Archive for August, 2013

Intuitive Listening Strengths

Friday, August 30th, 2013

I’m able to synthesize or articulate the thoughts of others.

Intuitive listeners are often good at taking the stories they hear and connecting them with a theory or an idea.  For example, after the Virginia Tech shootings, an acquaintance said that she was dismayed that there was no Christian prayer said at the university’s memorial service.  The PEOPLE Process Participant Pkg & Trainer's Manual

That bothered me, because I was thinking of all the non-Christian students that would have felt excluded during a pray, at a time when they needed to join together in their common grief.  I repeated her comment to an ENFP friend, and his reply was:  “Our founding fathers understood the tyranny of the majority over the minority, but people today forget that!  You can’t get better validation than be told that you think like our founding fathers, and I’m usually grateful when Intuitive listeners take my specific experience and connect it to the general experience.”

Another strength of Intuitive listeners is that they’re able to sort through a great deal of information and find the essential idea.

“My strengths as a listener are being able to synthesize or articulate the thoughts of others, particularly in group discussions, when discussion is going all over the place,” says Carolyn, INFP. “I can pull together what I have heard.”

“If a client is really upset, I’ll say, “Start anyplace, and we’ll track it together,” says Catherine, ENTJ.  “After they get all the pieces out, no matter how chaotic their story, I can feel myself consulting my Intuition, asking myself if I have the full picture.”

Intuitive listeners are also good at listening for possibilities, when something the speaker said might mean more than they are giving it credit for.

“My strengths are that I’ll hear something in passing, an extraneous comment, a little nugget that has been thrown out,” says Dee, ENTP, “and I’ll ask them to say some more about it.”  I’ll help them return to that comment and unpack it.”

The best thing about Intuitive listeners, however, is that they can sometimes listen for possibilities in the speaker, and be able to tell them that they are worth more than they give themselves credit for.

“Beyond just the data gathering, I try to help people identify their strengths, to reframe things when they’re feeling very negative about themselves,” says Craig, ENFP.  “I remember when I was a kid, walking home from lunch with this girl in my class.  She was burdened because the other kids were making fun of her.  I said something about her talents, and after that, the poison was gone for her.  When I’m working with clients as well, I try to help people see themselves so that they like what they see.”

How Does Type Influence Our Listening?

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

In the last blog update, 16 people were asked the question,  “Who is the best listener in your life?” and 14 of them mentioned an Introvert!  Do Introverts really have a natural advantage over Extraverts when it comes to listening?     

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According to the type theory, Introverts have two good reasons to listen more than talk.  First of all, they have a lower need to talk because they process their thoughts internally.  They may want to share their completed thoughts with others, but that usually requires less time than thinking through something out loud.

Second, when Introverts talk, they’re using their Auxiliary function, which is not what they’re best at, so they don’t get the positive response that Extraverts do.  After awhile, they become less confident and more critical of themselves when they speak.  The role of listener becomes a better way for them to garner self-esteem.

Extraverts, on the other hand, have two good reasons to talk more than listen.  First, they need to process their thoughts out loud.  They often do their best thinking when they are talking, so they need to have several good listeners in their lives to allow them to reach clarity and understanding.

Second, Extraverts derive greater self-esteem from talking than Introverts. Because they are Extraverts, they are showing their dominant function to the world, which is what they’re best at, whether it’s practical knowledge, possibilities, logic or caring.  When they finish speaking, they usually get a better response from others, and more of a sense of accomplishment in their speech.  It’s hard to give that up and switch over into listening.

However, just because Introverts tend to do more listening, they don’t necessarily listen well.  Although they may be silent when someone else is speaking, they may actually have a strong internal dialogue going, and may be listening more to themselves than the speaker.

Let’s face it!  It’s an effort for all of us to be good listeners.  Extraverts have to manage their external voice, and Introverts have to manage their internal voice.

