Everyday stress: Using Core Characters to understand what happens

Posted 14 Apr 2016 by Penny Moyle, CEO at OPP and John Hackston, Head of Research at OPP

Stressedmorph1404In February, Betsy Kendall introduced the eight Core Characters of Type as an easy, colour-coded way to access the power of MBTI Type dynamics. We each have a character at the core of our personality. Many MBTI practitioners are already using these Core Characters to help people to quickly unlock a deeper understanding of Type, going beyond just knowing the four letters of their preferences.

One important application is communication, where we introduced the Inside-Outside Typies, a new and engaging way to illustrate which part of our personality we put out into the world (our extraverted Core Character) and which directs our inner life (our introverted Core Character).

As we work with the Core Characters, we’ve found them very useful in illustrating and explaining many other applications of Type. In this blog we’re going to introduce you to the Core Characters under everyday stress. As mentioned in last week’s post, if you are interested in stress reactions and the MBTI framework, you’ll already be familiar with the excellent resources available that provide a lot of in-depth information about what happens to each Type under prolonged or severe pressure – also known as succumbing to ‘the grip’ of our inferior function. Although MBTI theory also covers the intermediate stage of Type exaggeration under everyday stress, fewer resources exist around this application. In this blog we will focus specifically on this less dramatic, but more frequent, experience. If you are a qualified MBTI practitioner you can download a free supporting slide deck called 'Core Characters and Everyday Stress' by signing in to your OPP account and visiting the practitioner resources area of the website.

Why is everyday stress so important? 

With the pace of life at work, the demands to meet tight deadlines and to do more with less, most of the people and teams we work with are constantly under pressure. This means that their dominant functions are exaggerated quite a lot of the time. Recognising when people are in this state and helping them return to a more productive balance is vital to improving wellbeing and performance.

People often say that under stress they ‘revert to type’. From an MBTI perspective, that means that when the going gets tough, we tend to rely on the most comfortable and practised part of our personality; our dominant function, aka our leading Core Character. It is the part of ourselves we trust the most, and so it is an obvious choice to bring this big gun out when we are under pressure. 

The problem is that by over-relying on this Core Character, there is a risk that what are usually our strengths become our weaknesses. When we do this, we simultaneously use fewer parts of our personality that usually provide balance. In this exaggerated state, the thing you are likely to notice the most is that extraverts become louder and more ‘in your face’, while introverts usually withdraw so that they can work things out independently. Some introverts talk of ‘going back to their cave’ when they become stressed.

Our new images of the Core Characters under everyday stress take the regular Core Characters and use what we know about Type to capture what each one looks like in an exaggerated, stressed state. 

Let’s look at a couple of examples. 

The leading Core Character for ENTP and ENFP is the Explorer. At their best, Explorers are optimistic, enthusiastic and imaginative. But under everyday stress, an over-reliance on the extraverted iNtuitive function means that they can become frenetic, generating too many ideas and unable to choose between options. They start so many things that they are unable to complete any of them.

Explorer Core Character exaggeratede

In contrast, the Analyst Core Characters (INTP, ISTP), at their best, are analytical, detached and independent. But under everyday stress, an over-reliance on introverted Thinking means that they become withdrawn, with an over-insistence on logic, obsessing about any inconsistencies and seeking a perfect solution.

Analyst Core Character exaggeratede

In addition to lacking balance between Extraversion and Introversion, under everyday stress each Type loses their usual balance between taking in information (perceiving) and making decisions (judging). Our behaviour when stressed in this way has a lot in common with what we were like as children. Being aware of this change in natural behaviour is critical when it comes to restoring the balance, and preventing our greatest asset becoming a weakness.

In our next blog we’ll be talking about what happens to our Core Character when stress goes beyond the everyday and we fall into the grip of our inferior function. And in May, we’ll be blogging hints and tips about how you can recover from these stressful experiences to keep your personality in balance and your wellbeing and performance at its peak.

In our upcoming webcast we’ll also be talking about all these aspects of the stress process, illustrated with the lively and engaging Core Characters.

You can keep up-to-date with the latest blog content and practitioner resources by signing up to the OPP practitioner newsletter, subscribing to the blog, or following us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.  

More on stress and resilience

Quick Guide to Everyday Stress

Webcast on Everyday Stress: avoiding, surviving and mastering

MBTI Stress Management report

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