The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator is widely used in organizations and by individuals. You have likely encountered it yourself. If not, you can read summaries on Wikipedia and in this article by Howard Ditkoff. The sixteen types are described in detail on Typelogic.com.
In this post, I will provide suggestions for improving your communications with folks of a different type. (You may want to know your type before reading further. If so, here's a free on-line test.)
The key to using Meyers-Briggs to improve your communications is to understand how each type likes to communicate and use that understanding to tailor your own communications.
My favorite approach uses four "functional pairs" combining the central two scales of Meyers-Briggs. These pairs are ST, SF, NF and NT. For each of four "Functional Pairs" I'll discuss how that type's communications might be perceived and how to help that type feel heard. I'll also provide some ideas for each type to keep in mind when seeking to be heard.
People who are sensate-thinkers (STs) are efficient, bottom-line focused and logical. They can be perceived by others as blunt, rude, impersonal and cold.
As a listener, understand that the ST wants to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Acknowledge the ST for the structure and solutions he provides, and then offer ways to improve the solutions. Tell the ST clearly what you need before you can get on board with a solution. STs value those who stand up for themselves.
As an ST, seek input from others and be willing to consider solutions other than your own. Including others is likely to improve your solutions. Try to see the bigger picture, and explore it with NFs and NTs. Think about what's in your idea for others.
People who are sensate-feelers (SFs) want to help others get what they need. Inclusion is a key value of the SF. SFs value those who are warm and inclusive. They can be perceived as compliant, avoiding problems, superficial, too personal, or too "sweet."
As a listener, give the SF time for personal connection and then tell them how they can help. The SF loves to help.
As an SF, respect the personal boundaries of others - don't push too close. When you have a problem with someone at work, be willing to tell them the truth, for the sake of a stronger relationship. Help the group achieve work goals, as this will likely increase the harmony you so value. Try to see the global picture - where your idea fits in to the bigger scheme of things. Organize your thinking and presentation, moving logically from point to point.
People who are intuitive-feelers (NFs) want to get you excited by their ideas and beliefs. NFs value those who work together for the good of the team. They can be perceived as vague and unclear, a bit too personal, rambling, optimistic and idealistic.
As a listener, be sure to appreciate the NF's ideas and values, and only then ask for specifics. Ask for a summary of the NF's idea. Ask for the NF's help. Recognize the NF's contribution to the conversation.
As an NF, keep focused on your goal, not just on making a great presentation. Provide more clarity by using the S's framework: tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then remind them what you told them. Limit your use of analogies and stories, and make the point of each story explicitly clear to your listeners. Remember the power of data to improve your idea. Invite STs and SFs to help you work out the details of your idea.
People who are intuitive-thinkers (NTs) want you to "get" their complex and interesting concepts. NTs value those who can formulate problems. They can be perceived as lecturing, arrogant and pompous, too complex, theoretical, impersonal and combative.
As a listener, let the NT deliver her entire concept, and be sure to appreciate her model and the clarity she brings to the group. Then ask how to make the concept work. Be willing to spar with the NT on a logical basis.
As an NT, work to make a personal connection with your audience. Ask for questions and ideas, and incorporate them into your model. Remember that your beautiful theory won't result in any real-world change unless others "get it." Ask how your idea will impact on others, and be willing to modify the concept accordingly. Ask SFs and STs for help working out the details of your concepts.
For more information:
- Much of this article is based on Work Types, by Jean M. Kummerow, Nancy J. Barger and Linda K. Kirby (Warner Books, 1997), especially Chapter 2.
- My favorite book about the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator is Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, by David Kiersey (Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, 1998).
- Although expensive, at nearly $2 per page, you might enjoy Introduction to TYPE in Organizations, 3rd edition, pb, 1998, by Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jean M. Kummerow (Consulting Psychologists Press, 1998). It's one page summary of each type are useful references.