Mistakes We Make When Teaching Type

This article is not just for professional trainers of type.

The PEOPLE Process Type Wheel

Sure, there are lots of complaints that professionals are making mistakes,  that they’re making statements about the theory that aren’t true, making statements about the types that put people on the defensive, not telling people enough to answer their questions or excite them about the power of the theory, or telling them so much they get lost in all the lingo and complications of it. But this article is not just for professional trainers of type. It’s for everyone who has more than a passing interest in type, and that includes you and me. Why? Because all learners of type naturally become teachers of type.

You will want to know the types of the people in your life. They are the ones who will make the words come alive for you. I had read that SJs were organized, practical, and persistent. But those were just words to me until an SJ came to our business and improvements that had been talked about for years finally began to happen because he kept gently pushing and pushing them to completion.

I had read that NTs were global and critical, but those were just words to me until I had an NT edit my writing. He suggested many, many changes, but rather than hating it, I was delighted. Listening to him opened up my viewpoint miles wider, amd made my ideas much clearer.

I had read that SPs were physical and playful, but those were just words to me until my SP friend and I had spent many afternoons with our children, wandering along rivers and through woods, and I’d come home filled with light and air and the joy of having a body and living in the natural world.

I had read that NFs see the best in people and want to bring that out, but those were just words to me until one afternoon when I was confiding to an NF friend that I was worried about my son’s recent behavior. Somehow, by her questions and reminding me of things, the afternoon ended with me excited again about the great potential lying in that little boy.

The gifts of SJs, NTs, SPs, and NFs are no longer just words for me, they are sights and sounds and feelings. I have real examples of them in my life.

A second reason to know the types of the people in your life is so you can solve some of the problems you might be having with them. For example, I used to listen to my ISFJ sister complain about her life, and naturally, because I’m Intuitive, I’d suggest all kinds of ways that she could make a new life for herself. But my suggestions involved radical changes in her situation, things she had no stomach for, so she always ended up having to come up with a million reasons why she couldn’t follow my advice. But ever since I’ve known her type, I’ve stopped doing that. Now I listen to her problems, and praise her for her loyalty and ability to endure difficult situations. Then she herself is able to think of small changes she could make to improve things.

I never would have had the opportunity to understand type in its living context, or to have it make such improvements in my relationships if I hadn’t taken the time and trouble to find out what type my family, friends, and colleagues were. I could not persuade all of them to go out and take workshops given by professionals, and with the majority of them, I could not guess their type without their input. If I wanted to know their types, I had to go through all the steps of training them in it myself, and doing it in an informal setting.

But I taught the people in my world about type without any preparation, guidelines, or instruction on how to teach type. I had learned a lot about type, but nothing about how to teach it. And I think I made a lot of mistakes. I wish I had learned some basic guidelines for giving introductions to type, so I could have avoided some of the errors in the trial and error period.

Then recently, I heard a speech by Jean Kummerow, an ESTJ psychologist, management consultant, MBTI trainer, and co-author of the book Lifetypes (1989 Warner). In that speech I felt I had found the basics. It seems to me that if you follow Kummerow’s guidelines, you’ll give people the maximum opportunity to find themselves in their type at their first introduction to it, get excited about the information, and put it to good use in their lives.

A Checklist For Introducing Type

Let people do a Self-assessment before getting their results from the MBTI.

Describe the preferences in an accurate, positive and unbiased way, and remember to use qualifiers like most and many.

Give examples from the literature, your own life, and the world of the trainee.

Don’t read too much into MBTI scores.

Make your goal simple: to teach the person the meaning of the eight preferences, and help them choose their type.

Provide follow-up reinforcement somehow, and give adequate handouts.

(The TYPE Reporter, Excerpt from Issue No. 38, written by Susan Scanlon.)

(Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a trademark or registered trademark of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.)

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