As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been a certified user of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for many years. I have always found it to be a great starting point for leaders and others who are interested in getting to know themselves better. It also helps us with our ability to understand others and to take steps to communicate better with them.
The MBTI is an instrument that helps build self awareness. Its purpose is to provide us with information in a fairly systematic way that can help us to identify our strengths or our areas for improvement. It also allows us to understand that while the behaviour of others may be very different from our own, that does not mean that it has any less value. Therefore even though it may take effort and energy, it is worth it to create an environment where other preference types feel comfortable and supported in our work and home environment.
The MBTI can help us to understand why we react the way we do to certain things. Why are we great at being on time? Why are we always late when we think timeliness is not vital? Why are we able to adapt to changes that arise? Why are we excited by parties or drained by small talk? Why do we get bored easily with repetitive tasks or why are we good at remembering details and specifics?
In addition, the concepts of the MBTI and the information about preferences and individual differences can be used to help us see others more clearly. When we are open to doing this we develop the ability to recognize the value that comes from diversity and from having different perspectives working or living together.
Even when you do not know the specific differences in the types of the people around you, the real value is in recognizing that differences do exist and then attempting to cater for their needs. You may use the type preference information to help you frame your communication, manage the kind and length of your interactions and to frame the feedback you want to share. For example, introverts generally need time to give you their best response. So sending them a question ahead of time is better than asking them for an immediate response. Extraverts usually enjoy having people around them and can become low energy when forced to sit quietly in a place without interaction with their external environment. Therefore in designing a work environment, you want to allow space for people to interact or gather and connect.
With information and a willingness to adapt, you can choose to act in a way that may not be your natural default but could be effective for types other than your own. For example, my own preference for intuition means that I like theories and I get excited talking about them and picturing them in my head. However, since so many of the world’s population have the sensing preference, and may not work with ideas the way that I do, I cannot default to my preferred way of learning. Instead, if I am presenting a complex theory to a group whose preferences I do not know, then I would need to have information in a format that would be more appealing to them. Something that is more concrete, so that they can see, feel or experience it. Not just have it as a theory that is wholly abstract to them.
Whether we realise it or not, our first instinct more often than not is to assume that our way of seeing the world is the best way. If we do not take a deliberate effort to move beyond that point of view, it will not happen. The MBTI can help us to do that. In turn, being able to do that effectively, can increase our ability to be successful in leading or interacting with others.
Marjorie Wharton is a trainer, facilitator and coach who works with individuals and organizations to help them improve their performance. She is based at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in Barbados. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. For more of her writing visit https://marjoriewharton.live