Archive for December, 2010

Mistakes We Make When Teaching Type

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

This article is not just for professional trainers of type.

Sure, there are lots of complaints that professionals are making mistakes, that they?re making statements about the theory that aren?t true, making statements about the types that put people on the defensive, not telling people enough to answer their questions or excite them about the power of the theory, or telling them so much they get lost in all the lingo and complications of it. But this article is not just for professional trainers of type. It?s for everyone who has more than a passing interest in type, and that includes you and me. Why? Because all learners of type naturally become teachers of type.???

You will want to know the types of the people in your life. They are the ones who will make the words come alive for you. I had read that SJs were organized, practical, and persistent. But those were just words to me until an SJ came to our business and improvements that had been talked about for years finally began to happen because he kept gently pushing and pushing them to completion.

I had read that NTs were global and critical, but those were just words to me until I had an NT edit my writing. He suggested many, many changes, but rather than hating it, I was delighted. Listening to him opened up my viewpoint miles wider, amd made my ideas much clearer.

I had read that SPs were physical and playful, but those were just words to me until my SP friend and I had spent many afternoons with our children, wandering along rivers and through woods, and I?d come home filled with light and air and the joy of having a body and living in the natural world.

I had read that NFs see the best in people and want to bring that out, but those were just words to me until one afternoon when I was confiding to an NF friend that I was worried about my son?s recent behavior. Somehow, by her questions and reminding me of things, the afternoon ended with me excited again about the great potential lying in that little boy.

The gifts of SJs, NTs, SPs, and NFs are no longer just words for me, they are sights and sounds and feelings. I have real examples of them in my life.

A second reason to know the types of the people in your life is so you can solve some of the problems you might be having with them. For example, I used to listen to my ISFJ sister complain about her life, and naturally, because I?m Intuitive, I?d suggest all kinds of ways that she could make ?a new life? for herself. But my suggestions involved radical changes in her situation, things she had no stomach for, so she always ended up having to come up with a million reasons why she couldn?t follow my advice. But ever since I?ve known her type, I?ve stopped doing that. Now I listen to her problems, and praise her for her loyalty and ability to endure difficult situations. Then she herself is able to think of small changes she could make to improve things.

I never would have had the opportunity to understand type in its living context, or to have it make such improvements in my relationships if I hadn?t taken the time and trouble to find out what type my family, friends, and colleagues were. I could not persuade all of them to go out and take workshops given by professionals, and with the majority of them, I could not guess their type without their input. If I wanted to know their types, I had to go through all the steps of ?training? them in it myself, and doing it in an informal setting.

But I taught the people in my world about type without any preparation, guidelines, or instruction on how to teach type. I had learned a lot about type, but nothing about how to teach it. And I think I made a lot of mistakes. I wish I had learned some basic guidelines for giving introductions to type, so I could have avoided some of the errors in the trial and error period.

Then recently, I heard a speech by Jean Kummerow, an ESTJ psychologist, management consultant, MBTI? trainer, and co-author of the book Lifetypes (1989 Warner). In that speech I felt I had found the ?basics.? It seems to me that if you follow Kummerow?s guidelines, you?ll give people the maximum opportunity to find themselves in their type at their first introduction to it, get excited about the information, and put it to good use in their lives.

A Checklist For Introducing Type

Let people do a ?Self-assessment? before getting their results from the MBTI?.

Describe the preferences in an accurate, positive and unbiased way, and remember to use qualifiers like ?most? and ?many.?

Give examples from the literature, your own life, and the world of the trainee.

Don?t read too much into MBTI? scores.

Make your goal simple: to teach the person the meaning of the eight preferences, and help them choose their type.

Provide follow-up reinforcement somehow, and give adequate handouts.

(The TYPE Reporter, Excerpt from Issue No. 38, written by Susan Scanlon.)

(Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a trademark or registered trademark of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.)

Conflict and Type

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed one approach to understanding conflict-handling styles that has been used to research the style most used by each of the types. Using a model developed earlier by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton (1964) for categorizing management styles, Thomas and Kilmann identified two dimensions of behavior involved in managing conflict with another party: concern for one?s own interests and concern for the other person?s interests. They labeled these Assertiveness and Cooperativeness, respectively. Depending on the degree to which a person proportions his or her energy into each of these dimensions, one of the styles will be engaged.?

