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Reading the Preference Clarity Indicator (PCI) Chart

Reading the Preference Clarity Indicator (PCI) Chart

Written by Jim Larkin
A common gray area in understanding an MBTI® report relates to the Preference Clarity Indicator (PCI) chart. I’ve heard some people talk about their results saying, “I’m in the middle on the E/I scale, so I can go either way.” When I hear this, I start to feel the heat rise around my collar. The first thing I want to do is ask them who interpreted their results for them! After I calm down a bit I let the individual know that it’s not so much that they “can” go either way, it’s that they will go the way they think they’re supposed to rather than making a conscious choice. “What’s the difference?” they’ll often ask. The difference is actually pretty important so let me try to explain, in case you are also wondering.
If someone scores in the “Mid-zone” on the PCI, they are not clear in their own mind about their preference. It is not necessarily that the preference is not there; typically it’s that they have just not been coached to understand that they have a preference or that they are allowed to have their own preferred behavior. On many fronts throughout life we are coached that we should be one way or another. We should be more socially outgoing. We should pay more attention to details. We should be this way or that way, regardless of what might come naturally to us if we were given a choice. Where do these “shoulds” come from? From well-intended people who probably share the preference they are promoting: socially outgoing parents who want their children to be more social, detail oriented teachers who want names, dates, and places rather than context and big picture answers, piers who want us to be like them. In most cases, there is no malice intended, but in a lot of cases what is happening is behavior that is natural to a growing child is identified as inappropriate, unacceptable or “different”.
As an Introvert (INFP) born into a family of 3 extroverted siblings and an extroverted father, I have some firsthand experience with this phenomenon. (Fortunately I had my own room from about 12 years old on.) As a young newly-wed I found it taxing to keep up with my extroverted (ENFP) wife. Fortunately, she was introduced to the MBTI® assessment in her MFCC program. She began to understand the difference between the two sides of the E/I scale and began to encourage me to take time to myself. Then I began to ask for that time and we’ve learned, over nearly 30 years, to work really well together around expectations of time together and time alone.
Knowing my preference has allowed me to consciously choose to act out of preference knowing that I will be able to have time later to express my preference. The conscious choice has saved a lot of tension when, in earlier times, I would act out of preference out of obligation rather than choice, and then I would be resentful because I had no understanding of the impacts of my “choice”. Knowing preferences does not mean you are bound to act within the realm of behavior identified with that preference. It does allow you to make conscious choices that can save a lot of energy drain and can promote greater health in yourself and in your relationships.

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