October has been a month to add new skills and perspectives so that I may assist clients as effectively as possible. Earlier this month, I learned the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Step III instrument. Recently, l attended a seminar titled, “Using Type in Coaching”. This was an excellent class that I would recommend to anyone who is certified in the administration of MBTI instruments. The course materials were particularly informative with many practical suggestions to enhance type maturity and effectiveness. In addition, behavior that suggests an individual is operating from the 4th or inferior function or behaving out of character was discussed. This is also known as the grip. It also raised awareness that coaches and counselors need to be aware of their own biases and mindsets, characteristic of their own types, in order to provide effective guidance to those that they serve.
In order to illustrate these concepts, I will use myself as an example. My MBTI type is ENFP which means that my dominant or strongest cognitive function is extraverted intuition. Therefore, I am inclined to view the world by noticing patterns, relationships, and new angles. My tendency would be to extravert my thoughts via brainstorming rather than experience them as “psychic flashes” or a vivid imagination as an introverted intuitive (INTJ, INFJ) would. My auxiliary or supporting cognitive function is intoverted feeling. That means as I am actively generating possibilities, seeing connections and patterns, I am also quietly appraising these ideas in terms of my internal value system, or my subjective judgment (as opposed to an extraverted feeler, such as an ESFJ who tends to wear his heart on his sleeve). My tertiary, or third cognitive function is extraverted thinking. So when I am trying the evaluate the plausibility of an idea through thinking, I am likely to do this out loud although it may not appear as smooth or as a logical as an argument put forth by a dominant thinker such as an ENTJ. Finally, my inferior or 4th function is introverted sensing. Introverted sensing is an individual’s archive for past experiences especially facts and details. Since it is my least preferred function, I have to really concentrate to use this effectively. ENFP’s tend to be optimistic about tapping the potential of other human being and that is their strong suit, seeing a bright future for others. However, they must also guard against unbridled optimism that has no consideration for logic or details. An ENFP must ask how can I fulfill this vision?
There are 15 other personality types according to the MBTI classification system. There are types who want facts, suggestions, and details that are practical and can be used right away, for instance, an ISTJ or ESTJ. These types have minimal use for what they might call a “pie in the sky” scheme. Also, they might view metaphorical exercises such as, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” as a “flake alert” rather than a way to tap one inner resources. There are types who might extract deep insights from such a reflection but a sensing-thinking (ST) type may not. Being aware of (or at least having an educated guess) about what type of personality you are serving is key. It is also important to self-monitor your own type so that you can effectively interface with a client. My optimistic vision of your future can certainly be my lead message but it is critical that I back it up with some logic and details. In this case, I may need to prepare my mindset more carefully for a sensing thinking (ST) type of client than perhaps another type.
Another important point to keep in mind for both a coach’s self-appraisal and that of the client is the order of functions, primarily the dominant and auxiliary processes. How well are they developed and in balance at this time? For example, is the individual, in this case an ENFP, balancing the dominant information gathering function of intuition with the judgment function of evaluating this information through an internal value system (often it’s impact on people)? An ENFP that does not take a moment to discern among ideas, choices, and opportunities will see these things as all being equal and therefore not give needed focus to the ones that truly resonates within him/herself. The result is a scattering of energies and a tendency to become overextended.
Also what if stress has made an individual fall into “the grip”? The grip, first identified by Dr. Naomi Quenk, is the condition where an individual is “not himself” and is using his 4th or weakest function to interact with the world. For example, an ENFP might develop an obsession for details but since attention to details is a somewhat underdeveloped area of cognition, the ENFP is unlikely to discern what is important or relevant or what is not. Seeing an ENFP that is suddenly obsessed with unimportant details that he/she would normally ignore in most cases is a sign that she may be using her 4th function ineffectively. Generally speaking, the 4th function is not often used because it requires so much mental energy to use it effectively. Therefore, if an immature version of appears to be at work, stress is probably responsible. For more information about concept of the grip, please read “Was That Really Me?” by Dr. Quenk.
The information presented in the “Coaching for Type” seminar was intended to identify the theoretical underpinnings of type as well as be a source of practical suggestions for effective coaching and/or counseling. The point is not to teach type to the client or engage him/her in a theoretical discussion about what type is. Rather type awareness is one a way for a coach/counselor to be aware of her strengths and biases as well as those behaviors and attitudes that require extra self-monitoring when coaching. It is also an effective avenue to assist a client in his/her personal development which can ultimately lead to an overall increase in satisfaction with life.
***Please note, there are other instruments and methods that provide valuable feedback and a starting point for an effective coaching/counseling relationship. I happen to be well-versed in the use of the MBTI so I share my insights for that reason.