Gini Nelson\’s Engaging Conflicts

February 22, 2007

Transformative Learning, Adult Development, and Adult Complexity Of Mind, Part Four —

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gini @ 4:54 am

sheep looking into camera

This post continues the series on adult development and complexity of mind (here are the links for Parts One, Two, and Three), by exploring Carl Jungs concepts of psychological type. Part Five of the series will explore Jung’s concept of the differences between the first and second halves of life. This discussion comes originally from articles by Catherine Fitzgerald, and Gae Walters, in Executive Coaching: Practices & Perspectives, Catherine Fitzgerald, Jennifer Garvey Berger, eds., Davies-Black Publishing, an imprint of Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., 2002, and has been expanded since my initial Los Alamos Monitor column publication.

Jungs theory of psychological type describes distinct personality characteristics that can help us understand common differences (and similarities) among people. Jung identified three dimensions of individual personality differences, each with two polar opposites: Extraversion-Introversion, SensingIntuition, and ThinkingFeeling. Jung’s work was later expanded into a tool often used in business and coaching settings to identify these preferences, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator©, which added a fourth dimension, JudgingPerceiving. The MBTI© is probably the most widely used assessment instrument of its kind, with millions administered annually in the US, and more in other countries around the world. I personally am so persuaded of the value of its “theory to practice” applications that I became a qualified administrator of the instrument, and use it in my practice.

Jung felt that every person develops natural inclinations and preferences among these dimensions. Practitioners commonly use the analogy of “handedness” – whether you are born right-handed or left-handed. Regardless of your handedness, you can and do use both hands, and, similarly, whether you are born with a preference for Thinking or Feeling, for example, you can and do use both. However, as with your handedness, you will generally be more inclined to use the preference you were born with, and be more comfortable using it, and more skillful.

The terms have meanings quite different from how they are stereotypically understood. For example, the Extraversion-Introversion dimension is not about whether a person is loud at parties, or quiet and withdrawn. Rather, it describes how people derive their energy from the world. Extraverts draw their energy from action and interaction with the external world. They work best with people around them as they talk their way through to new ideas and decisions. Introverts draw their energy from reflection and contemplation within the internal world of thoughts and ideas. Ideas and clarity develop most readily when the Introvert is being quietly contemplative.”

The Sensing-Intuition dimension is how we take in information about the world, either with a preference for information immediately perceived by our senses, and on what “is,” or with a preference for drawing inferences from more or other, not immediately obvious sources, and on what “could be.”

The Thinking-Feeling dimension is how we evaluate what is most important in coming to decisions, either with a preference for rational, objective, universally applicable criteria, or with a preference for subjective applications taking into account the impact of decisions on individuals and social harmony. Note: Feeling, as used here, must not be confused with “emotions.”

The Judging–Perceiving dimension refers to an individual’s need for structure and closure. I sometimes describe it this way: a person with a Judging preference wants to solve the puzzle, while a person with a Perceiving preference wants to play with the puzzle.

Further work by psychological researchers confirms validity of these four dimensions, calling them factors of personality, and has identified a fifth factor, Neuroticism, which is not assessed by the instrument.

The MBTI© produces an assessment of personality based on the specific preferences among the four dimensions, e.g., identifying a person as an ENFP (Extraversion/Intuition/Feeling/Perceiving) personality type. (Note: N is used for Intuition, because I is already used for Introversion). Each of the sixteen types of this typology understands and acts in the world differently from another.

Theory to practice applications include Communicating With Type In Mind During Conflict, the subject and title of a workshop I’ll be presenting at the New Mexico Mediation Association’s Winter Convocation in Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 31, 2007. The program will overview applications in mediation and benefits to mediators and other conflict specialists in knowing and applying the principles. Applications include assisting clients in getting through misunderstandings based on type differences, identifying blind spots in the problem-solving process based on type, use of type to bridge cultural and gender differences based on type similarities, and the mediator’s own use of type to identify the kind of practice she wants.

Remember to go to the new site –

Note: The books mentioned in this post are available at your local libraries and bookstores, of course, but you can also buy them online through my link in the right-hand sidebar at the new location (and I will appreciate it, if you do!)


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: