In the “Explore Products” section of this site, we introduced some new facilitation card sets that can help you deliver structured, comprehensive individual feedback sessions. Here, we offer you some tips and best practices on certain aspects of an individual feedback session that can help you whether you use the cards or not.
Bringing type to life
When providing feedback on MBTI results, the practitioner first takes the participant through a process of self‐assessment, in which the individual learns about the preference pairs and has an opportunity to assess her preferences. This self-assessment should take place before the practitioner gives the participant her MBTI report.
This process is most effective when you, the practitioner, are able to weave in stories and anecdotes to bring type to life. While we have included some stories and anecdotes here for you to use, the best source of such examples will be your observations of type in action in your environment. When using stories about type, make sure that each preference is described in equally positive terms. Avoid anecdotes that belittle one preference in favor of another. Biased stories and anecdotes may distort the individual’s understanding of the true nature of the preferences and will not help the person find the type that fits best for her. It will take time to build up a set of personal stories and anecdotes about type. To help you in the meantime, here is a process for you to reference, along with stories and anecdotes.
For each preference pair, the following feedback process is recommended:
- Describe the essence of the preference pair.
- Describe key characteristics of the two opposite preferences in that pair.
- Use stories, anecdotes, pictures, and analogies to bring the preference pair to life.
- Ask the participant open-ended questions about relevant situations. Listen to the individual’s response, then explore, reflect on, and summarize what the person said, but without trying to classify the response as fitting one or the other of the preferences in the pair, and without steering toward one or the other.
- Debrief each question, providing typical responses of people who prefer each side of the preference pair.
- Introduce the participant’s reported result on the preference pair.
- Ask the person to decide which preference fits him best.
- Explore with the participant how he can effectively use that preference.
- A trainer with a preference for Extraversion reported that when there was silence in the groups he was teaching, he became uncomfortable and saw it as “dead” time. This came as a great surprise to another trainer, who had a preference for Introversion. For her, the silent time was very much alive. In a similar vein, an Extraverted trainer reported that she had had to teach herself to “count to six” after asking a question to allow time for participants to respond, while an Introverted trainer replied that she had had to teach herself to “count only to six.”
- During an E–I exercise at an MBTI workshop, the participants who preferred Introversion asked those who preferred Extraversion, “Why, when two people are having a perfectly reasonable conversation, do you always feel compelled to interfere?” The Extraverted participants responded that they didn’t mean to interfere, but when they overheard something that sparked a thought, it was almost automatic for them to “speak that thought aloud.” In discussion, it emerged that many of the Introverted participants did not have this automatic response. Having a thought privately was just as real and important to them as sharing it with others.
- During a lunch break at an MBTI workshop, a large group of people, most of whom preferred Extraversion, had gathered in the cafeteria. Toward the end of the lunch break, the trainer left the cafeteria and returned to the training room to find two participants—both of whom had a preference for Introversion—who had quietly escaped from the crowd. As the trainer walked in, the two Introverted participants were silent and did not greet her. The trainer didn’t sense unfriendliness. She merely got the feeling that each participant was engrossed in her own private world and, just for the moment, was not “available.” One participant later confirmed that she had needed that time, and that she had felt her energy level rise as she was able to temporarily “turn off” from interaction with the outer world.
- A trainer and his wife both painted as a hobby. The trainer had a preference for Sensing, while his wife had a preference for Intuition. The couple felt that their type differences were reflected in their style of painting. While the husband preferred to paint realistically in great detail, the wife used reality only as a starting point for developing new ideas and possibilities.
- A Sensing trainer reported that she enjoys books and films that are mainly realistic in nature, often involving people and characters of a fairly similar type. She said that she enjoys the story of the book or film for what it is, and finds it more of an effort to look behind the story for its metaphorical significance or deeper meaning.
- A participant who prefers Intuition reported that he once had an evening job counting union votes—going through hundreds of figures and tallying them up. “In order to do it, I turned it into a sort of imaginative game in my head. I had all these little races going on in my head—that way I could stand to do the task.”
- Management simulations provide a good setting for noticing S–N differences. In this environment, there are a great many facts and details to be observed: what someone says, how people look at each other, who speaks to whom, etc. However, there are also larger‐scale patterns of interaction and meaning to be extracted: Who is emerging as the leader? What subgroups are forming among the participants? A Sensing trainer found it most natural to observe by noticing the facts and details and writing these down at considerable length. Later, he would deliberately step back and consider what overall patterns were suggested by the facts and details. The opposite was true for an Intuitive trainer, who preferred to walk around to get a feel for what was going on and then observe the facts and details in a more deliberate way to verify her Intuitive perceptions.
