Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Myers briggs and communication.....

One of the best applications of Myers Briggs is understanding the communication difficulties that arise as a result of different 'preferences' communicating. As I wrote in my last post, if people have strong preferences, they are more likely to have 'blind spots' and it is these that can cause difficulties in communication.

I will take each spectrum one at a time and talk in terms of the difficulties that sometimes arise when an extreme version of one end of the spectrum converses with the opposite extremity.


The greatest difficulties in communication can arise in this spectrum. Extraverts can annoy everyone, even other extraverts because everything is just pumped out with no filtering process - from brain to mouth in 0.000003 seconds! Extraverts speak expressively (they often make gestures and wave their arms around a lot) and are prone to repeating themselves (usually to really emphasise a point) much to the irritation of the introvert that is sitting there thinking, 'you've said that already'. Extraverts will talk over each other - really needing to put their idea in the pot - however formed or unformed it is. Introverts are not without their own difficulties though. An extreme introvert will need to reflect upon an idea for a while before sharing it - which is beyond an extravert's comprehension. Introverts tend to pause before they speak (I call it the 'introvert pause'), seem slow to develop ideas and are therefore often underestimated. Extreme introverts can believe they have shared something when they have not, as the centre of their world is internal and they cannot remember what they have actually 'delivered' into the external world. An extreme introvert that I know will take another person's idea into his internal world, reflect on it for some time and then share it externally as if it was his own idea - because the external source the idea originally came from did not really register.

Another difficulty that can arise is due to introverts assuming extraverts have processed what they say as much as they do (before delivering into the external world). Because an extravert thinks aloud - as their ideas are forming - they tend to share the whole process of mulling something over. Introverts can therefore sometimes take these 'on the way to the conclusion' vocalisations as the final decision. So you can often hear an introvert say, but you said...' and the extravert will reply, 'oh yes, but that wasn't my final decision'.

If introverts and extraverts are separated to discuss and list something, for example 'list what is needed for a quality meeting.' you can readily witness the differences. The extraverts will actually move more while they discuss, they will talk more, talk over each other and their list will be a long, eclectic and diverse mix of not overly considered criteria. The introverts on the other hand will talk one at a time, listen intently and the list they produce will be a shorter but well considered one.


Sensors like communication to be literal, sequential, practical and not abstract. Intuitives are very happy with the opposite. An extreme intuitive will seem 'away with the fairies' to the extreme sensor. The sensors keep things 'real' but the intuitives can make huge connective abstract leaps that leave the sensors behind. An extreme sensor will also embellish descriptions with too much detail for the extreme intuitive. Intuitives want the concept, the general gist and not the all the details that the sensors enjoy. Intuitives start with the concept and then can fill in the details they see as necessary, sensors build up the details into the concept (and can therefore sometimes not arrive at the right place - not the place the intuitives 'saw' at the beginning).

In any task, both sensors and intuitives play an important role and can complement each other. The intuitives strengths are mapping out the aim, the 'point' of anything and any other big picture considerations (the 'why?'). The sensor's strengths lie in sorting the details (the 'what', 'when' and 'how'). However, if people are unaware of the individual's strengths in a group, everyone tackles a projects from a different starting point. An example of this was when I was planning a training day. I HAD to start with, 'what are we trying to achieve?' and 'what messages do we need people to receive?' whereas my sensing colleague asked, 'what time will tea and coffee start being served?'

I once read that the saying, those that can, do and those that can't teach - was a sensor's snipe at an intuitive. That sounds about right! Pure academia favours intuitives.


These two can sometimes have a terrible time with each other! Feelers are tuned into the emotional undertones of any situation, whereas a thinker's first port of call is the logic in any situation. So to a feeler, a thinker can seem brutal. An extreme thinker can speak his or her mind as what they say just makes sense and has no awareness that what they are saying might upset someone. Feelers, by comparison can be so tuned into the 'people' element of a situation that they avoid making decisions through trying to accommodate everyone and can come across as wishy-washy.

A very 'thinkery' headteacher once gave me an illustration of thinkers and feelers struggling to understand each other. He said, 'I had a shortage of staff so I asked a person who used to work in my school if they could return to work. I knew this decision wasn't popular with the rest of the staff as they told me.' Apparently this person had caused some problems among the staff but she was a good teacher, she lived locally and she was available. The decision simply made sense to this headteacher. He was very surprised at how much distress this re-appointment caused.

Another way of thinking about the differences between thinkers and feelers is that feelers are more likely to make decisions made on a 'gut reaction'. They make an evaluative judgement e.g. I prefer that to this. Whereas thinkers are more likely to work out the logical pros and cons of any decision. Also, feelers tend to be fully and emotionally involved in any decision whereas thinkers are better portrayed as impartial onlookers throwing points into the decision arena.

I will describe a disastrous thinker/feeler interaction I have witnessed more than once....

The thinker states something that makes logical sense to him/her. However, what the thinker states has overlooked the impact their suggestion might have on the feeler. The feeler is 'wounded' and takes offence and makes this offence known. The thinker cannot see the logic in what the feeler said and does not take their offence seriously because it's not logical. The feeler gets upset by the thinker's response and starts to speak even more emotively (and perhaps irrationally) and the thinker starts to think less of the feeler because they are making even less sense. Both end up upset (more likely to be the feeler) or angry (more likely to be the thinker) by the others' inability to see their point of view which makes absolute sense to the person that owns it.

In other words feelers are more likely to take things personally and once they are on the defensive because of upset, they are likely to make less and less sense to a thinker!


