How many personality traits really matter in the forging of intimacy? After seven years of developing our approach based on couples therapy and research, we have decisively uncovered twleve that vitally affect all romantic relationships, that either make or break intimacy. This precise number is important, and it has been determined both clinically and scientifically. Throughout this book and our professional work, we have affectionately dubbed these traits as the "Big 12".
Therefore, to help familiarize you with the "Big 12" in action and to help you see that these personality traits are unmistakably real — rather than irrelevant constructs — we've created this thought-experiment. Just as the famed mathematician Albert Einstein relied strongly on thought-experiments to highlight his world-changing theories of space, time, and energy, we find that psychological thought-experiments can be highly effective in revealing vital aspects of human personality either overlooked or insufficiently recognized in our busy, day-to-day lives.
THE BIG 12 ON THE LOVE BOAT
So here we go. Imagine that you've been invited to a social gathering at a pleasant hotel conference room. Perhaps six months ago, just for fun, you entered a contest to win a trip. Last week you received notification in the mail from the contest company: Along with nineteen others from your area, you've won two free tickets for a nine-day Caribbean cruise, all expenses paid. The cruise line is well known, and there are no hidden charges. But for promotional and marketing purposes, the company has requested that all winners come to a publicity event where they'll be photographed, interviewed, and given their travel vouchers.
As you enter the conference room, you see a big buffet table filled with catered goodies. Festive balloons are everywhere, and there's up-beat recorded music in the background. A pair of marketing representatives welcomes you at the door. Checking your name on their clipboard roster, they smile, and one explains sheepishly, "We're running a little late. The video team will be here soon, and then we'll immediately start taping. So come in and enjoy yourself — there's a fantastic group of people here for you to meet!"
That's the background. Now, let's focus on the Big 12 and see how they manifest in this social situation. That is, what would you likely experience if everyone in the room — let's leave out the cruise line marketers — were identically high or low with regard to each of the Big 12 traits?
NEED FOR COMPANIONSHIP
If your nineteen co-winners ranked high on this trait, many would be accompanied by a friend to this event — and you'd see them milling restlessly in the hotel lobby. Expect nearly everyone to have a romantic partner or to be seeking a committed relationship. Conversations, therefore, would highlight romantic Caribbean "getaways" and "hide-outs" where couples could enjoy a marvelous intimacy without intrusion. Which cruise lines had the most amicable staff and provided the best ambience to form lasting friendships among fellow passengers would be prime topics too.
Beside the buffet table you'd hear people opening up about their personal lives: their families, friends, pets, past experiences, goals, and plans. By the time the videotaping was over, many among the group would have made a new acquaintance and exchanged phone numbers to get together soon. Most would exit the hotel still conversing deeply with one or two others.
However, if your co-winners all ranked low on Need for Companionship, the atmosphere would be decidedly cool. Virtually all would have arrived alone. The majority would be romantically unattached and content to stay that way. Depending on how many were extroverts, their conversations would either be boisterous or quiet — but definitely not soul baring. You'd hear nobody revealing personal matters about family or friends or sharing hopes and dreams. Among the group, there would be no desire to create friendships from this publicity event, and all would leave as alone as they had arrived.
If the other nineteen winners were all high on Idealism, what could you expect? Many would be employed in such fields as counseling, ecology, education, nursing, or social work. Some might work for nonprofit agencies or own their own businesses, but few would likely to be corporate executives. Related to the upcoming Caribbean cruises, the winners' conversations might center on such topics as the region's environmental problems, poverty and illiteracy, and political corruption. Concerns about low wages and stressful working conditions in the cruise industry might also be addressed.
If the winners all ranked low on this trait, the talk would be very different. Certainly there would be minimal sympathetic interest in ecological problems, illiteracy, poverty, or social injustice in the Caribbean region. Instead of laments about the harsh working conditions faced by low-level cruise employees, there would be plenty of discussion about unreported island and shipboard crime, such as robberies, assaults, and rapes. There would surely be strong interest in how ship guests could best protect themselves from potential assaults and from rip-offs by local merchants and the cruise company itself, with its myriad "hidden" charges. Many among the twenty would enjoy recounting how they had outfoxed those who had tried to cheat them on past cruises and excursions — and especially which travel agencies in town had the worst reputations for "bait-and-switch" vacation package deals and other scams.
If your co-winners all ranked high on this trait, the conference room would resound with strong feelings about nearly everything. When recounting their euphoria upon receiving notification of their award, the winners' joyful shrieks would be heard as far away as the hotel lobby. Jokes among pairs or small groups would provoke unrestrained belly laughs rather than polite titters.
Recollections of unpleasant tourist accommodations would be accompanied by unabashed anger or even tears. And in relating wonderful vacations from the past, faces would beam ecstatically. Almost everyone would be speaking animatedly.
But if your fellow contest winners were all low on Emotional Intensity, the atmosphere would be subdued. Nobody would be expressing much feeling about anything, not even the award notification. You'd certainly hear no raucous laughter, and no hot-tempered or tearful reminiscences. No one would be overtly happy or sad in sharing his or her stories, and no one would be listening empathically. The mood in the room would be as placid as a lake on a balmy summer day.
