Applying the MBTI to Your Conversations

How Can You Know to Which Preference You’re Talking?

People often say, “I’d like to use MBTI effectively when I’m talking with other people. But how do I know the type of the person I’m talking to? How can I tell what their preferences are?

You may be able to guess many of the person’s preferences and often their type by listening to the person’s word choice, paying attention to the subjects they talk about and observing their communication style. The following are tips that can help you know what the type preference is of the person you are talking to.

Extraversion/ Introversion: Tips for Identifying and Suggestions for Communicating

Signs You Are Talking to an Introvert: Eye contact may be diffused or infrequent; will probably have studied any advance materials; may have communicated with you in advance in writing; may be pauses before they respond to a question or react to a comment; may seem to form one-on-one relationships within the group rather than participate in the entire group process.

Signs You Are Talking to an Extravert: Eye contact is usually direct and intense; may not review advance materials—and even if he or she did, still wants to “hear it from the horse’s mouth”; lack of advance notice does not inhibit participation; participates frequently in discussions; may interrupt others frequently; may be challenged by listening skills; becomes demotivated when asked to work on a solitary project in isolation.

Suggestions for Communicating

    • Give Introverts advance notice of topics and issues.
    • Don’t assume Introverts are uninterested just because they are silent. Ask them directly for a response or give them some time to process an idea, then ask for their response.
    • If you are an Extravert, don’t intimidate Introverts with intense eye contact. If you are an Introvert, make eye contact more directly than you might like and sustain it.
    • Allow plenty of discussion time for the Extraverts. This is how they process and does not mean they are resistant to the idea.
    • If you are an Extravert, don’t be unnerved by pauses before an Introverted person responds to something you say or ask. And above all, resist the urge to interrupt them, to rush in while they are pausing, or to complete their sentences.

Sensing/Intuition: Tips for Identifying and Suggestions for Communicating

Signs You Are Talking to an Intuitive: Seems frustrated or bored by detail if there is no “big picture”; may have difficulty explaining “how they know what they know”; wants to start with “cosmic significance” then move to detail; becomes irritated at detailed questions; uses words like “gut,” “hunch,” “intuition,” etc.

Signs You Are Talking to a Sensor: May ask LOTS of detailed questions; asks for facts, your experience, details; uses words like “facts,” “statistics,” “history,” “experience,” etc. to prove or disprove a position; may appear resistant to change; takes a sequential approach to gathering and processing information.

Suggestions for Communicating

    • Sensors will ask LOTS of questions and want LOTS of detail. If you are an Intuitive, don’t become frustrated or see this as resistance—that’s usually not their intent.
    • If you are working or living with an Intuitive, begin topics with the “big picture,” and the meaning/significance of the issue—the “why” questions–then proceed to detail.
    • If you are working or living with a Sensor, begin with the details—with “how” to do something—then proceed to the “big picture.”
    • Intuitives beware! Sensors tend to live in the present and past, while you live in the future. Sensors will have a LONG memory about slights, commitments not kept, follow-through that was dropped. While the Intuitive is off on the next great idea, the Sensor is still holding on to that “data” from the past.
    • Feed ideas to Intuitives and facts to Sensors.
    • Errors of fact will destroy your credibility with Sensors.
    • Facts without meaning or significance and bureaucracy without purpose will make you seem like a “lightweight” to Intuitives.
    • Get the attention of Sensors with facts. Get the attention of Intuitives with vision.

Thinking/Feeling:  Tips for Identifying and Suggestions for Communicating

Signs You Are Talking to a Thinker: Asks about the logic of decisions; focuses on questions of fairness; can appear distant; references policies and procedures in arguing a position; uses words like “logical,” “fair,” “defensible,” etc.; has relatively low need for praise and acknowledgement; uses phrases like “I think” or “that makes/doesn’t make sense.”

Signs You Are Talking to a Feeler: May have a “soft” quality to eye contact; references individuals’ values, feelings, priorities frequently; may be visibly uncomfortable around conflict; may try to halt or mediate conflicts in the group; may “stand up” for someone whose voice has not been heard or acknowledged; may attack someone who has treated another person in the group badly; conveys an interpersonal warmth that draws others; uses phrases like “my feeling is” or “I feel that . . .”

Suggestions for Communicating

    • Thinkers need to know that any decisions you make are logical and consistent. Demonstrate how the decision is congruent with other decisions and show the fairness and even-handedness of policies and procedures.
    • Feelers want to know that you have taken into account their values, the impact on people’s morale and self-esteem, and validated them as individuals. Bullying behavior, ignoring or interrupting others, failing to take other people’s perspectives seriously, etc. will be dealt with harshly by Feelers.
    • Thinkers will be impressed by your logic.
    • Feelers will be impressed by your interpersonal skills and ability to build rapport. Feelers will be most amenable to guidance and influence if they genuinely like you as a person—they typically want to please the people they like.
    • Conflict management is a growth area for most Feelers.
    • When praising Thinkers, be extremely specific and concrete.
    • When criticizing Feelers, always first acknowledge and affirm them as people.

Judging/Perceiving: Tips for Identifying and Suggestions for Communicating

Signs You Are Talking to a Judger: Expresses concern over schedules, timetables, and follow-through; wants to know who will be doing what; may rush to make decisions; becomes frustrated if things begin or end late; will learn from your experience and advice; communicates update information frequently; wants things planned.

Signs You Are Talking to a Perceiver: Relatively unconcerned about when things start and end; wants to defer decisions; wants to explore every possible option and gather more and more information; seems to prefer action or “doing” to talking; will learn from doing; communicates on a need-to-know basis.

Suggestions for Communicating

    • Judgers want to know in advance that their time will be well spent and hate wasting time.
    • To keep Judgers satisfied and engaged, be punctual.
    • If you make a commitment to do something or be somewhere to a Judger, keep that commitment or you will lose credibility.
    • Perceivers lose interest if they are simply “talked at” and aren’t involved in doing something. They can even deliberately “blow up” a process, simply to have something to do.
    • Perceivers learn by doing—if you keep them from experimentation and the consequences of their experimentation, you keep them from learning.
    • Perceivers are not always proactive in sharing update information. Ask them direct questions. If you are in doubt as to whether you have gotten the information you need, keep probing.
    • Perceivers are extremely resistant to micro-managing.

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