Changing Personality Dynamics
 
Sylvia Lane

Recently, I have been exploring causes of changes in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) results that individuals could experience as you mature and grow.  The MBTI® identifies basic personality preferences, and one of the reasons we like this instrument is because of its preference scale that shows your degree of preference in your personality traits and that your personality is not “fixed.” Because your personality is not fixed, you can move on the preference scale to adapt to certain situations, people and job expectations.  In this blog, I’ll share some examples of how and why this happens and how you can use your understanding of personality to be more successful in your work and relationships.

In 1998, Isabel Myers and her daughter Katherine Briggs used the personality theory of psychologist Carl Jung and created 16 distinct personality types.  They organized their information into four distinct aspects of personality, including:

  1. Introversion and Extroversion – how we energize ourselves
  2. Sensing and Intuition – how we take in information from our environment
  3. Thinking and Feeling – how we make decisions, and
  4. Judging and Perceiving – how we deal with the outer world.

We have found the MBTI® particularly useful for executive training and coaching.  Individuals are more likely to accept differences in working styles of their fellow team members and adapt their style if they can more easily understand the unique contributions and approaches to communication, decision-making, and data gathering of each team member.  They recognize the value of identifying strengths and building upon these individually.  The payoff is increased efficiency, enhanced communication, stronger relationships and more positive results for the organization as a whole.

An example of how an individual’s personality can change, let’s explore the personality aspect of Introversion and Extroversion. “People who prefer Extraversion like to focus on the outer world of people and activity.  They direct their energy and attention outward and receive energy from interacting with people and from taking action.  People who prefer Introversion like to focus on their own inner world of ideas and experiences.  They direct their energy and attention inward and receive energy from reflecting on their thoughts, memories, and feelings.” This quote is taken from Introduction to Type, Sixth Edition, by Isabel Briggs Myers, CPP, Inc. Mountain View, Ca. 1998.

A typical scenario could be where the knowledgeable Introvert may be a great speechwriter for the more Extroverted sales and marketing professional.  While the Extrovert needs the extra energy from interactions of others to keep going, the Introvert needs quiet time alone in preparation for the larger meeting and then need time alone to decompress later.  Many of us can see ourselves in both scenarios, however, we tend to be more comfortable with one more than the other.  This is why we speak of preferences rather than hard and fast traits or characteristics, and that we can adapt and move on the preference scale to tap into other personality characteristics.

Imagine that you are right-handed and get forced into using your left due to an injury.  You discover that you can do it.  It takes time, additional concentration and focus, and it is a conscious choice for change instead of an automatic function.  We make these kinds of changes often because of job requirements, team interactions or changes in our life without paying attention to the change occurring.  The Introvert becomes a public speaker.  The Intuitive one seeks out reliable data that can be verified that a Sensing person starts with.  The Sensing person relies on a hunch or “sixth sense” source of information like the Intuitive one naturally does.  The Judging person decides to plan with more flexibility like a person with a Perceiving preference would instead of honoring the need for order and predictability. These are just a few examples of how we can expand beyond our natural preferences and tap into other personality dimensions available to us.

We recognize that our changing assignments can force us to choose to expand our preferences.  Often a promotion requires the Introvert take on activities which may be more comfortable for the Extrovert, such as facilitating team meetings or leading sales opportunities.  The Introverted individual making the change may at first feel like it requires using the less dominant hand.  Eventually, if the change lasts long enough and the practice is often and regular, the comfort level will grow and the preference could even change.

Have you noticed changes in your work, personal life, or leisure activities skewing your personality preferences in different directions? How have you tapped into other personality attributes available to you to increase your effectiveness? Share your experience and insights with us!

With Warm Regards,

Sylvia

 

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