Appealing to Myers-Briggs dichotomies in compliance communications

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a set of personality types that categorizes individuals’ experiential preferences. The MBTI has become very popular for use in business settings, for managers to determine how to develop employees or build teams as well as for individuals to analyze their own way of working and define their particular world view and tendencies in interacting with others, based on these preferences.

The MBTI classification system is fundamentally based upon the presumption that humans have four main psychological functions, or dichotomies, through which they view the world. These are thinking (T), feeling (F), sensation (S), and intuition (N). Thinking and feeling are the functions people rely upon for judgment in decision-making. Sensation and intuition describe how people perceive new information. Taken together, one of these four functions will be naturally dominant for each person the majority of the time.

Added to these functions are people’s attitudes, expressed by the terms introversion (I) – a preference to operate internally, focused on reflection and ideas – and extroversion (E) – a preference to operate externally, focused on behavior and people. This relates to how people prefer to live their “outer lives” and is not necessarily as simple as defining a person as “shy” or “outgoing” but looks deeper into how people get or spend their energy and whether their information-processing, personal focus, and pace is determined inward or outward.

Finally, the MBTI also incorporates lifestyle preferences, identifying that people have preference for using either the judging (J) functions (thinking or feeling) or the perceiving (P) function (sensation and intuition).

These eight psychological functions and preferences – four sets of two each – can be mixed and matched among each other in different combinations, resulting in the sixteen MBTI distinct “personality types.” In any given group there is likely to be some mix of these types, sometimes more diverse than others. Each type brings with it some indications for the person may behave in an individual or collective setting. Therefore understanding the elements of these different types can be useful in fine-tuning messaging to have maximum appeal to one, some, or all of them.

Based on the above, there are four dichotomies to the MBTI. In each dichotomy, individuals select from two letters (T for thinking versus F for feeling, for example) the one which most accurately, if not completely, seems most accurate in depicting their personality types. The differences between these four dichotomies are important to understand and useful to take advantage of in tailoring communication across organizational levels to raise compliance awareness.

  1. Introversion (I) or Extroversion (E): Preference for Introversion suggests an inward focus, with more contemplation and observation in learning or gathering information. I types would enjoy e-learnings, reading guidelines and policies, or other self-paced activities. Preference for Extroversion, on the other hand, indicates a suitability for fast-paced outward focus. These are the eager participants in dilemma sessions or group trainings who like to work with others and develop their ideas out loud, getting energy from quick progress of talking through learning materials.
  2. Sensation (S) or Intuition (N): Preference for sensation means that concrete, practical information will be the most appealing to these individuals. Communications should use clear and literal descriptions based in reality. Those who prefer intuition, on the other hand, may be more likely to dream about what could be rather than what is. Contemplating business cases and dilemmas would be fun and enjoyable for them.
  3. Thinking (T) or Feeling (F): Those who lean toward Thinking will respond to decision-making that is promotes rationality and justice. A rules-based approach to communicating compliance principles will evoke their sense of reason and equity and make the objectives relatable. On the other hand, people who prefer Feeling will benefit from a values-based approach. Playing up personal morality and situational empathy is more effective for them.
  4. Judging (J) or Perceiving (P): Judging is aligned with a preference for planning and methodical assessment. These people will be convinced of the value of a compliance program by, for example, formal risk inventories and control framework evaluations, and coordinated, long-term implementation plans with steps and phases for their goals. People who prefer Perceiving, on the other hand, need a flexible view. This is challenging to adapt to fixed rules and regulations, but offering creative approaches to those can be an engaging possibility.

For more information on the MBTI and its four dichotomies, check out this handy interactive chart.

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