If your co-winners all rated high on this trait, nearly everyone would arrive late — and a few probably not at all, having either forgotten to mark the event on their calendar or else lost the cruise ship's award-notification letter the night before. Most would be avid travelers, and they'd have lots of colorful stories about times they'd misplaced their luggage, missed their plane or ship, or been forced to take bizarre accommodations because of their last-minute travel decisions. Who had the most offbeat, unconventional, or exotic travel experience would be among the likely conversational topics, as well as which agencies were the most flexible in assisting with spur-of-the-moment touring adventures.
If your nineteen co-winners were all low on Spontaneity, everyone would have arrived early — or at least on time. Many would be carrying guidebooks, notepads, and laptops in order to amass as much information as possible about the itineraries. You'd hear lots of complaints that the cruise company had given only three weeks' advance notice about this event, and everyone would have already finalized their vacation plans for the rest of the year. Conversations would focus on which travel companies provide the best-organized tour packages of European countries (Asia or South America being too unpredictable) and which unfortunately fail to keep to their promised, hour-by-hour itineraries. At precisely the end of the videotaping, all would leave on time.
In a room filled with nineteen of your fellow winners high on this trait, expect a lot of flirtatiousness and sexy clothing. Low necklines and tight-fitting attire would dominate. Whether originating among those single or married, the conversations would quickly shift to sex, sensual pleasure, and sexual adventures.
Steamy stories would be tossed around the room, and whether embellished or not, they'd evoke similar tales of hot nights spent with strangers encountered on other cruises and at island resorts. Both men and women in the room would exchange names of Caribbean clubs and bars with the best nightlife and pick-up opportunities. Certainly among singles, there would be a lot of touching, deep eye contact, and arrangements made to get together soon. An affair or two might well germinate from this gathering.
With a roomful of people low on Libido, expect the opposite. Conversations might arise about good places for family dining, interesting sporting and gaming events on various islands, and the best bargains for shopping. In fact, almost any topic could arise among the winners — with the exception of sex, sensuality, and sexual adventure. Indeed, many would talk eagerly about the best "family-oriented" resorts and those lamentably catering to the "loose" and "wild" crowd. Its unlikely that any affairs would emerge from this gathering. And now, let's look at a very different trait.
If your fellow prizewinners were uniformly high on this trait, all would likely, have dogs or cats at home. Except for those with severe allergies, some would undoubtedly own several pets. Finding a comforting "animal boarding home" during the cruise would therefore be a key conversational topic. And many of the questions directed at the ship's representatives would be about medical care for passengers: Is there a licensed physician aboard at all times? How well stocked is the infirmary? What kinds of arrangements are typically made for those with special dietary requirements, difficulty walking, or other health needs?
However, if your co-winners all ranked low on Nurturance, nobody would be particularly concerned about shipboard medical care. In their strongly held opinion, "People should take care of themselves." And because virtually none would be pet owners, their interest in the best boarding facilities for dogs and cats would be minimal or nonexistent. Indeed. This group would want explicit reassurance that no pets were allowed on board.
By their chic and fashionable appearance, your nineteen co-winners would make themselves known as high on Materialism. They'd all be wearing stylish clothing and have professional hair-cuts, and the women would be wearing makeup. You'd see lots of expensive jewelry, watches, and designer accessories. Many people would have arrived in fancy cars. Among this group, you'd hear lively discussions about luxury cabin suites and pricey decor -- and of course, where to find the toniest boutiques, restaurants, pubs. and spas the Caribbean has to offer.
If your co-winners were all low on Materialism, you'd see everyone dressed in simple or outdated styles — and certainly no eye-catching jewelry. Handbags and briefcases would be plain. Conversations would include bargain-hunting triumphs and where to find brand-name clothing outlets and boutiques selling last year's styles at big discounts. How to save money on cruises would be a favorite topic too.
If you were in a room for an hour with nineteen people who were all high on Extroversion, a lot of boisterous talking, laughing, and lively interaction would quickly occur. Within five minutes, everybody would casually introduce herself or himself to each of the other lucky winners. Before long, the gathering would get noticeably loud, adding to the excitement and free-flowing social energy. Small groups of threes or fives would rapidly form, with lots of joke telling, raucousness, and exchanges of business cards and home phone numbers. Everyone's facial expressions would be easy to read, and a few get-togethers and dates would probably be planned among some of the twenty. Nobody would be sitting or standing alone. The noise level would be so high by the time the video team arrived that the cruise line marketers would have to shout to make themselves heard. Amid more noisy laughter, jokes, and cross talk, the nineteen winners would almost reluctantly settle down to the business at hand.
