Myers-Briggs Under Pressure: Thinking

by Ron

“I don’t care what you think and don’t confuse me with facts! This is our only way out! Besides, that’s just about the dumbest idea I’ve heard this century. Have you burned out all of your brain cells?

And don’t you dare challenge my intelligence or authority. I’ll make this decision and it will be the right decision.”

(If you didn’t start with the introduction to this “Myers-Briggs Under Pressure” series, I suggest you make a quick review because it will help you better understand these subsequent blogs.)

Bill is stuck! His dominant function is Thinking which helps him analyze situations and spot the pitfalls in advance. And normally, he’ll balance these great skills with either a good conceptual view of the world or a great grasp of the data, depending on his complete type.

There are four types that have this particular combination, the Introverted ISTP, INTP and the Extraverted ESTJ, ENTJ. As noted above the dominant in all four cases is Thinking and the inferior in all four cases is Feeling. These are what’s known as our Deciding functions, how do we decide what to do after we have taken in the data through our Perceiving functions of Sensing and iNtuition.

In a healthy state, these Deciding functions would then work in tandem with the “perceiving” functions of Sensing or iNtuition depending type. But, under pressure or stress, Bill begins to lose this natural balance, falling back to his dominant function which has a need for logic at all expense. Bill will either lash out in an unexpected (even out of character) emotional outburst or even if he keeps a calm exterior, be begins to take any comments or feedback as personal slights and criticism.

Balance, Balance, Balance

This is where team members and colleagues come into play. It’s difficult for any one of us to break out of these pressure packed situations. As colleagues, we want to help Bill back into a balanced state by asking and sometimes even forcing him to use his auxiliary function. Notice that Bill’s auxiliary function could be either Sensing or iNtuition depending on type. Let’s start with the Sensing balance.

“Bill, what information are you missing to make this decision?”

“I’m not missing any information, it’s just that the information we have doesn’t make sense!”

“Which piece of information doesn’t seem to make sense to you?”

“This one data set just doesn’t align with what we thought we knew. If it’s correct it will have a three week impact on the coding section.”

“OK, let’s think through that. What are the consequences of the three week impact on that portion of the schedule when we put it in context of the overall project?”

“Well, when I think about it that way it probably doesn’t make too much difference.”

As we begin to force Bill to try a little balancing act, he’ll begin to regain his footing. Note that we can’t tell Bill that his data problem doesn’t have much impact to the overall project. Bill has to come to grips with that through balancing his own natural Thinking and Sensing functions.

If we’re dealing with either the INTP or ENTJ than iNtuition is the auxiliary function, not Sensing. The approach is similar, but focused more on the conceptual or future view (iNtuition) rather than the data (Sensing).

“Bill, we’re not questioning your ability in this matter, but what information are you missing to make this decision?”

“I’m not missing any information, it’s just that the information we have doesn’t make sense!”

“Well, where do you think this information will lead?”

“I just don’t know. That’s the problem.”

“Let’s go back to your gut instincts. What is your experience telling you?”

“I’m pretty sure it has to lead us in this direction, I just can’t see it yet.”

As we begin to force Bill to try a little balancing act, he’ll begin to regain his footing. Note that we can’t tell Bill where the data should lead him. Bill has to come to grips with that through balancing his own natural Thinking and iNtuition functions.

Stay tuned. Next in our series titled “Myers-Briggs Under Pressure” we’ll shift our focus from the dominant Thinking style to the dominant Feeling style. This one may have the most difficulty working in the corporate environment.

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