Facilitation Training: Considering Individuals

Facilitation Training 

Every person who attends a meeting is an individual and it is essential that you not assume everyone is the same. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an assessment tool designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. The questionnaire was created by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers based on the theories of Carl Gustav Jung. The questionnaire is designed to evaluate:

  • Whether a person is outwardly or inwardly focused (extraverted or introverted). The dichotomy lies in where people get their energy.
  • Facilitation trainingHow people prefer to consume information (sensing or intuition). The distinction lies in what information they consider compelling and relevant to the topic at hand.
  • How a person makes decisions (thinking or feeling). Both thinking and feeling are necessary for logical decision-making, but thinkers and feelers emphasize differently when making decisions.
  • How people relate to the outside world. Myers and Briggs said that people also have a preference for using either the judging function (thinking or feeling) or the perceiving function (sensing or intuition) when relating to the outside world.

Facilitation Training Tips for an Individualistic Approach

Of course, a facilitator would rarely know the MBTI preferences of the participants attending any meeting, but there are guidelines to help facilitators understand how people might behave in meetings and design the facilitation training process accordingly:

  • Extraverts appear to be talkative and outgoing. They like lively conversations and tend to think out loud. They’re ready to go as soon as a question is posed. They may not stick with their original answers as they consider responses from others.
  • Introverts are reticent to speak and may appear to be shy or reserved. They think things through before they volunteer an answer to a question. If it appears that some participants are not jumping into the conversation easily, a facilitator might ask people to think to themselves for a moment before beginning a brainstorm, for example.
  • Sensors acquire information through their senses and pay attention to details and facts. They tend to hear questions literally and respond with specific and detailed responses. Sensors trust tangible, concrete information and tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come “out of nowhere.” For sensors, the meaning is in the data.
  • Intuitive people consider all information within the context of what they already know and they fit new facts into pre-existing patterns and themes in their prior knowledge. They typically see the big picture and make connections between concepts. For them, the meaning lies in the underlying theory and principles.
  • Thinkers make decisions in an impersonal manner using logical reasoning. They like to find flaws in other peoples’ logic and usually appear to be level-headed and rational. These people make decisions from a detached standpoint, measuring their decisions by what is reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and compliant with an established set of rules. Thinkers have trouble working with people who seem inconsistent or illogical, and they tend to give very direct feedback to others. They are concerned with the truth and view it as more important.
  • Feelers focus on the impact of decisions on people and personal values. They like to please other people. While making decisions, feelers tend to make up their minds based on their emotions, values, and allegiances to people they feel connected to. They tend to weigh the situation with a goal of achieving, on balance, the greatest harmony based on the needs of the people involved. Warm and empathetic, they may avoid making statements to preserve harmony.
  • Perceivers consider all new information to be relevant and are willing to change their minds. They’re flexible and like to leave their options open. They see rules and schedules as flexible and they enjoy improvising.
  • Judgers, by contrast, prefer to have matters settled. They think rules and schedules should be respected and they like step-by-step instructions. They like to make, and then follow, plans.

If you’re facilitating, just remember the following:

  • No type is better than any other type.
  • It is likely not possible to determine the type of any particular participant in a public meeting.
  • Everyone approaches his/her involvement in a meeting based on his/her own preferences.
  • Dissimilar people may find each other frustrating.
  • Meeting designs should consider how to best engage everyone who attends.

Some things to think about when you’re designing a meeting:

  • Provide the opportunity for introverts to collect their thoughts before sharing their responses to questions and be aware that large group sessions, while stimulating to the extraverts, may overwhelm the introverts.
  • Frame questions to collect both the facts and the insights so that both sensors and the intuitive types have something to contribute.
  • Deliberately invite participants to think logically, but consider the ramifications on people.
  • Develop a meeting plan and follow that plan, while building in opportunities for spontaneity when possible.

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Author: Wendy Lowe