I am not a four-letter acronym, I am a free man

Updated copy of a post first published on LinkedIn July 6, 2016

The 1960s TV series, The Prisoner, invited viewers to consider the psychological implications of being labelled and conforming to collectivist ideals, versus being a free-willed individual.  “I am not a number, I am a free man,” proclaimed protagonist Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan).

Well, I have decided I am not an ISFP, or whatever my personality type says I am.

“An ISF-who’s-doing-what, now?” I hear you cry.

Millions of people across the world have undertaken an assessment to determine their personality type.  There are other behavioural and personality type psychometric instruments out there.  However, one of the most recognised and commonly used is the psychology of Carl Jung, as adapted and interpreted by one Isabel Briggs-Myers and one Katharine Cook Briggs (aka the Myers-Briggs thing).

Personality types

Here comes the “science”.  In a nutshell, four dichotomies determine your personality.  Firstly, how you take in (or Perceive) information, which you can do in a detailed, sequential sort of way (Sensing) or a big picture, snapshot sort of way (iNtuition).  Then, you need to consider how you make decisions (or Judgements) based on that information, which you can do objectively (Thinking) or empathetically (Feeling).  One of these Perceiving or Judging dichotomies will dominate your approach to dealing with the world.  Finally, you will put your energy into your dominant approach either by focusing on the external world (Extraversion) or by internalising it (Introversion).  The answers to these four dichotomies yield 16 personality types, each identified by a four-letter acronym.  Only it’s not “science”, it’s just a metaphor for observable behaviour.  you might as well refer to the Native American Medicine Wheel or even Astrology to determine your personality.

Confused?  You should be!  Yet we are told how these four dichotomies apply most often to you determines your personality type.  This in turn determines how you are likely to respond to external stimuli.

The problem with all of this is that people are, well, people.  We are just trying to categorise certain observable behaviours.  Neuroscience now shows that our rational and emotional minds are quite able to be trained to respond in whatever way we choose to any given situation.  So why straight-jacket us with a “type”?  And why make that type so darned complicated?

The concept of preference

What if we viewed some of these types simply as behavioural preferences?  What would these preferences be?  It turns out four such behavioural modes will suffice.  It seems having 16 types really does seem excessive.

What if we could recognise we already have relatively easy access to more than one behavioural mode, say two or even three of these modes?  Would personality typing continue to be appropriate to define us?  I suggest not.

I know I extravert my perceptions and introvert my feelings (apparently this means I work with bursts of energy and makes me a P), but I am quite able to plan out my day too (J).  I’m also happy taking in information in different ways (S and N) and applying both rational thinking and emotional feelings (T and F) to make decisions.  I spend long periods of time focusing on others’ needs and taking in others’ perspectives (E) and I spend long periods of time on my own reflecting and making sense of that data (I).

I am all these things and more.  We need a behavioural psychometric that understands people.  I believe I have found one such tool, called MiRo.  I use it a lot in my organisation development consulting, coaching and facilitation practice.  I’m so excited about it, I have recently become accredited to provide training to others to become MiRo Practitioners.

If you think there’s a better way to help people understand and adapt their behaviour, then I’d like to hear about it.  Get in touch to share your thoughts.  Alternatively, click here to find out more about the MiRo behavioural psychometric.

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

Posted in Coaching, Journey, Leadership development, personal development, Psychometrics, Reflection and tagged , , .

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