Helping Serious-Style Personalities

by James Rudy Gray

One type of personality that has recently come into discussion is called the serious style. These individuals can develop depressive personality disorder if their serious bent in life becomes too all-absorbing and invading.

Following Christ is serious business, but some people are prone to be too serious. Serious-style persons are realists that often seem like pessimists. They are no-frills, no-nonsense, responsible, loyal, faithful, hard-working, predictable people. Work is their life. For them, rolling up the sleeves and getting the job done is what it's all about. But they may show no flare, enthusiasm, or warmth toward fellow workers.

A serious-style personality is often disappointed with much in itself, in others, and with life, and this surfaces as criticism. They tend to be among the strongest advocates of Murphy's Law (whatever can go wrong will go wrong). They are not spontaneous, emotional, or frivolous; they are thinkers not feelers. They hold themselves accountable and will not let themselves get off the hook. They also function well in adversity They anticipate and even expect problems-and when problems and catastrophes come, they're prepared to deal with them.

Still, they are very cautious-planning and controlling as much as they can in order to avoid as many surprises as possible. They avoid risks. They are not very ambitious or self-promoting.

They do, however, appear to care about the hurt they inflict on others and are often contrite and sorrowful when they realize they have hurt another person through thoughtless acts or words. They maintain their serious approach in relationships and anticipate difficulties in them also. They most often are critical of their mates. Even though they find it nearly impossible to express positive feelings toward those closest to them, they are very dependent on their loved ones.

How can you live or work with a person like that? Here are keys that may help a counselor or church worker when this type person is part of the problem:

<![if !supportLists]>        <![endif]>Accept them for who they are;

<![if !supportLists]>        <![endif]>Look on the bright side yourself (don't allow overly-serious persons to rob you of joy);

<![if !supportLists]>        <![endif]>Realize that this person is not as unhappy as he may appear;

<![if !supportLists]>        <![endif]>Compliment them;

<![if !supportLists]>        <![endif]>Expect them to be critical;

<![if !supportLists]>        <![endif]>Tell them plainly how you want to be treated;

<![if !supportLists]>        <![endif]>Recognize that they are not very enthusiastic about anything and are very slow to lighten up;

<![if !supportLists]>        <![endif]>Show initiative and spontaneity yourself.

What can serious-style persons do that will help them live better lives with others? First, they could make a list of 10 things they would like to see happen in their relationships and at work. Next, they could write a practical plan for implementing each goal. Then, they could imagine these things happening one by one.

They can learn better conversation skills. They can become more considerate and sensitive to the feelings of others. They can learn to be less cut-and-dried and become more flexible. They will learn how to relax most effectively when they realize they must relax by not thinking.

Another self-help technique for this personality is to write down 10 things the person likes about himself. (This assignment may be difficult and the counselor may need to provide some honest but encouraging help.)

A strong way for such persons to become more effective would be to compliment the significant people in their lives-at least once a week. Also, they should make a deliberate effort to first find something favorable to say to someone, before offering criticism. Then the criticism may come, but it will hopefully come in a different way.

Serious-style persons will never become the life of the party nor become  warm, bubbly individuals. However, if they know Christ, believe the Bible, and are willing to see that growth is good for everyone and that we grow differently, then there is considerable hope for turning this type into a more balanced and likeable person.

Scripture can be a powerful tool in the life of serious-style believers. So they need to learn to lighten up biblically. That means first giving themselves permission to actually enjoy life and the things and people God puts into their lives. Then, if they can get into their hearts the dynamic force of Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!" they can make healthy strides in their own personal development.

           James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.

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