- A participant reported that his Sensing son loves games involving lots of lists—for example, listing the capitals of the world. If this boy is playing with a train set, then the train is a train. If he is watching films with his father, he gets quite irritated with anything that goes beyond the realm of reality, saying, “That’s silly, Daddy, it couldn’t happen.” The same man has another son who has a preference for Intuition. This boy loves fantasy games and will frequently transform his toys into whatever suits him for the purpose of his games. For example, his wooden soldiers can easily become witches if he so wishes.
- A colleague with a Feeling preference asked me, “What’s going on at work at the moment?” True to my type (Thinking preference), I began to talk about the tasks involved at work, whereas my colleague immediately began asking about the relationships at work. If my colleague had asked a more specific question in the first place, we might have started our discussion from a more similar place. But with the open‐ended question, our type differences emerged.
- A Thinking manager stopped by the desk of a Feeling employee, glanced at what she was doing, and commented, “Those numbers look good.” His intention was to show his appreciation for the employee’s good work. However, for the employee, this praise of only the end result left her cold. She would have preferred to hear “You did really well selling tickets to the event to so many people.”
- In a conversation with a practitioner, a man was asked, “What leads you to think you are a Thinking type?” In reply, he related this example: “If my wife’s going out with friends, she’ll always say ‘I won’t be home late’—but she will be late, every time. When I confronted her about this, she said, ‘Well, I say it so that you’ll know I’d like to get home and be with you.’ When I go out for the evening, she’ll ask, ‘When will you be back?’ and I’ll say ‘I don’t know’ because I don’t, and I’m trying to tell the objective truth rather than trying to make her feel good.”
- The same man said that others often see him as a Feeling type. “People say I have great insight into people. However, I feel that my insight represents a desire to fit people into a model. I want to see how their behavior fits into a theory. So my interest is more analytical than empathetic.”
- As an example of the constructive use of differences, the Thinking members of one office make a practice of asking a Feeling member for her opinion on the emotional impact of letters they are writing to difficult customers. The Feeling members make a practice of asking the Thinking members to check their letters for internal logic.
- The making of lists may not distinguish Judging types from Perceiving types. However, it has been suggested that Judging types make lists of things with time scales attached, while Perceiving types make lists of things to be done “someday.”
- A Judging type amused me (a Perceiving type) with the following remark when she was sick with the flu: “If only I knew how long I’m going to be sick, then I could plan for it.” The follow-up to this story is that when I told the anecdote in a group of Judging types, none of them saw anything remotely funny about it.
- Here’s a Judging version and a Perceiving version of a saying. First, the Judging version: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not likely to get there.” Second, the Perceiving version: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you never know—you might end up somewhere more interesting.”
- It appears that Judging types like to make decisions and plans and, if they are well balanced, will use these as a guide, without necessarily sticking to them should the circumstances change. Perceiving types can regard plans as being constricting and traplike. A Judging manager found it very helpful in his communication with Perceiving colleagues to stress the fact that the plans and decisions he wanted to have in place were, in fact, guidelines and could be changed should the need arise. This proviso seemed to allow the Perceiving types to relax and not feel so constricted by the plans and decisions.
- A Perceiving type and a Judging type went shopping together. The Judging type asked the Perceiving type what she was looking for. “A jacket,” said the Perceiving type. You can imagine what ensued. After the Perceiving type tried on at least 30 different jackets, she was still uncertain and the Judging type was getting frustrated. “Maybe I should just leave it for now and come back another day,” said the Perceiving type. “Oh, come on!” said the Judging type. “You said you need a jacket—why not decide now?” After mild bullying, the Perceiving type settled on a jacket to her liking. But she continued to try on others, even while her payment was being processed.
Tips for debriefing in feedback sessions
The debriefing aspect of the feedback session is especially important when you are working in a one‐to‐one situation. Debriefing ensures that you avoid two common mistakes:
- Giving your own interpretation of the individual’s response and what it means for his or her preferences.
- Being confused by a response and moving on without explaining why the question was asked.
The participant should be allowed to make the interpretation himself or herself, and this is where debriefing can be helpful. Experience shows that the following four‐stage approach is often useful:
1. Ask an open-ended question about a relevant situation.
Listen to the individual’s response, then explore, reflect on, and summarize what the person said, but without trying to classify the response as fitting one or the other of the preferences in a pair, and without steering toward one or the other. It can be helpful to ask the participant to talk about particular instances in the past in which he has used each of the preferences. If you need help coming up with questions, you can use the ones on the MBTI® Step I™ Feedback Cards.
2. Debrief the question with the “typical” responses of people who prefer each side of the preference pair.
Without making an evaluation of the person’s response, provide a description of how someone of each preference would typically respond to the questions you have asked.
3. Ask the participant to classify his response according to the preference.
Then refer back to the individual and ask him how he sees his response fitting with the typical type responses.
4. Explore a range of examples.
It is important to make it clear that a single example can never be decisive. Many factors will affect someone’s response to a specific situation. Make sure that you explore a number of different examples reflecting different aspects of the preference pair and different areas of the individual’s life (e.g., at work and at home).