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Ruth Wallsgrove - 04 Mar 2018


In a discussion on collaboration - and how we want to work with each other's strengths and not so strengths - I started to think about how we understand differences. Idly, I thought about how I might characterise another participant in terms of 'Myers-Briggs', and typed what I guess into an on-line MB profiler. And then of course I had to look again at myself.  I found two great images, and some more or less accurate words.

This was me: I Can Change the World With Just an Idea (ENFP).  Also labelled the Campaigner.

Below is the cut-down text that went with the image.

“Energetic and curiosity: I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected – but through a prism of emotion, compassion and mysticism, and always looking for a deeper meaning.

I am less interested in the sheer excitement and pleasure of the moment than I am in the social and emotional connections I make with others.

Self-esteem: is it dependent on my ability to come up with original solutions? I can lose patience or become dejected if I get trapped in a boring or repressed role.”

In the context of the discussion – where I was beginning to worry we might box each into not helpful categories – this seemed pretty perfect. For me. In the moment.

I use Myers-Briggs in teaching, which also means I am aware of some of the criticisms of it.  But – as long as we neither believe it tells us everything about anyone, nor feel that it traps (or justifies) us in a particular place - I have found ‘personality inventories’ very useful in working with others.

How do you think about individual differences, and how other people work in different ways to us? 

The major strength of Myers-Briggs is that many people have used it, and there is a lot of material on how to use it, for example, specific tips on how to communicate from where you are with someone with a different 4 letter type.  The theory behind it is wilder than the conventional story: it is, after all, based on Jungian archetypes. And it is clear in practice that people can shift with experience, something the person who taught me was very interested in.  He believed that personal development would often move people, from T to F and J to P, and that is what has happened to me in the past two decades.

So.  What kinds of tools do you find useful, in thinking about the different ways we approach, say, meetings? How can we use them in Campfire Convention?




Pete Lawrence

I've tended towards the view that attaching archetypes and labels can be potentially divisive and unhelpful and have seen a few examples of this, from early school days through to businesses I have worked for where they choose to bring in business consultants and other supposed personnel experts. The combination of different energies, when working in flow together, can be exciting and very productive with an almost unspoken appreciation of diverse skills. This powerful effect becomes something else altogether when tagged and analysed via babble-speak. IMHO.
The tool I have found most useful so far - and one that has led me to thinking a lot about facilitation - has been @Mads Ryle's Firegram, set up for the Brighton Beacon meeting. A great example of Campfire developing its own frameworks, lexicon and methods
Maybe there is some mileage in developing that metaphor and symbolism?
Having said all that, Campfire might be accused of boxing its members into categories by asking for ‘key interests’, ‘skills’ and ‘here for’ info on sign up


Ralph Pettingill

Hi @Ruth Wallsgrove I've been around Myers Briggs a few times during my (previous) work life; what was interesting at the time was considering roles within particular teams. I think the interest came from the fact that I like and trust the particular facilitator - I remember some of those details, 10 years later...however, the facilitator wasn't with us during our everyday management team life, and we didn't really have the wherewithal to make use of it. The larger point for me is that I already had a model of difference, which I still work with today. This is based around the idea of identities. Our individual experiences comprise a matrix that can be understood as including many overlapping identities. We may be aware or unaware of them. These 'identities' are socially constructed, containing a huge array of messages, for example 'people like me like socialising in this way... the way we express emotions is like this... the attitude we have to group x tends to be ..... and we generally prefer group z.... within our own group we would shun anyone who did ..... the way children are treated in within this identity tends to be....and for generations, many of us seem to work in this career...we view formal schooling.... and so on . The point of this is that :
It's useful for any of us to list/ identify all the 'identities' we have / that other people think we have. When we have space to really notice them, only then can we really examine our assumptions, strengths, shortcomings. Given the right circumstances, I've found a range of questions to be generally useful.
'What was it like for you, growing up as an X?... What were you pleased with ? what was difficult?
'What can't you stand/ what do you love about being an X? What do you dislike about other Xs? What can't you stand/ do you envy/ like about group Y?
For several years I've carried out workshops based on versions of this, examining 'Whiteness' , with the aim of understanding, racism and identity. Common themes emerge over the years. I a group where trust has been built, it's been enlightening to carry out some of these questions as a form of panel interview . In this way, one group of people can find out a lot about others .
One reason for this approach is that people who are part of a dominant group identity frequently are unaware/ only dimly aware of how that identity functions, in a dynamic (and thoughtless /oppressive) relationship to marginal/ dominated groups.
My experience is that we begin to identify damaging/ harmful assumptions. These assumptions are often based on confusing, hurtful experiences that we didn't have the opportunity to process. With time, space, encouragement and commitment, it seems that we can move towards more flexible understanding of the identity labels/ cultural affiliations. As our own understanding grows, we can be happier in our skin; we're more understanding. When we have a 'warts and all' view of ourselves, then we can be less defensive. This makes it easier for us to understand others; the variety of humans around us becomes more interesting. We're not 'besieged' in our identities, and we can see that our own identities are interesting but ultimately no better than other people's . We're not superior or special ( nor is anyone else)... maybe humanity is just wonderful.. You can probably tell that this is something of a favourite subject for me. Sorry if I've written too much here, but I think that this is an important (probably crucial) subject.
Some lessons from my own experience. As a young adult I didn't really think of myself as a man, I just thought I was 'normal', and that there were also women (!) then, in considering how to think racism, I then was forced to face the idea that I wasn't simply 'normal' but in fact I had always been 'white'! These awarenesses can be shocking/ disturbing to encounter... The point is that they're also blatantly obvious to people of the non- dominant group... ..If you get to this point in my writing, then thanks for your interest. I'd be really interested in thinking about this whole topic with you.

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