In trying to become a good human being though, nothing makes a bigger difference than developing the ability to listen well.  No matter what else we do for other people, if we listen attentively and sypathetically to what they are saying, and let them know that they have been heard and understood, that will mean the most to them.

What Do The Best Listeners Do? What Do The Worst Listeners Do?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

The best listeners give you their time.

The best listeners send the message that you can take as long as you want to get your thoughts out.  They are listening, and will continue to listen until you are finished.

“My girlfriend, Paula, an INFP, is the best listener I know,” says Pam, INTJ.  “She lets me go through the whole shebang without interrupting!

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“The best listener I know is an INFJ who became my mentor,” says, Dee, ENTP.  “When she listens, she doesn’t intervene a lot while you are telling your story.  She lets you get your narrative well said.”

“My INFP daughter is the best listener I know,” says Catherine, ENTJ.  “She waits to hear the whole story, even though it’s often a complicated story with lots of layers.”

“My INFJ mother is one of the best listeners in my life,” says Dan, ESTP.  “She takes the time to actually hear what I’m saying.  I solve problems best by talking about them, and I usually have to talk a lot before I get to a final thought.  It helps me when people take the time to really listen to everything that I have to say.”

“My father was an INFP and he was an excellent listener,” says Anna, ISFP. It’s important that someone give me a chance to speak, and he would sit patiently and let me get through the whole idea.  With some people, when I stop to take a breath, they take off on their own story.”

The worst listeners don’t give you their time.

The worst listeners send the message that if you can’t get your thoughts out quickly, you’re not going to get them out.  They interrupt or cut you off.  You can sense their impatience and lack of interest.

“One member of an executive team, an ENTP, is one of the poorest listeners I know,” says Craig, ENFP.  He’ll just voice right over you, and doesn’t even wait for you to breathe.  I’m trying to make a point and he’s already not paying any attention to it.”

“The worst listener in my life is my ESTJ friend,” says Chip, ESFP.  “She wants closure so quickly that she’ll finish my sentence for me.  I’ll go “Wait a minute, that isn’t what I was saying.!”

“The worst listener in my life is my ENFJ colleague,” says John, ENTP.  “She gets impatient with how long it takes me to finish my thoughts, and she just cuts me off and takes the conversation over.”

The best listeners give you their attention.

The best listeners send the message that nothing else in the room, or in their life, is as interesting to them as what you are saying.  They look you in the eyes when you’re talking; they appear alert, attentive and focused.

“One of the best listeners in my life is my friend, an ENFJ,” says Carolyn, INFP.  “When she listens, she pays attention to you.  She’s not distracted or marking time.”

“The best listener in my life is my INTJ husband, and he can be remarkably focused,” says Marthanne, ENFJ.  “When I’m telling him something that is very important to me, he’s right there; he’s not trying to do something else.”

“A friend of mine growing up was an ISTP,” says Craig, ENFP.  “He had a laser-like ability to listen. “When I was talking, he was there.  His mind wasn’t anywhere else.  He didn’t say affirming words, but his attention would affirm me.”

Two people who worked with Mary McCaulley, the co-founder of the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, said that she was the best listener they had ever known.  McCaulley, an INFP, passed away in 2003.

“When you talked to her, you felt like you were the only person on earth,” says Jamie, ISTJ.  “She wasn’t thinking about the next thing she had to do; her mind wasn’t elsewhere.”

“No matter who she was listening to, it could be a scientist who studied mangroves in the Florida Everglades, she looked like that was the most important topic in the world at the time,” says Anna, ISFP.  “When she listened, she was captivated.  She couldn’t wait to hear the next sentence from you and was truly interested in what you were saying.  With as much wisdom and knowledge as she had, she always looked like she might be learning something from you.”

The worst listeners don’t give you their attention.

While you are talking, the worst listeners send the message that they’re not really interested, and it’s a struggle for them to pay attention.  You can hear that they’d much rather talk than listen.

