“We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test.” ~ Isabel Allende
This current pandemic has no doubt turned all of our worlds upside down. While “we’re all in this together”, each of us is facing different circumstances and challenges. Some may be worrying about money and job security, the health and safety of themselves or others, or coping with social isolation, homeschooling, working from home, or working in essential services. Each of us will deal with the anxiety associated with our current situation differently. These are truly difficult and uncertain times and they’ve forced us to change how we interact with others in our daily lives, bringing with that a whole other level of challenges. The more we understand ourselves, our triggers, and our personality preferences, the better equipped we’ll be to make healthy choices and respond to what life throws at us more productively.
A good place to start is with understanding how different personalities behave during turbulent times. Carl Jung theorized that we’re born with our personality type preferences and it remains relatively stable throughout one’s life. While I believe that our personality doesn’t change, we are constantly changing and evolving, or devolving into survival mode. This is one of those times that our personalities will be put to the test and can trigger us into survival mode, or into our self-protective system.
Fundamentally, we’re all adaptable and resilient enough, and, as far as the Striving Styles Personality System (SSPS) or Myers-Briggs Personality Types (MBTI) are concerned, I don’t believe there is one personality type that is better equipped to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re all willing and able to cooperate with others and abide by the executive orders that have been put in place. While I think that emotional intelligence is a far better predictor of one’s ability to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic (refer to SSPS for a deeper dive into your self-protective behaviours), the MBTI can offer some valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of certain personality traits that might manifest during times like these.
There are four MBTI dichotomies and everyone has a natural preference for one of the two opposites on each of the four dichotomies. They describe our preferences but we use all eight of them. Here are a few general things about the Myers-Briggs personality types and how they may describe how you or others respond to what is happening in our world now.
Introversion vs Extraversion: This is where we get our energy and where we prefer to focus our attention. It may be more difficult for extraverted types to practice social distancing or harder for them to get that social interaction needed to feeds their brains. However, Extraverts might have an edge in this time of social distancing because Extraverts may be more likely to pick up the phone, Facetime people, or organize Zoom parties when they need interaction. While introverted types tend to have or need fewer social interactions than extraverted types, this doesn’t mean that Introverts don’t need social interaction as well. We’re all wired to need other human beings to one extent or another. During periods of stress, it’s important to reach out to others whether you are an Introvert or an Extravert.
Sensing vs Intuition: This describes the way we prefer to take in, gather, and prioritize information. Sensing types are drawn to the details first and are attune to tangible data and facts. Intuitive types are drawn to the big picture and pay attention to general concepts and theories and tend to be future-focused. During the pandemic, a Sensing type might receive information as follows: “we’re in the middle of a pandemic, there’s a stay home order, I have to stay at home, the last time I stayed at home for a long time was when I was sick, my house isn’t clean, etc”. For a Sensing type, it’s just what it is, and there isn’t a hidden meaning in any of this. It’s all about the process of sensation and the mind doesn’t attribute any meaning to any of these sensations.
For an Intuitive type, they receive it as “we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and there’s a stay at home order and I’m going to go stir crazy. I need to find ways to occupy myself at home, I always get like that when I’m at home for too long, why is that? I wonder when we’re going to go back to work, there are so many people getting sick, we have to be careful if we go outside. How is this going to change the world? The difference here is the intuitive response is a web of complex information and a lot of it is intangible and may or may not happen. While sensing types focus on clarity, intuitive types associate ideas with one another. In terms of this Covid-19 pandemic, one potential issue I can see in the Sensing/Intuitive dichotomy is communication. Sensors communicate in a sequential detailed way, so it’s best to use concrete language and facts and be straightforward when speaking to them. Intuitives are more likely to skip over the details and be attuned to impressions or ideas, so focus on the big picture instead of concrete data, and try to speak to their curiosity with ideas or theories.
Thinking vs Feeling: This is the way we evaluate and make decisions. Thinking types tend to make decisions based on objective logic while Feeling types tend to focus on the impact on people and use a values-based approach when deciding. With these two types, there is a fundamental difference in how they experience and express emotions. It’s not about being emotional or moody or anxious and in fact, being a feeler doesn’t mean you are overly emotional, and being a thinker doesn’t mean you’re not emotional at all. It’s about what you prioritize when you’re making a decision. If you’re a thinker, you prioritize impersonal logic, pros and cons, and cause and effect. If you’re a feeler, you prioritize values, morals, and personal principles.
For example, if you’re a Feeling type, you might be soaking up a lot of emotions as the world is going on right now. You may “feel” what other people are going through. Thinkers may appear to respond in an overly objective and straightforward way, devoid of emotions, which just make things worse for the Feeler because the Feeler wants their feelings to be validated. This is hard for Thinkers because feelings aren’t logical.
If you’re a Thinker, a little praise with a Feeler goes a long way. Let them know that they are doing a great job in managing their stress and cite examples if you can. If you’re a Feeler, try to practice not taking things personally and looking at the reality of the situation. It’s going to be helpful during these uncertain times whether you’re a Thinker or a Feeler to work hard to understand and appreciate differences and try to flex your style accordingly.
Judging and Perceiving: This is all about our lifestyle orientation and we orient ourselves to the external world. While Judging types tend to be structured and organized, and very mindful of time, Perceiving types tend to be adaptable and spontaneous. This dichotomy is going to play out in a very big way during these trying times, especially when it comes to working from home. Perceivers may have a harder time sticking to a 9-5 type of work schedule unless you’re already in a structured type of role. Naturally, P’s dislike routine, and let’s not even talk about micromanagement. One positive about working virtually for Perceivers thought is the ability to be more flexible with their schedules, although this could become a problem if the rest of the work team is more structured and follow more of a routine, eg. like if they’re expecting work to be done during regular business hours and they’re getting emails at all hours of the night, this could be a problem. So if you’re a Perceiving type, knowing what the preferred style is for your team is going to be very helpful. If it’s expected that you are available at certain times, set some calendar reminders so that you don’t miss appointments and factor planning into your day. Make sure that you take regular stretch breaks too. And as much as you can, allow time to complete your work when you’re at your best. For J’s it’s a different story. Judging types are very time conscious and they tend to be list-makers and planners. While J’s will likely hunker down, prepare lists and diligently work towards checking off their to-do’s, this disruption that we’re experiencing is most likely harder on them in many ways than it is for Perceivers. Judging types don’t like surprises at all. They’ve got contingency plans for most things but this pandemic has probably thrown a huge curveball to them and it make take them some time to adjust. Another potential issue because J’s are goal-oriented and they want things decided and fixed they may make snap decisions or judgments before they have the needed information to make a properly informed decision. This is very easy to do in highly charged communication situations without the benefit of non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language.
Lastly, if you’re like me and crave something positive, you’ll enjoy this YouTube video where Jack Canfield shares 6 reasons to be optimistic about the future. He explains the importance of remembering that for every problem we face as a society, there are many brilliant people around the world working on solutions, and that this should give us a great deal of hope for the future.
Finally, in the words of Dr. Bonnie Henry, “stay calm, be kind, and stay safe”.
Now, it’s your turn.
How have you been coping during this Pandemic? How do you manage your stress? How do you stay positive?