Psychological Differences In A Relationship? Discover Which Personality Type You Are To Avert A Clash.

Posted at 22:30pm on 12th August 2009

Dear Mel,

I love my stepdaughter and most of the time we have an ok relationship. But there are things about her that I just don’t seem to be able to cope with. To be honest, she drives me mad. I was going to say she drives me scatty – but that’s what she is – scatty! I’ve tried and I’ve tried but it’s beginning to affect my relationship between my hubby and me because he doesn’t know which of us to side with.

What happens is this – stepdaughter says she wants a stone polisher for her 15th birthday present because she’s going to start making and selling jewellery – though she’s made no hard and fast plans as to how she’ll go about it. (I can see it could work online and in the local shop - we live in a tourist area, so ok there). So for a month or so we live with the endless noise of this piece of machinery grinding away day and night until you could scream. Stepdaughter, of course, is off out with her friends most of the time, but I like a quiet life so it doesn’t bother her like it does me.

Then, for the next month, we have little gem stones, pieces of silver wire and wire cutters scattered far and wide. My once tidy house looks like it’s been hit by a tornado. Give her her due, though, she’s completely absorbed in what she’s doing, and you think she just might make a go of this and earn herself some pocket money. Except that we’ve been here before. And sure enough she hasn’t read the instructions properly, so the earrings she’s made fall to pieces, and next thing you know, the stone polisher’s gathering dust, and she’s off on the next thing. The next thing being whatever scheme she has in her mind, and I’m left with the mess to clear up.

I try not to show it, but I can see a mile off what the problem is and I’m desperate to help her succeed. She just needs to be more methodical, less airy-fairy, and to stick at one thing till she’s seen it through. But if I dare to criticise, or show her what to do she goes off in the most terrible huff – even if she’s asked me in the first place what I think. I’m at my wits end. What shall I do?

Mary

Mel's Comment:

Dear Mary,

Oh, I do sympathise with you, as much about the practical difference between you and your stepdaughter, as about the stone-polisher. My daughter had one when she was about the same age as your stepdaughter. Fortunately, we had a stone-built outhouse in the garden, but you could still hear that grinding rumble from every room in the house. It reminded me of the dentist’s drill: it used to set my teeth on edge!

THE EFFECT OF PERSONALITY TYPE ON BEHAVIOUR

You say you’re desperate to help your stepdaughter succeed, and you sound like a very caring stepmum. Clearly, you would like her to be more methodical – in reading instructions and in sticking at whatever the latest project is – but she’s having none of it. From this, and other pointers you’ve given me, I’d say that this is a classic case of two different personality types clashing, aided and abetted by all the usual difficulties encountered between parents and teenagers.

CERTAIN PERSONALITY TYPES PERCEIVE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY

First and foremost, there’s the problem of the way in which each of you perceive the world around you. Your stepdaughter sounds as if she’s always looking for new opportunities, and is excited and enthusiastic about all the possibilities that are open to her. The trouble is that she doesn’t finish one project before the next great plan is in mind. She is what personality type indicators would call an intuitive.

You, on the other hand, like order and precision and you’re much more down-to-earth and practical than your stepdaughter. You believe that hard work, patience and perseverance are the means to an end. And because you’re a caring person, naturally you want your stepdaughter to appreciate your methodology, and to see that it’s the only way to achieve anything worthwhile. That’s what psychometric profiling would call a senser.

The thing is that you’re both right. And you’re both wrong!

BEHAVIOUR DIFFERENCES

Your stepdaughter’s strengths lie in the realms of intuition, hunches and sixth-sense; in the promise of things unseen, and openings which she may not yet have identified. You like facts and figures, tangible evidence via your five senses - seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting - of how to do something and carry it through to completion.

That’s where the clash is, because neither of you likes the way in which the other operates. In fact I’d go so far as to say that it’s anathema to you both!

What you need to do, is to understand that the perception of the world and different approach taken by each of you is perfectly valid for you! Neither is right or wrong, better or worse than the other. In other words, you each have something to offer. And you both have weaknesses.

UNDERSTANDING PSYCHOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES IS A MEANS TO A MORE BALANCED LIFESTYLE

But what I would say to both of you is this: knowing your own strengths means that you can play to them; and understanding your own weaknesses means that you can attempt to strengthen them.

You can also, each of you, benefit by cultivating the friendship of people who are opposite to you, so that you have someone to turn to at those times when you need a more balanced take on life. Learn to appreciate the value of a different way of approaching things. And even if you don’t, actually, take the advice you’re given, you will, at least, have all the options before you, prior to reaching a decision!

You and your stepdaughter are fortunate in that you are opposites and can, therefore, take advantage of each other’s strengths.

PERSONALITY AND RELATIONSHIPS: HOW KNOWING ONE IMPROVES THE OTHER

So, in one of those moments when your relationship is ok, try to create some time to spend together. I suspect that you’re an Introvert and your stepdaughter is an Extrovert, but the thing is that you’re the adult in the relationship, so it’s up to you to find the right way to do this. Tell your husband, privately, what you’re proposing, and that it won’t involve him. Then take your stepdaughter out somewhere – shopping; or a meal together – just the two of you. Take the extra step, and meet her in her comfort zone.

Then I suggest that you the two of you try to talk. Don’t get too intense with her: the idea is that you encourage her to see her strengths. Do a bit of confidence coaching. Boost her self-confidence – that’s what she needs. And make much of the fact that her strengths are your weaknesses, rather than that her weaknesses are your strengths.

FREE PSYCHOMETRIC PROFILING FOR GREATER SELF CONFIDENCE

You might do worse than to suggest that you both take a free personality test together – just for a bit of fun! Then gently point out that you could make a good team: she has the ideas and creativity; you have the practical skills and patience. You never know, you might end up with your stepdaughter designing jewellery and being imaginative about marketing it; and you providing the practical skills and sales. You could even set up in business together!

Nothing’s going to happen overnight. Adolescents – whatever their personality type – are in a process of experimentation with the world. Accept that there will be set-backs. Your ideas may even be rejected out of hand. But I bet that the concept of learning more about herself through psychometric personality profiling will be right up her street. And that even if she doesn’t undertake a test with you, she may well do so later, either on her own, or with friends. No data is collected or stored, so it’s perfectly safe.

Whatever the outcome, there will be benefits. By taking the steps to understand each other better, you can only strengthen the already good relationship you have with your stepdaughter. And that can’t be bad for your marriage, either. Good luck!

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