Using the MBTI® Step III™ to Develop in Your Type

by Cindy Stengel Paris on August 19, 2014

art tree silhouetteThis month we welcome Ann Holm as our guest blogger.  Ann is an MBTI Master Practitioner and Certified Coach, and an avid user of the MBTI Step III.  Last month, I talked about how someone can engage in type development by learning about their own type hierarchy and engaging in exercises to directly strengthen their “type muscles”.  In her blog, Ann talks about a different, more indirect approach to type development, taking the Step III instrument.  Enjoy!


By Ann Holm

The MBTI Step III was the final piece of Isabel Myers’ dream to help people be at their best: to know their strengths and to effectively work on their developmental challenges.   The Step III instrument was first published in June of 2009 and it quickly distinguished itself as an effective tool for coaching and counseling.   The calculations that are used to generate the report are complex, but the report itself is written in easy to understand language. Dialogue is the centerpiece of the Step III process.

So what about this MBTI Step III?  The MBTI Step III measures psychological type development.  Whereas the MBTI Step I and II identify psychological preferences and facets, the Step III identifies not only how well you are using your preferences but also how aware you are about using non-preferred functions in the appropriate settings.

How do I use the MBTI Step III?   I use it when a client wants to address personal development issues using type.   I have used it to help clients who are in a job search but seem to be getting tripped up because of a type-related blind spot.  I have used it to shed light on relationship and communication issues.    It’s a really useful tool because I know how it works, and I can fit it into a larger framework of reference.

Here is an example.   A client with preferences for ISTJ received the following statement on the MBTI Step III:

 “You seem to prefer following tried and true ways of doing things and dislike situations that require you to stay open to new viewpoints…”

In this example, the client was looking for work but was trying to stay only within his previous industry, which was essentially a dead end.   On the other hand, he had been encouraged by well-meaning friends to apply for many jobs that were nothing like his previous experiences.  Acknowledging that the statement above was consistent with his ISTJ personality helped him understand why just applying for anything might not be his best approach.   However, in discussing this statement, he realized that he could systematically and logically expand his search outside of his previous experience.

The MBTI Step III can open up a discussion about using a skill which requires engaging the 4th function (in this case, Extraverted Intuition) while still being grounded in his overall ISTJ preferences.  Essentially, this ISTJ could stretch and develop his personality type by using systematic logic (his 1st and 2nd functions) to expand his openness toward new options.

Developing the 3rd or 4th functions need not be impossible or painful.  In fact, there are several negative consequences when we resist developing our non-preferred functions into our personality.  These include:

  • Becoming a caricature of one’s own type (looking rigid)
  • Lack of awareness of one’s type blind spots
  • The tendency to blame others for shortcomings
  • Life stress and dissatisfaction
  • Reduced competency and performance

Knowledge of psychological type is key to harvesting ones strengths.  It serves as the cornerstone to effective human development.  Essentially in healthy type development, the dominant function is developed and used effectively.  Developing the auxiliary function leads to a balance of perception and judgment.  Finally awareness and comfort with the tertiary and inferior functions serves us in challenging situations if we chose to mindfully develop those functions.

So whatever happened to my ISTJ client?  Within 2 weeks, he landed a job that was perfect for him and a stretch from his original appraisal of his available options.  He wrote to me tell me about his success:

“The two hours we spent together was the most important time I spent during the entire job search process. You put me completely at ease, explained things so well, laughed with me and at me, and most importantly, you helped me expand my thinking in a logical way. The two hours just flew by. Maybe it was because you said you were a direct opposite to my I-S-T-J and that allowed you to explain from that 180 degree opposite viewpoint. Whatever, it worked!”


Investing in Type Development – Is it Worth the Effort?

by Cindy Stengel Paris on July 15, 2014

“The kind of perception and kind of judgment people naturally prefer determine the direction in which they can develop most fully and effectively and with the most personal satisfaction.”  Isabel Myers

菖蒲 Note: The quotes within this blog are from Chapters 16 and 19 of Gifts Differing where Isabel Myers talks about Type Development and the importance of growing and developing in your type.

In our last blog, I talked about stepping through the doorway of the MBTI Type Code to understand your path for growth and development through Type Dynamics.  I suggested that if you understand your type hierarchy of functions and how you use your functions, you can start to consciously use the functions that are least at your disposal – those that for you are somewhat or mostly unconscious.

We can all work on strengthening our less preferred functions by engaging different mental muscles, just as we can strengthen the physical muscles we don’t normally use, through targeted physical exercise.

