Know Thyself
-- inscription on the temple of the Oracle at Delphi

This above all: to thine own self be true
-- William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Type and Temperament

Workshops & Consulting
for Individuals and Technical Teams

Why Might You Want to Learn About This?

Have you noticed that some people you meet feel familiar right away? They think and behave very much like you. Other people are different, sometimes surprisingly different. Even people in your own family can be vastly different.

Every person is unique, of course, just like a fingerprint or a snowflake However, there are a common patterns that allow us to classify and study fingerprints. (Or snowflakes!)

Humans are wired to look for patterns, to classify and categorize and name. Classification provides a controlled vocabulary. Controlled vocabularies provide a way to organize knowledge for subsequent retrieval. They allow us to share information, do research, explore, and learn.

Would it surprise you to learn that there are also psychological patterns? In fact, one definition of Personality is "the typical pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaviors that make a Person unique."

Understanding the distinctive ways in which different personality patterns relate to communication is a key ingredient to success at work and in your personal life. Wouldn't you love to know how to crack the personality code, to help you understand people's preferences and patterns better and to help you communicate better?

One way of classifying patterns of personality is athrough the lens of "Psychological Type", a theory developed by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and made popular by Isabel Briggs Myers.

Gordon Lawrence, author of "People Types and Tiger Stripes", wrote: "Jung's view was that we are more than just bundles of traits; we address life with different types of mind-sets. We process life experiences with categorically different mental frameworks. We are not all one type, differing just by degree of various traits."

Jung defined 8 functions or "psychological preferences" for how we take in information about the world (perception) and make decisions based on that information (judgement). All people have access to all 8 of these functions, but different "Types" use the functions with more (or less) comfort and ease, preferring one form of perception and judgement over the others.

Jung believed that these preferences are innate, and unrelated to learned skills (although they can make some skills easier or more difficult to master) Consider left- and right-handed people. They have different brain wiring and different preferences for using their "dominant" hand. That doesn't mean that a left-handed person can't use their right hand and vice versa. Similarly, no amount of skill in using the right hand will turn a left-handed person into a right-handed person.

We can all "flex" into our less preferred functions, but doing so can feel awkward or draining. An understanding of Psychological Type can thus lead to an understanding of why certain activities come easily and feel comfortable, while others are difficult and feel unnatural or just "wrong".

One of the things I really appreciate about Type is the depth. As people start looking deeper, they develop new lenses for describing similarities and differences between people. The 4-letter MBTI Type code or one-word Temperament name are each only a shorthand for the wealth of information contained in the profiles and the variations in our personalities.

Type and Temperament can help you to better understand yourself as well as the people you interact with daily. Think of the people you interact with throughout your day. Do you find some are a pleasure to communicate with, but others are more difficult? Have you ever felt misunderstood or that your contributions were not fully appreciated? Would you like to discover some clues that can help you to understand those people better?

Where did this all come from?

In 1923, shortly after Jung's work was translated into English, it came to the attention of Katherine Briggs, an American who was doing her own research on personality. Katharine had noticed that her new son-in-law had a very different personality from her daughter and the rest of their family.

Twenty years later, Katharine's daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, embarked on her own research. Isabel believed that an understanding of personality type could help people find more meaningful work after WW II.

To make Jung's theory more accessible, Isabel began developing a Type indicator in the form of a questionnaire. She learned about test construction, scoring, validation, and statistical methods. Through her contacts, she gained access to large pools of people to whom she could administer her indicator.

The resulting questionnaire uses approximately 100 forced-choice questions to sort people into one of 16 MBTI Types, each identified by a 4-letter code. As she collected data, Isabel re-worked the questions, determining which were most effective at sorting people into types.

Isabel didn't stop with a 4-letter code. She also created full descriptive profiles for each of the 16 Types described by her indicator. Each profile describes a well-adjusted, well developed personality.

In 1958, David Keirsey, a school psychologist, read those profiles and realized that they accurately described many of the students he worked with. Keirsey then developed his own theory, organizing Myers' 16 types into four temperaments.

Many people find temperament easier to understand and appreciate than Type. The differences between the temperament groups can be sharper. Temperament groups may also be easier to remember, if only because they use words instead of letter codes. Temperaments can be a quick and easy way of describing and understanding preferred ways of thinking and acting.

Today, nearly 100 years after Jung published his Work, Psychological Type and Temperament are still popular. Millions of people have taken the MBTI or the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Other researchers have built upon the work of Jung, Myers, and Keirsey. Don Lowry developed the "True Colors" temperament model, using four colors instead of English words to describe Keirsey's temperaments. Linda Berens has developed an Interaction Styles model, which looks at the 16 Types from yet another angle.

The more I learn about Psychological Type and Temperament, the more I realize that the subject is so much deeper, so much richer, than I thought. There's much more to learn.

I'd love to share it with you.