‘What you told me saved my marriage’
A few years ago I was running a management development programme and at the end of the six month course one of the participants told me that he thought I had saved his marriage. Obviously curious I asked him what I had done to achieve this and he told me that a communication model that I had shared with him had changed his life. Apparently it had enabled him to understand his wife’s behaviour for the first time and that they were now getting along a lot better.
Although I don’t often get this feedback I can totally understand why he might have felt that because so many disagreements occur because we don’t understand why people behave and react the way they do – especially when it is very different from our own ways of behaving.
The approach I told him about is based on the work of the psychologist Carl Jung who having worked with thousands and thousands of people in his career noticed patterns in the way that they communicated. In 1921 he published a book called ‘Psychological Types’ in which he identified four dominant communication styles.
These styles were intuitor, thinker, feeler and sensor.
In my book the People Skills Revolution I go into depth about what the four types mean and the impact that they can have on relationships but if you are not getting on with someone in a paired relationship, or a friend or work colleague the chances are that there is a conflict between both of your styles.
Briefly an intuitor likes ideas, is creative, plans for the future and gets bored easily.
A thinker likes organisation, detail, logic and rational thinking whereas a feeler works on their ‘gut reactions’, tunes into atmospheres and puts people at the centre of their decision making. The last category is the sensor, who is action orientated, makes apparently ‘snap’ decisions and often think that the rest of us are a bit slow.
All of the styles have their strengths and the world would not be like it is today without all of them being present. Intuitors envision the world, thinkers organise it, feelers take people into account and sensors inspire us to act. We are all a blend of each of the styles but the problem arises when one of the styles dominate our personality particularly if another person is dominant in a style which is not one of our favoured styles.
So what can this mean in terms of couple relationships?
Well it can mean that your partner just talks about plans for the future and never gets around to putting any of them in to action.
It could mean that your partner is rarely spontaneous and has to organise every aspect of their lives. It could also mean that they love to chat to people rather than getting on with the job and can be apparently ‘over sensitive’ about things that don’t seem to matter to you. Whereas the ‘action orientation’ of the sensor might discount the ideas of the intuitor, be annoyed by the need to research, generate information and organise displayed by the thinker and completely flummoxed by the emotional reactions of the feeler.
And when people are essentially very different for us although opposites as we have seen most definitely do attract – after a while what you found cute and cuddly just becomes irritating and annoying.
So how might these different styles show up in real relationships situations?
Well suppose you plan to buy a new washing machine. At their most extreme….
The intuitor wants new different, innovative and exciting with all the whistles and bells regardless of cost.
The thinker will investigate every washing machine on the market, every price range, read all the reviews, research all the shops and still decide to ‘go home and think about it’.
The feeler will read the reviews to see what others have said, will often feel the product if they can and will find a salesperson they like to sell the machine to them.
Whereas the sensor can walk into a shop, or online and select the machine, choose the supplier, negotiate the price and get it delivered the same day in one sitting.
You can see that if each of these dominant styles acts independently there is no problem but if a thinker lives with a sensor they may find their thoughts and actions are continually being discounted. Equally the sensor may feel that the thinker is continually trying to hold them back.
If a thinker lives with a feeler the thinker may just go into planning and organizing mode rather than listen to the thoughts, preferences and yes feelings of the feeler – even about a washing machine!
Equally an intuitor likes to day dream a bit and get some of their needs met for new, original, innovative and different and can feel very constrained by the thinker who wants to organise them and the sensor who wants them to ‘spring into action’.
So what do you do when you realise that your partner is very different from you?
Well understanding the different way that people communicate does in itself make a big difference. They are not being awkward or difficult – they are just different from you. Awareness itself creates change.
Once you understand that, you can learn to listen to their ideas, plans and emotions and find ways to help them structure their thoughts so that you can hear them more easily. You can also realise that a thinker will often never consider that they have enough information and will always ask another question however well you have prepared your case – they are not being difficult it’s just the way they are. You can also help a feeler to work out why they feel emotional and identify the reason or behaviour behind the feelings to enable them to be more specific about what is at the root of their issues. And finally if you want to get a sensor to listen just say the top three things that they need to hear in order to help make their decision or take action.
So you can see that although it was not my intention to save a marriage that day that I can completely understand how it could have happened.
Please note this blog is copyright (2017) and cannot be reproduced in part or whole in any form whatsoever without the prior permission of Pamela Milne