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Communication and building rapport

Good relationships are generally founded on good communication. When there is rapport between two people, both have that satisfying sense of being on the same wavelength and can see that the other person understands their views and opinions. This does not mean that the other person necessarily agrees with them but, as Covey points out, it does mean they feel understood.

So building rapport and good relationships with others is essentially about trying to understand what makes the other person tick and what it must be like to walk in their shoes. And again this is why type knowledge is such a powerful tool. Without this understanding we are likely to do one of two things: i. judge and dismiss others for being different from us or ii. use our own perspective on the world to try to talk people out of something which is important to them. Either way it damages our relationships. If we take the latter course of action we are effectively trying to undermine that person and get them to accept our views. If we do this often enough it will ultimately weaken our relationship with them and may even lead to outright hostility.

Type preferences have a huge impact on how individuals choose to communicate. For example, they can determine:

  • Individuals’ need to communicate thoughts/feelings to others. (E/I)
  • The energy an individual puts into their communication. (E/I)
  • The preferred form of communication (e.g. writing, telephone calls, face to face.) E/I
  • How much concrete information individuals require. (S/N)
  • Whether individuals favour communication which is impersonal and logical or involves them personally in some way. (T/F)
  • Whether the individual uses interactions primarily as a way to communicate decisions and opinions or whether they see it as a way to process information and gather new information, for example by asking questions. (J/P)
  • From this list it is easy to see why communication is such a minefield.

Case Study: ISTJ and ESFP

Janice and Marianne are both secretaries in a medium size organisation. Marianne has been working there for some time and her preference is for ESFP. Janice has only been there for 6 months. Her preference is for ISTJ. Both women seem to get on reasonably well at first but within months the relationship has broken down. Both Janice and Marianne believe that the other is incredibly “rude” and have become so hostile to each other they can hardly bear to be in the same room. They don’t communicate well and so their work is compromised.

A type practitioner is called in to see if she can help the women sort out their differences. What is soon revealed is that when Marianne arrived Janice was given the job of showing her the ropes. As an ESFP Marianne believes it is very important to be open and friendly. She is very chatty and likes to talk about her work and what she is doing. She insisted on Janice going to lunch with her most days and during this time she told Janice all about her life and the various problems she is having. As the new girl, Janice thinks it is important for her to be co-operative and she goes along with Marianne. She tells Janice a few things about herself. As soon as she knows her job, Janice wants to structure her working day in a way which is much more in keeping with her ISTJ preferences. For example, she wants to use her lunchtime productively on shopping or going for a walk and during her tea breaks she wants to read a magazine or a newspaper. She also likes to schedule her time very carefully and she hates to be interrupted by social chit chat. Although, she does quite like Marianne, she soon resents Marianne’s frequent attempts to engage her in conversation. She doesn’t address this openly with Marianne and hopes the Janice will just “get the message”. The message that Marianne gets is that Janice doesn’t like her and she feels rejected and vulnerable.

Marianne thinks Janice is rude because she never asks her anything about herself and so is clearly not interested. She also thinks it is rude not to say “good morning” or indulge in other pleasantries. Janice thinks Marianne is rude because she doesn’t respect her need for privacy and continually interrupts her work.

The MBTI™ session helps them both to understand why they act in the way that they do and to understand why that presents a problem to the other.  As the MBTI framework allows people to bring up complaints about the other person in a way which is constructive, both women are able to air their grievances in a non-threatening way. This allows them to clear the air between them and to get down to looking at how they can agree terms of engagement at work which will go some way to meeting each of their needs.

Case Study: ESTJ and ENTP

At work Mark, who has a preference for ESTJ, has decided to keep statistical information which will help his section show whether they are on track to meet their annual targets.  His colleague Bill, who has a preference for ENTP, continually fails to give Mark the information on time and when he does it is often inaccurate or incomplete. This has now happened so often that Mark is beginning to think that Bill is deliberately trying to undermine him. Bill, on the other hand, is angry at Mark making such a fuss over something he thinks is unimportant. Bill thinks that completing Mark’s returns is a time-wasting distraction which keeps him from his much more important job of devising a new marketing plan. One day the conflict becomes a full scale confrontation. Mark tells Bill he is totally cavalier and unreliable and that his actions are undermining the efficiency of the department.  Bill tells Mark that he is little more than a number crunching pedant. A superior, aware that there is a clash of preferences, arranges a MBTI session. Both men see that they have different ways of approaching work and that both approaches are needed if the department is to run effectively. This knowledge, together with a willingness to work better together, then allows them to find a win/win solution to their conflict.

Winning and losing

When our needs and wants conflict with another person’s there are only four possible outcomes.

1. I win and the other person loses
2. The other person wins and I lose.
3. We both lose (this is often what we call   “compromise”).
4.We both win.

It is important to find win/win solutions to problems whenever possible as this is the surest way to maintain and build good relationships. But it can be very difficult to get to win/win unless we are prepared to be open and honest about what we want and prepared to see the validity in the other person’s point of view. When people know about type preferences and try to see what both parties want through the lens of type it can help maximise respect and make win/win solutions much more achievable.

Returning to the ESTJ/ENTP case study as an example we can see that it may be possible for both Mark and Bill to be satisfied by a solution which only requires Bill to complete the returns monthly on computer. This way Mark still gets the information but in a way that accommodates Bill’s frustration about being interrupted at weekly intervals and having to perform a routine, non-automated task


© Carol Craig

MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries; OPP Ltd. has exclusive rights to these trademarks in the U.K.

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