What MBTI workshops can teach us about personalityMarch 16, 2017
Many businesses like to use the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) to assess the personalities of their employees. While the MBTI doesn’t reveal everything there is to know about personality, it can offer some valuable insight into common differences between people. The MBTI covers four categories of personality, assigning one of two letters for each category to create a four-letter personality type. The opposing personality preferences in each of the four categories constitute the major differences between people. MBTI workshops can highlight these differences in practical terms.
Introversion and Extraversion
Every workplace has a mix of introverts and extraverts. The introverts are the quiet ones, the ones who listen rather than talk, who reflect on problems before offering up solutions. The extraverts are the social butterflies; they always have time to chat, and are eager to share their ideas even if they haven’t yet thought them through. The MBTI can help introverts and extraverts to communicate more effectively by highlighting the different communication strategies which each type adopts. Extraverts, for example, think out loud. They like to talk through a problem as they analyze it. Introverts, on the other hand, like to reflect on what they want to say before giving a response. Extraverts show interest in a conversation by actively participating in it; introverts show interest by listening attentively. Extraverts enjoy small talk, while introverts prefer in-depth conversations.
Once these differences are understood, many misunderstandings between extraverts and introverts can be avoided. An extravert who thought that his introverted colleague wasn’t interested in his vacation story may realize that his colleague’s silence represents engagement rather than indifference. An introvert who assumed that her extraverted project manager isn’t capable of reflection might come to understand that her project manager reflects out loud. Armed with this knowledge, extraverts and introverts can make slight changes in their behaviour to improve their communication with each other. Extraverts can allow introverts time to think before expecting a response from them. Introverts can participate more verbally in their conversations with extraverts to demonstrate their engagement.
Sensing and Intuition
People process information differently. Imagine sitting in on a meeting where a new project is being presented. Some people prefer to be told the details of the project first, such as its budget or the specific steps needed to complete it. These are the people who adopt a Sensing style of perception. They prefer facts to ideas, focus on the present instead of the future, and like to apply knowledge rather than theorize. Others prefer to hear the inspiration for the project first. These are the people who adopt Intuition as a style of perception. They’re the big picture thinkers; they want to be sold on the idea behind the project before getting bogged down with the details. They’re future-oriented and enjoy abstract thinking, looking for connections between disparate concepts.
Sometimes, a Sensing boss will dismiss their Intuitive employee’s project proposal simply because they couldn’t follow the proposal’s abstract theme. To increase their chances of being heard by Sensing coworkers, employees with a preference for Intuition might consider leading with the concrete details when proposing a project to them. Similarly, Sensing employees might try explaining the meaning behind an idea to their Intuitive coworkers first, as people with a preference for Intuition can sometimes tune out when bombarded with minute details.
Thinking and Feeling
Not all decisions are made using the same approach. The decisions of people with a preference for Thinking are often based on logic. These people prize objectivity and fairness, keeping their emotions out of the decision-making process. They aren’t afraid to ask questions, to impersonally critique ideas or plans, or to stand behind their decisions once made. People with a preference for Feeling, on the other hand, make decisions based on cherished values. They consider the impact that their decisions will have on others above all other criteria. They take feelings into account, and prize harmony in decision-making. Consequently, they aren’t very confrontational.
Feeling employees can often mistake Thinking employees for being insensitive, as they tend to take the critiques of Thinking employees personally. They may fail to realize that when Thinking employees critique something, they’re critiquing the idea and not the person. With this tendency in mind, people with a preference for Thinking might make an effort to share their critiques with their Feeling colleagues in a more considerate manner, acknowledging their feelings and reassuring them that any negative comments aren’t meant as a personal slight. In turn, people with a preference for Feeling might stick to facts when describing the rationale for a decision to their Thinking colleagues, presenting data to support their conclusions.
Judging and Perceiving
In any given workplace, there are employees who are fairly predictable. They’re highly organized; they never miss a deadline; they plan everything in advance. These employees generally follow a specific routine and can be depended upon to be punctual. Structured is the word for employees with a preference for Judging. If “structured” describes Judging employees, then “spontaneous” describes employees with a preference for Perceiving. These employees are known as the procrastinators; they like to keep their options open, embrace flexibility, and resist making plans.
Judging and Perceiving employees often have to work together. Teamwork can function more smoothly if team members are aware of each other’s preferences. Judging members can offer their Perceiving colleagues flexible deadlines, while Perceiving members can ask their Judging colleagues to help them to develop a plan to execute their tasks on time. Judging employees can offer their Perceiving coworkers structure, while Perceiving employees can teach their Judging coworkers how to handle unexpected requests.
If any of these descriptions resonate with you, then you may want to consider taking the MBTI yourself and finding out your own four-letter personality type. I’m an INTJ. What are you?
Bianca Lallitto has a Master's degree in Psychology with a certificate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She has a penchant for behavioural analysis, and enjoys exploring the possible causes of people’s actions. Her analyses frequently extend to the world of fiction; her thoughts on the behaviour of fictional characters can be found on her blog, Fiction Digest.