How to Improve Your Relationship with The Person You’re With
Flourishing in life often depends on the people you spend it with.
Making your relationships the best they can possibly be increases happiness and longevity.
There’s a relationship app I downloaded last year called Relish. I like their advice but find it’s important to know when and whom to use their advice with.
The app asks you and your partner to take a Relish assessment. What you tell them will customize your journey on the app.
They cleverly work out the best plan for your situation using their library of hundreds of pieces of content and activities.
As I dove deeper into the app, I found that some of the advice was helpful and other times it wasn’t.
For example in this article:
3 Expert Tips For Improving Communication In Your Relationship
They suggested to:
1. Ask Open-Ended Questions.
2. Maintain Eye Contact.
3. Ask Follow-Up Questions.
Great advice for extrovert, horrible advice for the more introverted.
it’s important to couple this advice by first understanding the fundamental nature/archetype of your partner’s personality.
When you arm yourself with your partner’s default traits, you get to decide which advice to take or leave behind — you’ll be more successful with your relationships in the end.
For 20 years, one of my passions has been to gain a deep understanding of personality archetypes, which I find hugely helpful to me in every aspect of life.
By understanding what drives an individual’s worldview, behaviors, and decisions, you’re ideally positioned to improve relationships—both personally and professionally.
From deep-dive research into personality assessments, I’ve created a simple framework of 12 archetypes from my recently published book Little Brand Book by Harper Collins.
Each of these 12 archetypes belongs in one of the four categories.
- Sages: information-oriented
- Seekers: idea-oriented
- Sparks: action-oriented
- Soul sisters: people-oriented
Each type boasts a distinct skillset and behavior patterns that make them shine. Each type is also prone to specific shortcomings and pitfalls. These nuances inform behaviors and can even be somewhat predictable.
The tricky part is when people from different “types” live or work together. In close situations—a quarantine, for example—their distinct differences can clash and drive each other to the brink of insanity IF each doesn’t understand where the other is coming from.
Sparks vs. Sages
Let’s take the case of two hypothetical combinations (roommates)
One is an information-oriented Sage, and the other is an action-oriented Spark.
What does a typical day look like for these two while they’re sheltering in place together?
The Spark roommate wakes up thinking about everything she needs to accomplish and starts planning her day. She hops out of bed, makes a cup of Bulletproof Coffee, and starts tackling her daily to-do list. It includes goal-oriented activities: taking a Masterclass on negotiation, taking an online boxing class, sharing thoughts on the current economic climate with her social media network, scheduling a grocery delivery, leading a virtual meet-up for colleagues, and challenging herself with a complicated new recipe for dinner.
It’s difficult for any Spark to stay at home during a quarantine; she’s a go-getter who prefers to be out and about, shaking things up and getting stuff done.
Meanwhile, under the same roof, our Sage archetype awakens. She feels happy to be safe and warm in her bed, and lingers there for a while, thinking about the many possibilities the day could bring.
Will there be any exciting breakthroughs to learn about the virus in the news today? Maybe she could host a virtual class and teach people how to organize their closets during the shutdown. Or perhaps she’ll write a blog post extolling the virtues of this stay-at-home opportunity to nurture our creative sides.
She makes a cup of tea and returns to the sanctity of her bedroom to wake up slowly while she watches the news and contemplates the day.
It’s easy to see how these two might clash.
Spark needs to be productive & proactive. She needs to accomplish a set goal to find peace, while the Sage needs to be prepared and protective of both quiet and time to read over facts, observe, ruminate.
When the Spark asks the Sage if she wants to join in, it irks the Sage because she wants solitude to catch up with her thoughts.
And hey, why didn’t Spark bring it up yesterday? Why does everything have to be so goddamn spontaneous?
When the Sage asks the Spark for privacy, the Spark is judgemental, — what a lethargic, lazy loafer.
She should be getting out and DOING something.
It’s a common trait of humans: it’s difficult for all of us to understand that not everyone thinks the way we think!
So–how can they get along?
The pair must communicate kindly, but honestly. If the Sage needs quiet time, she should say, “If we can enjoy two hours of quiet now, I’ll enjoy exercising and talking with you for an hour later in the day.” And the Spark should be honest: “Staying at home is difficult for me because I like to go out and get things done. Would you help me organize my closet later, after my boxing class?”
By flipping the script and playing to the strengths of each personality archetype versus focusing on perceived shortcomings, you might find the common ground necessary to get through intense times of togetherness.
Maybe the Spark can inspire the Sage to take more concrete steps toward accomplishing her goals, while the Sage can help the Spark to observe and analyze a situation before rushing to action and possibly regretting it.
Soul Sister vs. Seeker
In the same building, another pair of opposites are also realizing how vastly different from themselves the person they’re relegated to sharing space with is turning out to be.
Our Soul Sister has a deep bench of lifelong friends and would do anything for them — Listening and texting for hours as friends flock to her first so they can rant.
Our Soul Sister spends ungodly amounts of time liking Instagram posts 100!, sending out goofy dance videos on TikTok, playing drinking games with friends on a seemingly endless series of concurrent virtual meet-ups – roars of laughter wafting through the thin walls.
Her idea-oriented Seeker roommate finds this absurd.
What a waste of goddamn time.
The Soul Sister should be using her energy to help change the world instead of guffawing at memes.
In the meantime, the Seeker is making masks for first responders, picking up groceries for senior citizens, and writing an op-ed for Medium. The Seeker is an impatient visionary who sees good in the world and what it could be. She’s a champion of new ideas and a judgemental advocate of any type of change.
When the Soul Sister roommate sends a funny video to the Seeker, the Seeker rolls her eyes with contempt and immediately presses delete before even looking at it.
This offends the Soul Sister: She wants to help the Seeker start her day with some fun. Relax! Why does everything have to be so serious?
The Seeker is irritated by her roommate’s endless attempts to distract her, and the incessant conversations with her circle of friends. The Seeker doesn’t need help and feels smothered by the Soul Sister’s caretaking ways. The Seeker longs for the days when she could hop on the next plane to anywhere and start a new adventure.
How can these two get along?
Both of these personality archetypes have admirable features, but they’re at odds over how to minimize their conflicts and maximize their commonalities.
To satisfy the Seeker’s wanderlust, the two could watch the National Geographic channel together, traveling to new places virtually.
To satisfy the Soul Sister’s need to nurture, they could start a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel watch party on Netflix.
The key is to recognize and embrace your roommate’s personality archetype and look for ways it can work together with yours.
When someone showcases undesirable qualities, think about the good qualities they also offer: “Sure, she’s obsessed with watching YouTube and doesn’t like to make a plan for the day, but she inspires me to think more deeply about having fun.”
You can flip the script and remain open to appreciating the positive side of your roommate’s personality, even if they drive you batty, good things will happen.
You’ll have the opportunity to grow into a more well-rounded person who accepts both the good and bad in others—and maybe even admire something about those opposing traits.
By expanding your knowledge around personality archetypes, I hope you will find something to like about the person you’re alone with during this challenging time!