The Myers-Briggs personality type indicator has been considered the trusty handbook for navigating through the 16 personality types and nuances therein since WWII.
Building on Carl Jung’s concept of cognitive dichotomies, which focuses on the inclination toward extroversion or introversion as well as four cognitive functions at the epicenter of personality—thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition—the indicator offers a pretty straightforward way to immediately understand and adapt to the personalities of your clients. All you have to do is get them to take the 93-question personality test. It’s too easy! In the meantime, here’s some advice from the fiction novels of five of 2016’s bestselling authors on navigating the good, bad and ugly of human behavior.
“If you discovered that you were the only person in the world, and everything you see around you was in fact a part of you, dramatised, how would that change what you are doing right now, right this very instant?”—Scarlett Thomas, “The Seed Collectors”
Mediators are poetic and passionate idealists who often speak in metaphors. Their creative vision can have no bounds, which means they often need to be reined in by the more practical types. Encourage the Mediator’s ambitions (and be gentle for they will be the first to tell you that dreams are living things) while also helping him or her understand the practical requirements of achieving those goals. Tip: celebrate the vision of Mediators and approach criticism carefully as their sensitive natures make them susceptible to taking things personally.
“Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.”—Hope Jahren, “Lab Girl”
Architects are both strategic and creative, have a plan for everything and radiate confidence, but tend to go out on a limb on their own due to being fiercely independent. Their statistical minds can often prevent them from seeing different ways of approaching their goals. Tip: provide sound reason for your decisions and/or constructive criticisms.
“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves, Confucius said. Revenge unstitches civilisation.”—Ian Mc Ewan, “Nutshell”
Charismatic, confident and natural born leaders, Commanders can lead the team to victory or right off a cliff with little effort. Commanders are determined (to the point of being dogmatic and stubborn) and love a good challenge. They’re also highly intuitive and can smell weakness a mile away. Tip: Commanders respect intellectual challenge and will be the first to call out those they deem inferior. And although not naturally inclined to subordinate positions, they also respect hierarchy.
“There is no such thing as a fact. There is only how you saw the fact, in a given moment. How you reported the fact. How your brain processed that fact. There is no extrication of the storyteller from the story.”—Jody Picoult, “Small Great Things”
Quick-witted, knowledgeable and often the underdog with high expectations, Debaters are concerned with mutual understanding and are often notorious for beating the proverbial dead horse to get there. They love a good debate and hatching out plans, but often avoid the grunt work. Debaters are at their best when in charge because it allows them to debate without making others feel bulldozed and without burning their own bridges. Tip: Playing devil’s advocate allows Debaters to assess the true positions of those around them.
“After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration—and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”—Amor Towles, “A Gentleman in Moscow”
The Protagonist is altruistic and likeable by nature, and usually the first to stand up to the injustices he perceives and easily inspires action. This is both a pro and con. To work well with a Protagonist, play to this strength by placing him in role where he can do just that within pre-determined parameters. Tip: They naturally like to help people so by bringing the Protagonist on board with a sense of mission, you’re helping to ensure success.