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MBTI Step III: Why Go There?

What is the practical value of the MBTI Step III given that there are so many personality assessment tools on the market, including the MBTI Step I and II?   What is to be gained by using this tool over another?   Like anything else, choice of tool is usually based on at least 2 factors:  What information is desired?  What is the skill and comfort level of the assessor using a particular assessment?

Prior to being a coach, I worked in several  hospitals, in 3 different states, as a speech pathologist.  Thus I was exposed to many different tests that targeted essentially the same brain functions, with a few nuances.  For example, I learned how to assess language loss using the Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Exam (BDAE). It was an exam that I knew like the back of my hand.   I knew it so well that I could riff off of it and mine for or draw conclusions that weren’t explicitly stated in the exam.   Later in my career, I worked at places where the Minnesota Test for Aphasia (MDTTA) was most often used but to me, it always felt awkward.  Thus I dusted off the BDAE and used that instead.  I have found that struggling with the mechanics of too many different tests can actually make you less effective as a practitioner.

In 2010, I became an MBTI Master Practitioner mainly because I wanted to learn all I could about a system of assessing personality.  It is a dynamic system that not only assesses psychological preferences but it measures how psychological type can and should broaden as an individual matures.  In the same way that getting very competent with a few tools allowed my knowledge and wisdom as a therapist to provide additional benefits to my brain injured clients, likewise thoroughly understanding a single system of personality assessment gives me the flexibility to use my intuition to make the most of the results.

What?  Doesn’t that narrow your perspective?  At first glance, it appears that this could be the case.  However as long as one acknowledges that assessment tools are meant to be a starting point in a client-coach relationship and the rest is an evolving dialogue, then sticking to a few tools that you know well seems to make the most sense.  That isn’t to say that you ignore other angles.  Having a working knowledge of a number of tools and perspectives is an important part of professional responsibility.   However, I believe the client is best serviced by thoroughness and consistency when being assessed.

So what about this MBTI Step III?  The MBTI Step III measures psychological type development.  Whereas the MBTI Step I and II identify psychological preferences and facets, the Step III identifies not only how well you are using your preferences but how aware you are about using non-preferred functions in the appropriate settings.  Since psychological type is a dynamic model, learning how to use the Step III seemed like a logical next step.

How do I use the MBTI Step III?  I use it when a client wants to address personal development issues using type.   I have used it to help clients who are in a job search but seem to be getting tripped up because of a type-related blind spot.  I have used it to shed light on relationship and communication issues.    It’s a really useful tool because I know how it works, and I can fit it into a larger framework of reference.

Here is an example.  A client with preferences for ISTJ received the following statement on the MBTI Step III:

“You seems to prefer following tried and true ways of doing things and dislike situations that require you to stay open to new viewpoints…”

In this example, the client was looking for work but was trying to stay only within his previous industry which was essentially a dead end.  He had been encouraged by well-meaning friends to apply for many jobs that were nothing like his previous experiences. Acknowledging that the statement above was consistent with his ISTJ personality helped him understand why just applying for anything might not be his best approach.  However, in discussing this statement,  he realized that he could systematically and logically expand his search outside of his previous experience. He could do this without going to the extreme of trying anything, which would require a great deal of adaptability not usually found in this personality type.  Essentially, he could stretch and develop his personality type by using systematic logic to expand his openness toward new options.

Using the MBTI Step III was one way of getting to this useful insight and I can report that the client was energized by this revelation.   Moreover, this was clearly a type development issue.  ISTJ personality types have intuition as a 4th function so thinking big picture can feel like chaos.   That is why a practitioner should have a thorough understanding of the theory and lay-out of an assessment tool rather than a cursory understanding.  That way, instead of being wed to a tool in it’s literal form, you can use it in a flexible manner to get the most of what it has to offer.

Anyway, that’s been my personal experience over the years.   What are your thoughts?  Is it better to use a wide range of tools or stick to a few and let your professional skills and experience do the rest?


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