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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MBTI imageBenefits: Acquiring a map or compass, or a “how-to” model for your growth and development. Understanding your type development path for learning new skills and behaviors and shedding old habits that may no longer be serving your best interests.  An increased sense of balance and flexibility and new found sources of energy and personal satisfaction. 

“The goal of type development… is not equal development and use of all of the functions, but rather the ability to use each mental process with some facility when it is appropriate.”  Katharine Myers and Linda Kirby 

The MBTI® assessment is unique among psychological instruments because it was constructed on the foundation of a theory, Jung’s theory of psychological types.  In our last blog, we outlined Jung’s theory as it was captured by Myers and incorporated into each of the 16 types through Type Dynamics.  Learning about your dominant and auxiliary functions, and how they balance your personality, is the beginning of taking type to a deeper level.

As you move through your type hierarchy, beyond the dominant and auxiliary functions, you will begin to understand the holistic nature of Jung’s theory.  We are more than our 4-letter code suggests; we have access to all of the functions and attitudes that Jung defined as his ‘Eight Types.’   Myers constructed the type code hierarchy with 4 functions for each type, from her interpretation of Jung’s theory.  The type hierarchy for each of the 16 types provides a theoretical order for how each type prefers to use and develop Jung’s functions – in the order of most conscious to least conscious.  Within the context of the theory, each type’s strengths and development needs align with the hierarchy of its code.  The dominant is the most conscious, and the easiest to use, followed by the others, with the fourth function being the least conscious and theoretically hardest to access and use.

Herein lies the power of understanding the MBTI® as a doorway into Jung’s theory; it’s a map for personal and professional development.  This built-in development map gives type its unique place in the world of psychological instruments.

So how does type development work?

Here is a quick practical example from my own life.  As an ENFJ, my type code hierarchy looks like this (click here to figure out your own type code hierarchy):

  1. Extraverted Feeling (Dominant) – bringing order to the outside world through building harmony with others
  2. Introverted Intuition (Auxiliary) –  focusing on the inner world of symbols, meanings and insights
  3. Sensing (Tertiary) – focusing on concrete data in the present or from past personal experience
  4. Introverted Thinking (4th or Inferior) – analyzing information through logical subjective reasoning

In my previous life, I was a manager of litigation technology in law firms.  As a young manager, my energy was naturally directed by my dominant Feeling function – I was invested in making sure I took care of my staff above all else.  I made sure they were happy with the tasks they were doing, that they received thanks and appreciation, that they did not work so much overtime that they were taxed, and that they were compensated for the overtime they did work.   I pulled on my auxiliary function, Intuition, to provide me with insight into how we could do things differently.  I used Intuition to excite my staff and the attorneys I worked for to implement and use new technology and move into the future.

Not surprisingly, I was repeatedly dinged for not paying attention to the bottom line – how much the technology cost, what the profit margin for the firm might be, how many staff were really needed, what equipment was essential.  I was not concerned with the business implications of my decisions.   This theme followed me wherever I went, and still does to some extent today.  I was being called on to use my 3rd and 4th functions, Sensing and Thinking, although I was not aware of it at the time.

If I had known about type back then, I would have taken the feedback as a clue to start consciously developing my Sensing and Thinking functions.  I would have begun to direct more energy into activities such as providing backup support for the technology I needed, balancing my departmental budget, or analyzing the cost savings of certain technologies.  In other words, the feedback that I received would have made more sense in the context of my type development path, and I may not have taken it so personally. We all have areas that need work!

We can all engage and work on improving the use of our less preferred functions, just like we can strengthen our muscles through exercise.   Jung said that whether we choose to be conscious of it or not, the psyche will push us forward to develop, and if we are aware of that, it will be that much easier.

And you can find your own development path by walking through the door of your 4-letter type.


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