Makes sense, right? Now imagine you've entered a room filled with nineteen people low on Extroversion. That is, they're all introverts. Almost nobody would be approaching anyone else to make an introduction. Each winner would be likely to sit down alone with food and beverage and to find the whole situation uncomfortable. To be forced to make small talk with a roomful of strangers might not rate as their worst nightmare, but it certainly would be on their list of events definitely to avoid. The noise level in the room would be low, even after ten or fifteen minutes. There would be no bellowing laughter or mutual backslapping, and it's likely that several winners would have left the room to call their office, look for a newspaper, or use some other excuse to act on their unease. Most would be silently immersing themselves in the brochures and hoping the whole thing would soon be over. Networking and lively socializing among the twenty would be minimal, and no subgroups would be likely to emerge. Facial expressions would be hard to read, and when the marketers announced that the video team had arrived, everyone would be relieved that this uncomfortable experience was finally over. Got you convinced?
If your nineteen co-winners were all high on this trait, many would be amateur musicians, artists, or photographers, and at least a few would earn their living this way. Among the group, you'd spot portable CD players and sketch pads and hear plenty of talk about Caribbean music and art — and where to find the most gorgeous vistas for taking photographs. Conversations would also focus on interesting art galleries, museums, concert halls, and music clubs around the islands. Undoubtedly there'd also be lively discussion on the variety and quality of the cruise ship's musical entertainment.
But if your co-winners were all low on Aestheticism, you would hear none of this "arty" talk. Instead, experienced island-hoppers would reminisce and exchange advice on the best places to shop, eat, or drink. And it the topic of previous visits to Caribbean art galleries, museums, and music venues came up at all, you'd only hear complaints like, "What a waste of time! I was bored to tears!"
If your fellow contest winners were uniformly high on this trait, they'd surely look fit and trim for their age. Most would never have been on a cruise before, having avoided such seemingly slothful vacations. Their questions for the cruise representatives, therefore, would focus on the kinds of shipboard activities available: Is there an indoor track? Does the largest pool accommodate lap swimming? What kinds of exercise equipment does the fitness center offer? And how late does the entertainment go every night? Conversations would center on opportunities for aquatic sports like snorkeling and island hiking trails.
Conversely, if your group consisted of all those low on Activity Level, few individuals would appear athletic. Generally, you'd hear questions geared to cabin comfort — that is, how to create a personal nest aboard: a "home-away-from home" as quickly and easily as possible. Nobody would be terribly concerned about the fitness center's latest equipment, the largest swimming pool's exact dimensions, or opportunities for marathon jogging. Much more relevant for these folk would be the cabin's design and bedding, the availability of extra blankets and pillows, and the variety and serving hours of drinks, snacks, and full meals. The comfortableness of deck chairs for daylong relaxing and sleeping would likely be another conversational topic.
If your nineteen co-winners all ranked high on this trait, you'd enjoy a delightful afternoon. Everyone would be pleasant, good-natured, and optimistic about the upcoming cruise. You'd hear lots of compliments being exchanged. Smiles would be everywhere. The room would glow with reminiscences about past vacations, and even major mishaps would be described with humor. The "silver lining in the clouds" would be dominant.
If your fellow winners were all low on Subjective Well-Being, worry and pessimism would reign supreme. You'd hear so many reports of miserable experiences aboard ship — or involving vacations in general — that canceling your award and taking the small cash substitute right now might begin to seem the only sensible decision. Reminiscences about wretched past cruises and foreign trips would not only lack the proverbial silver lining, they would be downright depressing. Conversations would be laced with sarcasm, bitterness, and anger. It's likely that arguments and even trades of insults would arise — and depending on the degree of emotional intensity in the room, these could become rather heated. But look on the positive side: You'd feel great when you left this group behind at the hotel!
If the conference room were filled with those high on this trait, you'd see a lot of people carrying newspapers, magazines, or books. And while some of these books would undoubtedly be the latest international spy thriller or horror novel, plenty of reading material would feature current politics, biographies, and future trends. The conversations would glitter with advanced vocabulary, frequent references to writers and thinkers, and of course, to important events happening now in the world.
If your group were uniformly low on this trait, anticipate the opposite. Few would carry anything other than a local newspaper as reading matter, and even fewer a nonfiction work or literary novel. While the conversations might cover many subjects, you can be sure that new ideas, history, or emerging social trends would not be among them.
The Love Compatibility Book: The 12 Personality Traits That Can Lead You To Your Soulmate
by Edward Hoffman, Ph.D. & Marcella Bakur Weiner, Ph.D..
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, New World Library. ©2003. www.newworldlibrary.com
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About the Authors
EDWARD HOFFMAN, PH.D., is a licensed psychologist in New York City and the award winning author/editor of numerous books including The Book of Birthday Wishes and Opening the Inner Gates. He lectures on self-development throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America, and has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows. Dr. Hoffman has published articles or been interviewed by The New York Times, Newsday, Psychology Today, and Guideposts.
MARCELLA BAKUR WEINER, PH.D., a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), is also an adjunct professor of psychology at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City and president of the Mapleton-Midwood Community Mental Health Center, a treatment center for community-living residents. Prior to her current pursuits, she served as senior research scientist for the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene where she published seventy articles. On faculty for the Institute for Human Relations Laboratory Training, Dr. Weiner has trained professionals in the United States and in countries overseas. Dr. Weiner is the author of and contributor to more than twenty books.
Visit their website at www.lovepsychology.net.