Giving feedback to different personalities: The Myers-Briggs Indicator

As you read through this guide on how to give effective feedback to different personalities, you may recognize bits and pieces of yourself, your co-workers, managers, and friends within these various personality types. Try to think of an instance where you gave feedback to someone and they felt offended or confronted.

In the workplace as much as in everyday life, knowing how to give effective feedback is a necessity – a skill friends and co-workers will greatly appreciate. It’s important to realize that giving feedback is not a one-way street, but rather, a communication channel that can often involve different personalities. As such, how people deliver feedback is as important as what to say, because what motivates one employee may cause offence to another! To grow your culture of feedback and help employees feel confident when they deliver it, we’ve put together a few tips on the most popular personality types, and the best way to give them feedback.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most widely known and used models of personality. The founder behind the theory of this model, Carl Jung, believed that there are four pairs of contrasting attitudes that make up people’s personalities. When combining the letters associated with your preference, you get your personality type – for instance: ENTP.

Extraversion vs. Introversion

People who prefer to direct their energy outwards – to people, things, situations – are “extroverts” (E). People who prefer to direct their energy inwards – to ideas, information, beliefs – are “introverts” (I). Extroverts are action-oriented, while introverts are thought-oriented.

Sensing vs. Intuition

People who prefer to deal with facts, details, and concrete information are “sensing” types (S). People who prefer to deal with ideas, abstract concepts, and theories are “intuitive” types (N).

Thinking vs. Feeling

People who prefer to make decisions from a detached standpoint, using reason and logic to make conclusions are “thinking” types (T). People who prefer to make decisions from an insider, emotional standpoint are “feeling” types (F).

Judging vs. Perceiving

People who prefer a planned, well-structured life are “judging” types (J). People who prefer to ‘go with the flow’ are “perceiving” types (P).

There are 16 personality types in total, but they can be classified into four groups depending on how they like to receive feedback.

Feedback examples per personality

Sensing-Thinking types (ST)

With ST types, the more specific the better: give them concrete feedback that is specifically tailored to their work. Give them as much detail as possible on how they can improve and what they can change. ST types will not be offended and will not take this personally. Remember that ST types can often be over-critical of their own work and will ignore positive feedback if it is too general.

Positive feedback example:

“You did a great job with preparing the presentation for the meeting yesterday, Albert. I know it was very short-notice, but you were able to generate effective and meaningful content that made the meeting very productive. I very much appreciate your ability to prioritize time-sensitive projects. Keep it up.”

Negative feedback example:

“Albert, I’ve noticed a few spelling mistakes in your two last reports, and in the e-mail you sent to one of our clients. It comes across as though you were rushed. Next time, you should re-read what you wrote before sending it out.”

Intuitive-Thinking types (NT)

NT types do best with straightforward, one-on-one feedback that is focused on specific areas for improvement. They find it difficult to read between the lines and do not appreciate generalizations. NT types also value feedback that is applicable to specific future situations. One important consideration when giving feedback to NT types is that they need to have a high degree of respect for the person giving them feedback, otherwise they may not take it positively.

Positive feedback example:

“I can tell your team really appreciates your ability to motivate and uplift them, especially during stressful times like the leadership meeting this morning. Your positive outlook is very infectious”

Negative feedback example:

“Beth, to make your presentations clearer it would help if you added graphs and tables that display your data and make it easier for your audience to understand you. It would also help if you used bullet points and spread your information over a few slides instead of putting it all in one slide”

Sensing-Feeling types (SF)

SF types like to receive specific and concrete feedback right after they complete a task, but only in a private, one-on-one setting. They are also a little more sensitive than other types and may find it challenging to accept negative feedback without taking it personally. Always emphasize their strengths and the positive aspects of their work before suggesting areas for growth.

Positive feedback example:

“John, I think you have great leadership potential. You are able to motivate your team and you are quick on your feet. Is leadership something that you are interested in exploring?”

Negative feedback example:

“Your ability to close deals and your drive to go after clients is why we are lucky to have you on our team, John. However I just received a complaint from a client with whom you recently spoke, and she thought you were being a little too abrupt. How do you think you could be more approachable?"

Intuitive-Feeling types (NF)

With NF types, is it very important to deliver corrective feedback in a compassionate, caring manner. They are very motivated to improve, but they will take it personally if they feel that the feedback is harsh and judgmental. NF types need to feel that they are being supported. It is always helpful if NF types receive feedback from someone they have a good relationship with.

Positive feedback example:

“Amanda, you always manage to make your presentations really interesting and straight to the point. You are respectful of everyone’s busy schedule and never waste time discussing matters that aren’t important. Keep up the good work.”

Negative feedback example:

“Amanda, I’ve noticed that you submitted the past two projects a few days past the deadline. I am concerned because the rest of your team has to wait for you and is unable to move forward. Do you need some help learning to better manage your time and prioritize? I can share some resources and tips that work for me.”

Lastly, when it comes to extroverts vs. introverts the rule of thumb is setting. Extroverts are social creatures and are likely to be more comfortable receiving praise in front of others. For constructive feedback, although extroverts are comfortable in social settings, always consider whether the conversation is appropriate for a group setting or better to be held in private. Introverts will be more comfortable receiving feedback in a private setting.

Now that you’re armed with the necessary information on how to give effective feedback to the different personalities on a team, you are well on your way to cultivating a successful culture of feedback and continuous learning in the workplace.

Reference: Kaplan, R. M.; Saccuzzo, D. P. (2009). Psychological Testing: Principles, Applications, and Issues (7 ed.). Belmont, California: Wadsworth.

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