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4 Steps to Understanding Your MBTI® Type for Greater Self-Awareness

So, you have taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®), but do you…

  • …remember your 4-letter Type Code (all four letters)?
  • …know what your Type Code means?
  • …use it in your daily work life, as a team member or leader, to make a difference?

If you answered no to these questions, you aren’t alone. Millions of people have taken the MBTI®, but a surprising number answer no to these questions. Yet, from my experience, Type is one of the the best models for expanding self-awareness; it helps us see how we think – how we take in information and how we like to evaluate that information. Type informs our perspective and how we address many aspects of our daily work and personal life.

Mounting research is pointing to self-awareness as a key ingredient for individual, team and leader effectiveness, and it has even been correlated with corporate performance (Zes and Landis, 2013, Korn Ferry).

Self-awareness includes the ability to see and understand your preferences and skills related to how you think (Psychological Type and the MBTI®) and feel (Emotional Intelligence), how those thoughts and feelings affect your behavior and the impact of that behavior on others. Self-aware teammates and leaders are able to shift their perspectives and flex their behavior to adjust to the reactions of others. This, in turn, builds trusting relationships and creates a respectful, collaborative and productive atmosphere. And that leads to better, more effective results, and as the research is beginning to show, more profit for organizations.

Here is one reason you may not remember your Type and all it has to offer – to discover who you are from the lens of Type, you have to be willing to be a meta-observer of yourself in real time and then integrate, practice, and apply what you learn. It isn’t a quick fix, but learning about and integrating your Type knowledge will bring benefits to you as a team member or leader and in your personal life.

Here are four things you can do to start incorporating Type into your daily life to make a difference:

1.  Recognize and understand your Dominant Function

Ask yourself: What is my main focus? What excites me the most?

Recognizing and understanding your Dominant Function will give you insight into what you deem most important, what you pay attention to and your main perspective on things.

There are eight Dominant Functions (click here or scroll down to read about the Functions), or psychological resources, shared between the 16 Types that define how people are hardwired to think. Our Dominant is the strongest and most conscious of our psychological functions. Each Dominant Function has its own aim or motivation. It is seeking a particular viewpoint – asking a central question. There are four Perceiving Functions (Se, Si, Ne, Ni) that are each seeking a particular type of information, and four Judging Functions (Te, Ti, Fe, Fi) that use different criteria for evaluating information. One of these eight Functions is our Dominant Function. It guides our personality, like the captain of a ship guiding the way.

Example:  When faced with an issue or problem, a person calling on their Dominant Function of Introverted Feeling (Fi) might pay attention to and be invested in providing emotional support. Someone using their Dominant Function of Introverted Sensing (Si) might be focused on and energized by gathering more information about the problem before responding – by reviewing their own past experience to see if it provides insight into the problem.

2.  Accept and appreciate your strengths and blind spots

Ask yourself: What things give me energy and what drains me that I might be avoiding? How do these tasks relate to my Dominant Function?

When we let our Type help us pinpoint our strengths and blind spots, we judge ourselves less harshly. We can own what we are good at and recognize the tasks that require us to call on less comfortable Functions and what we need to pay more attention to.

Each of the eight Dominant Functions has its own strengths and blind spots. We favor our most conscious Function because it is easier, takes less energy, and comes naturally. It’s like handwriting. Writing with your dominant hand is easy, comfortable and more natural than writing with your non-dominant hand, which requires more energy, feels awkward, and doesn’t look very good. Engaging our Dominant Function is generally as easy and comfortable as writing with our Dominant hand. We develop strengths associated with the habitual use of our Dominant and tend to develop blind spots around those Functions that are more unconscious and harder for us to use.

Example: Someone with Dominant Extraverted Thinking (Te) might be naturally facile and get energy from preparing a project plan or budget but may not be as adept at, or may be drained by, paying attention to the needs of team members and providing thanks and appreciation for a job well done, which requires Extraverted Feeling (Fe).

3.  Know when to call on Functions that are less comfortable

Ask Yourself: What am I focused on now, and do I need to broaden my perspective to fit the context or the current situation?

If we learn about all eight Dominant Functions, then we can tap into the different perspectives that are available to us but remain more unconscious. When we do this, we grow and develop as teammates and leaders and become more agile to face what is needed in each situation.

Psychological Type theory puts forward that we are hardwired to engage our Dominant Function as our predominant way of seeing the world. Over time we develop behavioral patterns that stem from our perpetual use of our Dominant Function. It is difficult to see, yet alone switch to and begin accessing different, less comfortable functions. Quite often, we stay locked into our perspective, and overuse our Dominant when it is not appropriate and the situation calls for engaging a different Function.

