As you both know, I’m a huge fan of the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory® (MBTI®), but what you may not know is why. Back in the early years of my former career, I was getting tired/exhausted from all the conflict. No matter what the subject, it seemed like someone always disagreed–which often lead to letters (this was pre-email), meetings, messy relationships and sometimes people leaving. I tried to calm and reassure your mother that this was true of every church (it is). And I even took out five year’s editions of a pastoral leadership journal to show her that virtually every edition had at least one article on church conflict.
However, after two or three years of this, I was getting tired of it. Then I read a book by David Kiersey and Marilyn Bates entitled, “Please Understand Me: Character and Personality Types,” and everything changed. Using the major Myers-Briggs types they helped me to understand that most of the conflict that people have in relationships isn’t over what most people think it is–the issue. Instead, most conflict is over how they see the world differently. Once I understood that, the world changed. And the more I’ve read and studied the Myers-Briggs types, the more I’m convinced that anyone who wants to succeed (at home, at work, or at play) really ought to own some kind of personality inventory (of which I think the Myers-Briggs typology is the best option).
What amazes me is that the whole of life (yours/mine/everyone’s) is made up of relationships, yet very few people take the time to really study them and, more importantly, to understand how to work with people who are fundamentally different than them. The person you will marry someday. The kids you’ll have. The bosses you’ll work for. The employees you’ll lead/manage. The neighbors you’ll live next to. As well as the friends/colleagues/clients/classmates/acquaintances/etc. that you’ll meet along the way—all of them will be different than you.
So how can you short cut the learning process in order to quickly figure out how to work with people who are different than you? Exactly! By finding and mastering an inventory like the Myers-Briggs types to give you a head start. Now, as you’ve repeatedly heard me say, “A typology is not meant to be prescriptive, but descriptive (i.e. just because someone has a natural tendency to do something doesn’t mean they have to act that way. The most obvious example of that is me. Even though, as you know, I’m an introvert by nature, most people who interact with me think I’m an extrovert. Why? Because I choose to act in a way contrary to my nature in order to be what people need me to be. After all, this life isn’t about us, is it?). In other words, you don’t want to put people in a box. However, the MBTI® will give you a short cut for understanding the myriad of relationships you’ll encounter between now and the time you die.
That said, here are some of the things you can short circuit and get to know quickly about the people you encounter–if you master the MBTI.
- What they’re probably good at doing
- What they’re probably weak at doing
- What probably drives them
- What they probably like
- What they probably don’t like
- What they probably need
- What kinds of environments they’ll probably flourish best in
- What probably stresses them out (and how they’ll probably respond)
- What they probably value
- What probably motivates them
- What probably de-motivates them
- How to improve communicating with them
- How they’ll probably act in meetings
- What kinds of projects to assign or not assign to them
- What kinds of activities that they’ll probably enjoy or engage in
- What kinds of work they’ll probably find most fulfilling
- How they’ll probably get re-energized
- How they’ll probably process information
- How they’ll probably make decisions
- How they’ll probably like to order their life
That’s a pretty impressive list, isn’t it? Now, if you could know all that information about virtually anyone one you meet (in a short span of time), don’t you think that would be valuable? And if you not only knew their personality type, but your Myers-Briggs type as well, don’t you think that would help you know how to resolve conflict better? Or lead/manage them better? Or communicate with them more effectively? Or work with them? Or find common ground more quickly? Absolutely!
So my recommendation to the two of you is to pick up a book on the Myers-Briggs types (or some other personality inventory) and begin to own them. While I started with ”Please Understand Me,“ there are plenty of good books (and websites) on personality types. In fact, ”Do What You Are,“ ”Type Talk at Work,“ and ”The Art of Speed-Reading People,“ are a few of my other favorites. Make your own ”cheat sheets.“ Test your ideas. And then use the Myers-Briggs typology as a framework to help you build better relationships–as well as to figure out how to untangle those relationships when conflict does occur (because it will).
Since the rest of your lives will be filled with relationships, I cannot overstate the importance of this practice. Avoid it at your peril!
Note: Myers-Briggs®, Myers-Briggs Type Inventory® and MBTI® are all registered trademarks of CPP, Inc.