I am staring at a virtual white piece of paper and wondering where this is going to take me. Normally, when I start writing a blog post, I have an idea already in mind, but this week has been so hectic that I really have not had time to think about what I would like to write about. So, the experiment. Sit and stare at the computer screen and see what springs to mind.
Ah, how about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)?
I recently attended an event where this was used on the audience. The coach explained about the use of four dimensions split into two opposing sides, so a basic dichotomy then!
I have encountered something similar to this a few years ago. I was on another ‘personal development’ course and fell afoul of a coach when I countered his assertion that what he was about to show us was new, exciting, and revolutionary. In reality it was just a dichotomy based upon the principle that a person can have both strengths and weaknesses. The coach did not appreciate me pointing this out to them in front of the audience, or that it was neither new nor revolutionary. Normally I do not go in for public conflict but this coach was annoying me by the fact that he was, apparently willfully misleading his audience or he was ignorant of the subject he was about to teach. Yes, when people who declare themselves to be professionals do such things, it annoys me.
MBTI is also a dichotomy. There is no escaping that fact. Even with the suggestion of four dimensions it basically relates to two contraries.
In the certain situations that is true. In fact, the word situation was going to develop an importance that many of my fellow audience members had not, up to that point, considered.
As the event continued we looked at preference with the tried and trusted ‘write your name with your usual hand then write it with the other’ exercise. It is quite fun to do actually, in fact, why not give it a go! Having established that we, as humans, use preference we moved onto considering things like do we focus our attention on doing first and thinking later or vice versa? Do we use reason or intuition, think or feel, and judge or perceive?
Initially the choice seemed quite clear cut, which is the illusion of this approach, but after a little consideration many people began to assert that they often do both depending on the situation. To perhaps combat this development the coach posed the question “you have been invited to a wedding, what is your immediate response?” Some replied ‘when’ and were termed planners, others ‘why’ and were termed ‘feelers’. I took a different route, I replied ‘how’!
‘How’ is not in the list of expected answers because it does not fit the simple nature of two contraries. ‘How’ is in the middle ground and utilises both ‘when’ and ‘why’ and it has for its cause something that was not considered before the MBTI was applied and that is, that a person might have a unique approach to dealing with the world.
As I have mentioned previously, I am disabled. I have seriously impaired mobility. If I were to be invited to a wedding then my first concern is going to be how do I get there and avoid becoming uncomfortable or having an accident like tripping and falling. I expect that these are not the first concerns of the majority of people and certainly had not, as far as I could see, occurred to the people applying the MBTI.
I am a disabled person and my world is full of grey areas that cannot easily be defined by Myers-Briggs. The same is true for other people as well. By the end of the event it became clear that most people use a variety of strategies to deal with life and that the choice is largely dependent upon what they are trying to achieve in any given situation. This seems perfectly understandable after the coach admitted that neither side of the dichotomy was right or wrong. They can both be shown to achieve acceptable results, only the methodology employed is different.
Using a tool like MBTI is useful, however. At the end of the event many of us could see how our thinking can be compartmentalised and follow the lines suggested to us. That said, I got the distinct impression that there were several people who actually resented being put into such boxes and I think that I was one of them. Perhaps because I have found myself in situations where a mixture of both approaches to solving a problem, that is, using both reason and intuition, has proved successful I find that I do not have a natural preference in the same way that I prefer to use my right hand to hold a pen. Life dictates how I find a solution to a problem, by which I mean other considerations regarding the physical limitations imposed upon me influence the way I approach certain problems. It must also be accepted that some problems are probably best suited to a rational or intuitive way of thinking in order to solve them, and of course there those that require both approaches.
Now, did I solve the problem of writing this blog post intuitively or with reason?