Personality typing may be useful in your own business to help you understand people’s differences (and your own!) to develop more productive work teams and enhance communication. So, are you an extrovert or introvert?
Within a few minutes of meeting someone for the first time, my friend - a highly qualified practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) - can paint an embarrassingly accurate and detailed picture of that person’s character and personality. Determining the combination of the `five elements’ (metal, wood, wind, water, fire) that comprise the individual is the vital first step in diagnosing that person’s ‘disease’. It’s a discipline that has been used for several thousand years.
A more recent method of personality typing is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), now used routinely in all sorts of businesses - from multi-national corporations to SOHOs - to help managers motivate employees, develop more productive work teams and enhance communication. Where the ‘five elements’ typing in TFCM was the first point in restoring harmony in a patient’s body, so MBTI can help create harmony in the workplace because it provides us with an understanding of people’s innate differences and how we can adapt to them.
A personality type is made up of four components, or dimensions, each of which is an important aspect of life:
- How we are energised:
Extraversion (E) <–> Introversion (I)
- The kind of information we naturally notice and remember:
Sensing (S) <–> Intuition (N)
- The manner in which we make decisions :
Thinking (T) <–> Feeling (F)
- How we prefer to organise the world around us:
Judging (J) <–> Perceiving (P)
These preferences are illustrated as a scale, for we each have a natural, inborn preference for one side or the other. In some people, the preference may be very strong and defined; while in others it may be so blurred that it’s difficult to identify.
The sixteen personality types come from the fact that there are four dimensions, with each person having one preference per dimension. The MBTI personality types are defined as a four-letter code, so as an example an Introverted (I), Intuitive (N), Feeling (F), Perceiving (P) type is coded as INFP
This dimension relates to people’s energy; where it comes from and where it goes, rather than the typical definition of extraverts being talkative and gregarious, introverts being shy and withdrawn.
Extraverts’ focus is outward: they focus their energy towards people and things outside themselves, whereas introverts’ focus is inward - they are more self-contained and self-reliant. Sustained or excessive interaction with other people drains introverts, who need time alone to recharge. On the other hand, social interaction energises extraverts.
Here are some key characteristics of this dimension
Because this dimension - which describes the two different ways that people take in, or perceive, the millions of pieces of information fed to us every single day - influences an individual’s worldview, it represents the greatest differences between people. Some of us take this information in through our five physical senses (Sensors), whereas others receive it through the sixth sense, focusing on what could be rather than what is (Intuitives).
This dimension examines the manner in which people make decisions and reach conclusions, whether by cool logic, or through personal feelings and values. Thinkers can objectify a decision: they have the ability to step back from the issue and analyse it logically and impersonally, listing the pros and cons, thinking through the ramifications of the end result. Feelers operate in a diametrically opposite manner; they plunge into the issue, personalizing the situation by asking themselves how they feel about it, how it will affect them and others, is it right or wrong, how it stacks up against their personal values.
This fourth dimension reveals how people like to organise their world, and how they like to lead their lives. It boils down to the often-unconscious tension people experience in resolving an issue. Tension causes discomfort, which is something none of us likes. Judgers move to closure as quickly as possible because they experience tension until the issue is resolved by making a decision, or judgment, about something. Generally speaking, the more important the issue, the greater their need to settle it without delay. On the other hand, Perceivers’ tension - and therefore discomfort - is derived from being forced into making a decision. They deal with this tension by not committing to a course of action, keeping their options open as long as possible. Because a Judger’s need for closure is more intense than a Perceiver’s, Judgers in most instances require less information to reach a decision than a Perceiver.
It’s important to note that a Judger is not necessarily judgmental, and a Perceiver may not be especially perceptive. Instead, Judging refers to a person’s innate drive to make a decision, to close things down, to fudge, while Perceiving is the opposite: to keep things open, to continue absorbing information, to keep on perceiving.
COMMUNICATION BY TYPE:
Each of these type dimensions affects communication styles:
- Extraversion/Introversion (E/I) relates to people’s styles in interacting and engaging in conversations.
- Sensing/Intuition (S/N) influences the kinds of information people focus on when speaking, listening or writing.
- Thinking/Feeling (T/F) relates to a person’s decision to either participate or tune out.
- Judging/Perceiving (J/P) influences the structure and style of communications.
E-types want to know what is going on, be included in all communications, and be given the opportunity to talk everything through. They develop their thoughts through interaction with others and thinking our loud. Once they are involved and engaged, they talk a lot - and quite rapidly - continually building on what others are saying. In their excitement, they tend to interrupt a lot.
I-types prefer written communication as it gives them space to formulate and think through ideas before airing them in public. With verbal communication, they need time to reflect on what is being said, and then be given an opening to speak - which can be difficult in a meeting dominated by E-types. They may offer few nonverbal clues about what is going on inside their heads, which can lead E-types to think I-types are not interested or involved. E-types may even assume that the I-type is too stupid to respond.
S-types focus on what is real and actual in their past or present: Who? What? When? Where? Why? They will ask numerous specific questions to glean the details, and both give and receive lots of real life examples. Intuitives, or N-types, may find S-types’ questions and contributions picky in the extreme, designed to slow down the process. N-types may believe that S-types display painful resistance to change, are pessimistic, boring, unimaginative, always shooting their bold ideas down in flames.
N-types want to move every communication to the bigger context and to wider meanings. Once they are engaged and involved, they brainstorm, offer different perspectives and leap easily to other topics that - in their view - are connected. To S-types, questions and contributions from N-types arc irrelevant, obscure to real issues, frustrating, and designed only to prolong things.
T-types desire clarity and logical structure in their communications. When too much time is given to peripheral, personal or irrelevant issues, or when others seem to ramble, they tune out and stop participating. Because T-types focus on the task, the problem and the logic, Feelers may see Thinkers as uncaring, cold, critical and negative.
F-types want their communications to have some sort of personal connection to them, to people, or to their values or interests. When the communication is coldly detached, they tune out, something they will also do when they don’t like the person who is talking, when interpersonal tensions are evident, and when others arc not considering how something may impact people. T-types may regard F-types’ focus on people and relationships as too personal, irrelevant and soft, while F-types’ intensity and expression of emotions may seem to T-types to just bog down the whole decision-making process.
J-types prefer all communication to be straight to the point, goal oriented, structured with a beginning, a middle and an end. This structuring, and the manner in which J-types quickly finish one issue and move onto the next, can leave P-types feeling controlled, pressured and pushed. In this environment, P-types can become quite rebellious.
The written communication of P-types reflects their desire to ride the conversational wave: it will veer off into interesting digressions, provide extra information that will assist others, and leave the topic open. P-types consider the information and exploration more important than the conclusion. Like J-types, they expect their communications to have a beginning, a middle and an end - except the middle is long and the end comes only when they are ready. J-types find the P-type process of exploration and information seeking to be time-wasting, frustrating and directionless, sending things round in circles instead of smoothly moving on to the next item.
By Rosemary Ann Ogilvie Originally published in Her Business magazine.
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