There are personality differences that come up from time to time in everyone’s lives that make living, well, more colorful to say the least. But why do we let these differences get under our skin? We’ve all been there with our significant other. For example, the moment where we are dumbfounded at what just happened, a decision made by our partner. We are perplexed, miffed, and can’t quite grasp or understand the thinking behind such decisions. Whether they leave their socks sprinkled throughout the house like confetti, talk through movies, or it is their obsession with wrinkle free oxfords and color coordination in their closets, their differences always ask for a second chance and a little TLC. How can we love forward in our relationships with personality differences and still see our glass as always full? Below are two common personality conflicts and a helpful tip to improve your flexibility in thinking about your partner’s thought processes so that you can love them better.
Let’s start with the small stuff vs. big stuff. If you are having a hard time letting the small stuff go, consider big picture vs. detail-oriented personality inclinations. You may be more inclined to pay attention to details whereas your partner may be more inclined to focus on the bigger picture. Big picture thinkers are result focused. Detail-oriented are process focused. Take cleaning as an example. The big picture personality will “clean” the house throwing everything in the “general vicinity” of where it belongs and usually out of sight. This act, although completely devoid of details regarding putting things in a proper order and place, will have the result of a house that is tidy and clean looking. The detail-oriented personality may take hours to clean, sort, and disinfect every inch of the house, commonly taking hours to do the job. The result will appear the same. The personality conflict that is likely to result here is the time it takes someone to do one task. Sound familiar? The best way to move through this is to focus on the desired results. If the desired result is the same then you might consider letting go of the details and get out of the weeds with nitpicking. Or, if it takes him or her hours to do one task understanding that she is “in the process” may help you offer more patience or maybe even your expedited way of getting things done.
Another common personality clash is in communicating with direct language vs. inferential language. This personality conflict has couples assuming the worst, but once they find out how to decode their partner’s language it can be a comical relief and better communication follows. Direct communicators are straight-forward in their communication. If they don’t like something they will tell you. When they ask questions they expect clear, direct answers. An example of this is: What would you like for dinner? A direct communicator would reply, “I’d like to eat Spaghetti at Spaghetti Factory.” (And they mean it. It isn’t an indication that they are craving Italian food and Olive Garden is what they really meant.) The inferential communicator may take this as an indication to eat out and that anywhere is fair game. Direct communicators may be labeled as rude, “on the nose,” or too confrontational. They are not. They are simply very straightforward and prefer clear direct communication. Inferential communicators will drop hints at what they want in the relationship.
Inferential communicators take in the relationships and the context of which they are in and begin to infer appropriate expectations. If, for example, the inferential communicator is talking with a friend at the friend’s house, and they say, “I’m really thirsty,” it’s very likely that they are implying that they’d like you to get them a glass of water. The inferential listener would immediately get them a glass of water. Whereas the direct communicator would ask (to make sure), “Would you like me to get you a glass of water?” The inferential communicators could get labeled as “cowards” (for not saying what they really want), or the partner may think they “expect” too much and don’t officially ask. The personality conflict here is in the communication of expectations and desires. Can you now see where the frustration lies? Once you start to hear the implications of what your partner is really saying, you will be able to better serve them and yourself. On the other hand, once you realize your partner is a direct communicator (so as to take the guess work out) you can better serve him or her and, again, yourself.
When all is said and done, the best way to overcome personality conflict is to continue to try to understand the way your partner thinks. The benefit that comes from attempting to understand their psychology is that you begin to develop what is called flexibility of thinking. You will build different neurological connections that allow for optional conclusions about who your partner is and how to serve their interests and needs in a way that they will receive it.
When sitting down to talk, ask questions about the meaning they ascribe to their words. Mirror their language in a way that bridges your understanding. Recall the two types of conflict that may come into play: big picture thinker vs. detail oriented thinker and direct communication vs. inferential communication. Determine who you are going into the conversation and listen for clues to identify where they are and how they communicate and think and start from where they are, then build the bridge in your conversation to where you are.