately they fail, because they are based on bad science, fail to appreciate the way human beings really act, or both. A whole industry has been created around the notion that gender is to blame: men and women are so inherently different that they don't even come from the same planet! Since they don't, won't, and can't speak the same language, they can never be expected to understand each other, much less communicate well.
Debunking the Myth That It's All About Gender
There's no denying that those who espouse the viewpoint that gender is an inevitable barrier to good communication have struck a chord with millions of people who are frustrated with the way they deal with their partners. Most people would agree that men and women are different, and in some very profound ways. Some women do fit the female stereotype of being sensitive, emotional, nurturing, and open, just as some men fit the male stereotype of being tough, competitive, emotionally self-contained, and independent. But as our research study demonstrated, it turns out these men and women represent only between 30 and 40 percent of the American population. Although advice based on such gender stereotypes often is helpful to these individuals, it doesn't accurately describe the 60 to 70 percent of people who don't fit the stereotype.
So if it isn't gender that accounts for the communication failures between people that are the leading cause of conflict, what is it? It is our personality differences, our basic natures. People are not all the same. We have different energy levels, notice different aspects of the world around us, make decisions based on different criteria, and structure our lives in different ways depending on what makes us most comfortable. These important and fundamental characteristics combine to create the whole personality, a sum total that goes way beyond our gender. This is a comprehensive perspective we get through the powerful insights of Personality Type.
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Personality Type
Actually, there's a pretty good chance you're already familiar with Personality Type, and perhaps you've even discovered your own type by reading one of the many books on the subject, taking a psychological inventory called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI),* or attending a workshop or seminar. Over the past twenty-five years, Personality Type has helped more than thirty million people gain valuable insights into themselves and others and become more successful in their personal and professional lives. Originally based on the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, the popularity of Personality Type is due to the work of two remarkable American women, Katharine Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. It is such an exceptional tool that it is used by thousands of counselors, therapists, and educators every day, and it is considered by many Fortune 500 companies to be the most effective tool for improving interpersonal communication.
So what is Personality Type, and how does knowing about it help people communicate better? Personality Type is a system of understanding human behavior. There are sixteen distinctly different personality types all equally valuable, each with its own natural strengths and potential weaknesses. And although every individual is unique, people of the same type are often remarkably similar in important ways, such as how outgoing or private, realistic or imaginative, logical or emotional, or serious or playful they are. Rather than relying on limiting stereotypes about men and women, Personality Type paints a clearer and richer portrait of a person by enabling each individual to understand his or her values, drives, and motivations. In hundreds of in-depth interviews with couples of each combination who know and use Personality Type to better understand each other, it wasn't at all surprising that practically all of them echoed the same sentiment: "I only wish we had learned about Type earlier in our relationship. It would have made all the difference in the world!" And when asked what advice they would give to other couples of their same type combination, virtually all said the same thing: "Learn about Personality Type."
About the Authors
As avid students of this powerful model of human behavior, we've conducted research, written four books, and trained thousands of professionals in the use of Personality Type for more than twenty years. We began as career counselors and wrote the best-selling Do What You Are, a book that helped more than half a million people find more satisfying careers by matching work with their personality types. As parents, we next wrote Nurture by Nature, a guide that helps partners understand their children's types so they can be more respectful and nurturing parents and reduce the number of conflicts they have with their children. At the urging of many colleagues and readers, we next wrote The Art of SpeedReading People, a system that teaches how to size up other people instantly so you can speak their language. Now we tackle the important topic of helping couples better understand and appreciate each other so they might build more satisfying relationships.
Practically everyone who has any experience with Personality Type finds it immediately applicable to their personal relationships. Whether we're presenting workshops on team building or effective parenting or training career professionals, seminar participants inevitably ask us about their relationships: Is theirs a relationship that's destined to succeed or fail? Is there such a thing as one perfect type for them? Are some types naturally better suited to each other than others? Can opposites stay together? Although over the years we accumulated plenty of anecdotal information on the subject, until now, there hasn't been the kind of empirical and rigorous scientific research needed to test our hypothesis: The more similar two people's types are, the more they understand each other and the easier the relationship is. And the less two people have in common, the harder they'll both have to work to understand each other but they can still have a great relationship!
