Thursday, October 10, 2013

Understanding your family personalities and dynamics

It's been 20 years since Steve and I were dating and we first took the Myers-Briggs personality test.  We learned some things about each other at that time.  He was an ISTP and I was an INFJ.  Even though we were both introverts, I was a much stronger introvert than he was.  I remember our pre-marital counselor telling him he'd need to respect my need to be alone and recharge.  Basically, we were total opposites. 

This website passed across my facebook feed several times this week:   I've always been fascinated by personalities and understanding their nuances - it's part of my INFJ type - so I took the test for the umpteenth time.  (It's free unless you decide you want to buy the longer in-depth personality report.  We were satisfied with the basic personality description it provided.)  

Today I came up as INFP, though barely a P instead of a J.  That is actually the first time I've ever come up as a P rather than a J.  I don't think my personality has changed that much ... I was always close to the middle on those ... but as a mom of 9 right now, I feel as if I'm living more in the P-unsettled and disorganized zone than the J structured and settled zone.

My 14 year old daughter C saw me taking the test and was fascinated herself.  I let her take the test, because I understood the desire to identify her personality type.  She tested as an ISFP.  I was surprised that she was an S instead of an N, but I wasn't as surprised by the rest of it.  I knew she was an I and a P, though there are definitely parts of her that are very J (wanting things settled).  I'm a little suspicious of that P actually.  ISFJ might fit her better as she matures. She told me herself that she likes to have a plan and know the plan.  That sounds like a J to me.

Then my 12 year old son J wanted to take it, because he saw his sister taking it.  I knew he'd be an extrovert and he came out as an ESTP, though I don't think he's as extroverted as some of his sisters.  I expect my 16 year old daughter R is also an ESTP.  She and he get along very well. I know she's an extrovert.  It also said that ESTP's dislike theory and abstract discussions.  Ha!  Both my 16 year old R,  my 12 year old J, align with their Dad in a strong dislike for those types of abstract ideas and discussions. They hate the why and how questions in essays and Bible Studies, preferring to stick with factual who, what, where, and when questions. My 16 year old daughter R is very good at reading facial expressions and body language, which was listed as an ESTP trait.

Of course, then my 9 year old son M wanted to take the test.  I really didn't expect he'd get accurate results at his age, especially since I had to explain words like intuition, isolate, and small talk to him.  In the end, he told me he's an ENTP.  I was a little surprised and thinking that might not be accurate until they read parts of the description to me.

The website said that ENTPs like to argue, even if they don't care about the results.  ARGH!!  M is my child who loves to argue, debate, and push buttons with everyone in the house.  My INFJ personality is part of the diplomat section and dislikes conflict, but he is constantly creating it.  I knew he'd found the right personality type when the kids told me that. He and I had butted heads several times already today.  Then he read that they make good engineers, and that excited him since it lines up with his interests.  Other than a NASCAR driver, his career goals include being an inventor, in the Air Force, or working for NASA.  We just discussed the NASCAR idea and I told him that very few people become famous race car drivers, just like very few play professional sports.  We decided maybe he should just plan to enjoy watching NASCAR while preparing for a career in something more like engineering.

At the moment, I'm a diplomat in a house of mostly explorers and analysts.  An introvert in a house of mostly extroverts.  My oldest daughter who is at college was an INFP, very similar to me, though less introverted  than I am.  I don't know about the 7 year old, 5 year old, 3 year old or baby yet ... but of the older ones living at home with me now, only one is an introvert like me.  I'm also the only NF-diplomat in the house (unless one of the little ones grows up to be one.) 

If all these letters are confusing you, here is a basic explanation of the Myers-Briggs personality test and the four dichotomies. Introvert vs. Extrovert, Sensing versus Intuitive, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving. 

Obviously, we can't totally define a person by a test. Even though I believe God does instill personality traits in each person, He is infinitely more creative than a flat 16 personality types. There are more variances than a test can really identify. Sometimes we are barely into one category, which means we have a lot of attributes from the other personality.  Sometimes we are very strong in a category.  Sometimes our natural tendencies (like my J) are over-ridden by our circumstances (large family of P personalities).  But the test still helps to understand the relationships, interests, and conflicts in the family.

Have you or any members of your family taken personality tests?  Did it help you understand your family?  Were you surprised by anyone's results?

April E.

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