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Archive for the ‘MBTI’ Category

I’m not an introvert, but I get it

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

One of the things I say to all of my MBTI consulting clients is this: if you’ve heard of the words “introvert” and “extravert,” then you know about MBTI. “Introvert” and “extravert” have gone mainstream.

Unlike a lot of therapists (or so I think), I am an extravert. I am energized by the outer world of people and things and activities. I can be alone and quiet, but it often leaves me feeling…drained. I have an inner life! But it’s not my top priority. As a therapist, this means I am a bit more talkative and active in sessions, which for most of my clients is a good thing. (A common complaint I hear from new clients is that their former therapist “just sat there and didn’t say anything.” I always tell them, “That’s not going to be a problem for you and me.”)

As an extravert, it’s my responsibility to understand introverts, and approach them with respect and grace. They are not shy. (Some of them might be, but did you know that there is also such a thing as a shy extravert? It’s true!) Introversion is not about shyness or meekness. It’s not about being socially awkward. (Again, there are socially awkward extraverts.) It’s about where a person gets her energy. It’s about what re-charges her batteries. I know brave, courageous introverts. They’re out there, they have hundreds of friends, they are saving the world. But to relax and re-charge, they go into a walled garden.

That’s my image for introverts: they enjoy a walled garden. Imagine a quiet, verdant garden with walls going up all four sides. Little birds flutter in, chirp (not too loudly), and move on. The space is filled with silence and oxygen and life…and peace. Being an introvert is being energized by this solemn and serene environment. Extraverts have broad interests; introverts go deep. When I want to relax, I talk and text and update my Facebook page and talk some more. When introverts want to relax, they stroll into the walled garden.

And it’s important to understand this: the walled garden is a sacred space. You can go in by invitation only. If you’re married to an introvert (which I am), it’s essential that you accept this. You need to build trust, practice empathy, and recognize that your beloved introvert is different from you in this way, and that difference is a good thing. Sometimes you will be invited to come in. Other times, not. Don’t take it personally. I’ve found that when I respect the walled garden—when I recognize its value and meaning to my spouse—I am more likely to be invited in.

I have my own walled garden, my own inner life. I spend more time with myself than anyone else on the planet. I get in touch with my own walled garden when I walk our puppy dogs, or work out, or take a hot bath. But I’m married to someone who goes to his walled garden a lot more often, and with more intention, and reverence. I can respect that. It’s not my preference, but it really is a lovely way to live on this earth.


Okay, this time you’ll know what the bleep I’m talking about!

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Sigh. This might be the most poorly-written paragraph in my four-plus years of blogging:

“Both TP and FP can learn from TJ and FJ that closure is important, and TJ and FJ can learn from TP and FP to create enough openness, enough space, for complicated issues to be thoroughly considered. TJ and TP can learn from FJ and FP the importance of feelings and relationships when resolving a conflict, and FJ and FP can learn from TJ and TP the importance of sound analysis and frank appraisal of data.”

I mean, wtf? Even I can barely make sense of it! Here’s what I mean, in a more understandable table format:

If you prefer You could get better at
TP or FP Working toward closure in an argument
TJ or FJ Creating time and space for complicated issues to be considered
TJ or TP Considering feelings and relationships when in conflict
FJ or FP Considering facts, logic, and reasoning when in conflict

How do you deal with conflict? Part II

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Yesterday I started a little series on conflict, and how you can look at conflict through the lens of personality preferences. Let’s take a look at the other two MBTI conflict pairs, and then some final thoughts.

We talked yesterday about the two ways people prefer to make decisions—beginning with logic and analysis (T) or beginning with values and the impact on people (F). And we paired these preferences up with the Judging (J) preference of organizing the world around you and moving toward closure. Now let’s look at T and F when they’re paired up with the Perceiving preference (P), which is a preference to be adaptable with the world around you and keep options open (rather than seeking closure). When T and F are paired with P, here’s what we see in a conflictual situation:*

People with a preference for TP:
Likely cause of conflict: challenges to/of trust
Desired outcome: defined process or progression
Deal with emotions by: excluding them
Others’ impression: catalyst or contributor to conflict
Satisfied when: they can subsequently analyze the outcome

People with a preference for FP:
Likely cause of conflict: challenges to/of values
Desired outcome: respectful listening
Deal with emotions by: accepting them
Others’ impression: someone who includes others’ values and concerns
Satisfied when: there is open exploration

TP’s are…feisty! Trust and personal credibility are important to them, and they’ll address all kinds of issues when they’re in conflict with others. They’ll play devil’s advocate, question assumptions, poke at accepted truths. They may acknowledge their feelings along the way, but in the end they take the conflict into the neocortex for extended analysis and debate, sometimes just with themselves. FP’s can be feisty too, but they’re a differently-colored unicorn: they move into action when their values are threatened, and they accept that emotions belong in the room when the conflict is being resolved. Instead of analysis, they want conflict to lead to open exploration of ideas and possibilities, with everyone being respectfully heard.