We began by designing a comprehensive research study the first of its kind to support the evidence we'd seen for twenty years among Type users, workshop participants, family, friends, and associates. We designed an extensive, anonymous, on-line survey to help us discover, among other things, what people of all sixteen personality types considered most important in a relationship. People also told us about the most common sources of conflict and what they believed was the secret of a satisfying relationship. Respondents shared their experiences, their hopes, and their disappointments. Specifically, they told us the kinds of things that brought them closer to their partners and what drove them apart. And they volunteered tips they'd picked up along the way to help make things easier, less contentious, and more gratifying. Well over a thousand people participated in the survey: they represented each of the sixteen types, all fifty states, all ages, all educational and economic backgrounds, and all different types of relationships very new ones, second and third marriages, and unions that have lasted more than fifty years.
Next we interviewed hundreds of couples of every combination about their relationships either over the phone or in person. These generous folks candidly shared their observations about their joys and frustrations. They told us their hard-won secrets of success and what they thought made their relationships satisfying. And, most important, they offered valuable advice for other couples of the same type combinations.
Our research showed that of the more than one thousand people from all walks of life who answered all the survey items, a striking 91 percent cited good communication as the single most important aspect of a satisfying relationship. Poor communication was cited as the most frequent and serious cause of conflict. Our findings are very clear: the better the communication, the more satisfied couples are with their relationships. Understanding Personality Type is a powerful tool for helping couples communicate better. Results and discoveries like these are included throughout this book to give you the kind of practical advice you've always wanted the kind that really helps you to understand yourself and your partner and to communicate in new, more effective ways. Solving communication problems will help alleviate many other important challenges that couples face, such as parenting conflicts and sexual compatibility issues. Understanding your partner's language makes those issues infinitely easier to manage and resolve. So Just Your Type is first and foremost a communication guide.
So, Who's This Book For, Anyway? And Do I Really Need It?
Unlike many of the dozens of other relationship advice books, Just Your Type is tailor-made for you and your partner. No matter your type (or your partner's type), this book is written specifically for you. Every one of the possible type combinations will find a section just for them. And it's designed for people in all stages of their relationships couples just starting out as well as those who've been together for many years. And because people at different stages of development have different needs and face different challenges, we examined those age-specific concerns in our research. What we learned will help you no matter where you are.
Shopping for Mr. or Ms. Right
Learning about Personality Type will be helpful for young people who are looking for a partner or who are already involved with someone but aren't quite sure he or she is "the one." If you're one of these readers, this book will give you some important insights into your own needs and help you determine whether a potential partner is likely to meet them. Understanding Personality Type now will help you move forward with your eyes wide-open. And although there isn't just one right type for anyone, you will learn important things about yourself and what you need in a relationship for it to be fulfilling. This book may even save you from future heartache by helping you decide to end a relationship that's not right for you.
What if you're already involved with someone and things are pretty good? Why would you need this book? Our research indicates that 18- to 25-year-olds report the highest level of satisfaction in their relationships. For these people, their relationships are new and exciting, and typically their careers are starting to take off. Most young people have some money to spend on themselves often for the first time in their lives. They enjoy plenty of freedom and few responsibilities (only about 6% of survey respondents in this age group have children). At this stage, many are still idealistic and have great optimism about the future. If you are at this age, learning about Personality Type now will give you the kind of self-awareness that will help you communicate your needs and make you more likely to get those needs met. It will help you appreciate the aspects of your relationship that work and provide insights into why certain issues always seem to result in conflict. If your difficulties are related to Type differences, as relationship conflicts almost always are, now is the time to deal with them, before they become entrenched patterns. Personality Type provides such accurate insights that thousands of counselors and clergy highly recommend (and in some cases insist) that couples learn about each other's personality types before they get married.
