I am about to attend a certification workshop for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), so it’s on my mind. The MBTI is a tool for self awareness; through a self report questionnaire, the report highlights your preferences on four different dichotomies, giving you a four letter type. The four areas the tool explores are 1) the way a person receives energy, 2) the way a person prefers to take in information, 3) the way a person prefers to make meaning of information or come to a decision, and 4) the way a person prefers to live their life. I won’t go into too much detail about the theory and research behind it, but the four dichotomies are expressed as follows:
1. Extroversion (energy and stimulation comes from the external world of people and things) versus Introversion (energy and stimulation comes from the internal world of thoughts and reflection)
2. Sensing (taking in information via the five senses) versus Intuition (taking in information by way of insight and seeing patterns)
3. Thinking (basing decisions on logical analysis) versus Feeling (basing decision on evaluation of relative worth)
4. Perception (flexible, adaptable, and spontaneous lifestyle) versus Judgment (planned, decisive and orderly lifestyle)
The MBTI isn’t intended to tell you anything about yourself that you don’t already know; it just structures the information in such a way that it is accessible in everyday situations and highlights how your preferences might lead other to behave in ways that are different to the ways that you commonly behave.
An area that the MBTI has helped me in during the last year and a half is in communicating effectively with others. An example I often use is how a former colleague of mine, Mike Bryde , and I managed to communicate so effectively over the year and a half that we worked together.
Mike’s preference for Introversion had an apparent impact on his communication style. He was very reflective, didn’t give up too much, and was obviously energized by working on complex tasks on his own. Mike and I collaborated a lot when we worked together and one are that we had to consciously work on in order to collaborate effectively was in our communication styles.
I have a preference for Extroversion. One way that people can tell this about me is that I think out loud. Having the opportunity to talk about an idea with someone helps me form a fully coherent idea. The differences in mine and Mike’s communication styles came out a lot, and we worked at communicating effectively. I could have easily talked over Mike, not recognizing that when he was being silent, he was reflecting on the information he was taking in, not inviting me to keep talking. Mike, for his part, could have kept to himself, keeping his own ideas to himself and letting me go on and on. If this had been the case, we would not have been very effective.
Mike had to recognize, that sometimes I just needed to talk out my ideas and that they were not fully formed yet. For my part, I had to recognize when it was time to sit quietly and let Mike think. Our knowledge of the MBTI was extremely helpful. It gave us a framework to discuss our differences, and terminology to use to remind each other of our needs. We both were able to recognize the benefits of each other’s communication style and were able to create an environment in which we were able to work together. This not only allowed us to work together, accepting our diverse styles allowed us to bring out the best that each had to offer.
I’m curious if anyone else has any interesting stories of different communication styles working together. Was it challenging? Did you have a framework available to you, such as the MBTI, to help work through your differences?