Flexing Your Myers-Briggs® Type

From time to time (or maybe a little more often than that) a person will take the MBTI® and firmly claim to have multiple types and be able to equally use both preferences in a given group. In truth, if you used opposite preferences exactly equally, your life and brain may look a bit like this:

“The big picture shows me 4,000 possibilities that I need to ponder and talk through in detail in chronological order to determine which is best for each individual situation and relationship, while fitting perfectly into current rules and systems and attempting to design new ones that are less prone to problems, while helping all members of the team reach their full potential. I will need a lot of alone time to get in the zone and think about this, while spending lots of brainstorming time with the team. We need to plan the steps out to give us plenty of time to accomplish the tasks steadily before the deadline, but I really want to allow time for this to take shape on its own and provide us as much information as possible to come to the best conclusion.”

Does that sound desirable? Hopefully not… It sounds like an exploding brain waiting to happen! It’s really a good thing to have one type that provides you with a comfortable way to perceive and make judgments, and that is what your type is there for! It is the core of who you are, and it provides the method that works best for you to process the information you encounter in your life. So, what are people experiencing that causes them to claim multiple types with great passion? Well, there are many possible answers to this question, but one is that the person has extensive experience in flexing his or her type.

Flexing type is a term that describes what happens when a person either needs to access preferences that are not a part of his own type to complete a task or thrive in an environment. We’ve all experienced this before, whether it’s a person with a preference for Introversion flexing to Extraversion to network in a job search of a person who prefers Perceiving flexing to Judging to meet the demands of a strict work or school schedule. It could even be an Intuitive salesperson who provides Sensing details and order to a customer to have a better chance at meeting the customer’s needs to make a sale.This kind of flexing can be harnessed to help people in times of need, and it is generally considered positive.

Flexing can also happen when a person is in an environment long-term that is not conducive to her type. Perhaps a Sensing child born into a family with Intuitive preferences who tries to stop looking for details, or a Feeling type who works in a job where rules must be adhered to, even under extenuating circumstances. This is often the area where individuals think or feel that those opposite preferences are so well-developed, they may have become equal to the inborn preferences, but chances are good that using the non-preference still leaves behind the tell-tale sign of working out of preference: tiredness. Yep, working out of preference for any length of time almost always leads to at least a little tiredness and/or a feeling of relief when the work is over, and staying out of preference for a majority of the time can cause stress. It may even begin to cause a hatred of the environment or a feeling of being misunderstood, without knowing why.

You may wonder how you can harness the positive powers of flexing without falling victim to the dark side. First, it’s important to recognize that your type is your home base, and the best version of you that you can ever be will come from working from that point. My personal opinion is that you will never achieve the greatness you are capable of if you spend life trying to be another type (or another person). Second, if life forces you to spend lots of time outside of your type, make time to spend with your type. Checking out the article on type and playing may help with that (yes, even for adults). Last but not least, if you want to learn to constructively flex your type to aid in communication, check out the tips below.

  • Extraverts flexing to Introversion should try to lean more towards the volume, speed, and amount of words (quieter, slower, fewer) used by the person you are communicating with, not to an unnatural extent but enough to allow ease of conversation.
  • Introverts flexing to Extraversion should try to lean more towards the volume, speed, and amount of words (louder, faster, more) used by the person you are communicating with, not to an unnatural extent but enough to appropriately energize the conversation.
  • Sensing types flexing to Intuition may want to provide fewer details in the conversation, hitting those that are the most important with the understanding that the other party will ask for other desired details as needed, and provide options where appropriate.
  • Intuitive types flexing to Sensing may want to provide more details and specific instructions that are practical for the matter at hand and getting the job done, understanding that options are sometimes viewed as distractions from the task.
  • Thinking types flexing to Feeling can show appropriate warmth and personal interest (not to an extent that you appear to have been brainwashed or turned into another person, as that will come across as creepy), provide positive feedback around any needed negative feedback, and wait for “problem fixes” to be requested before offering them to someone who seems to be expressing dismay over a problem.
  • Feeling types flexing to Thinking can be task oriented and “cut the fluff” of personal discussion and attempts to convey kind tone in emails that would otherwise be short (not to the extent that you appear to be a robot), while providing relevant facts to move forward.
  • Judging types flexing to Perceiving may try to understand that individuals with a Perceiving preference are not  necessarily trying to put you off by waiting until the last-minute to accomplish tasks and asking lots of questions to gain information. Appreciate that taking in enough information to make a good decision is just as important as pulling the trigger in completing tasks well.
  • Perceiving types flexing to Judging may try to understand that individuals with a Judging preference are not necessarily trying to be work tyrants constantly driving to the finish line in projects. Appreciate that pulling the trigger to complete the project is just as important as having enough information to complete tasks well.

To learn more about flexing type, check out the whole series of books and workbooks by Judy Allen and Susan Brock at CAPT.org. To learn more about the importance of choosing one type over four, check out Type Dynamics: Basics and Rationale. As always, thank you for reading!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *