When using the MBTI assessment there is a focus on preferences – what is most comfortable or natural for a person in where they get their energy, how they gather and evaluate information, and the way they approach their day. This is especially true at the beginning of development sessions that use the MBTI instrument. It makes sense to start with identifying the foundation – how someone initially approaches things in his/her life.
What we can miss is that identifying preferences is just the start. To be truly effective, training and development sessions need to help people move beyond what is natural and comfortable to what is most appropriate. When we see people able to respond to situations in life this way we often describe it with terms such as maturity and wisdom.
Type development shows how this process unfolds using personality type language. While we all need a foundation that we are comfortable with and can use effectively (your dominant and auxiliary functions – the middle letters of your type), true maturity comes when we can incorporate the other preferences that are not part of our type into our behavioural repertoire. This better prepares us to respond to situations in appropriate ways instead of only comfortable ways.
For example, my work sometimes requires me to carefully review detailed documents and analyze data files. With preferences for INTJ these tasks are not particularly energizing, comfortable, or interesting for me. To complete these activities effectively requires stretching on my part to make use of Sensing. If I were to say “those tasks don’t line up with my preferences, I can’t do them,” I would be missing a key concept regarding preferences – that is preferences are simply what we prefer and what comes naturally to us, they do not limit our use of other behaviours in any way.
So what can you do to stretch beyond your own preferences? The following table lists the biggest stretch for each type; finding ways to use effectively use your inferior function.
If your type is:
Your dominant function is:
Consider stretching yourself by:
using Intuition to:
using Sensing to:
using Feeling to:
using Thinking to:
At first, these stretches can be uncomfortable. But over time you will discover that it becomes easier to move beyond your own preferences and that you will be rounding out your decision making and approaching situations in a much more flexible, mature way.