Monday, March 3, 2008

Evangelism, Preaching and Myers-Briggs

At the weekend my year group spent the best part of a day looking at the Myers Briggs personality types. Myers-Briggs on Wikipedia The activity was interesting in its own right because it gave us each a glimpse of our default positions in a number of areas. I can’t go in to the full theory here other than to say that there are eight key areas in four pairs and that within each pair we each have a natural preference:

E: Extrovert
I: Introvert

N: iNtuition
S: Sensing

F: Feeling
T: Thinking

J: Judging
P: Perceiving

There are, of course, sixteen possible combinations. In addition, some of the descriptors are superficially misleading. Judging, for instance, is about planning and organisation, not about being critical.

I came out as ENFJ. This is a typical teacher's profile which, as a teacher, I find reassuring. However only 2.4% of the population have it which may account for why some people just don't get me. Nevertheless it means that I am (generally) responsive and responsible. I feel real concern for what others think or want and try to handle things with due regard for others feelings. I can present a proposal or lead a group discussion with ease and tact. I am sociable, popular and sympathetic and am responsive to praise and criticism. I like to help others and to enable people to achieve their potential.

However, just before I get too self-congratulatory, there is a downside:

ENFJ's tend to be more reserved about exposing themselves than other extraverted types. Although they may have strongly-felt beliefs, they're likely to refrain from expressing them if doing so would interfere with bringing out the best in others. Because their strongest interest lies in being a catalyst of change in other people, they're likely to interact with others on their own level, in a chameleon-like manner, rather than as individuals. ENFJs do not like dealing with impersonal reasoning. They don't understand or appreciate its merit, and will be unhappy in situations where they're forced to deal with logic and facts without any connection to a human element. Living in the world of people possibilities, they enjoy their plans more than their achievements. They get excited about possibilities for the future, but may become easily bored and restless with the present.

All of that, using my profile as an example, is a way into looking at the idea of how we preach and evangelise if we accept ideas like Myers-Briggs as having validity. I do accept Myers-Briggs as having validity and of course, as such, it has huge implications on the way I communication…well, actually, on the way we all communicate. What I also need to recognise is that communication has two sides and people also hear and learn in their default positions.

That being the case, how do I as ENFJ avoid miscommunicating with someone who is my exact opposite as ISTP?

All of this raises things which have been bubbling under for me for a while and which have been brought into sharp focus by a recent event of classic miscommunication. Were the person I recently fell out with and I ever destined to be able to communicate effectively, especially without being face to face? Just on the little information on him that I have and my own impressions I am convinced he is ISTP.

That would mean that he is a reserved onlooker who analyses life with a detached curiosity who is interested in cause and effect and how and why things work. He is also the sort of person who likes to organise facts using logical principles who excels at getting to the core of a practical problem and finding solutions. Such people tend to become inflexible and rigid when someone seems to be threatening their lifestyle and they usually respond with a classic SP rage.

Not much chance of a happy accommodation here.

Now this is me thinking out loud, and to avoid making this post too long, I shall save the implications and applications to preaching and evangelism until the next post. (Once I've thought of them.)