Welcome back to our Campfire Chats, where we dish on all things Human Capital — with a heavy dollop of professional insight and a dash of friendly conversation!
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is one of many tools we rely on to help our clients find common ground and harmony within their organizations. Today’s Campfire Chat dives into that topic a bit, exploring its effects both personally and professionally.
Q: How has understanding the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) helped you navigate professional life?
Claressa: The most intriguing part of navigating life through Myers Briggs is using it to strategically communicate with people. I believe that understanding people — and specifically understanding their behavioral preferences — gives me the ability to constantly assess my audience. Before I even enter into a conversation with someone, I think about how that person will respond based on their behavioral preferences. From there I can structure my communication style and content based on what I know about that person.
Martha: Some might call that manipulating a conversation. Would you?
Claressa: Great question, but absolutely not. Again, I call this “strategic communication,” which is totally different than manipulation. Manipulation is exactly what the word implies: maneuvering someone into doing or behaving in a certain manner; controlling them. Strategic communication is simply structuring my questions or statements in a way that would better appeal to that person. This means I can actually get what I’m looking for. Whether it be an agreement or not is beside the point. It’s about being very clear on what I am asking and how I am asking, based on my knowledge of their behavioral traits.
“Of course it’s appropriate to have clear explanations and standardized processes — but often times our approach needs to be adjusted based on the individual needs of the parties.”
Martha: So, you catch a fly better with honey than with vinegar! I once had an employee (with a fairly assertive personality) who was interested in a Leadership role, but couldn’t understand my explanation of strategic communication. She felt that it was the employee’s job to perfectly understand a leader’s instructions and follow their rules and guidelines implicitly. After all, she was the leader. What I tried explaining to her was that, while that may work for some people, it won’t work for the majority. On one hand, some people are simply turned off by differing personalities or learning styles. On the other hand, you have people who genuinely don’t understand the message because of these differences. Of course it’s appropriate to have clear explanations and standardized processes — but often times our approach needs to be adjusted based on the individual needs of the parties.
Claressa: It’s Management 101 – communication is important. MBTI takes “mode of communication” to another level. It’s the icing on the cake — knowing that human beings need to hear things, see things, write things. There are multiple ways that we retain and understand what’s in front of us, and being able to strategically communicate and understand those behavioral preferences really escalates that.
Q: How has your understanding of the MBTI affected your personal life?
Claressa: I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about strategic communication and family. By eliminating misunderstandings, it can transform your personal life. For example, I was able to better connect with one of my children — a textbook introvert at 15 years old — by recognizing, assessing, and understanding his behavioral preferences. I was able to ask him to communicate in a way that was most comfortable for him. As an extrovert, I wanted to help him work through issues, but his introversion didn’t respond well to impromptu sharing. We decided that journaling his thoughts was a more complementary way for him to be able to do that, based on his behavioral preferences.
Martha: It’s important to recognize that different personality types can be a really positive thing. I think we often find frustration from those who aren’t like us, but that’s when we miss out on the strengths of those different personalities. If you can take two (previously frustrating) opposite personality types and come from a standpoint of understanding, they can suddenly become very complementary. I find that with my husband. I’m a “J” with a preference toward judging and he is a “P” with a preference toward perceiving. I’m the list maker and I am very timeline oriented. He is very “go with the flow” and “wait and see.” Knowing that about him, however, I know what strengths he brings to the table. He is very creative and open-minded and often times, I overlook some things that he comes up with because I am rushing to make a decision. If you have a good understanding and you recognize how your preferences can complement each other, you’ll find that you often make better decisions.
Claressa: I agree! The more diversity you have — whether it be in your workplace or your home life — sets you up for even greater success. You and I are actually a great example of that. We have some preferences that are similar, but we also have some preferences that are at opposite ends of that spectrum. That’s what makes us dynamic: we complement each other well. If we both thought exactly alike, our whole work life and friendship would be different.
And the moral of this week’s chat?
Claressa: Understanding for strategic communication is essential. It allows you to see the strengths in diversity (rather than the drawbacks) and find success. Myers Briggs is one of our greatest tools for finding that understanding.