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    May 22, 2019    |   Psychometrics Canada

Why Others Drive us Crazy

Written by Shawn Bakker, Psychologist


Individual differences influence how we communicate, what we pay attention to, our process for making decisions, and how we organize our lives. It should come as no surprise that when people with differences in these areas interact, conflict, disagreement and misunderstandings are going to occur. The main benefit in recognizing these differences is that it allows people to move from “you drive me crazy,” to “I am beginning to understand you.”

Here’s how personality type differences can lead to common areas of conflict.


Conflicts between these preferences often fall into two areas: Quick versus slower pacing, and changeability of topics versus focus. People who prefer Extraversion tend to work at a rapid pace. They develop their ideas by talking. As they talk, their thoughts become clearer, resulting in frequent changes of direction during a discussion. People who prefer Introversion want to process internally and need time (without talking) to do so. The thinking-out-loud of Extraverts gets in the way of their “thinking inside” process. As well, when people preferring Introversion tune back into conversations, they often find the topic has shifted and results in Extraverts seeing Introverts as withholding or not interested, while Introverts see Extraverts as invasive. To top it off, they both may think the other is avoiding the topic.


The two conflicts that frequently relate to differences in this area are agreeing on what the problem is, and a focus on experience versus a focus on theories. Sensing types define problems by what actually happened, usually concrete events. Intuitive types are more likely to see the concrete event as part of a pattern that they think is the real problem. So, while Sensing types are trying to get someone to attend meetings on time, Intuitive types look at what is behind the individual coming late to meetings, such as difficulty with authority figures. For Intuitive types, taking action to get the person to meetings on time does not deal with the real problem. For Sensing types, “difficulty with authority figures” has little meaning and no solution. When conflicts or problems arise, Sensing types trust what they know has worked before in similar situations. Intuitive types are more likely to find theoretical explanations and solutions from sources such as books. Sensing types and Intuitive types sometimes end up in a conflict where each thinks the other “just doesn’t get it.”


Two frequent conflicts related to this dichotomy are (1) searching for the “right” answer versus exploration of people’s ideas and (2) choosing the logical alternative and applying it to everyone versus finding individual solutions that work for people. Thinking types tend to believe that if a problem is accurately defined, there will be a correct solution, and that’s what people should do. Feeling types are more likely to think that “truth” is not cut and dried: What’s right for one may be wrong for another. As a result, Thinking types may experience the decision-making process of Feeling types as inconsistent. Feeling types may experience the decision making of Thinking types as cold and uncaring.


Two of the common conflicts related to this dichotomy are (1) the need for structure versus the need for flexibility and (2) the desire for closure versus the desire for openness. Judging types want clear goals; this allows them to create plans, structures, and time frames to achieve them. They want decisions and closure. Ambiguity, delayed decisions, reopening decisions, and changing goals are extremely uncomfortable to them. Perceiving types also want clear goals and a deadline, but they want to be trusted to meet them in their own ways. They want decisions to grow out of the process, and they have faith in their internal sense of timing and trust that when the right time comes, they will know. Judging types often have trouble trusting that Perceiving types will come through in a timely way, that decisions will be made and action will be taken. Perceiving types often feel hemmed in, limited, and restricted by Judging types.

Additional Resources

Using Type to Navigate Conflict (webinar)

Five Tips for Using the MBTI® tool in conflict