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Teaching Type as a Cognitive Model – Expanding Type Awareness

Part Three in a Five Part Series – Jungian Psychological Type is a Cognitive Theory 

“In his work on psychological types, Carl G. Jung identified eight basic mental tools – ways of understanding and making sense of the world – that are common to all people, part of the structure of the human mind [emphasis added]. “

              – Katherine Myers and Linda Kirby, Introduction to Type Dynamics and Development


Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our participants walk away from workshops without a full understanding of what Psychological Type is all about. You know that frustration, when you have given a great workshop, but you still hear statements like, “I am an F, you know I don’t do T“, or “I am a high I, so you know I won’t speak up at meetings!” Sometimes, it seems that no matter how we try to impart our message, important Type concepts are lost in the mix.

And as we know, Type is not useful or practical when it limits, rather than expands, our knowledge of ourselves. And, a limited understanding of Type doesn’t help people to appreciate differences or bridge gaps of understanding.

After 20 years of facilitating Type workshops, including MBTI Certifications programs, I have found that imparting four principles  from Jung’s Psychological theory into MBTI Introductory Workshops mitigates the tendency for participants to think about Type in stereotypical terms. As Type practitioners, we can take our participants beyond the four-letters of MBTI Type by more overtly imparting what we already know, in a more intentional, conscious manner, while facilitating and coaching (click here for articles one and two). And, with just a few tweaks in our language, and facilitation techniques.

Here is the second principle of Psychological Type that you can incorporate into your introductory feedback sessions:

Psychological Type is a Cognitive Framework for Understanding Behavior 

As practitioners, we know that Type is about how we use our minds and not about our behavior per-se. Our MBTI Type preferences indicate how we mentally process information; how we like to take in information (Sensing and Intuition), how we start our decision-making process (Thinking and Feeling), and the psychological energy we have for engaging these mental functions (Extraversion and Introversion).

The way in which we like to use our minds leads us to focus on the information we trust the most – so we naturally behave – speak and act, accordingly. Preferences drive our behavior, and when we see certain patterns of behavior in others, we have an indication of the preferences they may be engaging, making behavior that differs from our own more understandable and easier to appreciate.

Our Training Challenge

Many people, even those who have been through a Type workshop, talk about Type in terms of cause and effect. This perpetuates Type stereotyping – “He is a P so you can expect that he will be late.”, ” She is a T so will most likely do it right.”

Teaching the Type framework as a cognitive model – as how we think – may seem straightforward. When facilitating, we may think participants have clearly understood that there are certain patterns of behavior that are associated with, not caused by, of our habits of mind.

So, we shortcut the use of language, concentrating on behavioral adjectives to the exclusion of the essence or focus of a preference. For instance, we might say that, “Sensors are concrete”, or “Intuitives are imaginative”, rather than “People that prefer Sensing like to focus on what is observable”, or “Intuition values imagination”.

Focusing solely on behaviors associated with preferences is problematic because behaviors are not the only indicators of preferences, and conversely, preferences don’t cause us to behave in certain ways. You can say that because I prefer Intuition, I may value imagination, but it doesn’t mean that I will always use my imagination, or I will never focus on the concrete.

We can all engage in any behavior regardless of our preferences – it’s about what behaviors come naturally to us because of our focus and what we value. We need only to look to the MBTI Step II to see that we are not stuck in the behaviors that are correlated with our preferences.

You can tell when participants have missed the central theme that Type is a cognitive model when you hear things like, “I am talkative so I can’t be an Introvert.  I can’t be a Thinking Type because I consider others feelings; I see myself in all of the Types so I can’t possibly choose.” “I am one way at home and another at work so I don’t have a Type…. “But I can do that!!!”

Facilitation Tips

Here are three tips to help you successfully weave the principle of Jungian Psychological Type as a Cognitive Theory into your workshops:

  • Start your feedback sessions with an exercise that highlights the Type model as a framework for understanding behavior

My favorite exercise to use is a free download from the Myers-Briggs Company’s OPP site.  This is a number exercise which helps participants to see that patterns of behavior stem from a logical result of the way people process information.

  • In your presentations, distinguish and explain the differences between the structural features, or values and focus of the preferences, from behavioral indicators

For instance, the Sensing function focuses on and values information that is factual, detailed and precise. We can see that the Sensing function may be engaged by someone who is behaving in a planful, methodical and practical way. Sensing is the structural foundation to which the behaviors – planful, methodical and practical are attached. They are indicators that the Sensing function may be engaged (note: behaviors that we see don’t necessarily mean that someone is that Type).

  • Introduce the concept of the Dominant Function into your introductory feedback sessions

The Dominant Function provides us with the way in which we primarily face, and focus on, the world. Our behavior can change according to what is happening in the environment, our vocational or parental demands, our own development, or what we have developed habitually. However, according to Type theory, the Dominant Function does not change, and all of the other Functions of Type are used in service of our Dominant.

Since our Dominant Function doesn’t change, it is easy for people to validate and really understand the nature of Type as a cognitive model when they are provided an opportunity to validate their Dominant Function.

This can be accomplished at the end of an introductory session by using our Eight Jungian Function Image Metaphor Cards. These cards present a metaphor for what it is like to use a Dominant, and they highlight the central question or focus of the Dominant. On the back of each card are behavioral descriptors that relate to the use of the Function (you can download a user’s guide here.)

By weaving more theoretical concepts into our Type programs in a practical and measured way, we can provide our clients with a slightly different – richer and deeper – understanding of Type than what they have previously understood. We can, at the very least, help our own clients to grasp the true nature of Type, and how and why it is a helpful model in the work place.

Next Up: Principle Three – Jungian Psychological Type is a Dynamic Theory

The People Skills Group can help you add life, depth and practical application to your already existing MBTI facilitation and coaching. We work one:one and offer train-the-trainer workshops for coaches and consultants to help you integrate Jungian concepts and practical application into organizational culture. We’ll help you to link Type to other assessments such as Emotional Intelligence, and team models such as the Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Contact us for your train-the-trainer solutions at :

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