Judgers like closure, like things sorted, planned and done and dusted. Perceivers try to keep things open ended and avoid closure. So a judger can seem pushy to a perceiver and a perceiver can seem vague and erratic to a judger. A strong judger will also be decisive in their opinions and seem forceful to the perceiver who will be thinking, 'how can you be so certain?' To a question, a judger will tend to give a definite answer but a perceiver will tend to answer with another question - wanting to take in more data before they commit to a final judgement.

For example, 'did you like that film?'
Judger: Yes
Perceiver: I don't know, what did you think of it?

In meetings judgers and perceivers are obvious - not least by the way their bits of paper are sitting in front of them! The judgers have their possessions neatly placed but the perceiver's stuff is usually scattered randomly all over the place. Also, the judger is the one making decisions about how work needs to be taken forward but the perceiver still wants to explore further possibilites before they decide upon future action. Judgers will pin things down to time scales, perceivers can leave a meeting having failed to even consider such things. Extreme perceivers are always poised for that extra bit of information that could arrive at any moment and make the whole scenario need a re-think! Extreme judgers, however, gun for the clarity of closure and once the decision is made, do not want to visit it again - even if they learn something new about the situation.

Again these two types can complement each other. Perceivers are flexible and happy to explore all possibilities so they are good for the start of exploring a development but once everything has been considered, the judger is better at pinning it all down. Also, coping with a 'spanner in the works' is the domain of the perceiver. A strong judger will be unsettled if something does not go to plan, the perceiver is usually happy with the distraction!

I realise I could write so much more about this! Hopefully that is a tasty snippet.


  1. Something some people prefer is Kiersey's approach.

    Kiersey simplified MB and attributed four basic outlooks to the sixteen types:

    SP - ARTISANS in the moment, fun, mentally agile, unconventional, make an impact 'tactics'
    SJ - GUARDIANS cooperative, sort the admin out, responsible, like to belong 'logistics'
    NF - IDEALISTS, imaginative, seek meaning and personal development, individualists, 'diplomacy'
    NT - RATIONALS, problem solvers, acquire knowledge and mastery at things, 'strategy'

  2. So it's not over yet then?! Wink wink xxx

  3. More! more! Lay it on me baby!

  4. Get yourselves a chat room you two!!

  5. And congrats to you too Claire for the travel writing. I read it, it's interesting. Thx.

  6. OK so I have one that has had enough and one that can't get enough. Ooh.

    I'll just wait and see what happens next time I blog.

  7. I love the Myers Briggs! This is a very insightful and useful post. Did you know I now find myself applying the concepts of MBTI in practically every situation I find myself in?

  8. You are my star pupils then Nikki!!!

    Emma ENFP?
    Lazy Breakfast ESFJ or ISFJ?

    I see it everywhere too. It has helped me no end! It definitely speaks louder to those that have some extreme stuff going on!

    I am extremely N and P. I'd imagine you're pretty N too.

  9. well what i don't get (so what does that make ME) is who cares anyway? really. and i dont' mean any disrespect to you here.
    it's just all too much. this kind of stuff has been around for years and every job or course i've taken has tried to interpret it in one format or another. "who are you and what makes you tick, and what makes those around you tick etc. etc."
    i really find it's tiresome. again, no disrespect molly. i have neither the attention span nor the inclination to grapple with it. (must be 'cos the older i get the less patience/tolerance i have.
    imho there are two types of people: those that i like and those that i don't.

    my book comes out in the fall. (wink)

  10. I am not sure about Emma - she is interested but I have never managed to pin her down to finishing the questions! Lazy Breakfast thinks she is an INFP but like you I suspect her much more of being ISFJ. TJ also came out as INFP when I discussed it with him! I was very surprised! Thought he was more ENTP. Odd!
    I am very N but mine is the opposite way round to yours I think? Ne instead of your Ni? Which (I think!) means you are good at imagining possibilities and creating new boxes out of thin air whereas I am good at making links and connections to boxes that already exist - speaking in metaphor and the like!
    Oh and I think I am really on the cusp with the P/J, more on the P side but definitely not as extreme.

  11. Oops, I am totally wrong again, we have both got Ne, just yours is your first function whereas my first function is Fi! I will need to look into this a bit more! I think it's more to do with the difference between intraversion and extraversion.

  12. Hi Clippy and Nikki,
    There again...those that do and those that don't. It's not everyone's cup of tea but those that love it, love it and those that don't, don't. So take it or leave it but don't knock other;s love of it (celebrate diversity!!!). The learning it has given me has totally helped me understand why I have always been a bit against the grain, 'outside the box' or even a social misfit and made me feel more comfy in my own skin and helped me understand why I just don't get some people....which used to bug me! I wanted to like everyone being wired up like I am. Silly me.

    So I guess it gave me structured way to understand how some interactions went so well and others didn't. However....I'd say Carl Jung's stuff on the unconscious is the real way forward on that one! I love the lifetime journey of learning about people.

    And dare I be so bold as to guess (though I know you won't engage and thta's really fine). Clippy Mat ESFP!!!!

  13. Free online test: (!!!)

  14. Ah Clippy...just thought of a better way of putting it. This is not about me telling you that this Myers Briggs stuff will 'do' something for you any more than it's about you telling me that it shouldn't 'do' anything for me! If that's possibly what you were trying to do??? Or perhaps you were just saying it wasn't for you!

    I mean some people like train spotting but it does not do anyone any harm.

  15. oh dear, i've loosened me corset a bit since that comment above. didn't really mean to come off as dissing MB stuff or you because you believe in it. i think i was just saying it wasn't for me.
    but i completely agree with your take on me: I am totally ESFP!

  16. that would be FEML not ESFP then woodentit?


  17. Trainspotters are very harmful. They ruin my day xxx


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