Understanding differences

who-are-youI’ve just delivered a workshop to a group of research staff on the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI).  For those of you not familiar with MBTI it is a personality instrument based on the theories of Carl Jung.  Through observation of normal human behaviour Jung developed a theory of personality which identifies valuable differences between people – differences which can sometimes be a source of misunderstanding and miscommunication.

As PhD students one of the most important relationships you have at the moment is with your PhD supervisor/s!  Their role is to guide you through your PhD, offer advice and inspiration, and to support you in producing research and ultimately a thesis of PhD quality.  So it’s essential that you try to get the best out of this relationship to have a successful PhD experience.

So what’s that got to do with MBTI?  Well, while MBTI doesn’t claim to explain every aspect of human behaviour it can be used as a tool to help improve communication and working relationships.  Questions MBTI can help you answer include:

Where do you tend to focus your energy / get your energy from?  Is it the outer world of people and experiences, or the inner world of reflection or thoughts?  Do you like time to think through an issue / topic before discussion or are you happy to engage in discussion without prior thinking time?

What kind of information do you prefer to pay attention to?  Do you focus on ideas and possibilities, paying attention to patterns and connections between facts?  Or are you more observant of what is actually going on around you, paying attention to specific information and facts?

How do you prefer to approach decision-making?  Do you make decisions from a detached standpoint, applying objective criteria and consistent principles?  Or are you more guided by personal values, seeking harmony and treating people as unique?

What lifestyle do you prefer?  Do you like to make plans and stick to them, coming to closure on decisions?  Or do you like to keep open to new experiences and information, being comfortable going with the flow?

If you have a different approach to your supervisor (and other significant people in your life) it can hinder effective working and communication.

If you are interested in exploring this further then:

  • the Careers Service is running an Introduction to MBTI workshop on Wednesday 30-Apr-2014.  You can find out more and book a place here.
  • you can read about MBTI on this website or by coming into the Careers Service and browsing our MBTI resources which include booklets on ‘Type and Communication’ and ‘Type and Conflict’ as well as ‘Type talk at work’ (Otto Kroeger with Janet M. Thuesen and Hile Rutledge).
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