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Use Personality Type to Change Washington?

Sep 20th, 2011

It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent – most of us agree that it’s been a long time since Washington, D.C. has been productive. Those of us outside of Washington delight in giving our leaders feedback all the time, letting them know we want them to change to serve us better. But just because we give them feedback doesn’t mean that feedback is effective.

As human beings, it’s a natural tendency to give critical feedback, and how we instinctively do it tends to depend on our personality. But when we give feedback as a country, we tend to do it through our country’s personality type, which is believed to be TeSi (ESTJ). That means our country’s Critical Parent mental function is Extraverted Sensing (Se), which is about what’s happening now. Thus, we harshly point out to Washington everything currently happening around us as proof that something has to change. "We’re in a recession! Unemployment is over nine percent! People are upside-down in their mortgages! Can’t you see it, Washington? DO SOMETHING!” We demand action. We want to see something. And we want to see it now.

Yet despite all our complaining, here we sit, with nothing really changing…

Perhaps we need to use effective feedback with Washington, just the way we would use effective feedback with an employee or someone else we wanted to motivate to change. And that of course means turning to personality type for the answer.

The way personality type used to be understood, we would use logic when presenting effective feedback to the leaders of a TeSi country. After all, logic is what Extraverted Thinking—our country’s heroic (dominant) function—is all about. But recent research tells us that approaching the heroic mental function is actually ineffective when giving feedback. Instead, we want to engage two other mental functions, starting with our country’s Eternal Child (tertiary) mental function. This is the function that provides us excitement and gets us hooked. For our country, it’s Extraverted Intuition (Ne), which is about seeing the possibilities. We might try with Washington what we’d try with a TeSi individual:

This is just the beginning, and the point of it is to get the leaders of our country excited and motivated to change. As soon as we have Washington excited, we move to step two – engaging our country’s Good Parent (auxiliary) mental function. This is the mental function that is used to care for others, and for our country it’s Introverted Sensing (reflecting on the past). Many would argue that recent history shows our country has forgotten that this mental function is how we can easily and naturally take care of other countries and our own.

At this point we would start with a team focus and move to an individual focus. With Washington, we might start with a world focus and move to a USA focus:

  1. World Focus: Ask Washington to review what the world has done in the past decade that worked and didn't work.
  2. USA Focus: Ask Washington to review what our country did in the last decade that worked
  3. Self-Guidance Focus: Ask Washington to review what our country did in the past (in both Republican and Democratic administrations and houses) that didn't work and to compare and contrast the situations with similar situations in our country's history that did work.

Effective feedback isn’t easy, but it’s a lot easier when you use personality type as a guide. Who knows – if we tried this with Washington, we might not get the typical defensiveness we’ve become so used to getting. And maybe—just maybe—we could really motivate them to make the changes we’re all so desperately waiting for.

To find out more about personality type and feedback, including how to give effective feedback to each personality type, check out The Feedback Loop.

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