Myers-Briggs and What It Means for You

 September 11, 2018

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Before coming to Duke, I worked in the aerospace industry for over a decade. I worked with and managed people with personalities similar to and different from mine. During that time, I noticed some key points about myself: I tend to not overthink small details, and I feel comfortable with deriving my own work from the big picture. I’m okay with jumping from project to project, and I don’t get along well with tracking long-term plans.

Imagine my frustration when communicating with people who prefer working on one project at a time, or those who need a clearly identified task before starting. Not to mention the bosses who tended to ask for my plans several months ahead.

The other side was frustrated with me, too, I can assume, making me a somewhat inefficient communicator and manager.

What I Should Have Known

People are wired very differently. I was first exposed to this fact around two years ago, during my first year at Duke. I learned this during my first ever Myers-Briggs workshop “How Do You Lead People Who Are Not Like You?”, offered as part of The Graduate School’s Professional Development Series. And recently I was reminded of this information during a similar workshop, “Using Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) with Madra Britt,” offered by the PhD Plus program.

As a part of Duke, you’ve undoubtedly seen workshops like these advertised. They’re aimed at different topics, with a common thread: the participants take a short assessment that identifies their personality type and then learn what that type means for their communication, productivity, management skills, etc. 

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a well-researched assessment tool. Its approach is to identify a person as one of 16 distinct personality types, each with a unique perception of the world. MBTI is probably the most promoted personality indicator, but it is not the only one. You can try The Big Five or Keirsey Temperaments, for example. Sometimes, the large number of options make it almost hard to choose.



MBTI Experience

For personal experience, you should attend a workshop on one of these, or at least do the free assessment. It can be very liberating to realize that your behavior is not unique, but somehow wired inside and typical to others. The look on the participants’ faces, after the assessment and clarification, is priceless.

The MBTI experience allowed me to name my frustration and reflect on what I could have done differently.

Use Your Advantage

Your experience can be different.

After the workshop, you can be aware of what works best for you, and this could be extremely powerful. Don’t use it as an excuse why you can’t do better in a particular situation or in interactions with certain types of people. Rather, treat it as a starting point and think how you can grow and improve.

Adapting your message is the key. Personally, I started listening more.

Paying attention allows you to identify the focus and personality traits of your employee, coworker or partner. Then you can choose how to communicate in the best way, for you to feel comfortable, and for the other side to listen and cooperate.

It really does make a lot of difference.

Editors' note: You can take advantage of the workshop the author describes, How Do You Lead People Who Are Not Like You? A Myers-Briggs Type Workshop, on September 24, 2018.



Dani Levin
Dani Levin

Ph.D. student, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Dani is a third-year PhD student in the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) department. His research topics include energy harvesting from non-linear aeroelastic effects, and efficient unsteady aerodynamics modelling using Volterra series.