Both TP and FP can learn from TJ and FJ that closure is important, and TJ and FJ can learn from TP and FP to create enough openness, enough space, for complicated issues to be thoroughly considered. TJ and TP can learn from FJ and FP the importance of feelings and relationships when resolving a conflict, and FJ and FP can learn from TJ and TP the importance of sound analysis and frank appraisal of data.

In the many relationships of your life, no doubt you get into conflict with people who share some of your preferences, but not all. Sometimes you’re battling with your direct opposite. Having a perfect match doesn’t guarantee that the conflict will go well, because that means you share certain blind spots, so neither of you has easy access to something (a preference to seek closure, for example) that might help you resolve the conflict. But fighting with someone with opposite preferences is tricky too: you might fail to understand each other, or respect each other.

Having said all this, it’s essential to keep in mind that we all do everything described in the MBTI. Yeah, I prefer ENFJ. But I can introvert my feelings, I can take a clear-eyed look at the facts, I can make hard decisions based on impersonal data, and I can remain open-minded and not jump to a resolution before the group is ready. So as you look through these different preferences for handling conflict, you’ll likely recognize yourself. That’s good! Use self-understanding to improve your skillfulness and self-awareness in conflictual situations. But look at the other preferences too. They have much to teach you.

*The differing lists of conflict behaviors for TP and FP preferences are quoted (with light edits for clarity) from Introduction to Type and Conflict, by Damian Killen and Danica Murphy. All other commentary in this post is written by Stephen Crippen. Here’s Killen and Murphy’s booklet:

How do you deal with conflict? Part I

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Conflict—that ever-present, ever-scary experience we all share. We’ve all been in conflict with friends, partners, siblings, parents, ourselves. There are various ways to approach the topic, but one of my favorites is through the lens of the Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI), a personality-typology tool that sheds light on our preferred ways of taking in information and solving problems. For more on MBTI, go here.

Researchers Damian Killen and Danica Murphy studied different conflict styles and discovered that people tend to deal with conflict in keeping with their third and fourth MBTI preferences, that is, their preferred way of making decisions and their preferred way of dealing with the outer world. For example, my MBTI preferences are ENFJ—Extraverting, Intuiting, Feeling, and Judging—so my third and fourth preferences are F and J: I like to make decisions by listening to my values and focusing on the impact of the decisions on people (F); and I prefer to organize the world around me and reach closure sooner rather than later (J). This means that my “conflict pair” according to Killen and Murphy is FJ. In simple English, as an FJ, here’s how I like to deal with conflict:*

The likely cause of conflict: challenges to/of my beliefs
My desired outcome: intact relationships
I deal with emotions by: including them
Others’ impression of me: seeker of communication and harmony
I’m satisfied when: there is no lingering bitterness

Now, let’s contrast that with someone who has preferences for TJ, or Thinking (preferring to make decisions using logical analysis and reasoning) and Judging (like me, a preference for an organized outer world and timely closure):

The likely cause of conflict: challenges to/of authority
Their desired outcome: closure or resolution
They deal with emotions by: denying that they exist
Others’ impression of them: detached OR aggressive adversary
They’re satisfied when: the conflict is over

Maybe you can already guess how an FJ and a TJ might talk past each other or misunderstand each other in a conflictual situation. They have something in common: they both want to move toward a resolution of the conflict as soon as possible. (That’s the J preference they share.) But they have very different goals, and very different ways of behaving, when they’re upset with each other. As an FJ, the relationship is of paramount importance to me, so I might have a blind spot around justice issues: I might “give away the store” if it means mending fences and restoring the relationship. But a TJ might have a blind spot around the importance of relationship: so eager to resolve the specific issue at hand, or so passionate about clarifying who’s in charge and how to fix the problem, a TJ might ignore serious damages she inflicted on her relationship with the other person.

The gift of MBTI is the gift of insight: it helps you see how your preferences guide your perspectives and behaviors, in this case around conflict. (It’s also great for learning how you deal with change, how you lead, how you communicate, and more.) Your preferred way of handling conflict is perfectly valid, but it’s only one way. Tomorrow, we’ll look at two more conflict pairs—FP and TP. People are different. If you’re fighting with someone and feel exasperated, ask yourself, is it possible they have a completely different (and equally valid) way of handling this situation?

*The differing lists of conflict behaviors for FJ’s and TJ’s are quoted (with light edits for clarity) from “Introduction to Type and Conflict,” by Damian Killen and Danica Murphy. All other commentary in this post is written by Stephen Crippen. To purchase Killen and Murphy’s booklet, click on the image below.

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