MBTI: So much more than introversion and extraversion

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mbtiPeople get so excited about the first letter in their Myers Briggs type that they often don’t make it to the rest of the preferences.  There’s way more discussion outside of MBTI workshops about introversion and extraversion than anything else.

Of course, when people understand their introverted and extraverted friends and colleagues better, they can support their needs better.  I can tell my colleagues, “I need to think about it” and they understand that as an introvert, I need some time to process it in my head.  My extraverted colleagues can say to me, “I just need to talk this through” and I know I just need to be a supportive listener because that’s how they will process best.

That said, the biggest impacts I’ve seen from my work with MBTI have been in the other preferences, those beyond introversion and extraversion.

For business people trying to communicate with each other more effectively, the i(N)tuitive versus (S)ensing preference may be the most critical to understand.  Intuitives, who like to take in information at a very high level of possibilities and ideas, get extremely frustrated when sensors present them with a whole bunch of details they don’t have any interest in reviewing.  Sensors cannot grasp the problem they are trying to solve without those details.

I worked with a woman years ago who constantly expressed her frustration about one of her peers.  I never met the guy, but if I had believed my client, I would have thought Fred was so in the weeds and focused on the wrong things that he should be fired.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was working with my client again, helping her prepare a presentation that would be presented to her executive team, including to this guy Fred, and her perspective had changed.  Now that my client had been through MBTI training, she told me as we got started, “Just remember, Fred is an S, so we need to make sure to be really clear about all the details about how we are going to go about this program”.  Even though my client and I are as “N” as they come, we knew exactly what we needed to do to communicate effectively with Fred.  No longer was Fred incompetent or annoying, he simply needed to take in information differently than we did.

For people trying to motivate others to get something done, understanding the differences between (P)erceivers and (J)udgers could be most important.  Judgers want to have things decided and planned, while perceivers prefer to stay open to options.

On a personal note, you may not be surprised to learn that my business partner Jim and my husband Eric share quite a few personality traits.  I am a J, so I prefer to have things decided, planned and scheduled.  They are both Ps, so they prefer to keep things more open-ended and be flexible to react to what pops up.  Early on in our relationship, I tried to communicate with Eric via a master schedule.  Let’s just say I learned through the 140 line wedding task spreadsheet that that wasn’t the best way to work with him.  I was telling Jim the other day how much I love Eric’s willingness to drop everything and solve a problem.  He’s happy to run to the grocery store at the last minute, or fix a towel rod, or change a light bulb or take a walk to the park.  I periodically forget that his P is in play here and I’ll ask him on Tuesday if he can fix the towel rod on Saturday, because that’s how I want someone to communicate with me.  Jim explained to me that asking ahead of time just means it is hanging over him for several days, and makes the whole task painful.  It is so different than the way I think, but I really truly appreciate what my favorite Ps bring to my life.

If you are interested in finding out more about what Thought Ensemble is doing with MBTI just shoot me an email at lisa@thoughtensemble.com

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