It is no secret that human beings are divided in the way they think, feel and act. These divisions often lead to conflicts with our inabilities to resolve our differences in an effective manner. A common human problem we face is that conflict easily and readily appears when someone’s values are the exact opposite of someone else’s.
There is conflict everywhere you turn; the conflict between nations, political parties within nations, religions, spouses, family members, employees and employers, and just everyday people in general. It is no stretch to say that the results can be catastrophic – in wars, riots, divorce, suicide, depression, substance abuse, and untold heartache.
Researchers like Myers and Briggs have helped us to understand the universal nature of our differences by uncovering the opposing and competing differences within each and every one of us. They have validated four sets of opposing traits and values that define our basic temperaments.
These differences are being shown to be genetically inherent, and for the most part, are equally represented among the general population. These universal differences are the basis for the 16 Myers-Briggs temperament types that describe the dualities that shape who we are.
The first division describes our proclivity to be more thinking or feeling by nature. Of course, all of us do both but we all have a preferred way of experiencing the world. Myers-Briggs statistics tell us that most men are thinkers and most women are feelers. Communication can be difficult between these two types and can break down easily when both are entrapped in their opposing modes. This helps to explain the ‘battle of the sexes‘ that is so prevalent.
Another equal division is what they define as people being introverted or extroverted. Introverted people experience life by focusing their attention inside themselves where they interpret life through their personalised concepts and principles. Extroverted people are much more aware and sensitive to their external environments. What they think and feel is highly influenced by what is going on around them at the time. Introverted people are more influenced by the internal processing of their environment by their thoughts and feelings. Extroverted people are much more assertive about their needs whereas introverted people are more passive and withhold their thoughts and feelings.
The next equal division is our preference for having life structured or being flexible. Myers-Briggs labels these divisions as judging vs perceiving. Judging people are more controlling and they organise their life with rules and regulations. Perceiving people are more inclined to be flexible or spontaneous and improvise as they go along. I like to call these people rule makers and rule breakers. I think we can see the conflict that can arise from these two different types.
The next division is not equal in numbers but is an important part of the differences in people. Some people are more intuitive and look beyond the superficial. These people are future-focused and see the big picture more accurately. Whereas, some are more in tune with their senses and are focused in the here and now.
These four divisions all help to explain how people are contrasting, opposing, and competing with their preset values and preferences. Understanding that certain combinations of these divisions create different factions such as political groups is enlightening. For example, Republicans are more thinking and controlling by nature. Democrats are more feeling and flexible by their nature. Of course, both sides believe their way is the best way.
Recognising that we have these opposite, equal, and competing values in our natures throughout the population is the first step to resolving our conflicts. We need to understand that we can’t help being who we are any more than others can’t help being who they are. Our differences are there for a reason. Our differences include different strengths and weaknesses in certain areas. Only by working together can we utilise the strengths of both sides and create new possibilities for solutions to the problems we face.
Fighting over who is right and wrong over their different perspectives is a futile and wasteful effort to handle our differences. Especially if both side are equal in their numbers. It would be like men and women fighting over which gender is superior to the other. Men and women are just different sides of the same coin－ just as the traits that Myers-Briggs uncovered are all a part of the totality of humanity.
Martin Luther King once said: ‘Life at its best is the creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony.’ He understood that we need unity of the divisions, not the conflict. Appreciating those who have opposing viewpoints helps us to grow to become more tolerant and compassionate. The world could use a little more of this way of thinking and feeling right now.
Scott Trettenero’s book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves.