How the Mother/Daughter Relationship is Affected by Personality Differences

By Barbara Wilkov

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The mother-daughter relationship can be hard enough but when you throw personality variances into the mix…need I say more? Ok, you can’t change your mother’s personality, but being aware of these differences can go a long way in trying to deal with them. It might be helpful to give this some thought the next time you and your mom are butting heads.

There are many ways to measure personality traits. One common way is with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which is based on the theories of psychiatrist,Carl Jung. The study of personality types can be quite complex and, in fact, it’s a whole course of study. But it can be simplified a bit for our purposes.

Differences in personality types are believed to be the product of people’s innate preferences in how they think of and process information, and then how they eventually develop habits of behavior and personality patterns as a result. Think of it this way; if you were handed a pen and asked to write something, you would have a preference of writing with your right or left hand. It doesn’t mean that you couldn’t learn to write with the other hand, but it’s certainly much more comfortable to write with what has over the years become your preferred hand. It’s similar with personality traits.

The Myers-Briggs test is made up of four separate preference scales: Extraversion-Introversion; Sensing-Intuition; Thinking-Feeling; and Judging-Perceiving. Each preference shows a specific aspect of personality and helps you to understand yourself and others better. However, it’s important to remember that it is really the combination of the four preferences together that provides the most comprehensive picture of personality type. Also, while we tend to prefer one trait over the other, we really all fall along a continuum, and can have tendencies toward both preferences at times.

While this topic can be quite complicated, we present here a simplified version and a good place to start in trying to understand yourself, your mom and your differences in personality:

Where do you prefer to focus your attention? Where do you get your energy?

Extroverts focus on the outside world (people and activity). They direct  their energy outward and receive energy from interacting with people and from taking action. They:

  • Are drawn to the external environment
  • Prefer to communicate by talking
  • Talk things through
  • Learn best by doing or discussing
  • Are sociable and expressive
  • Have broad interests

Introverts focus on their own inner world of ideas and experiences. They direct their energy inward and receive energy from reflecting on their thoughts, memories, and feelings. They:

  • Are drawn to their inner world.
  • Prefer to communicate in writing
  • Need to reflect
  • Learn best by reflection (mental practice)
  • Are private and controlled
  • Focus in depth on a few interests

How do you prefer to take in information?

Sensers like to take in information that is real and tangible – what is actually happening. They are observant about specifics of what is going on around them and especially attuned to practical realities. They:

  • Look at present realities
  • Are factual and concrete
  • Focus on what is real and actual
  • Observe and remember specifics
  • Are slow to reach conclusions
  • Trust experience

Intuiters take in information by seeing the big picture and focusing on relationships and connections between facts. They want to grasp patterns and are especially attuned to seeing new possibilities. They:

  • Look at future possibilities
  • Are imaginative and verbally creative
  • Focus on patterns and meanings in data
  • Remember specifics relating to a pattern
  • Are quick to make conclusions; follow hunches
  • Trust inspiration

How do you make decisions?

Thinkers like to look at logical consequences. They examine the pros and cons of a situation objectively. They are energized by critiquing and analyzing to find what’s wrong so they can solve the problem. Their goal is to find a standard or principle that will apply to all similar situations. They:

  • Are analytical
  • Use cause and effect reasoning
  • Solve problems with logic
  • Strive for objective standard of truth
  • Are reasonable
  • Can be tough-minded
  • Fair – want everyone treated equally

Feelers like to consider what is important to them and to others involved. They identify with others so they can make decisions based on their values about honoring people. They are energized by appreciating and supporting others. They look for qualities to praise. Their goal is to create harmony and treat each person as an individual. They:

  • Are empathetic
  • Guided by personal values
  • Assess impact of decisions on people
  • Strive for harmony and positive interaction
  • Are compassionate
  • May appear “tenderhearted”
  • Fair – want other treated as individuals


How do you deal with the outer world?

Judgers like to live in a planned and orderly way. They want to make decisions, come to closure, and move on. Their lives tend to be structured and organized. Sticking to a plan and schedule is very important to them. They are energized by getting things done. They:

  • Are scheduled
  • Organize their lives
  • Are methodical
  • Make short and long term plans
  • Like to have things decided
  • Try to avoid last-minute stresses

Perceivers like to live in a flexible, spontaneous way. Detailed plans and final decisions feel confining to them. They prefer to stay open to new information and last-minute options. They are energized by their resourcefulness in adapting to the demands of the moment. They:

  • Are spontaneous
  • Are flexible
  • Open-ended
  • Adapt, change course
  • Like things loose and open to change
  • Are energized by last-minute pressures

The next time you and your mother are at odds, see if you can determine where the problem lies. Is she just acting like an Introvert, while you’re an Extrovert, or is she a Judger while you’re a Perceiver? Try to be open and accepting of these differences. After all, differences really do make the world go round.

Source: Introduction to Type: A Guide to Understanding Your Results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Sixth Edition) by Isabel Briggs Myers, Revised by Linda K. Kirby and Katharine D. Myers