Making a Difference
At InterStrength™ we aim to make a difference by increasing self-awareness and the development needed to navigate this complex, uncertain world we live in. We want to help people appreciate themselves, appreciate others who are not like them, and increase capacities for inclusion while honoring differences.
Our work involves learning about and understanding ourselves and others using different, yet integrated, lenses or typologies to help us identify and own our natural tendencies. (Here is a video that can help you understand more deeply what a type really is.) These typology lenses help us organize and filter information so that we can not only learn about our tendencies, but also so we have a map of development.
Sadly much of the way typologies are used wind up missing the importance of development. The usual absolute sounding language used with typology language tends to put people in a box and become habitual. Habits are hard to change. It is worth it to make the effort because once you stop labeling others, they stop becoming the objectified ‘other’ and begin to feel understood and appreciated for who they are at their core. Let’s give us all the gift of room for growth and development. Only then can we make the profound shifts needed for today’s world and the future.
We are born organized in certain ways and are driven to manifest that pattern of organization, therefore, it is helpful to recognize those patterns of organization so we can stop expecting people to be like us and appreciate and honor the gifts they bring to our work and our relationships. Often when introduced to ‘type’ using labels, we miss the important developmental aspects.
So what is development?
Growth and development is a natural process that we can easily see in our bodies, in how babies learn language, how we outgrow various stages like the ‘terrible twos’ and the teenage angst. But once we are adults we don’t have many well known ways of describing the patterns of growth and development. Recently theories of adult development have emerged that describe stages of growth and the markers of development, such as how much complexity you can handle, how many perspectives you can take, and how broad a time frame you can reference. The typological patterns in the InterStrength lenses provide us with maps of different perspectives as well as a map of different levels of consciousness. In today’s complex world characterized by more volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, we need to access a broader range of capacities. This is what we mean when we talk about a developmental approach to typologies. We humans are not static, but always growing and developing. We have the continuity of what is at our core, but with the agility that comes from developing beyond the core.
Language Is Key.
When we are babies learning to talk, our parents go around naming things so we can learn a common language and communicate our wants and needs. It seems we first learn nouns, then we learn verbs, then adjectives and adverbs. As we advance in our language skills we learn to communicate more accurately with nuanced words.
When we are learning about typological differences, we learn the names of the categories and then, like new language learners, we name ourselves and others with those categories. ‘I am an Introvert,’ ‘I am an INTP,’ ‘Are you a J or a P?’ ‘Directors do this and Informers do that.’ ‘Thinkers like to be logical.’ Etc.
When this way of thinking and talking becomes a habit, we end up labeling ourselves and others and creating a divide instead of fostering a deep understanding that allows for adaptability, growth, and real development of consciousness. We end up encouraging division and separateness instead of inclusion.
Labeling with nouns implies that our behavior is fixed and predictable.
But we are adaptable and we can and do grow and develop. Our language of using nouns in such a definite way can be very limiting and can limit the agility we need in today’s world.
We are first and foremost living systems. Living systems are more completely understood when we identify the pattern of organization, processes that maintain the pattern, and a structure that embodies the pattern. (For more information see Fritjof Capra’s book, The Web of Life) The patterns of our personalities are not haphazard. With personality types we are referring to a holistic pattern of organization with certain critical characteristics. Each of those essential characteristics are what makes the type pattern recognizable. With each of the InterStrength lenses, we describe the critical elements of the pattern. And it is important to note that these elements are systemically whole, they cannot be identified by a bunch of parts that are added together like ingredients in a cake.
With the 16 personality types we sometimes name the type by the popular 4 letter type code. But adding these letters together does not form the pattern. The pattern already exists and the letters stand for an arrangement of different processes that serve different purposes. Beyond this configuration of processes is what we call ‘whole type,’ which has a theme of its own. For example, INTP is not I+N+T+P, it is a pattern with a theme of its own. In this case Designer Theorizer. The processes that sustain this pattern can be described as ‘type dynamics’ where one cognitive process is favored the most, one plays a supporting role, another plays a relief, playful role, and yet another plays an aspirational role. In this case, leading with introverted Thinking (Analyzing), supporting with extraverted iNtuiting (Interpreting), reenergizing with introverted Sensing (Reviewing), and aspiring to extraverted Feeling (Connecting). Once we understand that the whole is not made up of parts, we can understand that there is a holistic pattern that cannot be fully understood by looking at the parts or even the parts in and of themselves as briefly described here
Since we use integrated multiple lenses, we also can understand that there are other patterns that can help us understand ourselves. With Interaction Styles we can see different energy patterns that show up in the way we talk and the way we move, so we could describe INTP as having a Behind-the-Scenes Interaction Style and thereby understand something else important that can’t be describe in terms of any of the cognitive dynamics that Carl Jung Described.
Another powerful lens that is over 25 centuries old describes our deep motivators driven by our core psychological needs so we call it Essential Motivators. For INTP, the Essential Motivator Pattern is Theorist, which has core needs, values and talents that cannot be recognized using the four letter type code.
When we don’t understand the nature of a pattern we are likely to see these as labels and feel constrained by them as if we cannot develop the capacity to shift into what is needed at the moment. As we grow and develop, we do take on the characteristics of the other patterns, while our experiences show us that what is at the core is constant. But we have matured and become more agile. This agility is necessary for being inclusive and honoring individual differences. However if we lose track of this we can easily think we are stuck in the label.
So how do we identify a pattern without it becoming a label and stifle our development? This is fairly challenging.
The biggest challenge is when we turn a process into a noun. Processes are activities that maintain the patterns. They are not traits to be named. The following are dynamic processes for each lens. Please keep in mind that they are dynamics, meaning that they aren’t fixed. And, while we may have a ‘preference’ or a ‘habit’ of using one side of the dynamic over the other, we can engage in behaviors along a spectrum.
- From Abstract to Concrete Language
- From Affiliative to Pragmatic Roles
- From Motive to Structure Focus
- From Directing to Informing Communication
- From Initiating to Responding Roles
- From Outcome to Process Focus
From Sensing to iNtuiting Information:
- but more accurately: extraverted Sensing, introverted Sensing, extraverted INtuiting, introverted iNtuiting
From Thinking to Feeling Evaluation
but more accurately: extraverted Thinking, introverted Thinking, extraverted Feeling, introverted Feeling
From an Introverting to an Extraverting energy
So what can we do about it?
We encourage shifting our language in some of the following ways.
- Shift from a noun to a gerund (ing word). Gerunds are more about actions we can take rather than a fixed label.
- Use ‘I have a preference for…’ instead of ‘I am….’
- When you catch yourself labeling, just restate it as a preference or some other term that implies more adaptability than the rigidity of a name.
I am an Introvert: Shift to I have a preference for Introversion (or Introverting).
I am an INTP: Shift to I have preferences for INTP.
I am a Sensor: Shift to I have a preference for Sensing. Or better yet: I have a preference for extraverted Sensing (or introverted Sensing).
I am a Catalyst: Shift to I relate best to Catalyst.
I am Abstract: Shift to I prefer using abstract language.
I’m a Director and you are an Informer. Shift to It seems I prefer to use Directing communications, while you seem to prefer to use Informing communications. OR I usually have a Directing style of communication.
I’m an In-Charge: Shift to I have an In-Charge Interaction Style. Or I usually have an In-Charge energy.
Thinkers like to be logical: Shift to Those with a Thinking preference tend to like things to be logical.
Give it a try. Now more than ever it is important for us to empower ourselves, and others, to feel whole, complete and understood and create pathways for inclusion instead of separation.