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Introducing People to Type – The Pros and Cons of Different Approaches

May 2nd, 2012

Thanks to Jennifer Selby Long for suggesting this topic.  I hope it triggers some very rich discussion.

While I won’t mention all of the variations possible, hopefully I’ll mention one that is similar to the one you use or was used when you were introduced to type.

First, one must consider when the instrument results or report will be shared with the client.  I believe the report should never be shared until after the client has received an explanation of the theory and selected a type code to compare with the type code reported by the instrument.  This is essential in my mind as the validity data on the instruments range from 63% to 93%, with the MBTI® data reflecting 73%.  People in our culture seem to be conditioned to treat instrument results as the answer, so if they receive their reported type code before being allowed to select a type code based on an explanation of the theory, they often just adopt the reported type code.

Second, one must consider how complete the type code description will be that is used for the client to review in the "deciding on best fit” process.  I prefer making descriptions at least a full page per type code for the client to use.  Currently, I use "Snapshots of Type” which provide two full pages per type code.  They are color coded by temperament and are unbound making it easy for the client to put any two type codes side by side for comparison.

How might the theory be introduced to the client?  Here are several ways I’ve tried that you might consider:

                1.  Use the four dichotomies and have the client select the preference that seems more natural from each dichotomy, thereby creating a four letter type code for verification.  This method is following the same process that almost all of the instruments use.  I find it leads to stereotyping as often the idea of preferring one over the other while using both is often lost in the introductory process.

                2.  Use the above method, then add the perceiving function-attitudes to the Sensing-Intuition dichotomy and add the judging function-attitudes to the Thinking-Feeling dichotomy.  This becomes a very time consuming and complex process.  I found it often left my clients more confused than if I had just stayed with the preferences on the four dichotomies.

                3.  Blend the two above approaches into a process that has the client selecting preferences for an energy attitude and for an orientation attitude, while selecting a perceiving function-attitude and a judging function-attitude.  When I tried this approach I thought I had found the perfect method, but I found myself trying to explain why a person might have selected a preference for Introversion while selecting two extraverted function-attitudes. However, clients tended to recognize their use of all eight function-attitudes and tended not to stereotype. These are two points that I consider very important for the ethical use of type theory.

                4.  Modify the third approach by eliminating the preference selections and use a client’s function-attitude selections to develop type codes for further examination.  This is my current approach and it is by far the fastest way I’ve ever introduced type.  It leaves people feeling good about themselves, and there are no tendencies to stereotype.  The clients are introduced to each perceiving function-attitude and given an opportunity to use that function-attitude to assess how natural each process might be for them.  Once all four perceiving function-attitudes have been introduced and experienced, the client selects the one that is most natural.  This process is repeated with the judging function-attitudes.  These function-attitude selections are used to indicate either a possible energy attitude or an orientation attitude which combine to yield three letters of a type code.  For example, if  Se and Te were selected then the first letter is assumed to be E yielding EST, but if Se and Ti were selected the fourth letter is assumed to be P yielding STP.  The full type code descriptions of these three letters are then examined (ESTJ and ESTP or ISTP and ESTP) and a type code is selected.  If neither of the type code descriptions fit, the person is asked to examine the descriptions of the other two type codes that contain the same two middle letters and select a type code.  The selected type code is then compared with the type code reported by the instrument.  The type code selected in this last comparison is considered the "best-fit” type code. 

This process actively involves the client in examining multiple whole type descriptions as a "best-fit” type code is selected.  Clients understand that neither the interpretation nor the instrument is flawless and the decision as to a "best-fit” type code is theirs alone.  Clients also recognize they use all of the function-attitudes with varying degrees of comfort, and hence, have no tendencies to stereotype.

All four methods work, but none are perfect.  What are your thoughts?

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