Changing character

ISFJ head and stress

It’s been a while since I wrote in my little corner of this seemingly infinite web space. It has been a pretty intense rollercoaster of a six months and too many of my thoughts were simply too raw, too unprocessed, to publish. In a relatively short space of time, I have learned so much about people and about relationships. I have learned an incredible amount about what it means to love and be loved. I have experienced situations I never thought I would encounter personally and I have come through them – not completely just yet but I’m certainly on my way to a lighter place.

In the process, I have discovered that the change in me is more apparent than I had thought. Many pay little attention to personality tests, the likes of Myers Briggs, but I find them useful in understanding myself and in understanding others, in order to bring out the best of both.

When I was first prompted to take the Myers Briggs test around five years ago, I was an ESTJ. I sat firmly in the category of someone who was logical, factually thinking, often quite opinionated, mostly unemotional and usually direct. If you wanted something from me, you would need to persuade me with sound and logical argument that it made good sense, before I would acquiesce.

After getting married, I changed fairly quickly to become an ISTJ. As my character developed, I placed an increasingly high value on time with myself, to process my thoughts, to understand the ‘why’ not just the ‘how’ and simply to be still. My husband is a very strong introvert and no doubt that has had a marked impact on who I am. Both of us are fairly confident, especially when it comes to public speaking, but to recharge, we are happiest in small groups, with each other, or even on our own. I still was very logical in my thinking but I had learned to be a better listener and not always feel the need to offer my opinion.

I took the Myers Briggs test again this past week and lo and behold, I am now an ISFJ. Slowly but surely, my character is leaning towards the simpler, more empathetic priorities in life. I am very quick to hold my tongue now, I consider the impact of my words before they are spoken, I listen more than I speak and the character trait in me that was so quick to step forward and lead has taken a step back, enabling those around me to take more ownership of their own paths, instead of being directed solely by mine.

I am still endlessly logical, organised and detail-focused and I can’t honestly see myself changing in either the ‘S’ or ‘J’ categories. I should also clarify that the point of these designations is not to pronounce a better or worse character, but rather to emphasise difference in character. The beauty of understanding personality is that we can learn to complement one another instead of antagonise, so that the weaknesses of one are overcome by the strengths of another.

We all change over time, but the circumstances of the past six months have brought about a change that is far more visible in the way I interact with people. I’m intrigued to see how that has an impact beyond the confines of relationships, especially as the new year approaches.

Unique blend of me: ISTJ

You hear the phrases banded around often: “You are unique… everybody’s different… you’re your own person…”

But the way we interact with one another very often doesn’t really reflect this. We acknowledge and readily accept that people like different things, believe different things, look different and have different overt character traits. Yet when it comes to working with others, communicating with them and interacting with them effectively, we usually enforce our own preferred methods on them. It is amazing how this can cause tension, confusion and upset without ever intending to do so.

When you describe a friend you would describe their personality – if I were to describe my sister in five words for instance, I would say she is wise,  loyal, creative, introverted and generous. For me, the key word in those five – the one that I think we often gloss over too easily but is the crux of how we interact with one another – is introverted.

If we are genuinely to take our differences into account we would find out whether the other person prefers to be communicated with in person, on the phone or via email, whether they like surprises or whether they hide from them, whether they thrive on social interaction or whether it drains them and whether they make their decisions and actions dependent on a judgement of the situation or a gut instinct. I wouldn’t consider these attributes strengths or weaknesses, they are differences that are so important to understand in all of our relationships.

It amazes me that my sister hadn’t realised that she needed space to process life and have time for herself until I told her she was an introvert. All of a sudden, she began to understand herself more and realised that needing space and time wasn’t a negative part of her personality. People very often mistake confidence (which she has) for extrovert (which she isn’t). Like my sister, I class myself as a ‘confident introvert’ and I think my personality trait is very well summed up by my Myers Briggs personality type.

I know that some people don’t like the label that this places on you but I actually see the value over the label. I see a way of explaining my heart and the way my mind works in an accessible way and I see a method of understanding how others work and how to bring the best out of them.

My husband sent me a link he’d found that outlines the Myers Briggs personality types and their stressors. I am ISTJ, he is INFP, almost the exact opposite of me. Especially in a marriage, understanding these fundamental differences in how we work is vital in complimenting one another and bringing out the best in one another.

ISTJ head and stressINFP head and stressBeing aware of the deeper ways in which people work and changing the way we interact with them as a result, can make the biggest difference with colleagues, friends and spouses. Being ISTJ is just one of the many things that makes up the unique blend of me.