by Dario Nardi
For many people, type theory has came to stand for several ways of getting at the 16 types: functions in their attitudes (a.k.a. cognitive processes), temperament with interaction styles, 16 whole types, and the 4-letter code. These models seem to address different levels of the personality – they interlock without limiting, fit without contradicting. Over the years, I have observed some patterns in how people relate to the idea of “using” (or “juggling” or “advocating” or “seeing”…) multiple models. Each of the cognitive processes presents, I believe, a number of unique short cuts to multiple models as well as some common pitfalls.
Caution: We each have access to and can suffer the dark side of all of the cognitive processes. A person with preferences for INTP (dominant Ti) may find using multiple models hard, or easy, for the same reasons as an INFJ (3rd function Ti) or ESFJ (8th function Ti.) My hypothesis is that model use is about cognitive processes, not the type.
Know the Models: Models are the natural domain of Introverted Thinking. “Consistency,” “accuracy” and “clarity” are Ti watchwords! In using multiple models, however, problems may arise if a new model or data doesn’t fit snuggly with a known model. When using Ti, we may also ignore contradictory data, or engage in endless over-refinement to perfect a model. Fortunately, solutions lie in better models about creating and using models (meta-models), switching to other models, and the recognition that models are imperfect general maps, and not the world itself.
Be Inclusive: When I hear people talking about how they “relate”, or don’t relate to a model, whether it “speaks to them” or not, I am usually hearing engagement of Extraverted Feeling. Asking how someone relates can add a positive sense of personal connection to an otherwise cold theory; people are personally touched. However, desire for connectedness and “support” may also hinder learning and use if a person feels he “can’t relate” or if the model “offends” (even if the model is “true!”) Thus, our presentation of models must be ethical and as inclusive as possible.
Apply and Test the Models: In contrast to Fe, use of Extraverted Thinking disposes of the notion of relating, directly examining and impersonally applying the model. In my experience, using Te also tends to emphasize looking at the parts and the value of empirical data. “If the data doesn’t fit, change the model!” This may lead to new discoveries and greater accuracy, including new categories; or an inconsistent model, or more often, several patchwork models that don’t fit well together. One solution is to variously test the model, to find out what actually works.
Evaluate Importance: Introverted Feeling contributes loyal motivation to a model (an internalized sense of why and how the model is important), and a sense of when (in the case of psychological models) a person is reporting or conveying themselves authentically. We hear, “this model is really important” or “he’s kidding himself.” Loyalty may also be misguided – clinging to an out-dated or inaccurate model. Learning a new model may not happen if it doesn’t fit existing beliefs or feels “unbelievable.” Looking at who’s using the model and what outcomes are occurring is a way to move past this resistance.
Experience the Models: Extraverted Sensing opens us up to noticing “observables” – the myriad physical cues (facial expressions, posture, tone of voice) that connect a model to the real world. We often forget that words like “out-going” or “organizes” are not concrete things, but labels that connect to a wide set of observable behaviors. The challenge is to avoid simplistic observables (“Js make lists”) and over-observing, reading in what is random or contextual. At its best, the process of Se informs us of “how”, not just “what” happens, so we can learn through experiences, live examples and usable applications.
Envision the Purpose: Introverted Intuiting allows us to envision beforehand how a client or friend will receive a model, or someone’s “type” when only hearing 3 words about her! Using Ni can also allow us a fleeting glimpse of the feeling of “being another type” and give us an “aha” experience of a whole brand new model. Information from Ni, however, can also be very wrong. Or it can lead to a mysticism that no one (except another dominant-Ni!) understands or can apply. The up side of using Ni is a purpose or vision about the model.
Wholes, Not Parts: Extraverted Intuiting juggles, connects and hypothesizes! Its strength is applying multiple models simultaneously in context. This can lead to magical interventions and powerful facilitation, hearing the one word or idea that connects and leads to making an unexpected difference. It allows us to “see” and apply processes, patterns and themes holistically, not mechanically. Unfortunately, over-using Ne may also lead us to miss the trees for the forest! Endless play and hypothesizing without adequate experience, knowledge, or fact-checking may mean never mastering the models.
Practice Correctly: And Introverted Sensing? Studies with experts over numerous disciplines have consistently shown that a major factor is experience with many different specific examples. For example, 25 years of meeting hundreds of people, running workshops, and learning people’s types will be a great aid to identifying and refining one’s understanding. However, 25 years of extensive experience working with the wrong model, or using a model incorrectly, necessitates massive “unlearning,” and a young novice with accurate model use can be more skilled than the “great expert!” Thus, using Si, like all the cognitive processes, is a double-edged sword.
In removing roadblocks, sometimes it is best to suggest more use of the problem function. For example, is the ESTP nit-picking the model (Ti)? Then try a meta-model (more Ti.) Other times, I try another approach. For this ESTP, we could move to using Se to do something experiential. Knowing how the functions influence model use also helps in digesting feedback from others, mastering models, and improving type-identification skills. Skill in using multiple models requires we apply the models themselves to how we are using the models!
First Appeared in: Bulletin of Psychological Type, Volume 23, No 2, 2000