Ever heard the phrase “You hurt the ones you love the most?”
Unfortunately, it’s true. As the day goes on, we seem to save up our frustrations, worries, anger, and disappointments to unleash them on the people who are closest to us. Whether its immediate family, extended family, or friends, we tend to assume one of two things. We assume that either, true love means you let me get away with behaving badly and love me anyway, or, I am hurt by what you did/said and when you come to your senses and apologize to me, all will be well.
We’re all tuned into the same radio station, WII-FM: What’s In It For Me? It doesn’t make you a selfish person; it makes you a human person. And this is where we have to start (again) with dealing with those other difficult people. What am I doing to contribute to, or avoid, the underlying reasons for this conflict?
Understanding your own personality type will tell you a few critical things in getting to the bottom of this conundrum. Are you a fast decision maker or a slow decision maker? Do you like to forget the past and move on or do you feel safer in knowing the long history of how we got to this point? Are you the life of the party or a home body? And do you want public recognition or do you prefer a more understated and personal sort of recognition? What’s your approach to housework or planning a Girls Night Out or a family vacation?
But in personal relationships, all of these critical personality differences are amplified by the emotional needs, the big fears and the method of control hardwired into each personality type. We might hate our job because it doesn’t match any of our emotional needs, so we expect to have them met at home and with our friends. But where do we go when they are not? And how about those people who have a “work spouse,” or are workaholics? They might be using the workplace to fill in the emotional needs that are not being met at home.
There are many deeper issues between family members and long term friends that contribute to the tension, but for the sake of time and space, let’s just look at the way each personality acts in personal relationships.
The Talker wants life to be fun so they will always seek out the spotlight or keep on talking to fill the silence. Being quiet with another person feels dangerous to them because they worry that you are thinking all kinds of bad thoughts about them. They need acceptance and attention, so if you’re quiet, their biggest fear kicks in — this person is mad at me or doesn’t like me. When that happens, they become even more talkative, often fishing for compliments and sounding like a hyperactive little dog that gets carried in a purse. Do you love me? Am I pretty? Do you like my outfit? Why didn’t you call? Where were you when I called? Why didn’t you invite me to come along? And because they fear that you’re mad at them, they will use their charm to control situations and people, thereby eliminating the opportunity to have a real discussion and share real feelings. They need you to give them a compliment and laugh at their silly stories.
The Doer wants to control things in their life. They have an inborn urge to need to know that all pistons are firing and if they aren’t, they need to fix the problem immediately. They thrive on working hard and producing value, so they have a hard time understanding people who just want to chill out. They need to be appreciated for their hard work and feel they have your loyalty, so if they do not get that from you, they may become belligerent, demanding, even demeaning in an effort to get it. They fear financial disasters, losing their family or becoming incapacitated because their really big fear is that if they can’t produce, they have no value. When they are in that weakened, fearful state, they try to control people and situations with anger. When they are getting all their emotional needs met, they are great motivators. They need you to commend them for a job well done and get to the point when you have a request.
The Thinker desires, and expects, perfection. They have such incredibly high internal standards for themselves that won’t ever be met that they don’t even realize that they project that energy onto others. They sometimes can’t process why you wouldn’t want to do things their way since they have discovered the best method. They are creatures of habit, do not respond well to risk or change, and need sensitivity and support. They fear that no one will ever understand them, that they will make a mistake and be humiliated, or be a failure. So when they are not listened to, or their need for silence and private space is violated, they will become very moody. This is how they control relationships, by becoming the martyr. They need you to sit quietly and allow them to explain something that you find tedious, but they find essential.
The Watcher just wants peace. They just want everybody to get along. When there are other people in the room having an argument, the Watcher will leave. If you are trying to have an argument with them, they will just shut down. They are very loyal and dependable and consistent, so they tend to get dumped on a lot. This makes them feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated, which can result in a blowup that seems to come from out of the blue. Their fear is that they will be pressured to work all the time, and that you will be mad at them for making a wrong decision. So, they will procrastinate and wait until someone else steps in and does something. Then they are called lazy. But they are actually very analytical and have a lot to share with us if we’ll just give them time. They just need to be with you without any expectations.
To the extent that you can see your loved ones in these short descriptions, maybe you can also see that their being “difficult” may just be a difference in personality characteristics. The best way to deal with difficult personal relationships is to give of yourself first. If we all tried to do that, we’d all be heading in a good direction.
If you’re not sure what your own personality style is, or want more information, you can take a free personality test HERE.