It’s good to do the right thing. Or the left thing.
We began by writing our names in the top right corner of the page.
“Now switch hands and write your name again.”
Immediately the simple task I could do without a thought required my full focus and concentration. And the end product? A scribble that a kindergartner wouldn’t be proud of.
This exercise was how our facilitator opened up our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator workshop. Each member of my staff had taken the assessment a week prior. Tonight we were getting back our individual results, as well as committed to have conversations about how we could work best as a team with all our diverse personality types.
Now, for those familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, it is an assessment that has been used for over 60 years in the field of psychology as a way of measuring what preferences an individual has for extraversion or intraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving.
When our facilitator handed each of us back our results we had a few minutes to curiously flip through them. Some felt as if the results read them so well that it must have peered into their soul, others not as strong, but all in all the purpose of Myers-Briggs is to help a person gain awareness to their preferences — not tell them who they are. Since we had come into this workshop with the goal of having these results better our staff dynamic we then jumped into activities lead by our facilitator for each of the type categories.
For this activity we were asked to first put ourselves on a visible spectrum with the most extraverted being on the right side of the room, the most introverted on the left — with the degree of strength for that preference being indicated by how far over to one side of the room that you stood. Our facilitator then asked:
You get on an elevator in New York City and push to go to the 36 floor. Someone gets on after you and presses for floor 32. What do you do?
Those more towards the right side of the room were quick to say that they would ask the person how there day was, if they had a good weekend, ask if they had been caught in traffic. Meanwhile, the left side of the room said they would be completely comfortable with a quiet ride and would probably do nothing, take out there phone, or keep listening to their headphones. People more towards the center said it depended more on the day. The next question the facilitator asked was if we raise our hand in class, and if so, how soon will we share a comment after the professor asks a question. We learned that those with a preference for extraversion learn by talking and sharing their ideas with others. A more extraverted person is likely to raise their hand soon after a question is posed, whereas a more introverted person learns by reflecting within and may require more time to fine-tune a response before feeling like it is worthy to contribute to the class discussion.
For this activity we were split into two groups: those that had identified stronger with sensing, and those with intuition. Each group was given 8 small Play-Dohs and told to make whatever we wanted in our small group.
This was Sensing’s design:
And this Intuition’s:
As you can see the products are pretty different. Sensing (rainbow) has a preference for actuality, utility and is reality based. When this group saw 8 different colors they were compelled to use each of them in a way that made sense. Intuition prefers meanings, possibilities, and fantasy. When they saw the Play-Doh, they saw endless possibilities — so why not make Barney and a heart with an arrow through it?
You and your best friend have been training the past 5 months for a half marathon. During the race your friend slows down and says they don’t think they will be able to finish. What do you do?
Thinkers: I would make sure my friend was okay, but I would finish the race! I’ve been training for this, it makes sense to finish it!
Feelers: I would encourage my friend to keep going, but if they really couldn’t finish I would walk with them or stop the race. I want to be there for my friend.
Differences here are thinkers are logical and follow by reason — they’ve been training for 5 months, and what does their friend not being able to finish affect their run? Feelers are sympathetic and subjective. They may put more emphasis that they are running the half marathon with their friend, than the fact that they personally trained for it.
For this last exercise we were again broken up into our respective groups. In these groups we were asked to make a presentation about why our preference (for either judging or perceiving) was best. We had 5 minutes.
In those 5 minutes the judging group used the write board to make a presentation that was neatly organized in an outline fashion. They explained that they were “the best” because they are organized, are planners, and good at setting goals.
The perceiving group put on a skit that was half planned during those 5 minutes/ half made up on the spot (but still equally great and entertaining). Their skit showed how they are “the best” because they are flexible, spontaneous, and let life happen.
So, why did I decide to write about this? It might just seem like Myers-Briggs is just a silly personality assessment — only a little more legit than Buzzfeed’s “What type of Pizza defines your Personality?” And being realistic — no,the assessment does not know you better than you know yourself.
Instead I appreciated this exercise because it gave me better self-awareness as I relate to others. I realized that I have a pretty strong preference for some of the categories, whereas others I am pretty split. When doing the activities I also noticed that the categories that I had stronger preferences for were the ones that I had a more difficult time understanding the other type’s perspective, or was surprised at how differently they thought compared to me.
What’s important, and not as readily remembered, is that I may have a strong preference to use my right hand when I write but that doesn’t mean using my left is wrong (unless we are in 19th century schoolhouse). It’s natural to have an affinity for one way over another, and sometimes that is stronger than other times. It can be easy for us to see that the way that is natural to us is the best way, or the only way. But if you have a classroom full of extroverts, everyone is going to be talking over each other or just waiting for when they get to talk. A class full of introverts might have 10 minutes of silence, while thoughts are over-contemplated. A mixed class though has extroverts breaking the ice and being the trailblazers to the conversation, before introverts step in with an insightful comment they’ve been considering for some time.
And other categories show this too. All judgers working on a project might over-schedule it and not leave room for unexpected changes or detours in the projects development, but perceivers might need to be pushed to have their creativity and free-flowing thoughts set to a manageable deadline.
The best products will come from a diverse skillset with people on either sides of these categories, but that requires us to be able to be aware of our own preferences, while appreciating the strengths another person has for theirs.