Personality And Communication

Posted at 23:47pm on 1st July 2009

There’s no doubt that mistakes, misunderstandings and misinterpretation lie at the bottom of many of the problems we all encounter, from time to time. You know the situation? There was a poster some years ago which summed it up admirably. Something along the lines of: I know you think that what you say is what you intended to mean when you had it in mind. But what I’m hearing is what I understand and believe to be the correct interpretation of what you thought you were aiming to indicate, had you been a little clearer about it in the first place!

Confused? Yes. So are most of us, occasionally. And some of us all of the time! Why, we ask in exasperation, when I give an instruction, or convey information in a way which seems perfectly lucid to me, does my partner appear to have a totally different slant on what I’ve said? Worse still are the times when they might as well be deaf for all the interest and understanding they demonstrate.

Do I speak a foreign language? Does my nearest and dearest have a hearing disability? Or is it that we’re incompatible?


And that’s the problem, really. In order to clarify misunderstandings, we need to have some answers. But the answers to the questions above may resolve nothing. Because they’re not the right questions in the first place!

It’s the not knowing why you are misunderstood that causes confusion. Confusion leads to frustration, frustration to anger, and anger to conflict and resentment. But once you discover what lies at the bottom of misunderstanding, the Aha! moment that follows makes imminent sense.


One of the most liberating experiences of my life came about as a result of a seminar I attended, where I first came across the personality tests known as Myers Briggs Type Indicators. Previously, my whole existence was marred with the sense that I simply didn’t fit in. Anywhere! Unable to tick the boxes of my own, and other people’s expectations of me, I felt that I failed as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a friend and a believer.

But all that changed when I learned Who I Am. The Real Me! The Me that God created.


The fact is that personality has a huge bearing on the success of our relationships, interpersonal skills and effective communication. Discovering the components of my identity enables me to understand the factors that make me gel with some people; value the input of some of those who hold different views to my own; and take the appropriate action in order to avoid failing to communicate with others.

And it is this last point which I want to put across today. Because the ability to communicate effectively – to converse and connect – is key to our dealings with the rest of the world:

  • partner and kids
  • family and friends
  • colleagues and acquaintances
  • butcher and baker

Conversely, it is the breakdown of effective communication which leads to:

  • dysfunctional families
  • divorce
  • ‘no-go’ areas in cities
  • disenfranchised citizens
  • and war-torn nations.


Psychometric profiling is the science of evaluating a person’s mental aptitudes and processes. On my Home page, in the next few days, there will be a list of questions: a series of tests which I have compiled to help you to arrive at your own personality profile. In the meantime, however, it’s important to understand that each of us has a different perception of the world around us, and it is this difference that leads to the breakdown in communication. Let me give you an example.


According to psychometric profiling, I am an Intuitive and my husband is a Senser (not to be confused with a sensor which, of course, is an antenna). What that means is that I perceive – or take in – information from the world around me via a 6th sense, whereas he does so via his five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.

As a result of these differences, a dialogue from me might go as follows:

“My mother’s coming for lunch. Gosh, we’re running short of milk.”

This leap of logic is perfectly clear to me: shorthand for a much more verbose explanation and request which I would find tedious and irrelevant. To my husband, however, that statement is merely meaningless chatter. What he needs to hear are definitive facts. Thus:

“My mother’s coming for lunch (Fact 1) and you know, as well as I do, that she just loves custard, (Fact 2) custard is made of milk, (Fact 3) we don’t have enough left to make custard and to have a coffee after lunch, (Fact 4) so would you please buy some when you go down for the newspaper.” (Fact 5)

Okay, when the laughter’s died down because you’ve recognised yourselves in that scenario, let me tell you that this different perception is the single cause of our falling out. Because what happens is that I end up not being able to make custard for my mother because I don’t have the milk I believed I had asked my husband to get for me when he went for the paper. By my intuitive reckoning, I have presumed that he will make the connections. And I am mistaken in that belief.

But before you run away with the idea that it’s all one-sided, let me put you straight! As a strong-Intuitive, you see, I am pretty well incapable of taking in and retaining facts and figures. So when it comes to travelling arrangements, I rely utterly on my Senser husband for directions. And he, very kindly and patiently, sets out an itinerary which a five-year-old could understand. And he knows, when the glazed look in my eyes can no longer be ignored, that he’s going to have to write it all down for me. That way, I can absorb just as much as I need at a time, without having to demolish my brain’s excited forays into the realms of possibility in which it prefers to dwell.


The areas into which this sort of misunderstanding extends are limitless. My idea of describing the content of an hour long telephone call from daughter No. 1 is to give a sweeping one or two sentence summary. Naturally, my husband finds that incredibly frustrating.

Conversely, I ask him if the moon is made of Cheddar cheese or Double Gloucester, and I’m quite likely to have a science lesson (he used to be a teacher and, believe me, once a teacher, always a teacher). Now whilst the moon’s make-up may actually interest me (because my lack of ability to retain facts and figures doesn’t mean I’m stupid, any more than his lack of ability to make my leaps of logic indicates that he is) there are times when I want the simple answer: Neither!

The point is, though, that armed with the knowledge of your differences, you can make allowances. We, for instance, now use our telephone in hands-free, loud-speaker mode, so that in all but the most intimate of conversations, he hears exactly what I hear when daughters 1 and 2 take the trouble to ring us.

Except, of course, that he doesn’t hear what I hear. Just as I don’t hear what he hears. Because although the words we’ve listened to are identical, we’ve both processed the information they’ve conveyed in entirely different ways.

Which makes for some interesting discussions later . . .

Your Comments:

6th July 2009
at 4:48am

Intersting article Mel, you sound like my wife and i'm like
your husband!

Since doing Myers Briggs myslef a few years ago i encouraged my
wife to do the same.

We are almost polar opposites but somehow manage to keep the fridge
generally full of milk!

Mel Menzies
6th July 2009
at 5:20pm

Hi Marc. Thanks for your comment. Nice to 'meet' another
MBTI fan or two. May I quote you and your wife in the next article
to show how opposites work well together?

We manage to keep milk in our fridge too - despite the fact that
we're both Perceivers rather than Judgers so tend to be
somewhat unstructured. ;-)) More of that at a later date.

7th July 2009
at 1:43am


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