What Personality Type Are You?
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Three Christian woman were having coffee at Starbucks. The topic came around to the difficult subject of abortion. Maryanne wondered if this would be the day that she would muster the courage to tell her good friends that she had had an abortion 35 years ago, when she was only 19. Before she could speak, one of her friends Martha referenced a recent newspaper article on abortion, and said, “I cannot imagine how any woman could kill her baby.” Maryanne fought back tears and fell silent. Today, she felt unsafe about revealing her brokenness. Please read more…
Across town, three men were having breakfast at Denny’s. Matt spoke up and said to his friend, “Charlie, you haven’t seemed yourself these past couple weeks. You’ve seemed somewhat agitated and down on yourself. What’s going on?”
Matt’s encouragement was all Charlie needed to open up. For the next forty minutes, two of the friends sat silently as Charlie tearfully explained how he had become addicted to painkillers. He then told them that he had carried this secret for a long time. Today, he openly revealed his shame. This became a turning point for him. His friends were now able to walk the journey with Charlie as he sought possible avenues for recovery.
Jim, Jack, and George were riding together in a car when Jim spoke up. He asked the other two guys these questions. “Have you guys ever wanted to talk about something but just couldn’t find the words to say? Have you ever had the words for something you wanted to say get stuck in your throat or on your lips?” In unison, both friends responded, “Sure. Yep. Absolutely. I think this happens to everybody.” But at that point, the conversation fell silent, and no one said any more. The car trip ended without any one of the men revealing anything more.
Jack contacted Jim a few days after the car trip. He said, “It seemed like something was bugging you the other day in the car. If there is something that you need to talk about, I am here for you, my friend.” This was all the encouragement Jim needed. Not long afterwards, they met at a restaurant and Jim opened up about a lifelong struggle. This was a monumental day for Jim. The weight of the world was off his shoulders. George, on the other hand, never gave another thought to the questions Jim had asked in the car. His mind must have been on something else that day.
I have concluded that in every human gathering, three personality types can emerge. I call them, the inhibitor, the encourager, and the ignorer. In the three stories above, Martha was an inhibitor, Charlie and Jack were encouragers, and George was an ignorer.
Inhibitors often says things, usually inadvertently, that push others away or drive them into silence. No one sets out to be an inhibitor, but they become one when an offhanded or careless comment is made that causes someone else to clam up.
Encouragers purposely try hard to listen carefully. They keep their antennas up. They ask questions that draw others out, letting them know it is safe to take their mask off and openly share.
Ignorers are present in nearly all group interactions. However, they are only physically present, their thoughts are distant and distracted. They are not fully engaged in the conversation with the person who is speaking. They are not listening closely, and they often miss the signs that indicate that someone else might be in need.
In the previous articles in this nine-part series leading up to the 500th 4th Day Letter, I pointed out that we are all broken and wounded in some way. I placed emphasis on the importance of sharing our wounds and brokenness with others. But I also said we are genuinely afraid to be open and transparent. This begs the question, “Why are we afraid?” Simply stated, we fear getting hurt.
James 3:8-10 tells us, “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers.”
If we want people to open up, we must create a “Safe Zone” where everyone can freely share their struggles. We all need a place to share without fear. Creating safe places to share begins with each one of us. We must take a good look in the mirror and ask ourselves, which one of these three personality types am I? Am I an inhibitor, who through my words represses open sharing? Am I an encourager, who makes others feel that I’m safe to open to? Or am I an ignorer, who misses the essence of what others are truly saying?
The honest answer to those questions, is that at different times and in different conversations, we can be any one of these personalities. My hope is that we can all work harder to become both, better listeners, and better encouragers.
Next week we will delve deeper into the topic of living lives focused on helping others. For now, let’s close in prayer.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of Christian friendship. Help me to always be in tune to the needs of others in my conversations. Grant me the gift, grace, and strength to be the Encourager for others that you call me to be. Help me to always create a space where other will feel safe to share. Amen.
As always, I love to read your comments below as well as hear from you personally by clicking here.
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Time is running out. Don’t miss your chance to win a free book. Many of you have already submitted your suggestions. I am writing a yearly devotional book. I am in the process of selecting 52 of the past 4th Day Letters, one for each week of the year. Each one will be presented in the book with a series of questions to reflect on for a week. I am asking for your input. Please write to me and tell me what your favorite 4th Day Letters are. I will randomly draw the names of ten people who respond, and they will receive a FREE copy of the book as soon as it is published. Entries must be received no later than May 28, 2021. The ten winners will be announced on June 1, 2021.
- Choosing To Be Orphans - June 4, 2023
- Competing Voices - May 28, 2023
- Sharing His Kingship - May 21, 2023
Regarding the 4th Day Letter….My very favorite one is A Journey of the Heart. I have printed it and shared it with numerous people – both Catholic and Protestants alike.
I think this is a very important message. It will help me to be more conscious of what kind of listener I am being. Honestly, I think I am a much better encourager with friends and a much worse inhibitor with family. You made me conscious of my need to work on that. Thanks, Jim
I had to chuckle to myself with this one on truly listening. I always considered myself to be a good listener. But as I got older, I found myself losing that beautiful skill BECAUSE……if I
had something to offer the person that would help in any way, if I didn’t say it right away, I would forget and have nothing to offer. I find my friends are doing the same thing. We end
up interrupting each other so that the point was made. I really don’t like doing this, but we
have laughed about it and we have an understanding about the matter. And we DO end up helping each other, but in a different way from years ago. When I was your age, I was appalled by this behaviour. Now I’m sure younger people are appalled at me! Lord help us as we
continue wanting to do Your work!!!!!! Amen!!!!! ALLELUIA!!! God bless you, Brian!!!!!
Very powerful reflection, Brian. I found myself in each character of your stories, depending on whom I was with and what the topic and situation was. I pray that I did more listening and encouraging than I did ignoring or inhibiting, especially with the students I taught for 30+ years.
I am very grateful that you are so obviously open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your weekly reflections. Your carefully chosen words have the ability to both convict yet encourage the reader to self-reflection and resolution to do better. May God bless you abundantly.
I am humbled by your kind words. All praise to the Holy Spirit for His inspiration. Thank you for writing. Blessings to you.
Given what I do for a living (coaching and consulting), I found this piece extremely relevant! Thank you for sharing these three personality styles.
Thanks for your post. As you well know good listening skills are extremely important. Too often we hurt others or stifle meaningful conversation by the inadvertent comments and remarks we make.
This is an outstanding reflection. The idea of concerns “sticking” but wanting to be revealed is so powerful. We’ve all walked this walk and putting it into your carefully chosen words was so well done. We also know that the labels you identified can be interchangeable, dependent on who we are with and our level of trust. So, thank you for your wonderful and heartfelt reflection. It hit home.
Thank you for your kind words. We all need the constant conviction of the Holy Spirit to help us become better encouragers.
This letter truly hit home with me. I could see myself be all Three personalities. It depended on whom I was interacting with. Thanks for opening my eyes.
God bless you and Mary Beth.
Knowing that each of us can be all three of these personalities, I pray that God will grant us the grace to become better encouragers every day.