The motivational gifts become really powerful and practical when you focus on individual families and real people. In the Fortunes’ book, Discover Your Spouse’s Gifts, they devote a chapter about living with a spouse who is _____, for each of the gifts, and then they list potential problems and advantages for each of the 49 possible marital combinations that you get when you consider a server wife could be married to an exhorter husband, or vice versa.
And we are wired to love stories and examples. So I’m going to focus for a bit here on a couple that is based on one of my friends who took the motivational gifts survey with her husband and gave me their results. They have a 1 1/2 yr old son and are looking at getting pregnant again in the next year. He works full time and she has a part time job she’s continued to do a few evenings a week. They are generally happy and have great respect and appreciation for each other, but they say like many that it is difficult to adjust as a couple to the entrance of young children when it comes to daily life and keeping their relationship strong. I think this is the best time to focus on your relationship – when you’re not in crisis, and you’re communicating, but you have the sense that it could be better, that there might be some insight or a missing piece that could make your marriage and home life easier and more meaningful, right now without making any big life changes. That is what understanding the motivational gifts can do for your relationships and daily life – life gets better because you grow in understanding and change your mindset and behavior, without changing in any external factors – although this understanding may later lead to various decisions about kids, jobs, home life, etc.
Back to our young couple, I’ve added more details about their primary gifts:
Her primary gift is administrator, her second is server. Here are brief summaries of those:
Administrator – very organized and goal-oriented; can articulate a vision and organize long term projects; functions out of mind and will
In decision making they want to know why we’re doing something, how it contributes to big picture. They are empowered by clear boundaries and autonomy.
To communicate with them: be concise, explore different viewpoints, value their time, be organized, and discuss things that need action.
Server – very practical and present-oriented, enjoy meeting needs, is a doer; function out of will and emotion; prefer to do rather than delegate; appreciates clear instructions and verbal appreciation
His primary gift is teacher, and his secondary is perceiver. Here are brief summaries:
Teacher – inquisitive and analytical, enjoy research and problem solving, is a thinker; function out of the mind; put less emphasis on practical application; love sharing knowledge
In decision making they want to know what we know, and how to examine the different alternatives being considered. They are empowered by understanding the system, interest in their ideas, and the opportunity to organize information and share knowledge.
To communicate with them: ask their opinion, stay on topic, give them time to investigate new ideas, emphasize the facts (not feelings), and be knowledgeable about the topic.
Perceiver – very perceptive, tends to see the world in black and white, right and wrong; they function out of their will; they are direct and intuitive and often right; they can have a tendency to be negative
Most people (about two-thirds) have two strong gifts that form a combination. Our couple both fall into that category. (Some people have one really dominant gift; some have a second significant secondary gift for a total of three strong influences on their motivation.) Understanding the combination adds further to their uniqueness and is important for understanding how they truly operate out of their motivational gifts.
The administrator-server combination is able to see the big picture and also execute short term tasks. They can do and delegate, a mom with this combination can initiate home projects and see them through from start to finish. Both of these gifts are task-oriented but the combination balances out for a more relational personality than either alone or with other secondary gifts. At a workshop years ago I heard a participant joke that this type is their own best friend because they decide what should be done and then they do it.
The teacher-perceiver is the most strong-willed mix. This individual will not change their opinions and beliefs without clear factual information to consider. They are highly verbal, but rather than speak many words, they speaker fewer but forcefully and convincingly when they have something to say. Neither gifts is very sociable or relational, this mix will have a few key relationships. They will be serious, principled and confident in making decisions.
When you look at the gifts on the mind-will-emotions circle, together this couple has T, A, P, C, so operating out of the will is something they have in common. The wife’s server gift operates partly out of emotions whereas the husband’s primary two do not at all. Her secondary server is also directly opposite his primary teacher gift. You can read more about the opposite motivational gifts. This dynamic is important to understand, it will help this couple that their other primary and secondary gifts, the administrator and perceiver are right next to each other in the circle and see things similarly in many ways.
Here are potential problems and advantages based on their mixes. I would have them read through these and consider which ones resonated with them.
T-A: He gets upset with her procrastination and clutter.
T-S: She may feel inferior because of his intellectual emphasis.
P-A: He intimidates and squelches her leadership potential.
P-S: He is bossy; treats her like a servant.
T-A: Both enjoy learning.
T-S: She is glad to care for routine responsibilities while he reads or studies.
P-A: Her practical, organized approach balances his idealism.
P-S: He is honest and loyal to her.
A lot of other factors are in play, so many of these may not be true, but it is likely that a few of these are very helpful and that there are significant seeds of truth represented here that can help them see both sides of the coin when considering how to approach the way their giftings interact.
I personally would also point out that I think the perceiver is especially misunderstood in our culture. This gifting type is in the minority and also goes against the grain of prominent elements in our culture. They tend to be less social, but more direct, insightful and principled than the rest of us. They represent an internal compass of right and wrong that our culture has largely strayed away from.
After collecting extensive data, the Fortunes provide percentages of the population for the gifts in their first book:
Giver: 6% Perceiver: 12%
Teacher: 6% Administrator: 13%
Exhorter: 16% Server: 17%
I also think the administrators and teachers, and maybe servers — those who have gift mixes that make them driven and goal-oriented, or at least task-oriented — are overvalued in our culture, and the compassion gift is undervalued.
I find it helpful learn about the 5 love languages, and see how they add to what you know from your motivational gifts. For this couple her primary love languages are acts of service, touch and quality time. His are touch and quality time. Having ones in common is obviously advantageous because you both value those actions or activities.
In this case, we can look at all of the above and anticipate a likely sticking point for my friend. Her husband is a thinker, the perceiver and the teacher both have the tendency to think and not necessarily act on it. If you remember from the post about opposite gifts, the teacher and the server are opposite and sometimes the server who is a doer can be frustrated by the teacher’s lack of action. When she knows her gifts, his gifts, and then that acts of service is one of her love languages, she can anticipate that as a possible area of conflict since it does not line up with a strength for her husband.
After gaining an understanding of your motivational gifts, it is good to reflect on the needs and strengths reflected in your marriage. I can share from personal experience that my husband is not highly verbal, but his primary gift is server and he likes to do things for me. My top 2 primary love languages have always been words of affirmation and touch, but since words is not his strength or natural tendency, I revisited the love languages recently (see link above) and realized that acts of service has become a viable love language for me too and I see that I have learned to accept the way that my husband is wired to show love for me. He has also made progress in expressing affection, but I also had to realize that he as a server/perceiver is never going to be an exhorter, and that is ok. I love who he is, and when I need a compliment, sometimes I go to a compassion or exhorter friend, and that is perfectly fine. All of this is about the fact that God created us to live in community. If you think about it, no couple is going to be a strong representation of more than 4 or 5 of the gifts.
All that to say, I love diving into the unique motivational gifts in a marriage, and seeing how understanding our unique wiring and our spouse’s can help us to let them be who they are, and find how to help each other meet each other’s needs.
In upcoming posts we’ll get more into each of the gifts. Not all husband’s are romantic, not all wives want to only stay at home, some couples are more generous with their time, others with their money. And life is a bigger picture than just your primary motivational gift, the secondary makes a huge affect, and then your combination gift is also affected by interacting with your spouse. I can see ways that my combination could go a few different ways but I’ve prioritized lining up my values with my husband’s and that has affected how I live out my gifts and how I grow and mature in them. And then after you see the strengths and weaknesses inherent in our motivational gifts, you can add another useful concept like the love languages that helps you talk about the needs of each spouse, and you have the framework for some really powerful conversations.