|Just Another Rose in a Bed Full of Roses
Two million people report taking the MBTI® every year. There are claims that over 40 million people have taken the DiSC®. No figures are available for how many people are taking internet knock-offs of these popular assessments, but estimates are disturbing.
To service this personality-curious population, nearly everybody claims to know something about personality type, and will gladly sell you an assessment. (At worst, some professionals offer assessments unethically without being properly trained or authorized to administer them.)
With all this commotion, it is not easy to distinguish oneself in the big sea of personality type models.
The Instrument is Not the Theory
Two aspects are reliably present in all the contemporary methods for discerning personality type:
- an assessment product (instrument)
- a particular model the assessment is based on (theory)
When Isabel Myers pioneered the first publicly-available personality assessment (the MBTI), she employed a method of sorting by “dichotomies” to indicate someone’s preferences. In brief, she posed the processes as extreme opposites (to the extent she could) in order to sort people into the proper “categories” and derive a client’s probable type pattern.
Now this is a great method for structuring an assessment, because it supports solid psychometric calculations. However, using that kind of thinking on people is restrictive and limiting. When personality type ideas are applied in this way, people conflate the instrument with the theory and unwittingly create stereotypes and impose limitations.
How Preferences Become Dogma
By way of metaphor, consider asking someone whether they prefer to use their right or left hand. If they prefer the right hand, let’s expand on that preference to suggest they ARE right-handed people, and tailor our language and step them through exercises to demonstrate they cannot use their left hands the way others do. We thus convince people their left hand is unacceptable, and pretty soon they start believing they have only one good hand, and the other is a useless limb!
This is a potentially damaging way to apply any model, and it also fails to account for the dynamic nature of the theory, or factor in any developmental process. People get reduced to the letters of their assessment results, as if they are little more than living license plates.
Our “Coach Approach”
A coach approach is about empowering people and dealing with them as holistic entities. The very term “preference” indicates we have a choice about what processes we will engage in! And it’s a fact that all of us can and do use all of the cognitive processes at various times. So we feel it’s important that our language reflect that spirit, instead of stressing limitations or treating people as if they have unacceptable (or unaccounted-for) parts.
Using a coach approach, improving type awareness is all about increasing one’s versatility with the nonpreferred “hand,” and more readily accepting its use in others. Just as it is unwise to emphasize what people cannot do when coaching them, so we believe it is important to emphasize the elective nature of preferences in the application of type. We also eschew using labels and stereotypes.
At Type Insights, we stress the systemic nature of personality in our application of the models, and strive for acceptance of preferences and non-preferences in every human being. In this way, we allow our clients to make informed choices about how they want to be in the world, and recognize which choices will serve them best. Then we can coach them as the whole persons they are—not parts.