A Space Where People Can Be Their Best

My husband, John, was having lunch with his colleague, Richard. They got on the subject of type, so John asked Richard what type he was. Richard said he was an INTJ. John laughed and said, “You’re not an INTJ!” “What do you think I am?” asked Richard. “You’re an F,” said John.
 
When John told me about this later, I asked him why he thought Richard was an F. “I’m a T,” he said, “and I tend to think, ‘This is the right thing to do and you should be doing it.’ Richard almost never tries to tell people what to do. He has a nicer, softer style.” I wasn’t sure if John’s description was really a T behavior, but I kept listening.

“I find that telling people they are wrong and that I know the right way is very psychologically satisfying for me,” he continued, “but it creates a barrier that the other person has to get over. Richard doesn’t create that barrier. Instead, he tries to create a space where people can be at their best.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Can you think of an example?”
 
“There is a guy named Joseph,” he replied, “who does all of our video conferencing. He can be very negative and say things like, ‘We can’t do that because the budget isn’t there and besides, it’s a stupid thing to do and we should be doing something else.’

“We’re all thinking, ‘That’s Joseph again, being overly critical and difficult to work with.’ But Richard seems to see Joseph’s angry energy as a good thing. It means that Joseph wants to do some good in the world. Unfortunately he doesn’t know how to go about it, so he comes out attacking people and further isolating himself. Richard tries to redirect Joseph’s energy toward the group’s goals instead of against them.

“He lets Joseph keep talking, asks him questions, and paraphrases what he says. Eventually, he makes suggestions like, ‘So maybe we’ll only have one video, and shoot the film at the meeting so we don’t have to travel.’ Joseph stops complaining for a minute because he sees that he’s being taken seriously, and then he offers more suggestions for how to save money.

“When Joseph says, ‘But the fact is we should be doing this other thing instead,’ Richard says, ‘Thank you for bringing that up. It’s an important point. Would you be willing to take charge of making that happen?’

“Joseph looks surprised and says, ‘I didn’t say I wanted to be charge of anything.’ Then Richard says with a smile, ‘But you will, won’t you?’ Since it’s his idea, it’s easy for Joseph to agree. ‘I guess so,’ he says, and sits down with his mind directed toward positive action rather than negative complaining. Richard always manages to get people excited about what they are for instead of what they are against.

“Do you think this is something that comes naturally to Richard?” I asked. “No, he works hard at it,” John said. “He reads books like Slowing Down to the Speed of Life and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and whereas I think those books are interesting, he really tries to live them.”

“So Richard is working from a theoretical model of leadership,” I said. “That sounds like something an INTJ might do.”

“Now that I think about it, Richard does love theoretical models, and is frequently putting them on the board,” said John. “I guess he could be a T.”

“Like many NTs, he may have a vision for the future of the organization,” I said. “He realizes that in order to see his vision realized he needs cooperation from others, so he has acquired some sophisticated people skills. That’s type development, where you develop your weaker functions in the service of your personal growth. Richard may have learned early on in his career that he needed to behave in a more feeling manner in order to achieve the goals of his intuition and thinking.”

When I asked Richard later how he could be so good at both thinking and feeling, he told me that he had begun reflecting on that when he was still in college. He ran for the student senate and thought that he made a very logical case for his election, but he lost. “I realized that logic alone doesn’t move people to action,” he said. “If I want to accomplish the mission, I have to be more mindful of the human side.”

 

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