Example: It may be appropriate to provide outward praise and build close relationships with team members using Extraverted Feeling (Fe) in informal settings, at the beginning of meetings, or during lunch or company events. It may not appropriate to use Fe to connect with team members when the team is involved in the process of brainstorming possible solutions, which requires Extraverted Intuition (Ne), or strategic planning, which calls for Introverted Intuition (Ni) and Extraverted Thinking (Te).

4.  Learn to flex to other people’s Dominant Functions

Ask Yourself: What Function might the other person be using? How do I need to communicate with that person, and listen more closely to a perspective that may add to my own?

If you know where you are coming from, your strengths and blind spots, and can recognize when you need to tap into different kinds of thinking, you will have positioned yourself to be more open and accepting of people who see the world from a different perspective.

Self-awareness from the Type lens opens up possibilities for building trust, which is the cornerstone of great teamwork and leadership. An understanding and acceptance of the mere fact that we are hardwired to come from different perspectives is the first step. Becoming familiar with all of the Dominant Functions, even on a cursory level, will help you to stop and listen differently to others when they behave or say something that is foreign to you.  That, in turn, will help you move from your own Dominant Function in a more open fashion – to take in and learn from perspectives that may not be your own.

Example:  Someone with Dominant Introverted Sensing (Si) may be comfortable focusing on past experience to inform him or her about the present situation. This is opposite to someone who is energized by looking forward to brainstorm possibilities, which is associated with Extraverted Intuition (Ne). Without the Dominant Function framework, there is potential for each person to become frustrated with the other. Yet, there is opportunity for learning from, and being present with, the other person when we flex to others’ perspectives. Introverted Sensing teaches us about what worked and what didn’t and helps us focus with clarity. Extraverted Intuition opens up avenues that have not been explored presenting us with opportunities that were not there before. 

So, if you don’t remember your Type, there is good reason.  Knowing and integrating Type into daily work life involves more than just learning about and remembering your 4 letters.

The task doesn’t have to be daunting. Even discovering just a bit about the Eight Dominant Functions, starting with your own, will pay you dividends.

Our Eight Function Image Metaphor Cards™ Suite of Products were created to give you quick access to the Dominant Functions.

Do you recognize yours?

[ESTP / ESFP] Extraverted Sensing (Se) – Perception in the outer world that gathers data by way of the five senses in the present to direct the next move. Asks: What is coming my way and what action will I take?

[ISTJ / ISFJ] Introverted Sensing (Si) – Perception in the inner world that gathers data through reviewing or “re-living” relevant sensory experiences from the past, to understand and differentiate that from the current situation. Asks: How are my stored experiences informing me about the present?

[ENTP / ENFP] Extraverted Intuition (Ne) – Perception in the outer world that gathers information by connecting the dots between disparate data to brainstorm ideas and possibilities that catalyze forward movement.  Asks: What patterns are emerging and what do they mean?

[INTJ / INFJ] Introverted Intuition (Ni) – Perception in the inner subjective world that gathers information by way of the unconscious; “sees” the bigger picture, the essence of things and potential for transformation in the “mind’s eye.”  Asks: How are my insights shifting my perspective?

[ESTJ / ENTJ] Extraverted Thinking (Te) – Judgment in the outer world that seeks to evaluate information through applying logic, in order to organize and systematize the task for maximum effectiveness.  Asks: What is the most clear-cut and efficient course of action?

[ISTP / INTP] Introverted Thinking (Ti) – Judgment in the inner subjective world that searches for answers by categorizing, analyzing and giving order to data through applying subjective frameworks – to see if something fits into the mental model.  Asks: What is the most precise and refined answer?

[ESFJ / ENFJ] Extraverted Feeling (Fe) – Judgment in the outer world that evaluates situations by pinpointing the values of a group in order to facilitate and accommodate others in the most appropriate way. Asks: What is the most harmonious decision?

[ISFP / INFP] Introverted Feeling (Fi) – Judgment in the inner subjective world that seeks to decide based on a set of ingrained values; seeks the answer that maintains congruence of values with the outer situation. Asks: will this decision sustain who I am?

Want to discover or learn more about your Dominant Function?  Find out about the Gifts and Blind Spots of Each Function? Our Dominant Function Cards will give you a head start.

Use our Type Development Map to help you think through what Functions you are using in the moment and learn to flex to others.

Contact us at cindy@thepeopleskillsgroup.com to help you jumpstart your team or leadership development and practically apply Type in your organization.

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