Twenty- to Thirty-Something, and the Beat Goes On
Most people in relationships during their mid-twenties to early thirties experience mounting pressure relating to career choice and advancement, and about a quarter of them have children. The courtship phase, in which both people were on their best behavior, may be a fading memory. Reality is setting in, and many of those quirky personality qualities they found so appealing are now a source of annoyance and a cause of arguments. In the midst of all this, individuals struggle to redefine themselves in a variety of new roles. In addition to being husbands and wives, they may be new parents and sons- or daughters-in-law. And many have to navigate this tricky journey without the benefit of good role models, since half their parents' marriages ended in divorce. Using the powerful tool of Personality Type strengthens and supports these relationships by giving them a common language and a new level of mutual respect.
The Stress Factory
Of all the different age groups, the people who claim they are the "least satisfied" are those in the 31- to 40-year-old range. They are arguably under the greatest amount of pressure, as these are the critical years for building careers, making major financial decisions (such as the purchase of homes and cars), and starting to invest for the future. Add to this becoming and being parents, which is perhaps the biggest source of stress on a couple. Although the overwhelming majority of parents consider children to be their greatest source of happiness, they are also the number one cause of stress. Since your personality type influences your values and your parenting style, it makes sense that parents of different types are more likely to experience great conflict over issues involving children, such as how demanding and how consistent or flexible to be. Good communication becomes even more important. Given the crushing pressure on people in this age group, it's not surprising that they experience the highest rate of divorce. This is the critical time when relationships either sink or sail. Most people in this group have been together for seven to fifteen years; many haven't been especially happy for a long time, and they may secretly be wondering, "Is this all there is for me?" Others who are drifting apart may feel that if things aren't going to get any better, they may as well leave now, while they're still young (and attractive) enough to find another mate.
But there is reason to be optimistic for people who hang in there and honestly look at themselves and their partners, take responsibility for their shortcomings, and find compassion for their partners' imperfections. Since the two greatest sources of stress are career and parenting, our research shows that the more satisfied people are in these areas, the happier they are in their relationships. Knowing your type can help you make positive changes on both fronts, and those who are able to weather the storm often emerge with a much stronger, closer relationship than they had before.
It's Gettin' Better All the Time
But the news gets even better for people who stay together longer. People age 41 to 50 report more satisfaction, and those 51 to 60 report even more satisfaction due in great part to growing maturity, increased self-awareness and understanding of their partners, greater career stability and satisfaction, and less financial pressure. As couples become more realistic in their expectations, they are generally better able to accommodate the conflicts in their relationships, and, most important, they have learned how to communicate with their partners in ways that work. This is often true of people in second or third marriages as well, since they've learned much from their past experiences. And by age 61 to 70, many couples say they're having the best times of their lives especially if they enjoy good health and don't have excessive financial concerns. Not only do they have relatively few responsibilities, but they also finally have the time to pursue interests they may have deferred during their working years. As couples, they have strengthened their bond through decades of life experiences and have come to know each other well. In essence, they have learned through decades of being together and lots of tough times the secrets that Personality Type can offer people earlier on: how to understand, accept, and appreciate their partners for who they are. This is the gift of Personality Type. So whether your relationship has been going on for two months or twenty years, this book will help you see and appreciate your partner in an entirely new light.
How to Get Started
Great rewards await you and your partner, but achieving them will require some pretty active participation on your part. Think of this as a workbook, an interactive guide for the two of you to share. We'll give you plenty of step-by-step instructions as you work through this exciting and thought-provoking experience. We know from conducting the interviews that the couples who answered our research questions together (even those who had been together for decades) learned important things about their partners that they had never known before. Many found a new appreciation for their partners, and most felt a renewed sense of hope, enthusiasm, and attraction for each other. And more than a few couples told us that it was as if they were finding each other for the first time.
Despite all our independence, human beings are at heart social animals. We seem to be designed to be part of a twosome. In fact, even though more than 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, most divorced people remarry within a couple of years. It seems we all want to be in a satisfying relationship, even if different types define a satisfying relationship differently. By discovering how to make constructive and loving use of the natural differences between you and your partner, you can create the kind of relationship that works for both of you. Personality Type is a tool you can use to strengthen and perhaps save your relationship so it can grow and change with you over a lifetime.
Excerpted from Just Your Type , by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger . Copyright (c) 2000 by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger . Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top