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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 3:14 pm | Fair 66º


Brian Burke: About Your Divorce (Letter 130) — Take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Online, Part 1

Oblique Strategy #26 —Take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator online, Part 1

That’s good advice, but I’ve stopped giving it to my clients. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is perceived as a personality test. “Personality” is a subject for the mental health profession.

The MBTI is the most popular instrument of its kind, but it is based on the Jungian Psychological Types, which is not the product of sound science.

I concede all of the forgoing, but I think the MBTI can be legitimized as a source of useful information for both the divorcing client and his attorney.

The MBTI is a set of 93 questions with binary responses. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.

The analysis of your answers will never purport to discover any form of pathology. No answer is better than another.

Beneath the Jungian notion of type, there is a more basic assumption, which is: Normal people differ in profound ways that have to do with the way we receive and process information. If this is true so are the following statements:

» Your experience of your life is radically different from the way most people experience their lives.

» You cannot extrapolate the nature of my experience from your own.

» Don’t treat me as you want to be treated; treat me as I want to be treated.

» I need to know how you want to be treated, but there isn’t an obvious way for you to tell me what I need to know about you.

How to know another person without assuming they are essentially the same as us is the problem the MBTI solves. Without resorting to a scientific pretense, the MBTI can be thought of as a heuristic that proposes a specialized but easy-to-learn vocabulary that allows us to describe and talk about the day-to-day experience of life in ways that can’t be expressed in common English.

This may sound bland, but it challenges some ideas that are deeply embedded in Western thought. Leaving poetic form aside, we hear from early childhood that you should “treat others the way you want to be treated,” but the Golden Rule doesn’t go far enough if you and I exhibit minor variations on the same template.

The MBTI can do four things for the people who take it. This column will describe the first two benefits and the next column will describe the remaining two benefits.

The first, and the most lasting, benefit of taking the MBTI is that it shows you that your experience of life differs in ways that are significant and identifiable from hundreds of thousands of other people who have answered the same questions in at least fifteen different ways.

There is an assumption underlying the law that there is an objective reality, and the legal process is capable of discovering it. This assumption is dubious and dangerous when attempting to help real people resolve real disputes.

The assumption of an objective reality is implicit in the law school curriculum, though most students don’t realize it’s a part of what they are being taught.

When teaching conflict resolution to law students in their final year, it’s essential to communicate the notion that no one can use his or her sole experience as the sole model for how people navigate their way through life, but that idea is inconsistent with a belief in an ascertainable and objective reality.

The administration of the MBTI is a remarkably effective and efficient way to provide each student a 20- or 30-minute experience that challenges the belief that he or she is essentially the same as the other members of the class.

The same will be true for you whether or not you are doing the inventory as part of a class. It won’t spoil your experience to read hear and now.

Hundreds of thousands of people have answered those 93 questions. The way you answer them will differ significantly from the ways they were answered by all the people who have gone before you.

The second of the four benefits of taking the MBTI is the vocabulary it creates to allow us to recognize, describe and discuss fundamental differences in the human experience. Here are two of the questions:

» 77. At parties, do you (A) sometimes get bored, or (B) always have fun?

» 79. Do you usually (A) mingle well, or (B) tend to keep to yourself?

Both address a preference for an extraverted (Jungian spelling) or an introverted orientation to the external world. Extraverts are energized by contact with other people; introverts are energized by solitude.

After taking the MBTI, I discovered that I have an introverted orientation, which means I’m both the only introvert in my family of origin and a member of the nearly 50 percent of the general population to fall into this category.

Let’s say that you take the MBTI and realize that you have an extraverted orientation, which has worked well for you because it’s been validated by everyone in your family and by much of the general population.

If we both recognize the difference, there’s a reasonable possibility that you will understand why I can’t thrive in the huge group processes you favor at work, and why it is better for both of us to let me work alone or with only one or two other people.

If our relationship is social, you will realize that the parties you thrive on take a toll on me and some accommodation of that difference is necessary. It also informs me that the reason I find your parties so difficult is my own temperament, and I can give up trying to figure out what’s wrong with you and your party-going friends.

Next column: Oblique Strategy #26 — Take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator online, Part 2.

— Brian H. Burke is a certified family law specialist practicing family law and mediation in Santa Barbara. A researcher and educator in the field of divorce and family conflicts, he is also the creator of the Legal Road Map™. Click here for more information, call 805.965.2888 or e-mail [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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