Entries for month: May 2011

A Passing Score

I marvel when I read something about psychological type written by an expert like Charles Martin. How does he understand and remember so many details about the 16 types? Me, I remember only the broad principles and can name characteristics only if the quiz is multiple choice or open book. If someone brings up type dominance, I get that sick feeling that accompanies a test-anxiety dream. 

That said, it’s amazing how often I use the underpinnings of what I’ve learned about psychological type to help groups of people with whom I’m working. Since my study of type has made me a better observer, I just watch what’s going on, as for the first time.

For example, I’ve been sitting on a committee of creative people. The group is chaired by a gentle artist—I’ll call her Leslie—a quintessential cat-herder who might rather be painting alone in her cluttered studio, but is a good leader because of her passion. After the honeymoon exchange of inspiring ideas, members became critical of one another—both in emails and not-so-subtle comments during meetings. Things threatened to fall apart. 

Some of the criticism focused on the project director, let’s call him David, with comments like: Why does he take so long to get back to me—what’s to think about? Why does he question everything? I think he doesn’t appreciate all we’re doing.

I sensed trouble. Sure enough, when Leslie booked a presentation for part of one meeting and David questioned use of time in that way, feathers were ruffled. Some said we needed an agreed-upon agenda and couldn’t afford deviations; others said flexibility and processing were the optimal way ahead.

I saw the stasis as a matter of personality type—with both strengths needed by the team—so I shot around an email explaining my p.o.v.:

Some of our discomfort during tonight’s meeting arose from differences in psychological type: David's thinking style is to ask penetrating questions. The positive side is the result we observe in his journalism when people answer those questions. But to feeling people who like to keep the peace and hear gentle and heartfelt appreciation, the interrogation can feel critical and dagger-like.

The same is true of setting up an agenda: There are differences in what people need in order to work well. Some in our group like lists and agenda items. They want to clarify exactly what the project entails. Others are more comfortable leaving plenty of space for whatever "It" is to develop, trusting that a democratic group will create something that can't be seen and described beforehand. It is good to have both types on any committee—a conversation between "time-line" and "vision" people—but we can drive each other nuts if we don't recognize the value of differing styles. 

To my ear, David seemed okay with the idea of having a speaker for half an hour if that's what the group wants. But I also heard him saying that it's legitimate to ask whether we want to give so much of the working time to one person, no matter how educational it might be. We're co-equals who need time to brainstorm and create.

Some members of the meeting would be happy to challenge the group regularly. They’d ask questions:
Why? How does this serve our goals? What will it mean down the road? Is there a better way to dialogue and find out what we need to know? But the feelers, unless trained on debate teams, can find interrogation and active argument risky and unkind.

Thus, I was glad to hear David saying aloud to Leslie that he really appreciates what the team has accomplished. That's what people with feeling preferences need to hear, and not just once! (This plagues many husbands who moan, "She knows I love her; why should I have to say it?!")

I was delighted that my email was well received. The group sailed through those shoals and continues to stay at the table.

I was also happy that I didn’t have to get too specific in my email about which preferences were which.


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