Relationships can bring you some of the most exhilarating highs and devastating lows of your life. Both satisfying and nerve-wracking, the world of romance can cause anyone to feel confused. When you add personality differences into the mix there’s almost certainly going to be some stumbling blocks along the way. Today, we’re going to explore the most common relationship mistakes that ENTJs tend to make. These particular mistakes were chosen based on surveys I’ve conducted with ENTJs on my email list and Twitter account as well as those I’ve consulted with as a practitioner. But don’t worry, this article isn’t all about the mistakes – we’re also going to look at some strategies for avoiding them. Let’s get started!
#1 – Not Taking their Partner’s Feelings Seriously
ENTJs mentally operate from a place of logic and objective analysis over feelings and values. They are often uncomfortable dealing with emotions and may dismiss other people’s feelings as invalid when those feelings don’t seem to “make sense” to them. If their partner lashes out against having their feelings dismissed, this can result in a heated debate over the “over-sensitivity” or “coldness” of either partner. As these arguments or dismissals drag on, a relationship can wither or dissolve into passive-aggressiveness or resentment from both partners.
How to Avoid This Mistake:
Everyone wants to feel understood in their relationships. True understanding demands empathy. While ENTJs can certainly be empathetic, it can be hard for them to get out of “logic mode” and into “empathy-mode” when a partner is discussing their feelings. Empathy is the willingness to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and feel what they are feeling as best as you can. Empathy helps us to stop seeing individuals as “over-sensitive,” “cold,” “irrational,” “overly-rational.” It helps us to avoid snap judgments and “quick fixes” that escalate emotional conflicts.
Feelings may not always seem logical to you because their basis isn’t typically objectively provable. If your partner complains about not feeling “heard” in the relationship, for example, you might quickly retort that you always listen to them – that their complaint isn’t true. However, this doesn’t mean that his or her feelings about it are invalid. Looking at the context, asking clarifying questions, and affirming how they feel (because their feelings are indeed happening) is essential.
Here are some things to avoid saying when your partner comes to you with their feelings:
– “Well, it could be worse.”
– “I think you should…”
– “You just need to look at it from another perspective.”
– “You’re being ridiculous.”
– “Here we go again…”
These kinds of responses invalidate the other person’s experience and lead to resentment or shame. Instead of looking at just the facts, consider the context of why your partner is feeling the way they are. Pause and do these four things:
- Listen without judgment. Avoid blaming, fixing, or jumping to conclusions. Practice non-defensive listening.
- Stop worrying about who is “right.” Look for emotions and feelings rather than facts for a moment.
- Realize your partner wants you to feel what they feel. Imagine that your partner is trapped on a sinking boat. You throw a lifeline to them and rescue them. As soon as they arrive safely on your ship you give them a high-five and ask if they want to watch a comedy. “I nearly died!” they shout. “But you DIDN’T die. I saved you.” you retort. While your response would be objectively true, it shows a lack of empathy for their feelings. This example is obviously an extreme situation, but the point I’m trying to get across is that your partner wants you to BE with them on that sinking boat, at least mentally, for a while. They want you to climb into their shoes and understand their fear, pain, anguish, or confusion. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask questions. Show them that you care about being on that boat with them.
- Paraphrase their feelings back to them to be sure you’ve got it right. Validate their feelings by saying things like, “I can understand why you’d feel…” or “Of course you feel…” Realize that behind every complaint is a deep personal longing or hurt.
Simply doing these four things when your partner comes to you with their feelings can help your relationship in meaningful ways. Remember, having empathy doesn’t mean you have to always agree with your partner. Sometimes they might actually be wrong about something. But using these techniques can help you to disagree with kindness.
Mistake #2 – Unwillingness to be Vulnerable
This might not seem like a mistake at first glance. After all, who really wants to be vulnerable? Why would you want to share the most shameful parts of your life with someone? Why would you want to put yourself out there before you’re sure there’s no risk of rejection or embarrassment? NT personality types as a whole struggle to be vulnerable with their partners. One ENTJ I spoke with said, “Our interior Fi (introverted feeling) is vulnerable, and afraid of rejection and hurt. “If I love you, will you please not hurt me?” The dichotomy between Te (extraverted thinking) and Fi is a wide chasm.”
While protecting one’s self from vulnerability may not seem harmful, there are some unintended consequences. The first possible consequence is that a potential partner may not realize the depth of your interest in them. The second side-effect is that you lose true intimacy and authenticity with your partner. The third potential issue is that your partner may refrain from being open and honest with their hurts, or even feel shame when being authentic and vulnerable with you. Without openness and vulnerability, it is extremely difficult to have a thriving bond with someone.
