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Sorting Out the Personality Using the MBTI Step III

A recent article by OPP, the publisher of the MBTI in the UK, titled Early Obstacles to Type Development described potential obstacles to effective type development. Indeed type theory is a developmental model and so it follows that the unfolding of an individual personality would be influenced by a multitude of factors both beneficial and not so beneficial. In fact, identical twin studies suggesting that the development of personality has multiple influences have borne this out as well (See reference below).  The MBTI Step III is one way to sort out personality influences in a coaching conversation.

The MBTI Step III was the final piece of Isabel Myers’ dream to help people be at their best: to know their strengths and to effectively work on their developmental challenges. The Step III instrument first published in June of 2009 can be an effective tool for coaching and counseling around this nature and nurture discussion. The calculations that are used to generate the report are complex, but the report itself is written in easy to understand language. Dialogue is the centerpiece of the Step III process.

The MBTI Step III examines 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 also how aware you are about using non-preferred functions in the appropriate settings. The report contains probable behaviors based on response patterns rather than general type descriptions based on verified type. This is a helpful format when a client wants to address personal development issues. It has also helped my clients who are in a job search but seem to be getting tripped up because of a type-related blind spot or an underused strength. I can shed light on relationship and communication issues.  It’s a powerful tool because I can talk about type development, and then fit it into a larger framework of relevant life experiences.

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

 “You seem 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. On the other hand, 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.

The MBTI Step III can open up a discussion about using a skill which requires engaging the 4th function (in this case, Extraverted Intuition) while still being grounded in his overall ISTJ preferences. Essentially, this ISTJ could stretch and develop his personality type by using systematic logic (his 1st and 2nd functions) to expand his openness toward new options.

Developing the 3rd or 4th functions need not be impossible or painful. In fact, there are several negative consequences when we resist developing our non-preferred functions into our personality. These include:

  • Becoming a caricature of one’s own type (looking rigid)
  • Lack of awareness of one’s type blind spots
  • The tendency to blame others for shortcomings
  • Life stress and dissatisfaction
  • Reduced competency and performance

Knowledge of psychological type is one key to harvesting strengths and can serve as the cornerstone to effective human development. Essentially in healthy type development, the dominant function is developed and used effectively. Developing the auxiliary function leads to a balance of perception and judgment. Finally, awareness and comfort with the tertiary and inferior functions serves us in challenging situations if we chose to mindfully develop those functions. All of this is further influenced by life experiences.

So whatever happened to my ISTJ client? Within 2 weeks, he landed a job that was perfect for him and a stretch from his original appraisal of his available options. He wrote to me tell me about his success:

“The two hours we spent together was the most important time I spent during the entire job search process. You put me completely at ease, explained things so well, laughed with me and at me, and most importantly, you helped me expand my thinking in a logical way. The two hours just flew by. Maybe it was because you said you were a direct opposite to my I-S-T-J and that allowed you to explain from that 180 degree opposite viewpoint. Whatever, it worked!”

Citation: Krueger, Robert F., et al, The Heritability of Personality is not Always 50%: Gene-Environment Interactions and Correlations between Personality and Parenting Volume 76, Issue 6,December 2008 Pages 1485–1522

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