Recognising personality differences can improve communications and improve mental health

Why does my daughter tell me off once every couple of weeks, providing me with a list of my misdemeanours, whereas my wife happily tells me off as soon as I make a mistake?

A key reason is personality differences. Understanding this improves communication and boosts mental health. We are social creatures and misunderstanding each other can cause all sorts of grief. One of the most straightforward and effective models is applying the extrovert/introvert preference difference.

It starts with the assumption that we have a communication preference. Some people speak first and think later. They ask questions and share their thoughts naturally. Others are different. They are naturally calm, reserved and tend to keep their thoughts to themselves. Neither preference is right or wrong but they are different.

Miscommunication occurs mostly when different preferences clash. When two extraverts disagree they spar back and forth, raising their voice, trying to make just one extra point. The noise levels rise but it will soon blow over and they’ll settle down and move on. When two introverts disagree they’ll keep their thoughts to themselves, making a mental note for later. Only after a period of time will they reveal their thoughts. This neatly explains some family and work behaviour. We can easily become annoyed with people who don’t share our preference and this can escalate in to serious problems. We can easily make the mistake of expecting people to behave based on our preference and not appreciate their different approach to communication.

Researchers find extravert preferences prefer open plan office spaces and introverts, their own private space. In team meetings of equal numbers of exrtraverts and introverts 80% of ideas put forward come from extraverts and only 20% from introverts. To get the best out of introverts we need to give them other ways to contribute their ideas and not put them on the spot. To get the best out of extraverts we need to let them talk through their ideas and occasionally digress.

This simple model has it’s limitations but it can be a useful tool to help assess our communication style. When we can communicate effectively we connect rather than clash with others, a key component of mental health.

 David Hodgson - David is a Laughology trainer & facilitator and an independent author and trainer working with teachers, careers professionals and students across the UK and abroad. 

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