In our high tech world, often we never meet the people we work with face-to-face

In our high tech world, often we never meet the people we work with face-to-face.  The majority of our interaction is via the Internet or over the telephone.  Without the ability to see a person’s body language and facial expressions we lose up to 60% of a communication’s meaning between two people.

“Non-verbal cues are as or more important than verbal cues.  The subtle circumstances  surrounding how we say things may matter more than what we say”. -Malcom Gladwell,  The Tipping Point

Understanding personality types using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can help to enhance communications, especially in situations where body language can’t be observed.

In the January/February 2009 issue of our e-Newsletter, Leadership Central, we provided a high level overview of the four MBTI personality preference pairs.  The information below reviews these preference pairs for those who are new to the MBTI:

1.    E/I  Preference:

  • Extraversion (E) includes those people who prefer to focus on the outer world of people and activities, whereas
  • Introversion (I) includes those people who prefer to focus on their own inner world of ideas and experiences.

2.    S/N Preference:

  • Sensing (S) includes those people who prefer to absorb facts and data that are real and tangible.  They tend to focus on the past and present.
  • Intuition (N) includes those people who prefer to absorb information by seeing the big picture, and who focus on relationships and the connections between facts.  These people tend to focus on the future.

3.    T/F Preference:

  • Thinking (T) includes those people who prefer to look at the logical consequences of a choice or action.  They are more objective than subjective.
  • Feeling (F) includes those people who like to consider what is important to them and to others involved. They are more subjective than objective.

4.    J/P Preference:

  • Judging (J) includes those people who prefer to live in a planned, scheduled, and orderly way, and who seek to manage and organize their lives.
  • Perceiving (P) includes those people who prefer to live in a flexible, spontaneous way, and who seek to experience and understand life, rather than control it.

With this information how do you first identify the personality type of the person you are communicating with from their email or voicemail, and then how do you modify what you write in your e-mail and say in your voicemail to adapt to the receiver’s preferred language style, the one with which they feel most comfortable?

Tips to Identifying Type in Emails and Voicemails

In emails, notice the length, punctuation, words, ideas, and data.  In voicemails, ‘listen’ for tonal inflection and excitement.

You are communicating with an ‘E’ if:

  • the email contains a lot of explanation points, words, run-on sentences, and ideas which are just ideas, but not final decisions.
  • the voicemail is spoken very quickly and is lengthy.

You are communicating with an ‘I’ if:

  • the email contains shorter sentences.
  • the voicemail has a slower speed, includes pauses, is brief, and focuses on one’s ideas or problems.

You are communicating with an ‘S’ if:

  • the email is precise, to the point, provides descriptions, and requests details and data. Its focus is on the past and present.
  • the voicemail is similar in style to an email.

You are communicating with an ‘N’ if:

  • the email contains ideas, yet contains no detail or data to back up the ideas, has few specifics, and contains ‘why’ questions to determine the purpose of a project, action, or task.  Its focus is on what can be or the possibilities.
  • the voicemail is similar to an email, with the potential for even more questions

You are communicating with a ‘T’ if:

  • the email focuses on the business at hand, tests your knowledge, and doesn’t focus on the implications a decision/project may have on others. It does, however, provide decisions.
  • the voicemail is similar to an email.

You are communicating with an ‘F’ if:

  • the email includes values, implications about people, strives for consensus before a decision is made, and invites others to become part of the process.
  • the voicemail is similar to an email.

You are communicating with a ‘J’ if:

  • the email is often structured using paragraphs to separate specific topics and ideas. It emphasizes goals, plans, timelines, polices, procedures, and reporting structures and provides little flexibility for changes. It may provide information after a decision is made.
  • the voice mail has a tone of impatience as time and closure is important.

You are communicating with a ‘P’ if:

  • the email provides additional information before a decision is made so changes and adjustments can be made. New information will be valued.
  • the voicemail generally focuses on process, ideas and possibilities, including ‘what else’ type phrases.

The last steps to improving communications are to identify your own personality and communications type, and to make adjustments in your emails and voicemails to mirror the communication type of the person with whom you are communicating.  Being able to mirror another person’s communication style will significantly improve your effectiveness as a leader.

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