“One of the worst listeners I know is an old girlfriend, an INFJ,” says Paul, ESFJ.  “Whenever I would tell her something about what I was doing, I’d feel like it was really boring to her, and I’d end up not liking what I was talking about.  Once she was really excited about her music, so I said, “Have you heard of this band?” She said, “No,” and went on talking about the music she liked.  I was completely shot down.”

“One of the worst listeners in my life is my friend, Justy, and I think he’s an INTP,” says Dan, ESTP.  “When I get done talking, he doesn’t say anything, or he’ll say, “Yeah, OK, that’s interesting.”  It’s a flat response as opposed to a two-way conversation.  I get the impression that he would rather talk about something else.”

“Some of the people in our organization seem to have a hard time hearing me in meetings,” says Jamie, ISTJ.  “Their new ideas are flying so fast that the points I’m trying to make come out sounding irrelevant or they’re just not computed.  I don’t have a lot of grand ideas, but I do have input that might definitely matter if it could be heard.”

“I might tell my friend that I just got back from Las Vegas, and right away, she’ll tell me that when she went, she lost all her money and had a really horrible time,”says Patty, ESTJ.  “She doesn?t seem interested at all in hearing about my trip.”

“One of the worst listeners in my life is my ENFP friend,” says Janet, INFJ. “She just talks non-stop, and then, when she realizes that she’s talked too much, she asks me some questions about myself.  But I can hear that it’s an effort for her, and she’s not really interested in what I say.”

“The worst listener in my life is my Extraverted friend,” says Susan, ISFJ.  “She calls up and starts out by asking me how things are going in my life, but she quickly gets diverted to all her issues, and never asks me anything else about me.  She might talk for a half hour, but then, when I start to talk, she’ll suddenly have to get off the phone.”

The Gift of Listening

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Once, I made two lists.  On the first list, I put the names of the people in my life that I had largely positive feelings about.  On the second, I put the names of the people that I had reservations about, the relationships that I might label problematic.  We called each other friends, but after I’d been with them, I didn’t feel enriched. 

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When I looked at the difference between the two lists, one thing stood out.  The people on the first list were good listeners, and the people on the second were not.  The people on the first list always made me feel like a connection had been made between us, but the people on the second made me feel like a connection had been faked.  The people on the first list made me feel like I was accompanied on this journey of life, the people on the second made me feel like I was alone.

That’s when I realized how important it is to be a good listener to other people.  It’s not just a nice thing to do, or good manners.  Good listening has an existential importance.  It’s the only thing that helps us relieve the loneliness of the human condition.

For something that is so important, it’s amazing how little it’s talked about. It’s rarely taught in our families, schools, workplaces or churches.  There isn’t even a cultural cliche about good listening, like:  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Most people who have become good listeners learned it in some kind of  self-help or psychological setting, and they were usually surprised to learn its importance.  It hasn’t spread to the overall culture.

It’s not even a skill of certain personality types.  Some people may appear to be good listeners because their type makes them less talkative or less opinionated or more sensitive to others, but they will admit that if you listen in on their thoughts, they are often not fully tuned into the other person.  To be genuinely paying attention to another person – that is a learned skill, and one that takes constant practice.  It’s not something we’re born with.

This is the first in a series.  In the following blog updates, we asked people of all the types,  Who are the best and worst listeners in your life, and why? From that we gleaned some good, practical dos and don’ts on listening.  In the next blog update, we’re going to look at how our type influences our listening.

You’ll probably find a lot of the people you know in these pages, including the person you thought you knew the best – yourself.  However, if you decide to begin asking yourself the question:  Am I really listening?  You’ll find that you didn’t really know yourself, or anyone else, before that.

(By Susan Scanlon, The TYPE Reporter, Issue Number 97)

Mistakes We Make When Teaching Type

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

This article is not just for professional trainers of type.

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.  

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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.)