'Typing' your emails: communicating better with the MBTI tool

Posted 28 June 2013 by
Hands typing at a keyboard

This is a repost of an article by Patrick Kerwin of Psychometrics Canada on the CPP Connect blog, http://www.cppblogcentral.com/cpp-connect.
You go to a meeting, grab a bite to eat, or even run to the restroom, and yet it never sleeps: your email inbox. So you sit down with your computer or Blackberry and start hammering out replies rapid-fire. However, those emails can often be misinterpreted by the recipient, leading to confusion and miscommunication between colleagues. 
Could some of the confusion and miscommunication relate to psychological type? Could it be that the sender of the email has different type preferences than the reader? This would explain why miscommunication occurs so frequently through email.

Some emails are written clearly and are easy to comprehend, but others sometimes create confusion because they are either unclear, missing pertinent information, or have too much detail. The tone of an email can also cause miscommunication, because the email may be construed as rude when it was really intended to 'get straight to the point'.

One of the most common and valuable uses of type in the workplace lies in improving communication. Many of us apply type in our everyday verbal interactions, modifying what we say or how we say it by trying to speak the 'type language' of those with whom we interact – a process called 'type flexing'.

But while we tend to be conscious of our type language when we speak, the speed of email communication allows us to be less conscious of how we write, causing our type preferences to flow unfiltered. In other words, while the emails go flying from your fingertips, type flexing often goes flying right out the window.

See if you can identify the unfiltered type preferences expressed in the following emails:

Email #1

Hi again,

Good to see you at yesterday’s meeting, and great job with the programming issues.
Tina called me about 9:00 last night to apologize for missing the meeting; she was dealing with a performance issue with an employee who had only been with them for three weeks. She didn’t have my number to call to let us know she couldn’t make it. It didn’t seem the time to talk about her commitment to the team. I know that conversation will still need to take place, however.
I did speak with her referral about the website but thought it would be awkward to bring that up last night with Jacob there, since he might be offended that we’re looking at other vendors. The software can be set up so anyone or one person can make changes and add updates. He showed me one he is doing for another team and it is pretty cool.  How should we proceed with this?
At our next stakeholders meeting I’m happy to do the welcome and recognize new folks and continuing team members. Do you want me to encourage people to join the team?
Thanks again for your help.

Email #2

Unfortunately I can’t make the meeting.

Email #1: was written by someone with preferences for ENFJ (Extraversion/Intuition/Feeling/Judging).  Not all of those preferences may be clear from the email, but a few stand out: Email #2: in contrast, was written by someone with preferences for ESTJ (Extraversion/Sensing/Thinking/Judging). A couple of preferences might stand out to you in this one:

Now imagine ENFJ Susan’s email going to ESTJ Ronald! He may have been frustrated by the personal tone of the email and its lack of detail. Or imagine the reverse – ENFJ Susan may have been offended by ESTJ Ronald’s lack of a personal tone and the directness of his email. These emails, both in their 'unfiltered type' form, could have easily created confusion or miscommunication with their recipient.

The next time you send an email, take a few seconds before hitting 'Send' to review what you’ve written. Did you write in 'unfiltered type', or did you flex your type language to best reach your audience? Just like talking type, writing type can help your written interactions become more effective and meaningful, and can help you avoid the needless problems that come along with miscommunication.

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