Lenses that are fit for purpose

I have a lovely pair of sunglasses at home. They weren’t expensive, in fact quite cheap. The thing is that when I put these glasses on the world seems like a better place. The darks are darker the lights are lighter and there is a certain glow to everything that I appreciate. I don’t need to put on these glasses, I can live my life perfectly well without them, but when I do I just feel better. In my mind this relates to my understanding of Psychological Type. I don’t need to use it in my life, but when I use that particular lens to work out what’s going on in and around me it makes me feel better and the world feels like a better, more comfortable place.

Here’s the thing. Wouldn’t it be good if we had several different pairs of glasses that we could interchange and gain different yet equally satisfying results? Well, in actual fact I do. I have several pairs. I am now at that certain age where glasses are required for reading as my arms, quite unhelpfully, have just become too short! I have my battered old pair that stay in my handbag so that I can read labels when I go shopping, I have the reading glasses by my bed, I have my Gucci pair for special occasions (which I am terrified of losing!), I even have some ski-goggles that of course I take with me to the slopes. So all of my glasses are fit for purpose.

I am sure most of you can see where I am going with this. If all we have is one pair of glasses (or lens) then we are depriving ourselves of an opportunity to focus at other times when it may be much needed. Likewise with Psychological Type. If all we have is the MBTI® eight preference model, as revealing and rewarding as it is for many, then we are deprived of some amazing perspectives that we may otherwise miss out on. Equally important is the need to use the right lens at the right moment. I would look pretty ridiculous wearing my ski goggles to read the small print at the supermarket. My teenagers would also abandon me for life! As they constantly remind I am quite embarrassing enough as it is. So what can we do?

I would like to encourage you to equip yourselves with as many different Type lenses as are available to you and learn to use them at the appropriate moment. One of my favourite quotes is “When life gets blurry, adjust your focus”. Your choice of lens, however, is critical. The three lenses I use the most in my work are Cognitive Processes, Temperament and Interaction Styles®. Each have their place in my personal Type toolbox and even if I don’t use one for a while I know that it is there and am confident that it will perform what I need it to do when the moment arises.

Cognitive Processes (aka cognitive functions, function attitudes)

Extraverted Sensing Introverted Sensing
Extraverted Intuition Introverted Intuition
Extraverted Thinking Introverted Thinking
Extraverted Feeling Introverted Feeling

Thankfully understanding of these is becoming more prevalent in the Type community. These eight processes come from Carl Jung’s original work and are fundamental building blocks for understanding psychological type. Isabel Myers’ lifetime work was to bring Jung’s theory to a wider audience and she did this masterfully. Just one of her brilliant master strokes was to introduce the J and P scale. Without this we would be having cumbersome conversations such as “My preferences are EST and I extravert my thinking and introvert my Sensing”. Instead we can say “My preferences are ESTJ”. Somewhere along the line many have missed the all important distinction between the extraverted and introverted functions and focused on just the two perceiving functions (Sensing and Intuition) and the two Judging functions (Thinking and Feeling).

I use my knowledge of the Cognitive Processes constantly when identifying or explaining Type. If I am starting with the eight preference model I will always debrief the outer functions (E/I and J/P) first. Once I know these preferences I can correctly describe the way the client may be using their inner functions (S/N and T/F). I may simply say something like this “There are two ways of using Sensing, because of your previous two choices it is likely you will be using it like this….Does this resonate with you?”. There are many people who now go straight to the cognitive processes and bypass the eight preference model. This is fine. Isn’t it great that we have choice! If that suits you and your client and leads them to a better self-awareness then all is well. I was doing some executive coaching recently with two people who were working together; their preferences were ENTJ and ENTP. If all I had done was focus on their opposing preferences for J and P the conversation would have lacked depth and been inadequate to help them move forward. Knowing that they had very different ways of perceiving and decision making was essential to offer credible and effective feedback.

If you wish to link to a free webinar I did for AUSAPT, “The Cognitive Functions – Up Close and Personal!”, please click on this link

Temperament and Interaction Styles

I have a confession to make. It took me a long time to truly understand and value these lenses, however, with the help of both Linda Berens (whose ground breaking work developed the multiple lens approach as well as the Interaction Styles model) and Susan Nash who is a recognised expert and author in this field, I may not have taken this important path. As it is they are both now much favoured perspectives which I use in my work constantly. I tend to use them together as Temperament explains “Why we do what we do” and Interaction Styles explains “How we do what we do” and they, therefore, naturally complement each other. However, they can also be used on their own.

Temperament and Interaction Styles
Click to enlarge

Flexibility is the key and I love the way that I can meet the client where they are at. Some have ‘done MBTI®’ many times and I can unpack this for them into these component parts to bring them a better understanding of how the 4-letter code can come to life and have practical application. Others are new to all theories on Type and I can start with explaining any one of them, in this instance my preference is usually to start with Temperament. The graphic below comes from The Type Trilogy card set resource. Susan Nash and I developed this as a resource to enable meaningful conversations within the coaching environment. It is the third in the trio of Personality Puzzle card sorts. What intrigues me about using cards is how quickly clients become involved in their own process of self-discovery and how important this journey is for them.

The symbols and descriptions above tell their own story. Using language and image together is a magical combination which allows an immediate connection to the content and meaning of your conversation. In order to demonstrate how this works I am going to tell you a story of my own, using fictitious characters who bear no resemblance to anyone I know. However, you will probably be able to paint a similar scenario from your own experiences with characters who are very real to you! Let me introduce you to Jane:

Temperament – Catalyst
Temperament – Catalyst
Interaction Style – Get-Things-Going
Interaction Style – Get-Things-Going

Jane is a manager in the HR department of a large company. Her work is diverse and interesting, she enjoys the collaboration with colleagues, the freedom she has to generate ideas and the focus on helping people maximise their potential. However her boss is driving her crazy and her life is falling apart.

Let me introduce you to Bob:

Interaction Style - Behind-the-Scenes
Temperament – Theorist
Interaction Style - Behind-the-Scenes
Interaction Style – Behind-the-Scenes

Bob is her boss. Jane’s sense is that he has tremendous skills in exploring and committing to the right process but has difficulty sustaining this for any length of time and changes the goal posts without telling anyone. Does he think she’s a mind reader?! He then just asks so many questions which she feels she has to analytically justify her answers to, which is all such a waste of time and helps nobody else other than him. And then he defers all presentations to her. Apparently she is a ‘natural’, which is all very well but very exhausting!

And now, Dan:

Temperament – Improvisor
Temperament – Improvisor
Interaction Style – In Charge
Interaction Style – In Charge

Dan is her boyfriend. He is an engineer whose work life is flexible and fast paced. It still leaves him time to train for triathlons which he does before and after work. He says that she should join him in this pursuit otherwise they won’t have much time together. Jane is committed to her relationship and tries to fit this in whenever possible. This is exhausting!

And also Penny:

Temperament – Catalyst
Temperament – Catalyst
Interaction Style – In Charge
Interaction Style – In Charge

Penny is her Mum. She can sense that all is not well and suggests she come and live at home for a while where she can work out what she really wants to do. She tells Jane that her work will never meet her needs, they don’t deserve or appreciate her talents and that she should leave. Jane sees this as controlling but at the same time appreciates her care and concern.

And finally Jack: Temperament – Stabilizer Interaction Style – Chart-the-Course

Temperament – Stabilizer
Temperament – Stabilizer
Interaction Style – Chart-the-Course
Interaction Style – Chart-the-Course

Jack is her Dad. He has got used to home life without the children around and remains outwardly supportive but Jane knows he needs his own space. What he can’t understand is how anyone would leave their current job without having a new one to go to. That’s madness! And he says so.

Jane is in a bind. Can you help?

As Type professionals we are called upon to help in many different situations depending on the roles we are playing. Our knowledge and expertise can shed so many lights on events which seem cluttered with confusion and doubt. Of course, we do not have a magic wand. However, the lenses we use are all important. For most people they cannot see the lenses they are looking through; even when we have an understanding it is still hard to wear someone else’s glasses! And yet I believe we can still help people focus with the lenses that they have been naturally given.

I hope you enjoy using the lenses in all your different pairs of glasses and over time learn to use each at the right moment. If I ever see someone in the supermarket with their ski goggles on I may quietly have a word and let them know that there may be a better way. And by the way, if they’re looking for their kids, they’re at the checkout!