Personality Clash – Part 2

Working with Gemma and Bethan

Gemma was very eager to work with me and her personality type meant that she would do her utmost to make this a success. She asked me to be brutally honest with her (I’m and INFJ (i) so I’m really bad at that but I tried)

First of all, I had to help Gemma to understand that there was nothing wrong with Bethan. She had been battling for so long to make any headway with her daughter that she began to fear that Bethan had some sort of disorder.


First of all, Personality typing is one of my “things” so I have to remind myself that it is not everybody’s “thing” and it can cloud potential work if people fixate too much on the intricacies of personality type. Knowing that Gemma is an ESFJ, I also knew that she would want basic, hard facts and a plan of action she could follow, so I had to make sure that I kept her interest.

I started by bullet pointing some basic ESFJ traits and asking her to tell me how many of them were true of her…

Gemma – Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging

  • Popular
  • Likes to lead a team to victory
  • Enjoys supporting friends by organising social gatherings and making sure everyone is happy
  • Does NOT enjoy deeply intellectual conversations but love in depth conversations with friends
  • Places high value on social status and appearance
  • Loves finding out about and getting stuck into practical matters
  • Loves gossip but use it for good
  • Takes their responsibility to do the right thing very seriously
  • Loves to be valued and appreciated
  • Does their best to be in charge at home and at work which allows them to keep things organised for everyone
  • At parties, they enjoy talking to everyone and finding out about their lives
  • Excellent at remembering tiny details about people
  • Cannot stand conflict and do their best to restore harmony at all costs
  • Puts a lot of energy into organising things for others and can get offended if they feel others don’t appreciate it
  • Finds it difficult to accept that if others disagree or have different views it is not a reflection on them directly
  • Excellent role models and they take pride in this role

Gemma came back to me with a resounding YES to everything I had said and commented that her husband and work colleagues had laughed at how accurate the points were.

Next, I sent Gemma a list of traits I believed described Bethan…

Bethan –Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging

  • Great integrity
  • Logical
  • Takes immense pride in work
  • Devotes 100% energy to every task
  • Likes to analyse their surroundings
  • No tolerance for indecision
  • Lose patience when challenged – becomes angry if further challenged
  • Deeply dislikes dishonesty
  • Prefers to work alone or be in charge of tasks
  • Sharp minded
  • Sees dependence on others as a weakness
  • Struggles to express correct emotions but feels them very deeply

Again, I was met with a great big YES followed by questions about my psychic abilities and how did I even know this stuff. I suppose I’m a geek really!

The next step was to give Gemma just enough information so that she could understand the differences. I felt that a big issue for them was Bethan’s introversion and Gemma’s extraversion, so I gave them some easy points…

MeaningPrefers to remain isolated, or enjoys the company of a few close peopleOutgoing and enjoys being around and talking to lots of people
How others see themSelf containedGregarious
How they speakThink before speaking and sometimes struggle to say what they meanMake sense of things by speaking them
How they energiseRecharge by solitudeRecharge by social interactions
How they prefer to spend timeHappy to spend more time aloneLikes to spend more time with family and friends
How they deal with changeStruggle more with changeAccept change easily
How they communicateWill openly communicate with those they know and trustWill openly communicate about themselves with anyone
ConcentrationCan usually concentrate for long periodsGet distracted easily

Actions and things to try

I asked Gemma to bear in mind that Bethan may be over-stimulated by the school environment for the following reasons…

  • Her introversion (see table above)
  • Her high intelligence level (ISTJ’s tend to do better at secondary school when more challenged)
  • Her intolerance for games / lessons that she doesn’t feel have any meaning or don’t challenge her

I told Gemma that the danger would come when Bethan gets home, if she has to conform and hasn’t had sufficient time to wind down alone, she will use her behaviour to express herself. But because she doesn’t know why she’s doing this; she backs herself into a corner and has to maintain the behaviour.

At this point, any interaction with Bethan will fan the flames, as will talking to her which is probably the last thing she wants to do.

Tips for Bethan

  • Make time for her to be alone or quiet especially after school
  • Give her responsible, orderly tasks to do (like cleaning the house) it’s a form of Mindfulness (ii) and will help her regain her focus
  • Don’t over-do the gushy praise but acknowledge a job well done. Because Bethan is a Thinker, your Feeler approach can sometimes appear over the top or gushy.
  • Don’t push her to be nice to people she doesn’t like – it bothers you more than it bothers her
  • Acknowledge that she will feel insecure away from home even if she doesn’t show it. Take time to explain where you are going, how long you will be and make a plan for her for when you get home, e.g. a structured activity.
  • See if she will read some non-fiction books. IS types love knowledge and learning and are extremely good at it
  • Encourage her to tell you if she is not ok. Use a simple 1-10 with her. You don’t always have to do anything but knowing that you know if she’s a 1 or 2 will help her.

I then gave Gemma some tips for how she might be able to curb any arguments at an earlier stage…

Tips for Gemma

  • Don’t over-do the gushy praise but acknowledge a job well done. Because Megan is a Thinker, your Feeler approach can sometimes appear over the top or gushy.
  • Remember that you are concerned with how Bethan “feels” because you feel upset for her. She is more logical than this – maybe try and find more logical language e.g. random words for feelings…colours are usually good. So pink is happy, black is angry etc.
  • Don’t try and make Bethan conform to your version of perfect – she will challenge your ideas and you may feel stressed by this but in the end, she will help to teach you that it really doesn’t matter what others think
  • Make sure there is plenty of structure for her, give her tasks and games that challenge her intellectually she’ll love them!
  • Try and do some “Introverted” family things at weekends – ask Bethan to choose and don’t complain if she asks to stay in and watch TV!

How did they get on?

Of course, happy endings in life, much like change, takes time and effort. Luckily for this family, they were willing to put the time and effort in. So, 1 month on, how were things going?

Gemma had found that simplifying her language had worked really well. The use of colours and numbers to describe feelings and levels of anxiety were helping. Gemma was still challenging herself not to try and “fix” everything, but things were definitely better. Bethan now knew that alone time would not be seen as anti-social and things didn’t always have to be talked through to gain resolution.

Bethan had chosen some non-fiction books and was particularly interested in old school encyclopaedias which she seemed to devour.

There were still a few issues around social events but a level of understanding by Gemma had meant that Bethan was beginning to communicate her displeasure in more constructive ways.

i. INFJ – Introversion, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging – vision and meaning orientated. Quietly intense. Insightful. Creative. Seeks harmony and growth. Serious. Loves language, symbols. Persevering. Inspiring. For more info see

ii. Mindfulness – “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour. An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.

Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.” Professor Mark Williams – Former Director of Oxford Mindfulness Centre quoted on NHS website

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