The PEOPLE Process Assessment Wheel

The 16 personality types respond to conflict according to their preferences. According to the Thomas-Kilmann Model, none of the styles are inherently good or bad. Each is appropriate for some situations and each is also inappropriate or less effective for other situations. The model describes five different approaches to conflict according to how people think about the importance of a task versus the importance of their relationship with the people they are working with ? Competing, Collaborating, Compromising, Avoiding, Accommodating. The main point of the model is to encourage people to be purposeful in how they confront and collaborate with others, rather than relying on their natural ? and often inappropriate tendencies.

In the Competing category, behavior is based on a high attempt to satisfy one?s own interests and a low attempt to satisfy the other party?s interests. A person chooses to use power to win with his or her position. This style is appropriate in situations requiring an emergency decision, where there is no other option and someone must be willing to take the tough stand, or where self-protection is essential. The downside of this style is that it intimidates others to the point where problems may go underground and develop into actions that escalate the conflict. The personality types we find in this category are the ENTJ and ESTJ males.

In the Accommodating category, behavior is based on giving up one?s own interests in order to satisfy the other party?s interests. A choice is made to yield. This style is appropriate when the issue is not of great importance to you and harmony is, or when the other party has all the power. The downside is that if used excessively, neither you nor others have an opportunity to understand your real strength. We find the ENFP and ESFP personality types in this section.

In the Avoiding category, behavior in which there is no attempt to satisfy either one?s own or the other party?s interests is found. A choice is made to remain apart from interactive engagement on the issue. This style is appropriate when the issue is of no importance to you or when used as a strategy to buy time for thinking or ?cooling down,? or if the other person has unyielding power over you. The downside is that issues may persist and remain unresolved. The types we find in this category are the INTJ, ISTJ, ISFJ, and INFJ.

In the Compromising category, behavior in which each party sacrifices some of this or her own interests in order to satisfy some of the interests of the other is found. Each person negotiates to win some personal interests in exchange for yielding others. This style is useful when the issue is if some importance but there is not time for a full-fledged collaborative process. It is also a fallback process when collaboration is not going to produce a fully win/win solution. This downside is that there may be missed opportunity for a more creative solution that would increase resources, productivity and satisfaction. The types we find in this category are the ENTJ and ESTJ females, and the ISTP, INTP, ESTP, ENTP of both genders.

And, finally, in the Collaborating category, behavior that seeks a way to satisfy fully both parties? interests ? a win/win solution is found. Issues are examined that are important to both people and commitment is made to exploration of alternative resolutions that address all concerns. The downside is that the process may involve more time than is available. The types found in this group include the ESFJ and ENFJ.

Source: Wired for Conflict; Sondra S. VanSant

(Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a trademark or registered trademark of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.)

?I Can?t Decide What Type I Am!? ? Part 2

Monday, December 13th, 2010


When people can?t decide on a type for themselves, it?s sometimes because they are young. ?With a young group, I always tell them that it?s common for people to be exploring at this time, and not to take the MBTI? results too seriously,? says Naomi Quenk, INFP, psychologist and past president of the Association for Psychological Type.

Or, they may not be young, but still be inexperienced. They may not have had many challenging experiences yet, like a job, or starting their own family, that would bring them face to face with their assets and liabilities. ?Many of the people who come out mid-range on most of the scales of the MBTI? and Type Differentiation Indicator,? says Don Johnson, ENFP and organizational consultant with ORA in New Jersey, ?are usually being seen because they are searching for a job. They haven?t gotten to first base yet. They don?t know who they are and generally have low self-esteem.???

Another influence that can confuse a person trying to choose a type, is the place or the situation, they are in. If it is not affirming of their type, they may be playing roles to remain there. ?You don?t know how much influence your job has had on you,? says Margaret Hartzler, ENFJ and president of Type Resources in Gaithersburg, Maryland. ?It?s possible to please people but still stay true to yourself. But it?s also possible to decide that you?d better change. For example, Fs and Ps in business settings are often confused and think they?re really Ts or Js.?

Another influence, and a very strong one, is the people who have mattered the most to you, your parents. ?As a child, you live in the land of the giants,? says Mary McCaulley, INFP and president of The Center for Applications of Psychological Type. ?They can break your world in two. If they are misreading you, you tend to believe them.?

?Parents can give children three kinds of messages,? says Katherine Myers, INFP, trainer and consultant in psychological type, ?to be what you are, to be something you?re not, or mixed messages, where one day you?re OK and the next day you?re not, with the same behavior. Parents who give mixed messages are usually under stress themselves. When they are rested and on top of things, they?re more accepting. Other days it?s like go home and kick the dog.?

