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I walked into the kitchen knowing full well that the scene between my daughters could quickly turn ugly.  Their tone communicated more than their words and their body posture filled in the blanks, even if their thoughts hadn’t yet become words.

My oldest daughter was offering honest and constructive criticism, which my younger daughter had solicited. Unfortunately, the way she wanted the feedback communicated wasn’t quite the way it was being delivered. She was feeling hurt and defensive, revealed by her crossed arms and almost wet eyes.

As soon the girls noticed me entering the room, they raced at me with their words, each pleading for their own defense. I raised my right hand in the universal “stop” sign position. I didn’t need an explanation. There was no reason to point fingers or place blame. I knew exactly the problem.

Wiring.

Their problem wasn’t moral or ethical. It wasn’t about right or wrong. Their conflict was deeply rooted in their personality differences, or what I like to call “wiring”.

The way we are wired determines how we will hear, process, and respond, especially as we communicate with others.

We can’t help it. Our personality influences how we react to situations and interact with others.  My girls may be from the same family, with similar genetic make-up and certainly comparable life experiences, but when it comes to how they think, talk, listen, work, love, and serve they are nearly opposites. My guess is that you know exactly what I am talking about and have experienced personality conflicts — or let’s say challenges — with your loved ones, too.

Often times our conflicts have more to do with our wiring than with the circumstances at hand.

She's Wired That Way

So what can you do to avoid conflict, especially within your family, and improve communication with those you desire to love best of all?

1. Know Your Wiring

In general, psychologists have pinpointed four distinct personality types that each have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. These personalities profiles go by different names, but the ones I  remember the best are referred to as Sanguine (like a social butterfly and life of the party), Choleric (definitely the leader type who gets angry easily), Melancholy (a sensitive artist type who likes everything in order), and the Phlegmatic (the laid-back observer who prefers to hang out behind the scenes). You can do a personality test online or download the “Wired Up That Way” resource from More to Be and get a sense of your personality from completing the informal quiz.

2. Pray Through Their Wiring

Once you begin to study the different personality types, you’ll begin to see that each personality has their own set of characteristics. As you begin to pinpoint those traits in yourself — looking at your strengths, weakness, and typical reactions — pay close attention to your family members and friends to see if you can identify their wiring too. Consider how their strengths are truly partnered with their weaknesses, meaning that the things you love about them are also the things that drive you the most crazy! You can even turn this process into a prayer focus by giving thanks to God for the blessings found in the strength-side of their personalities and intercede for them as you are able to identify their weaknesses.

3. Encourage Strengths and Give Grace in Weakness

If God instructs us in Hebrews 12:14 to “make every effort to live in peace with everyone…”, then we need to work at it in all our relationships. So when you find yourself in the middle of a conflict with a family member or friend, see if you can slow down your reactions in order to consider how each of your God-given wiring is impacting the situation. Strive to reign in your weakness while saying at least one positive comment to the other person about their strengths. As you deal with your frustrations about their weakness, think, “How could extending grace make a difference in this situation?”

4. Stay ‘fessed Up

God promises to work in our weaknesses to display His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Do you know what that means? If we choose to be humble, we can seek the Lord to work in our mess — in our weaknesses.  When you see your weaknesses rising up inside of you and impacting others, do your best to get alone with God, even for five minutes, and ‘fess up your struggle. Ask God to work in you and through you, so that His strength shines through.

The beauty of discovering personality traits is that we can see the way He uses our wiring for His Kingdom purposes. When we are yielded to Him, amazing things can happen for His glory. When we’re not, well, conflict and challenges will arise, like what my girls were going through when I broke up the squabble in the kitchen.  It wasn’t the “what” that needed be resolved, but rather learning how to work through conflict in light of personality differences.

By God’s grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit, I was able to act as a personality translator.  As I shared with my older daughter about how I thought my younger daughter was “hearing” her words, I helped her to see the matter from another perspective. As I explained to my younger daughter what her older sister intended, she worked on “hearing” her sister differently.  Both of the girls received the truth, allowing grace to flow through humble apologies for misunderstanding one another. And I thanked God for the way He wired me to have this passion for personalities and the many ways it has helped solve conflicts between my girls and in my own {adult} relationships, too.

Can you imagine how knowing more about personalities would make a positive difference in your relationships?

Download “Wired Up: Discovering Your God-given personality and spiritual gifts” from moretobe.com.

4 Comments

  1. jan drury says:

    I love that! Many people confuse personality ( the mask we wear) with our God-given temperament. Our personality is learned through our early experience and family. It is our best effort to deflect from our weaknesses and make accommodations.

  2. Amber Cunningham says:

    Elisa, I just joined your M2B mentoring group and this has all been amazing. I wasn’t familiar with your writing before and am amazed at the insight and wisdom God had given you. I also am a fan of personality types and testing but have not read much about this one. I’ve learned more about DISC styles. Anyway, this is a great post!

  3. Elisa, I love how you zeroed in on the “wiring,” and that this wasn’t a “moral or ethical” situation or a “right or wrong” situation. You have such wisdom and insight. I enjoy hearing your thoughts on parenting with an informed perspective on the four temperaments. (I love studying them too.) Thank you so much for sharing here today. 🙂

    1. Aren’t these the lessons of motherhood, to discern each parenting moment! Thanks, Denise, for your feedback and encouragement.

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