Type Watching

When I am trying to guess somebody's Type these days, the first thing I do is try to sort them by interaction style pattern.  It's something I seem to "feel" pretty easily.  At minimum, the two extraverted patterns are fairly easy to distinguish from the two introverted patterns.  Once I get a sense of the energy level, I try to zero in on directing/informing language to gain confidence of my guess.

After I have established a sense of an interaction pattern style, I start looking for Temperament clues.  Using the Temperament targets and communication clues are very helpful for helping to clarify what Temperament pattern I may be looking at.

If I can figure out someone's interaction style pattern and couple it with their Temperament pattern, I'm done.  I have their 4-letter type code now, so I can begin to match the behavior to the same whole-type pattern that the MBTI tries to get at.  If it's a clear match, I'm done.

Let me describe how this worked in actual practice not that long ago.  My husband was sent out of state to train programmers in another location, and I accompanied him.  When we arrived on the first day, we were introduced to a woman who would, we were told, get us set up for the training class and she would also be instrumental in administering the project overall.

This woman seemed somewhat shy and retiring, and I picked up a "behind the scenes" energy from her right away.  I validated this by looking for an informing communication style, and it was borne out.  Then I started watching for Temperament clues.

What was confusing was this woman's role.  She had been assigned to help us set up the classroom as if in the role of an administrative assistant.  And yet we had also been told that this woman would be instrumental in administering the project overall.  Her manager showed unwavering support for her in every word and deed.

Well, I must tell you, this woman was the most incompetent assistant I'd ever encountered.  Even something as simple as finding a spare extension cord seemed beyond her capabilities.  She didn't know where to find one, or even who to ask.  She appeared positively helpless.  (This can be a trait of "Behind the Scenes," by the way.)  Anyway, while my husband and I worked to set up the classroom for the training, we began to despair for the project if this was who was going to be administering things.  The situation was incongruous.

All the while we were working, we discussed type possibilities for her and compared notes.  Since we had agreed on the Behind the Scenes interaction style pattern, we had only four Type codes to choose among -- one represented by each Temperament.  So we honed in on that model. 

Given the role she was playing in setting up for our class, we supposed she might be an ISFJ or ISFP.  After all, we were taught that S's are statistically more common than N's, so we might as well work with the odds first.  Add to that a gender slant, with the majority of women sorting as "F's."  "ISF" were the codes to eliminate first.

For Temperament clues, we know that ISFJs have natural logistics skills, while ISFPs enjoy variation in work patterns, and this training class was definitely a variation from a typical workday.  But neither of those patterns seemed to fit our gal.  She didn't seem to thrive on the variation much, and her logistic skills were lousy, seeing as how she didn't even know where to find a common extension cord.  And neither of us felt like we were dealing with a Catalyst either.  For one thing, it seemed like an Catalyst would know who else to ask to find an extension cord, and this gal was clueless.  Then we looked at the possibility of INTP.  Could it be?  It didn't seem like a logical choice, but there was inference that she possessed skills we weren't privy to in our current situation.  Moreover, my husband has worked in the IT industry for years, and it is his experience that NTs dominate that field.  Hmmm...

We suspended disbelief and "test-drove" that possibility for a time.  While it was hard to imagine our contact as a competence-valuing Theorist given how incompetent she'd been at assisting us thus far, it made a weird sort of sense that she was possibly a Theorist who was being asked on this day to do things that in no way matched her natural skill set.

And so it was.  When the class started, my husband noticed how our "assistant" transformed.  She was a different person in class.  She asked insightful, perceptive questions.  She demonstrated programming competence.  Her Temperament pattern became much clearer in circumstances that suited her, compared to how badly she performed in circumstances that didn't.  It was a real eye-opener, and a huge lesson about how perfectly wonderful people can look awful if they are in the wrong situation -- and there was a lot there for me to extrapolate to my own life!

It was through this experience that my husband and I really learned the value of interaction style patterns in conjunction with Temperament pattern.  After all, my Theorist husband could easily have dismissed this woman as incompetent and undeserving of his time based on our first impressions.  This would have proven disastrous for the week's training, and for the project overall .  By "working the model" with an open mind until we found a best-fit match, we avoided a myriad of mistakes.  And my husband was way ahead of the curve when he began working closely with this woman on solving project-specific problems, because he had a good sense of what type he was dealing with.  Best of all, he knows better than to ask her to make him a cup of coffee or provide an extension cord.  Checksum computations are her specialty.