Have you ever been frustrated at someone’s lack of attention to detail, or to the big picture? Do you sometimes feel like you and the other person are speaking different “languages” when you’re trying to communicate? The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, or MBTI®, has some helpful insight for us. As a certified practitioner, this is one of my favorite tools to understand interpersonal dynamics.

The basic difference between “S” and “N”

Without going into enormous detail, the main letter that reveals insight into communication on the MBTI is the second one. More specifically, the MBTI assessment measures how strongly you prefer one or the other as your primary means of taking in information. There are two preferences: S, which stands for Sensing, and N, which stands for iNtuition. (Don’t get caught up on the names, as they are translated and not descriptive in and of themselves.) The point is that when you’re talking to someone of the opposite preference, it can be very frustrating and confusing. People who prefer Sensing, for example, will tend to focus on facts and quantifiable data – things they can observe with their senses. People who prefer iNtuition, by contrast, will tend to focus their mental energy on big ideas, possibilities, and connections.

What the MBTI tells us about communicating and influencing

If you want to influence someone of the opposite preference, try speaking their “language” for best results. For example, if your boss is a “numbers person,” and you are a “big picture person,” give him or her some quantifiable stats that prove your point, such as what percent improvement you saw, or how many people were in attendance at an event. If your coworker likes to talk about big ideas and strategic vision for the future, brainstorm with him or her in lieu of talking about data or past experience, or try talking about how your ideas fit into the strategic vision or 5-year plan of the company.

This sounds great, but how do I know their preference?

While we cannot force anyone to take a personality assessment — and that’s certainly not what I’m advocating for — we can all look for clues. The key to a lot of positive interpersonal communication is listening, and this is no exception to that rule. Put on your curiosity “hat” and be perceptive to how they talk: do they generally talk about past experience and facts (S) or big ideas, connections, and future possibilities (N)? Try to meet them where they are, using their style, and see if your communication improves.

So, what’s my MBTI type?

If this sounds interesting and you’d like to know your four-letter type, you can either contact me / schedule a one-on-one consultation with me to arrange your assessment, or sign up for this upcoming webinar co-hosted by me and my fellow certified practitioner, Walt Anderson, on 12/12 and 12/13!


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