Character and Personality #2: Processing information

by Gary Monti on July 13, 2010

Ever sit in a tense meeting where tempers are beginning to flare? Listening to the disagreeing parties does it suddenly hit you they are violently agreeing!? How can that happen? What is going on? The same reality is being addressed so why all the commotion? Everything else being equal it might be a difference in temperament, i.e., the individuals gather and process information differently.

Temperament can also be called “wiring.” Wiring refers to both preferred and challenging, more difficult pathways in the brain. This can be seen in PET scans of the brain. Take two people who have different wiring and ask a simple question like, “How’s the project doing?” The scans will show different areas of the brain being active depending upon one’s wiring.

If a person has yet to mature they will focus on their preferred pathways and be resistant to (afraid of) hearing anything that requires going to those weaker areas of the brain that are more challenging. Confusion between the conclusions and the path taken to get there occurs and, voila, violent agreement appears.

Let’s look at two aspects of neural wiring and information gathering/processing as viewed by Carl Jung . They are the irrational and the rational. Each has four modes of operation giving a grand total of eight modes.

For each of us one mode predominates. We can do the other seven but just prefer the one. Looking at how these modes operate can shed light on why people agree or disagree. Also, it can show how team members may bond or play “odd man out.”

The Irrational

The irrational refers to how we gather information. It’s called irrational because it is instinctual as in non-rational. There is no thinking involved. We just do it. Jung called the two main ways we gather information Intuitive and Sensing. In turn, each has two subdivisions called introverted and extraverted. This gives us:

Introverted Intuition – Ni. The Ni person is the “Aha!” individual seeing patterns and boiling them down to sharp insights. Details are secondary and there is a comfort with unclear situations.

Extraverted Intuition – Ne. The Ne loves to break new ground. Exploring just comes naturally to the extroverted Intuitive. There is a desire to exhaust all the possibilities and challenge the status quo.

Introverted Sensing – Si. The Si brings order and clarity to situations by linking the present with the past and working to develop precise pathways to the future. Detail and clarity are extremely important.

Extraverted Sensing – Se. The Se makes things happen – now! The Se has no room for nonsense. “Action” is the word of the day, every day. “This way has always worked” and “urgency” are two things they stress.

The Rational

Once we have the information we need to process it. This processing is what Jung called the “rational.” There are two main methods of processing information, Feeling and Thinking, with introverted and extraverted subcategories. They break down to:

Introverted Feeling – Fi. The Fi focuses on the importance of ideas especially those about which they feel strongly. The main drive for an Fi is priorities based on convictions.

Extraverted Feeling – Fe. The Fe loves to coach people and looks after their welfare. Building positive relationships is important.

Introverted Thinking – Ti. The Ti focuses on theory and loves to explain the how and why of things.

Extraverted Thinking – Te. The Te brings organization and structure to situations working like a conductor massaging roles and responsibilities until they are well defined and work is flowing.

Team Members and Stakeholders

Has a specific person popped into mind when reading the descriptions? If so – great! It signifies the process of empathizing with others. This is key for establishing leadership and forming teams. This material will take us on an interesting ride into the human psyche and figuring out how to get things done.

A few last points: Remember each of us has all eight functions. There is just a preferred one that dominates based on neural wiring. Avoid labeling people and leave them space. Leaders nurture the process of growing into the remaining seven.

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