?Initially, there are usually some people who can?t decide on one or two dimensions,? says Jean Kummerow, ESTJ, psychologist and co-author of Lifetypes (Warner, 1989). ?But after reading more and giving it more time, things fall into place for them. However, about 3 in 100 people can?t decide after a long period of time. When they do seek further help (and it?s mostly the NFs who do that, since they?re usually the most interested in self-knowledge), I?ve noticed a pattern of difficult childhoods, often with chemically dependent family members. As children, they didn?t get consistent messages from their parents. They tried everything to get the approval of their parents, and kept switching, and now they don?t know who they are.?

The TYPE Reporter, Excerpt from Vol. 5, No. 3
written by Susan Scanlon
(Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a trademark or registered trademark of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.)

?I Can?t Decide What Type I Am!? ? Part 1

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

According to the manual on the MBTI?, around 25% of the people who take the MBTI? score close to the middle on one or more of the dimensions. Although some of those people are able to identify their preferences in spite of their slight scores, other people aren?t able to identify their preferences in spite of their clear scores. So let?s say it evens out, and for around 25% of the people who take the MBTI?, their type is still an open question even after they?ve received their report forms.

If you believe that making a person familiar with their natural gifts and course of development is a worthwhile pursuit, then it probably bothers you when that?s not easy, and sometimes nearly impossible, to do. You?d probably like to know more about why people sometimes can?t decide what type they are, and what can be done about it.

Participant's Package & Trainer's Manual

To get closer to some answers on these questions, we?re going to use as an example a man named Bob. He?s a real person who has not been able to decide on his type in 13 years! Bob first took the MBTI? in 1977 and came out ISFP, but he didn?t feel that the profile fit him entirely. Since then he?s taken it 12 times, each time coming out a different type, each time feeling the profile didn?t entirely fit him.

You may be wondering why he doesn?t just drop the search for his type if the theory doesn?t seem to be working for him. ?I?ve tried,? he says, ?but it?s like one of those birthday candles that won?t go out when you blow it. I put it aside but I keep coming back to it.?

Bob is looking to the MBTI? to give him guidance in making a mid-life career change. He?s been a successful lawyer, but he hasn?t been happy as a lawyer. ?I had to work so hard just to keep up that it wasn?t fun. I saw other lawyers around me going great guns and still enjoying themselves. I want to find a career where I can do the same. I feel that if I knew my true type, I could start laying out a plan consistent with that type.?

We talked to some of the MBTI? experts who have had experience with people who have a hard time deciding on their type. We?re going to tell you what they recommend, and how it worked for Bob. In this issue we?ll look at what the experts recommend you do in a workshop setting to help people decide on their type, and how Bob reacted to these experiences. He is a good example of how frustrating, fascinating, and eventually satisfying it can be to help people find their true type.

Tell them t?s normal and give them some time.
For most of the people who are uncertain on one or more of the dimensions of the MBTI?, time usually takes care of the problem. After they?ve had some time to absorb the definitions of the functions and observe their own behavior, their type usually becomes clear to them.

If you?re giving a workshop on type, it?s probably a good idea to tell people up front that they may not be able to decide their type in the course of your workshop. Tell them that initial uncertainty about your type is normal. You don?t want to cause them any stress because they don?t fit into the theory right away. Be as general, positive, neutral, and non-suggestive as you can be about this issue.

And you might mention that some people may never be certain about what type they are. Some people are just more distinctly a type than others. You can see this even in small children. Some have a clear sense of who they are when they?re very young, some don?t have a clear sense of who they are until 30 or 40, and some are never sure. The important thing is, for most of these ?untypical? people, it?s not a problem. It?s no big deal.

Time and observing his own behavior did not help Bob decide on a type. In fact, the more time went by, the more uncertain he became. But Bob continued to pursue his type because of his own feeling that he had to know, not because poor training had made him feel that something was wrong with him.

Give them a variety of experiences in a workshop.
We talked to Janet Thuesen and Otto Kroeger, a team that has trained at least 10,000 people in type theory in the last 10 years and recently co-authored the book Type Talk (Delacorte, 1988). They said that a good way to help people decide what type they are is to offer them a variety of experiences in a workshop, especially the experience of being put into groups with others who are supposed to be the same type as they are, and seeing if they experience agreement and similarity.

In one of the first workshops on the MBTI? that I attended, the trainers asked all the Introverts to get into a group and all the Extraverts to get into a group. In the group of Introverts we were asked to answer the questions:

What do you like about being an Introvert? What don?t you like about being an Introvert? What do you like about Extraverts? What don?t you like about Extraverts?

Then we reported back to the group on what we had talked about and heard the Extraverts answer the same questions. We did the same thing on all four of the dimensions. I remember how powerful an experience that was for me. I still remember a woman saying ?When I hear Extraverts talking about what they?re going to do today, it makes me tired. I couldn?t possibly do all that in one day?? We all laughed and nodded our heads in agreement. That kind of clicking with other people strengthened my certainty that type worked, and that I was an Introvert.

I?ve also been present in several ?type-alike? groups since then where it became clear that one of us did not belong in that group. It?s an excellent method for helping people get clarity on their type. But it didn?t work for Bob. He attended one workshop where people were asked to go into groups with their like types and answer questions such as ?How are you in a team?? and ?How are you as a leader?? It didn?t settle anything for him. ?I went around and listened to different groups, and read the things they put up on the wall, but none of the groups rang out loud and clear to me,? he said.

Ask them to read several profiles and mark the parts they agree with.
Another thing Otto Kroeger recommends for people who can?t decide what type they are is that they do some homework. Their assignment is to read profiles on all the types that they might be, and mark the lines they agree strongly with, then add them up at the end. I did this with my husband when he was uncertain if he was an INTP or an ENTP. He had a terrible time deciding if he was an Extravert or an Introvert in the abstract, but he agreed with every line of the ENTP profile and not a single line of the INTP profile.

But Bob has been doing this kind of thing for 17 years. He has every book of profiles that has been published, and they?re all underlined and checked and X?d. However, none of the profiles really fits him completely, and over time.

Most of the profiles have some things that sound true for Bob, and some things that don?t. And on some days he feels like one type but the next day it might change. And sometimes it doesn?t even take a day. Before breakfast, he may be reading the profiles of the INFP and identifying with them, but later in the day, the ESFP and ISFP may sound better to him. For several days he may write in his journal about how he?s an SJ, but today write that he must be an SP because he feels so impulsive, playful, and physical.

Ask them to discuss it with people who know them.
The third thing Otto Kroeger suggests is that you ask people who know you well what they think. When I asked Bob to tell me the name of someone who knows him fairly well, and also knows type, he mentioned Katherine Myers, an INFP who has been familiar with type for most of her life.

Kathy Myers told me: ?His endless searching for self, and his insistence that he know what is at the core of him before he can make any decisions, reminds me of an INFP. It?s a weakness of the INFP, in fact. Like other NFs, INFPs need to operate out of their core, to be true to themselves. But without the E or the J to pull them out into the world, INFPs can really get stuck trying to figure themselves out.

?In more specific ways he also reminds me of an INFP. He?s very much in tune with other people, and responds to them so that they feel good about themselves. He speaks quietly, about things he?s enthusiastic about. He entertains beautifully, but he?s not a hail-fellow-well-met. He does it quietly and graciously. I?ve been trying to get him off this obsession with knowing what type he is. He feels he can?t move or decide on a career until he does. I tell him that he?s fortunate to be able to use each of the functions when it?s appropriate.?

I told Kathy Myers that I had two doubts about Bob being an INFP. One was that when he was young, he became a leader at just about every opportunity. He rattled off a dizzying list of leadership positions. He was president of his junior class in high school, and then of the whole student body in his senior year. A high school teacher told his parents he had never seen a better leader come through the system. In college, he was captain of his football team, president of his college fraternity, president of the leadership fraternity, and voted the best leader in his senior class. And all through his legal career, people were trying to persuade him to go into politics.

Why, I asked Kathy, would an Introvert place himself so often in front of, and in the middle of, groups? I cold see an Introvert being the leader of a group if they all shared a passionate interest, but Bob seemed to be the leader of a variety of groups, with no particular shared interests. ?Introverts can often be leaders,? Kathy said. ?I?m an Introvert and among other things I was the editor of the school paper, and voted most likely to succeed.?

And then I told her that in many hours of listening to Bob talk, I had never heard him make a large generalization, which Intuitives seem to need to do as much as they need to breathe. And when asked a question about his preferences, he referred to something he had done recently, instead of looking at his behavior over a lifetime and observing patterns. I?m usually hungry for specifics when I?m listening to Intuitives. When I?m listening to Bob, I?m hungry for a generalization.

Kathy said he seemed to be comfortable talking about the type theory, which was fairly abstract. She also said that she doubted an S would spend this much time trying to find out who they were. And I had to agree. If Bob was unlike any Intuitive I?d ever listened to, he was also unlike any Sensing type I?d ever listened to.

It?s hard for some people to put a type on themselves because on one or more of the dimensions, they really do have attributes from both sides. When you ask them to choose a type, you?re asking them to deny something about themselves that is important, but not ?typical.?

To be continued…

The TYPE Reporter, Excerpt from Vol. 5, No. 2, written by Susan Scanlon

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a trademark or registered trademark of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.

