Different Personalities? No Problem!

One’s personality is formed as his natural temperament is influenced by the surroundings. The way to overcome differences in personality is not to try to make each other change their personalities, but to change your way of talking.

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“Whose personality did she get?” “I can’t understand my co-worker,” “He must be from a different dimensional world,” “We’ve decided to split because of our too different personalities,” . . .

The most common and prominent cause that damages the relationship between people is the difference in personality. Some students have a hard time with their relationship with other students at school; some people consider quitting their jobs not because of their work but because of the people they work with; and some people suffer from family discord. Many of these people blame their or other people’s personalities.

We experience joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure in our relationships with others, and we even measure the level of satisfaction in the group we belong to, through the personalities of others who belong to our group. We adjust our distance to others, depending on their personalities. Therefore, we care more about people’s personalities if we have a long-term and significant relationship with them. In some cases, if someone thinks and acts differently from us frequently, we regard him or her as a strange person and even end our relationship with them.

There are various types of personality type tests, including personality types by constellations or blood types as well as MBTI1 which is used widely these days. The fact that many people are interested in understanding their and others’ personality types shows that they desire to understand the differences of each other and build a good relationship. Since personality plays a key role in interpersonal relationship, personality has a significant influence on our lives.

1. An introspective self-report personality type test created by Myers and Briggs, based on the theory from a Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s writings about psychological types.

How Is Personality Formed

Personality means “a person’s unique characteristics or qualities.” Personality is the core of the identity that determines one’s way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Therefore, the standards of deciding or choosing a set of values, the way of speaking, and perceiving and solving a problem come from personality.

Some babies don’t stop crying once they start crying, while some babies are easily soothed. Some babies don’t even cry that much. Every baby’s response is different although they are born in the same hospital. It is because they all have different temperaments. Temperament refers to innate traits that determine how a person reacts to stimulations from the outside. As it is combined with the parents’ parenting style, surroundings, and experiences, personality is formed. Simply put, personality is an outcome of the combination of innate traits and environmental factors.

There are still different opinions among scholars whether it is temperaments or environmental factors that affect the formation of personality more. Actually, studies about personality are still going on up until this day, and theories and definition of personality have not been established clearly yet. Since humans constantly have repeated inner conflict and compromises to adapt themselves to the environment, the qualities and structures of personality are also very complicated. There is a saying that goes, “Men and melons are hard to know.” Indeed, it’s hard to know what a person is really thinking since you cannot look into their mind, and it is hard to judge them precisely, either.

Modern psychiatry believes that personality is established by around age eighteen. Some people say that they used to be hot-tempered but became gentle as they got old, or say that they became rough while doing a rough work, or active while working out. Like this, personality can change over a long period of time. However, generally, psychologists agree on the idea that personality doesn’t easily change once established.

Is the Difference in Personality the Cause of Conflict?

Just as everyone looks different, everyone has a different personality. Even identical twins that received the same genes and grew up in the same environment have different personalities. There are 7.8 billion different personality types for 7.8 billion people. Therefore, everyone experiences differences in personality with their family members or anyone they meet.

Some people with totally different personalities get along with each other, while some who have similar personalities argue often. Actually, if two people’s personalities are too similar, they may discover what they don’t like about themselves in the other person. Therefore, if you look a little more closely at the conflict that seems to be caused by the differences in personality, the real cause of the conflict is found elsewhere not in the personality itself.

One of the causes is pointing at the other person’s personality when they make a mistake and saying, “You have a weird personality,” “Shouldn’t you do like this when something like that happens?” Personality is formed and revealed unconsciously. Therefore, many times there is not much a person can do about their personality. Therefore, criticizing personality can create defiance.

And another cause is regarding “being different” as “being wrong,” and expressing frustration or anger or criticizing when two people have different opinions. Dr. John Gottman, an expert in family relationship research that is focused on emotions, emphasizes that the fundamental cause of marital conflict is not the personality difference, but the wrong way of conversing. Couples who are lacking in good conversations have a narrow understanding of each other, which leads them to end their relationship as they cannot accept each other’s differences.

Lastly, it is caused when you desire other people to fit in your style while you are refusing to change, saying, “This is who I am.” If you try to change another person’s personality, thinking that you are doing it for them, or think that they need to fit in your style if they love you, or keep doing things that they don’t like, using your personality as an excuse, the quarrels between you and them will not cease.

When you are in conflict with your family members, think carefully about your way of talking before blaming their personalities for the cause of the conflict. You will see the problem and the solution more clearly when you examine how you talk and act and whether or not you have prejudice against others who have different personalities from you.

In Order for Personality Difference Not to Cause Conflict

Personality is each person’s unique feature, which is why everyone has a different personality; it is not something that can be evaluated as good, bad, strange, etc. by someone’s subjective perspective. Also, every person’s personality has pros and cons. Not a personality has only pros or only cons. Depending on the viewpoint and the result of the choices made, pros can become cons, and cons can become pros. Therefore, if you don’t want any conflict, you need to first change your viewpoint and find the great things inside others.

If you find something inconvenient about them, you need to express your feelings efficiently, so that the other person may not feel attacked, but rather feel like accepting your comment delightfully. For example, if you don’t like how your spouse squeezes the tube of toothpaste from the middle, instead of criticizing them or getting angry, saying, “Why do you always squeeze from the middle?” express your wish, saying, “If you squeeze from the middle, it could make it inconvenient for others because they have to squeeze it again from the bottom. How about trying to squeeze it from the bottom?”

When someone expresses what they find inconvenient or feel unhappy about, you need to let them finish saying what they want to say and show empathy instead of refuting them by saying, “What’s wrong with that?” Even if something seems like no big deal to you, it could seem like a big deal to others. If you really cannot understand their complaints, it is better to admit that they are people who think and talk differently from you. In actuality, it is hard to understand another person completely because you are not that person. Sometimes, things can be solved quite easily if you focus on how to solve a problem instead of trying to agree on whose opinion is right. For example, instead of arguing where to squeeze the toothpaste from, you can have two separate toothpastes and use them separately.

Family members who get along with each other are harmonious often because they avoid creating conflict by having an enjoyable conversation with consideration toward each other rather than because they have similar personalities. When you have a good communication, the personality differences are not a big problem. It is important to talk in a way that makes others feel comfortable with respect for them. In order to do this, you need to control your response the way you desire instead of following your talking and acting styles coming from your personality. You need maturity and flexibility to be mindful of the process to perceive stimulations, feel emotions, and think, decide how to act; this requires practice. You may not be able to change your own and others’ personalities, but you can improve the relationship if you try to reduce friction with others by changing your conversation style.

According to the research of Harvard University, interpersonal relationship was chosen as the biggest criterion of a happy life. It means that joy and happiness of life depend on how well you get along with others. Psychotherapist Alfred Adler said, “All problems are interpersonal relationship problems.” Interpersonal relationship is indeed an assignment that doesn’t end throughout the entire lifetime.

Actually, it is not easy to understand and admit other people. However, this doesn’t simply end as an act of being considerate of others, but it returns to you as a great compensation. While going through the process of understanding personalities that are different from yours and acknowledging them, you get a new viewpoint about the world, and form good character such as wisdom, patience, self-control, and virtue.

Good character is formed when you make efforts to learn how to have a good interpersonal relationship and to develop a good communication skill, on top of the temperament you are born with and your personality established while growing up. It is not so important what kind of temperament and personality you have. When a good character is formed with great efforts, it guides you to a happy life.