So how does someone go about this process? Is it worth the effort it takes to: (1) understand how we naturally see situations; (2) decipher when the situation calls for a different perspective and; (3) put that different perspective into action by altering our behavior?  And then repeat the process?  We think it is, but it isn’t necessarily easy, and you need to have some fundamental knowledge of your type before putting change into action.

First, you need to know that typology is about how we see the world (this is not necessarily general knowledge).  Our patterns of behavior and the level of skill we have for something develop because of our repeated and comfortable use of a particular “function.”  Skills and behaviors manifest as a result of our repetitive use of a particular mental habit. Thus, someone with a dominant sensing function will, “…become expert at noticing and remembering all the observable facts”.  Theoretically, typology gives us a basis for real skill development as well as behavioral change.  If we change our perspective, and consciously practice doing so, the skills and behaviors will follow.

Second, if you want to engage in growth and development using the type model, you need to fully understand the nature of your dominant and auxiliary functions.   Myers believed that gaining awareness of these two functions is the beginning of consciously developing in your type.  We need to become aware of the ways in which we operate, because this is our starting point – it is the direction of our compass and it (theoretically) provides us with a development path according to our type hierarchy.  This requires (1) differentiating the dominant and auxiliary (recognizing your preferences for perceiving and judging over their opposites), (2) understanding how to use them in conjunction with each other so they are balanced (which means you are appropriately taking in information and making judgments and not relying solely on one or the other) and (3) knowing the definitions of the functions and what skills and behaviors they lead to.

So, someone with ISTJ preferences must first know that they take in information through their dominant Sensing in the inner world (rather than Intuition) and what that means, and that they make decisions through their auxiliary Thinking in the outer world (rather than Feeling) and what that means.  They need to know how to balance internal fact gathering with structuring those facts to make decisions.

Let’s look at an example of an ISTJ leader I knew.  She had been concentrating so hard on gathering clear, accurate data and organizing it in a way that made sense (Introverted Sensing), that she was having trouble coming out from behind closed doors to implement the data she worked so hard to collect (Extraverted Thinking).  She isolated herself by not speaking up and keeping her good ideas to herself, which made it difficult for her to delegate.  No one knew her for the brilliant leader that she was because her dominant and auxiliary were not in balance.  All she needed to do was to recognize her type issue, and start to pay more attention to the outer world by communicating the rich data she had collected, walking around more, speaking up a little bit more, and delegating – to create more balance between her dominant and auxiliary functions.

The third step in engaging the type development process is to look for where and when it may not be appropriate to rely solely on your dominant and auxiliary functions.  For example, it might be wise for our ISTJ to suspend her Sensing function and instead call on her fourth function, Intuition, in a brainstorming session.  Rather than determining something won’t work based on past experience, it might be more appropriate for her to open her mind to the possibility that there are other ways to see things.  In this instance, it would take a concerted and conscious effort, and a ton of energy, to stop focusing on facts and just listen to the options being put forth without calling on previous experience; it would call for a different perspective – the opposite.

Using our non-preferred functions takes effort because they are opposite to our natural way of being, and less conscious.   You can’t simultaneously gather facts with your senses (Sensing) while imagining possibilities (Intuition).   Just as you can’t simultaneously be objective (Thinking) while considering other peoples’  feelings (Feeling).  What you can do is learn to suspend your natural functions and then adopt the perspective of the opposites when appropriate.  Developing balance between the dominant and auxiliary, and using the other functions as appropriate, constitutes good Type Development.

This is how Myers categorized appropriate use of the functions (which applies equally the introverted and extraverted forms of the functions, or function-attitudes:

“An appropriate use of sensing is for seeing and facing the facts, and intuition is appropriately used for seeing a possibility and bringing it to pass. Thinking is the process best suited for analyzing the probable consequences of a proposed action and deciding accordingly, and feeling is best for considering what matters most to oneself and others.”

The more you become an active observer of your own thought processes (your dominant and auxiliary functions) and engage the opposite when it seems appropriate to do so, the more you will be consciously growing and developing in your type.

The rewards of good type development are great.  Our powers of observation, applied to ourselves and the compass of our own typology, can provide “…a wide range and profound influence on effectiveness, success, happiness, and mental health.”  In fact, “the ability to use perception and judgment appropriately is a skill that can be acquired by practice, and life supplies much to practice on.”

And if it sounds too daunting to undertake this task on your own, you might consider taking the MBTI® Step III™ instrument to jump start your journey.  We can’t forget that the environment greatly influences our topological journey and impacts how effectively or ineffectively we have developed in our type – this is the subject matter of the Step III™.

Using the Step III™ as a guide for engaging in Type Development will be the topic of our next blog.


@ Copyright, The People Skills Group, 2014

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