As you’re sitting in your next job interview, work evaluation, or sales call, knowing the Myers-Briggs temperament of the person sitting across from you can be extremely beneficial.
If you’ve ever heard of Myers-Briggs, you’re familiar with the 4-letter classification that each personality type has — ENFP, ISTJ, ISTP, ESFJ, and so on. There are 16 different types, which are hard to keep track of.
But if you know the four basic temperaments — SJ, SP, NT, NF — you can begin to get an understanding of how to communicate with different people.
Some Myers-Briggs Background
The official Myers-Briggs personality test is a long and complicated thing, and can only be administered by a professional. But you can get a basic, unofficial understanding of your type by taking a simple Myers-Briggs test. (Keep in mind, this is one of the unofficial tests that causes trained Myers-Briggs people to wail and gnash their teeth, but it will give you a basic understanding of your own personality type and work/communication style.)
You will be scored on four different metrics and given a classification: (E) Extrovert versus (I) Introvert, (S) Sensing versus (N) Intuition, (T) Thinking versus (F) Feeling, and (J) Judging versus (P) Perception. You can get a quick read of these personality types here.
I’m an ENFP, which MyersBriggs.org says is “warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities.” (Which means I’m a puppies and rainbows guy.)
I won’t go into the 16 types here, because there’s not enough room. But click the previous article links, and you can find out what you need.
The Myers-Briggs Temperaments
In 1998, psychologist David Keirsey created the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and came up with these four temperaments:
- SJ (Sensing-Judging): These are the Guardians, the left-brained. They’re accountants, CFOs, military, and police — they love details, and they’re all about safety and security. When you’re dealing with an SJ in business, they’re very conservative and slow to accept new ideas, because they’re risky. While you want to talk about social media marketing, they still glare suspiciously at their fax machine. When you’re interviewing for a job, they don’t want revolutionary thinking. They want to know you’ll maintain the status quo because You. Love. It.
- SP (Sensing-Perceiving):The Artisan. These people live in the right brain. They’re artists, musicians, writers, and other creative types. They’re very flighty and they hate details. These are the people who will get started on a project and abandon it three weeks later because they found an exciting new project. If you’re trying to have an in-depth discussion with them about why they need to implement a 10-step customer tracking process for their company, just know that their eyes glazed over as soon as you said “10 steps.” The SJ and the SP each make up 38% of the population. You’ve got a 3 in 4 chance of meeting an SJ or SP.
- NT (Intuitive-Thinking): The Thinker. These people also love details, and are very analytical, but they pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake. They’ll want to know lots and lots of details about your project, but they’re just as interested for knowledge’s sake as they are for making a decision. You may see these people in a sales support role, tracking sales performance, monitoring and managing databases, and anything that involves processing data.
- NF (Intuitive-Feeling): The Idealist. These are the folks in the helping professions — nurses, social workers, nonprofit employees. They’re more interested in making life better and changing the world. They’re more sympathetic to the Artisans, while the Thinkers are hanging out with the Guardians. The Thinkers and the Idealists each make up 12% of the rest of the population, or the remaining 24% to the Guardians and Artisans.
Speak to the dog, in the language of the dog, about things that matter to the heart of the dog
When you’re talking to any of these temperament, you first need to know your own temperament, and then you need to tailor your discussion to the things that matter most to them.
If you’re going on a job interview, you need to talk to the Guardians about how you’ll help the company maintain and remain stable. They’re not looking for revolutionary new ideas. The Thinker will want to know some of the same things, but they’re less interested in stability and more about how you’re going to show them how you’re performing. You need to be on your game with them, because they’re obsessively detail oriented. Both temperaments will discard your résumé because you made your periods upside down.
On the other hand, the Idealist wants to know more about change and how you can help make things better, and the Artisan will want to hear about your creative ideas and your thoughts for the future. Both of these groups will talk and talk and talk about anything and everything. You’ll click, you’ll fall in business love, and you’ll think you’re going to start right away/sign the contract/get the project. And then you won’t hear anything for weeks and weeks. Don’t take it personally. As soon as you left, someone jingled some keys in front of them, and they forgot what day it was.
When you speak to these people, just remember, you don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not. You don’t have to cram all kinds of facts and figures to meet an SJ on his terms, or wear flowers in your hair when talking to an SP. You just have to understand that they relate to people who speak their language about the things they care about — in the language of the dog about things that matter to the heart of the dog.
Finally, I do recommend you read extensively on this topic before you try anything like this. Going off with only a smattering of information is only going to cause you more trouble than benefit. Read extensively, talk to other experts about this, and practice on friends and people who can’t fire you.
Knowing your Keirsey Temperament can help immensely when you’re talking with other people, because you’ll have a better idea of what you should and shouldn’t talk about. And there are a few ways to figure out what the temperaments of the other person are as well (which I’ll discuss another day). If you tailor your discussions to the right “love language” of the person you’re talking to, you’ve got a better chance at seeing success.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. His new book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing.