MBTI 2 (or, more properly and formally, the Myers Brigss Type Indicator, Step Two) is a relatively recent development of the well-know MBTI. The original (which gives the now-famous four letter descriptions of personality types, such as ENFP and INTJ) is a fabulously powerful tool for helping you to understand yourself…

… as well as the people around you.

It’s also useful things like figuring out how to communicate with them, understand them and lead them (or be led by them). A anyone who’s taken an MBTI assessment will testify, it can be a remarkably powerful tool. (Like all tools, of course, MBTI needs to be used, not just learned about!)

But (and it’s a big but) the process isn’t a very subtle differentiator. There are only 16 different Types in the Step One model and so, inevitably, people who are fairly different from each other end up being labeled with the same Type.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that, because your MBTI Type doesn’t stop you behaving in pretty much any other way you want to, but the point stands.

The MBTI Step Two process is designed to get passed this limitation by breaking down each of the four binary preferences of the ‘traditional’ MBTI into five subscales which unpack the different components of each preference. In doing so it allows for the fact that people are likely to behave differently in different situations, no matter what their MBTI type is.

For example, the MBTI Step 1 preference of Extravert vs Introvert is broken down into five scales (in Extravert to Introvert order):

  • Initiating to Receiving
  • Expressive to Contained
  • Gregarious to Intimate
  • Active to Reflective
  • Enthusiastic to Quiet.

The first of these is an exploration of how ‘meet-and-greet’ orientated a person is. Typically an MBTI-style Extravert would score fairly high on Initiating, suggesting that they are comfortable with being outgoing, making social chat, and taking the conversational initiative. On the other hand, Introverts typically have a high Receiving score, suggesting that they prefer ‘being introduced rather than doing the introductions’ and tend to leave social chit-chat to others who are more comfortable doing it, perhaps better able to do it and regard it as important.

Other scales within the MBTI preference of Extravert vs Introvert measure such things as how ‘easy to get to know’ someone is (versus how much they ‘play their cards close to their chest’) and such issues as how large a group someone feels comfortable in.

As a side note, because of the validity of the overall concept of Extravert vs Introvert these five scales tend to have a degree of statistical associated, of course.

However, there are plenty of exceptions to these correlations, which is where the MBTI Step two approach very useful. An overall Extravert (in the MBTI sense) may, for example, have a relatively high score on Contained (which is more typically associated with Introverts). This suggests that while they are (in the big picture and overall) an Extravert, they don’t tend to give much about themselves away in their social chit-chat!

I am an MBTI practitioner (based in Newcastle but working throughout the UK) and I find the increased sophistication of the Step two approach very helpful indeed.

Not only does it allow me to explore someone’s MBTI Type in greater depth, it is also very helpful to those people who find themselves conflicted, having difficulty identifying with either of the two choices for a preference.

Genuine dfficulties with MBTI are pretty rare, but the most common issue I hear from people who are having trouble getting to grips with their preference is “But when I…”. Having the scale-score option for unpacking their MBTI preferences means they feel their ‘oddness’ is recognised. It also, in doing so, gives them an increased faith in the whole concept of MBTI.  Their recognition that there are some circumstances when they don’t feel the simple, binary  preference option suits them is now part of the MBTI, (and an interesting one at that!) rather than an aberration.

The shift from simple binary choices to continuous scales is kept within the MBTI concept of binary preferences, however. Scales are not ‘freestanding’ – a list of 20 attributes of someone’s personality. Instead they are seen as drawing upon the ‘higher order’ concept of, for example, Introversion.

For example, an over-all Introvert may be high in Initiating (a typically Extravert tendency). That doesn’t make them an Extravert/Introvert hybrid. It makes them an Introvert with an OOPS, standing for Out Of Preference Score. Scores which lie significantly on the other side of the divide between Introverts and Extraverts of described as being Out Of Preference…

In the example above, the preference is still to be an Introvert but with one OOPS. The way an OOPS fits into the bigger picture is often the most rewarding element of working as an MBTI facilitator. I often hear “Ah! So that’s why….!”  Typically this epiphany will be related to they way they’re regarded or treated by co-workers: if a clear Introvert has a strong OOPS in Initiating (the meet-and-greet scale) it’s no wonder that people who don’t know them well treat them as an Extravert, with all the pressure and exhaustion on the now-continually-talked-to Introvert that this implies.

Don’t get me wrong – the MBTI Step 2 is a great leap forward (as far beyond the traditional MBTI step 1 as that is beyond astrology!) but it’s not perfect.  For example, it’s now computationally complex because of the statistical analysis the computer has to do to create it, compared to the MBTI concept of four simple preference scores.

It is, however, a remarkably useful tool!

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