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We all speak the same language - or do we?

Posted by Jan Craft - Monday, March 18, 2013

Mar 18

One of the most useful things I learnt in my first Myers Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) workshop is that even though the people we live and work with may technically speak English, we do not all speak the same language. It was one of those 'ah-ha' moments for me when I suddenly understood why I have often been, in my view anyway, misunderstood.

As an ENTP, I have a preference, in type terms, for Thinking. I like to use technical language and I like to make decisions based on logic and reason. I also like the world to make sense and, consequently, can be thrown off balance when people and situations appear be be illogical. This behavioural characteristic has meant that I take care to be articulate, framing words deliberately, often with the aim of being clear and precise. What I can miss in exchanges, most particularly with people with a preference for Feeling, is nuance.  

Let me explain with a real life example. I wrote a letter to a group of volunteers asking if they would be prepared to help with a particular project. That was it. A 'yes' or 'no' answer if you like. The reply astonished me. I received a reply with great details as to the organisational arrangements. I had merely requested an indication as to whether they might be happy to assist. In reply I thanked them but explained that I needed to liaise with other groups before settling the arrangements. It quickly became clear that my response was perceived to be a slight on what they had proposed. This is, of course, how many misunderstandings begin. 

I subsequently rang the President of the volunteer committee to explain that I had not intended any offense. When I pointed out what I had actually said in my letter the most wonderful reply came back "yes, but that's not what it sounded like..".  This was an 'ah-ha' moment. A classic Thinker/Feeler moment. It was not what I actually said that was crucial in this exchange, but what was heard...and they were quite different. 

It is not what you say but how you say it. 

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