Our Favorite Type Breakthroughs

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

The TYPE Reporter, Excerpt from No. 102, Part 4,

written by Susan Scanlon

Naomi Quenk, INFP

Naomi Quenk was introduced to the MBTI 47 years ago and has been working with it ever since. She has been active in setting policy for its ethical use, researching, teaching and writing on many aspects of type, and used the MBTI in her clinical practice for over 25 years. She served as president of the Association for Psychological Type from 1985-1987. She is the author or co-author of numerous publications on type, including the 1998 revision of The MBTI Manual, and several books, including Was That Really Me?: How Everyday Stress Brings Out Our Hidden Personality; In the Grip: Understanding Type, Stress, and the Inferior Function (2nd ed.); and Essentials of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment. ( or (

Once, an ESTJ woman and I got into a conversation about our favorite ages for our children. She said, ?My favorite age for my children was when they were infants.? I said, ?Mine too.? She said, ?I like infants because you can totally control them.? I said, ?I like infants because you don?t have to control them.?

As a result of that experience, I never assume I know someone?s type because of some behavior. I realized that people can have identical behaviors for completely different reasons.

The PEOPLE Process Wheel


When I was a clinician in private practice, I got a message on my answering machine from a man saying he would like to see me for the first time, and he would like an appointment at 11 o?clock next Thursday. At first I took offense at his assumption that he could tell me when his appointment would be. Then I thought, well, wait a minute, the chances are this guy is some kind of TJ who has spent quite a long time deciding if he would go into psychotherapy, and once he made his decision, he was anxious to get on with it. That turned out to be the case, and I?m glad I had a chance to reflect because it prevented me from approaching this guy with a bias.

I sometimes hear people automatically assume that Js are doing things just to control people. It irritates me, because that is rarely their purpose. Js are just trying to do what they?re best at, which is to get the world organized and to get on with it. Actually, when it comes to controlling people, I?ve seen some Ps do that really well.


Because our children grew up with type, they totally rejected it. They used to get irritated with us and say, ?Can?t you watch a TV program without typing everyone?!? My daughter would have nothing to do with type and wouldn?t take the Indicator, but when she was about 14, I caught her in a weak moment and said, ?Would you at least read the type description that I think you might be??

She read the profile of the INFP and got this sheepish expression on her face. ?Well, yes, ?she said, ?but wouldn?t the world be a better place if everyone were an INFP??

?Oh my God,? I thought. ?I?ve spent my life teaching people to respect differences and this is what my own daughter thinks.?


In my experience, INFPs can sometimes be quite resistant to type. They seem to be defending their individuality, and saying, ?Nobody?s going to tell me that I can only be one of 16 types.?


I counseled one couple where the husband was an ESTJ and the wife was an ENTP. One of his big complaints was that he?d come home from work and see a pile of clean laundry on the couch. The next day, however, it would still be there. It stuck in his craw, and he wondered how it was possible for his wife not to notice it.

I said to him, ?You notice the laundry and it?s hard to go about what you?re doing with it there.? ?That?s right, he said, and he seemed relieved that I could see it from his point of view. Then I said, ?But she really doesn?t notice it. She?s busy with the kids, and she?s not looking at the details. It?s just not important to her to have things in their place like it is for you.?

At the next session he told me, ?If it?s a fact that having the laundry put away is important to me and not to her, I will do it from now on.? Once it became a fact, he could fit it into his system, and deal with other things that were important to her and not to him.


When my daughter was getting her library degree, she did a research project on the MBTI and children?s reading preferences. Teachers and librarians assume that children read fiction for fun, and non-fiction because they have to for a school project. But she discovered that little Ss read non-fiction because they love it.

One mother came in dragging her son and asked, ?What have you got for an 8-year old who hates to read?? My daughter asked the boy what he was interested in. He said, ?Airplanes.? My daughter gave him a half dozen books on how airplanes work, the people who fly them, and their history. A week later, the mother came back and said, ?I don?t know what you did to him, but he read all those books and he wants more.?

Sensing children often get labeled ?reluctant readers? because they are not reading what teachers give them to read. It?s just that they often don?t want to read about imaginary people. They want to read facts about the things that they are interested in and the adventures of real people.


My daughter also learned from some of the mothers she interviewed that Introverted children often come to story time and just sit there and don?t participate in anything. Their mothers reported however, that as soon as they got home, the kids would take their teddy bears or their younger brothers and sisters, and tell them the story. They just needed to get out of the group setting to ?participate.?

(Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a trademark or registered trademark of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.)