How to Avoid This Mistake:
First of all, you have to remind yourself that vulnerability is not a weakness. Many of us have grown up in a world that pushes us to be “strong,” “tough,” and “unbreakable.” The problem is that vulnerability is often the pathway to love, intimacy, and connection. Vulnerability is opening yourself up to someone and saying, “Here I am, with all my scars, imperfections, and baggage. But here I am with my love, the strength I’ve learned through those scars, and the wisdom I’ve gained from that baggage.” It invites your partner (or potential partner) to accept you; baggage, scars, and all. It lets a love interest know what they’re getting into so they aren’t blindsided later on in the relationship. It lets you know that you’ve got a partner with strength and loyalty by your side.
Here are a few ways to be more vulnerable:
- Live with courage. What would you do if you weren’t afraid of rejection or shame? It’s easier at times to guard yourself against vulnerability rather than take a risk that might spell embarrassment or dismissal. But the riskiest move is often the most rewarding in the end.
- Express and accept affection. Challenge yourself to be freely giving, caring, tender, playful, open and undefended. Affection is an outward sign of generosity, and accepting affection helps you to feel desired and fulfilled in a relationship.
- Discuss your life openly, but at the right times. You don’t have to jump into the deep end of vulnerability right away to get its rewards. On a first date, you don’t need to bring up every dark secret of your past. As you progress through a relationship and things get more serious consider the timing of when you will discuss certain things. Try to have these discussions at times when there are no distractions or crowds nearby. Put away phones, turn off the TV, shut down your tablet. Let your partner know that they are important to you and you value them and that’s why you want to be honest about the things you’re going to discuss. Let them know that you don’t need an immediate answer/solution/response when you’re done talking. You’re simply looking for honesty and connection.
Mistake #3 – Condescension
ENTJs are often very sure of their ideas and the logic of their conclusions. They are usually trailblazers, seeking novel possibilities and original insights into the future. They enjoy change and they tend to see people who are bound to tradition as somewhat dull and uninspiring. They can also see feeling types as over-sensitive and irrational. Perceiving types they can view as lazy and disorganized. Condescending or patronizing comments can be the kiss of death in a relationship. Condescension makes people feel small, insignificant, ashamed, and/or unappreciated. It never solves a problem or brings positivity to a relationship. As solution-seekers, ENTJs naturally want to avoid the consequences of condescension.
How to Avoid This Mistake:
It’s important to appreciate your own unique strengths, but it’s also vital to pause and realize the talents of other types. Simply learning about personality type can greatly improve your communication and harmony in a relationship. Affirming your partner’s gifts (spontaneity, empathy, practicality, whatever they are) will do wonders for your relationship. Every night before you go to bed think of something your partner did that day that you admire or appreciate. Mention this to them. Make it a point to recognize the good and show appreciation for it. In an argument, pause and consider their personality type and how you can communicate with them in a way that works for them.
Some Simple Communication Tips for Dealing with Other Types
Introverts – Give them space and time to reflect before expecting a response. Realize that they will need more transition time between topics. During conflict, they may need time alone to process what’s happened and how they feel about it.
Sensors – Be very specific when dealing with sensing types. Don’t skip over details, be vague, roundabout, or purely abstract. These types like communication to be linear, specific, and backed up with facts or evidence.
Feelers – Remember that these types prioritize values, ethics, and interpersonal harmony when they make decisions. FJs will focus more on broad human needs and values whereas FPs will focus more on individual values and needs. Respect these values and the emotions and needs of them and others when a conflict arises.
Perceivers – These types hate being rushed into a decision. They need time to be creative, question or bounce ideas back and forth. What may seem like laziness to some is typically time spent envisioning more possibilities or taking in more information. Perceivers mix work with play – the “playing” part is important for them because it is usually what introduces them to new creative options and inspiration.
Summing It Up…
You have many tremendous gifts as an ENTJ. Your type is often confident, intellectual, insightful, and determined. The strengths you bring to a relationship make you stand out. In fact, according to the most current estimates, your type is the rarest of all the Myers-Briggs® personality types (source: MBTI® Manual – Fourth Edition). The potential weaknesses we’ve explored here are not a death sentence for your relationship! They are something to look out for and learn from. Each personality type has specific potential shortcomings, but also very significant strengths. You can find out more about your ENTJ talents, weaknesses, and more here. You can also check out Joel and Antonia’s ENTJ personality course here.