To Communicate More Clearly, Get to Know Yourself First!

Can your preferences – where you place your focus, how you take in information, how you make judgments, and how you orient yourself to the outside world – influence how you interact with your colleagues? Yes, tremendously! The way you communicate information at work has a lot to do with how you function in your everyday life.

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To someone like me (a lifelong introspective type who studied psychology for many years and has taken numerous personality tests), this seems instantly apparent. Lately it’s become clear that there aren’t many folks with my wacky inclinations within the marketing communications world, at least not within my professional network. Why not explore this topic to get us all on the same page?

My all-time favourite personality assessment is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It describes your preferences between two opposite approaches in four categories. I first learned about it in Personality Psychology class during my undergraduate studies, but it was via my Master’s program that I had the opportunity to take the official test (unofficial versions of which abound online), which resulted in my first four-letter profile: INFJ.

As a future Counselling Psychologist, my preferences at the time were to emphasize meaning, connections, motivation, and insights. I wanted to serve others and use my values to determine my vision for the future. This is classic for those with the Intuitive-Feeling (NF) preference combination on the MBTI. Which, it now turns out, I no longer have! My newest results, made available during my post-graduate studies, show that I have a moderate preference for the opposite combination: Sensing-Thinking (ST).

Before I go on, let’s go through a really basic description of each pair of preferences:

Focus E-Extroversion: preferring to focus on other people and things. Recharging your batteries by seeking stimulation. I-Introversion: preferring to focus on thoughts, feelings, ideas, and reactions. Recharging your batteries by avoiding stimulation.
Taking In Information S-Sensing: preferring facts and details in the here and now. N-Intuition: preferring general concepts, the big picture, and future possibilities.
Making Judgments T-Thinking: preferring logic and objectivity while questioning ideas. F-Feeling: preferring harmony and subjectivity while accepting ideas.
Orientation to the Outside World J-Judging: preferring organized plans with clear goals and an orderly path. P-Perception: preferring flexibility and spontaneity without committing to hard plans.

By now, those who have spent much time with me over the past five years can see why the ST preference is spot on (on the other hand, my classmates, instructors, and supervisors during my Master’s program were correct at the time in noting my NF orientation). Once you toss in my introversion and hyper-organized modus operandi, the picture is complete! My ISTJ orientation has stabilized, but I have also developed my least used preferences so that I can play well with others.

Which brings us back to the issue of interacting and communicating with colleagues. I’ll continue with my type, since I know it best.

  • My natural tendency to keep my observations and ideas to myself does not lend itself well to constructive group work, so I have pushed myself to openly and freely share my thoughts and be a good team player.
  • My preference for structured methods and timelines may come across as prescriptive rather than idiosyncratic, so I try to insist on these standards only for the most formal documentation. You should see my Project Management plans and reports. I think I was an engineer in a past life!
  • My inclination towards liking and doing only what makes sense to me can be interpreted as a critical view of others’ methods. To counter this, I ask my colleagues to stand up for what they strongly believe in, so that I may become an advocate for their approach – even when it’s not mine.
  • Most importantly, I feed my desire for innovation, new ideas, and inspired solutions (when backed by solid reasoning – otherwise the tried and true is best, as far as I’m concerned) by collaborating with the fans of Extroversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Perception in my world. This includes Marc, Dee, Jen, Reid, and Nina. (Yup, shameless plug for my friends, and proud of it!)

There certainly are many good tips and tricks for communicating that have nothing to do with your personality profile. It’s always great to improve general methods of working with others on the job. But I have found it immensely useful to think first about what I naturally do, then use that knowledge to guide a more deliberate, inclusive approach when collaborating with others.

Have you taken the MBTI? What’s your type, and does it fit? Has it helped you understand yourself and how others see you a little better? Share your comments below.

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