Sunday was a warm-up tutorial by Don Gray and Steve Smith. This was an all-day session meant to introduce newbies like me (and returnees looking for a refresher) to the lingo, vocabulary, and concepts used at the conference.

First up was the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which is perhaps the best known of the plethora of personality typing systems. Although I have studied this some and so already knew I am an InTj (way I and T, close to the middle N and J), I haven't yet managed to internalize the differences between the types. Now I have shorthand:

  • Extrovert v. Introvert refers to how you orient yourself to your environment and how you recharge. Extroverts talk in order to think and draw energy from immersing themselves in other people; introverts think in order to talk and need cave time before they can face the masses again.
  • Sensory v. iNtuitive refers to how you gather information. Sensors want concrete details while iNtuitives look for patterns and big picture theories.
  • Feeling v. Thinking refers to how you make decisions. Feelers are guided by emotions whereas Thinkers are guided by logic.
  • Perceiving v. Judging refers to how you orient your life. Perceivers don't need a reason for doing things; for them it's always playtime. Judgers, on the other hand, want to know the expected benefits before embarking on an endeavor, and they would rather finish all of their work before even thinking about playing. Another way to say it, for the programmers in the crowd, is that Perceivers are late-binding and Judgers are early-binding.

David Keirsey found that the sixteen MBTI types can be effectively grouped into four temperaments:

  • SPs, who ask "When", create and troubleshoot, and search for action. Think (Star Trek's) Captain Kirk.
  • NTs, who ask "Why", are rational and visionary, and search for knowledge and competence. Think Spock.
  • NFs, who ask "Who", catalyze their surroundings as they seek after ideals, and search for identity. Think Dr. McCoy.
  • SJs, who ask "What", guard and organize, and search for belonging. Think Scottie.

The differences between these groupings were highlighted when we split up by temperament to draw a map of the first floor of our hotel. Us NTs had the general sequence correct yet didn't remember enough details to decide which way the hallway hooked. The NFs used lots of color and abstract representations. The SJs knew how many chairs were at each table and the colors of their various parts. The lone SP knew the full details of everywhere she had personally been and nothing about the rest.

Don and Steve made a point of telling us that types are only preferences, not absolutes. Your upbringing and work environment can lead you to act contrary to your type, and your type can change over time. For example, I find myself moving towards the middle on all four axes, which I believe to be a good thing. I can actually talk to people now, and I admit that I have feelings. <g/>

With personality types firmly fixed in our heads we moved on to congruence. If a person is being congruent their words, emotions, tone of voice, and body position all match, and they are considering themselves (Self), the people around them (Other), and the situation in which they find themselves (Context) in their responses. When a person is being incongruent some or all of these factors conflict. Family therapist Virgina Satir identified four common incongruent stances:

  • Placating. "Yes, you're right and I am wrong, whatever you think is best is fine with me." This stance ignores Self, and the placater tends to feel worthless.
  • Blaming. "It's all your fault, you worthless idiot!" This stance ignores Other, and the Blamer usually feels unsuccessful and lonely.
  • Super-Reasonable. "One must think about such things, after all" followed by a five minute explanation which contains copious references to rules. This stance ignores both Self and Other, and the Super-Reasonabler removes all traces of feelings and likely feels isolated and vulnerable.
  • Irrelevant. "Did you notice how blue the sky is today? And that they replaced the carpet in the hallway over the weekend?" in response to a question about project status. This stance ignores Self, Other, and Context. The Irrelevancer often feels unbalanced, out of place, and uncared for.

Each stance has stereotyped body language. Blamer, for example, lunges out on one foot attacking with their pointing finger. We took turns assuming these stances with the idea that doing so would help us notice when we adopt these stances in real life. Time will tell whether it worked for me.

Last up for the day was Virginia Satir's process for identifying the temperature, or state, of a group. This involves five items in sequence:

  1. Appreciations are a method for doing public thank yous. They follow the form "<Name>, I appreciate you for <whatever they did>." This highlights past helps and starts things out with warm fuzzies.
  2. New Information is a forum for sharing exactly that.
  3. Puzzles is an opportunity for group members to raise issues that, well, puzzle them. Puzzles are not solved here; doing so is postponed to a different time. Also, puzzles are distinct from complaints.
  4. Complaints is the time for individuals to raise issues they have and make recommendations for resolving them. Both are required; if you don't have a recommendation, then either work with your teammates ahead of time to develop one/some, or transform your complaint into a puzzle (which will change it and give it a different flavor).
  5. Hopes And Wishes gives the group a chance to share what they would like to happen in the future.

The tutorial ended with a temperature reading of our group, which was a useful demonstration of the technique and also a lot of fun.

Overall the tutorial was useful and informative, and I am glad I took part in it.