Flying Trains, Facts And Fiction – How Myers Briggs Can Help You Communicate

Have you ever watched a child playing by themselves? Let’s say they’re scooting a toy train along the floor when suddenly they sail it through the air making clucking, chicken sounds.

Now be honest – do you have the urge to gently guide the train back to the ground and make choo-choo noises, or have you already made up a story about how the train is filled with chickens that learned to fly and lifted it into the sky?

Whichever, it indicates that you have a preference for how you take in your information. This is one of four preferences that the Myers Briggs indicator helps you determine: your preference for taking in information, making decisions, organizing your thoughts and your time.

How you take in information makes a difference
Some of us prefer our information to be factual, actual and real. It is the information we take in through our senses, what we see, touch, hear, what is actually there.

Others prefer to use reality as a springboard, looking at the possibilities, connections and what could be. They use information to create stories or explanations.

Why it matters
This simple difference is one of the least acknowledged barriers to understanding and appreciating each other. Because most people are unaware there are two distinct preferences, they assume everyone is like them.

In practice – real life examples
I was coaching with a woman who was struggling with her equivalent in their US office. She’s smart and experienced with a senior role in communications, yet every conversation she had with this man turned into a confrontation.

She wondered “Was it cultural?” (no, she worked well with other Americans) “Was he inexperienced or not too bright?” (no, he was equally senior and well respected) so why couldn’t she get a simple project started without drama?

We discussed her preference for sharing information. What came naturally for her was to paint the big picture, explaining the overall idea, get buy-in from everyone and then fill in the details at a later date.

What she got back from him was a page of questions about details; how would the idea actually get executed? What were the exact dates? Who precisely would she solicit? What could go wrong?

She looked at his barrage of questions and assumed he was throwing cold water on her idea.

Why couldn’t he buy it?
The truth is, he couldn’t understand it, let alone buy into it because it didn’t contain the factual, actual and real information he needed. Before he could feel comfortable agreeing to be part of the project he needed those details to be coloured in.

She hadn’t worked out the details, what interested her were the possibilities of the project, what could be.

Making a change
We worked together on a plan for her next project, leading with the facts, then offering the big idea at the end.

She gave it a try and he agreed immediately, which helped put their relationship was on firmer ground.

The road less travelled
If your usual approach isn’t working, and you’re struggling to get someone to listen to you, the following may clear the way. We can all use both methods of taking in and sharing information. Normally we explain things the way we’d like to hear them, sometimes you need an alternative.

The first step is to know your audience:
If you know your audience prefers the factual, actual information – start with what you know is real. List the research, the challenge, the audience profile, explain what the competition is doing, then go on to your big idea and how it relates.

If you know your audience prefers to look at possibilities and what could be – give them the big idea, right up front. Tell them about the things that could be accomplished in the future. Then follow it up with any rational you think is needed to fortify your concept.

Talk their language
There are lots of reasons work relationships can be difficult but communication is often at the core. If there’s someone you struggle to relate to – think about how they offer you information and try to match them, it could make the difference in getting the answer you want.

Want to know more?
Myers Briggs raises your awareness and improves communication in a lot of ways. To understand your own preferences or improve the way your whole team works, contact me to set up a Myers Briggs profile session of your own.

3 comments

  1. I find this fascinating.

    I worked for Coca-Cola years ago, and at that time they required all marketing teams to get tested. They felt the expense (imagine how many of us there were!) was far outweighed by the benefit of the employees being able to better communicate.

    I think they were right. It was amazing to see the differences just among our own team. Co-workers with the same job description, doing the exact same job needed to receive information differently. It changed how we talked to each other. Though I think we would have all agreed that a train full of chickens can’t fly. Common now. It would teleport, right?

  2. Thanks for writing Kathy, I’m really impressed that Coca-Cola saw the value in Myers Briggs. I think its a great tool to help agencies with clients and imagine it would be even better if the clients were equally self aware. Now if I could just get the teleport started…

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