I was intrigued with an email which lends itself nicely for the completion of understanding preferences.
Hello Ruth. I always enjoy reading your explanations. And I always get new understandings. Thank you. I wondered what your thoughts might be on the importance of Values in a relationship. Things like religious beliefs, financial attitude (saving vs spending), political preferences, focus on family, importance of truth and integrity, belief in science and knowledge, and lifestyle decisions like exercise and diet. It seems that a couple closely aligned in these areas (values) will have a smoother life with less disagreements than if they make different daily life decisions, regardless of how MBTI aligned they are.
This question resembles my outline for marriage counseling where we discuss individual beliefs and behaviors first, then consider adjustments to personality differences as per MBTI. Even two people with identical MBTI Type will not automatically agree on values mentioned above. That’s why I never encourage young people to look for someone based primarily on Temperament but pay attention to those with whom you have fun as you get acquainted and agree on Value systems.
Years before MBTI, I remember well what attracted me to Jim. He smiled a lot, was friendly, helpful, pleasant, and very polite. By school design socialization was very limited and controlled, but being randomly assigned to a dinner table for the semester, we began to get acquainted. We looked forward to seeing each other at dinner. We were both amazed and pleased when we were placed on the same Monday night Personal Assignment which meant he would pick me up at my dorm. We were allowed to be together on a week night to minister, which provided additional insight into each other’s personalities and abilities.
After our first date, Jim wanted to schedule three dates ahead. I was extremely comfortable around him, so agreed. Our values matched regarding finances, religion and recreation. Neither was interested in politics. But the fact that he was very punctual for picking me up for Monday visitation ministry and faithful to slip daily brief uplifting notes into my mail box indicated that he thought about me. When the deans realized we were actually dating, our dinner table assignments and ministry assignments were changed. But we walked on campus between classes, studied together in the lounge and dated on weekends.
Our denominational backgrounds were different, he was Baptist and I was Methodist, but our experience of a personal relationship with the Lord and similar calling to full time ministry matched. I’ve observed couples who differ in religion—Christian and Jewish for instance—who learned to manage by trust and wise compromise. I watched a Methodist and an Episcopalian go to their respective churches for years without a problem. Some couples disagree on politics as well as football teams, but get along. A number of couples I know prefer not to live in the same house but do fine next door to each other. Another couple describes how her husband lives upstairs and she downstairs with the children. Couples who differ in recreation take turns between the beach and the mountains. I like the proposal that each meets the other 65% of the way. Amiable compromise works that way. Children do better when their parents are in agreement--“we say yes, or we say no”. Adult children are prone to parent children the way they were parented and model marriage relationships after their parents. Sometimes that calls for counseling with guided compromises.
Regarding the value of diet and exercise, a recent study from Harvard Health Watch calculates that housemates actually wield a strong influence on each other in maintaining healthy eating and regular exercising lifestyles. Also, those sharing a checkbook, billpaying and saving must learn to compromise their habits or no budgets, no matter what Temperament. Choosing a financial advisor is my recommendation.
In answering the emailer’s question regarding which is more important, shared values or compatibility of Temperaments, I want to throw into the mix two other behaviors that I consider just as important--attitudes, (often based on childhood/school background) and communication skills--speaking and listening--but in this piece focusing on the more crucial art of listening. First, let’s consider the importance of attitude.
A I mulled over great and poor attitudes as I showered, a random list flooded my mind (sorry for the pun) and their descent across my mind: kindness, generosity, helpfulness, uncooperative, positive, brick wall, controlling, lazy, worrying, driven, gentleness, honesty, unresponsive, bossy, closed, forgiving, sincere, considerate, peaceful, interested, patient, pessimistic, agreeable, open, concern, unselfish, insightful, hardworking, humble, compassionate, sacrificial. There are more, of course--(send me your suggestions). Highlight the attitudes that most often describe you and circle those you’d like to improve. Check those you detest. Attitudes have very deep roots. As saying goes, Attitude is Everything. How does one change his/her attitudes? I was impressed with a 30-year old’s ideas:
It takes practice, but learning how to transcend above acting on how your impulses push you to react. Instead, taking a moment to consider the situation from a different perspective allows for an opportunity to alter your attitude. This small pause in reaction-time can lead to a more reasonable and peaceful response to the situation, allowing for more open and effective communication.
Second, let’s tackle listening. A book I read in 1962 instilled in me the crucial part that astute listening plays in all relationships, home, school, work, neighborhood, sports, ministry and counseling. Anyone who wishes to advise another must earn the right by first listening. Listening, crucial to every relationship from toddler to centenarians, is often a skipped communication skill. ‘Listen, then, speak’ as well as ‘ask a question, then wait’ is especially difficult for Extroverts. The challenge to improve the art of listening is a lifelong course.
Third, knowing the personality designs of your mates, children, relatives, friends and co-workers provides understanding and appreciation of who you aren’t as well as with whom you wish to communicate, neutralizes much grief and anxiety. ‘It’s my way or the highway’ using the silent treatment just doesn’t work. Reminding all of us that prefacing strong suggestions with the pronoun ‘I’ rather than ‘you’ transfers your opinion or directive to a request rather than an order.
Educational backgrounds, psychological make up, physical attractions, similar interests do not ensure lasting compatibility or guarantee smooth living. Just like parts of our bodies continue to grow after we have basically stopped growing, so the way we think and behave continues to change some for better some for worse. Because God chose to give us free will to love or not love, all of us need daily help in quelling poor attitudes and/or communication skills. Our goal, of course, is to garner respect for everyone and get along.
All the Temperament types are exquisite in themselves, but in my experience, having like-values exceeds MBTI in smooth sailing. Blending values, attitudes and communication determines a person’s total personality and disposition which in turn promise smoother, long lasting relationships. Believing in something bigger than yourselves is a good goal. A personal relationship with God and our shared ministry goals helped and blessed Jim and me.
As important as improving attitudes, understanding and appreciating others, learning to listening and speak kindly, unconditional love tops them all. Unconditional love is not based on what a person does or doesn’t do but on our special relationship, we share as a friend, mate, child, employee, co-worker, sibling, parent or neighbor. God invites us into His presence just as we are and God’s wisdom is the highest value.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Prov. 4:7 NIV Accept one another then, as Christ accepted you in order to bring praise to God. Rom 15:7 NIV
You have known to me the path of life. You will fill me with joy in your presence with eternal pleasure at your right hand. Ps. 16:11 NIV.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7 (NIV)