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Square Pegs in Round Holes

Square Pegs in Round Holes

By Patrick Kerwin, MBTI® Master Practitioner


So you’re doing an MBTI® preference pair activity where you have people form two groups—one for each preference—and there’s someone in one of those groups who just doesn’t seem to belong there but who swears that the group is in fact the right one. Here are a few ways to handle this kind of situation:

  • Have the person step out of the group. You obviously don’t want to embarrass the person, so you’ll want to do this diplomatically. Just pull him aside and mention that his experience seems to be different from that of the others in the group, and encourage him to float back and forth between the group he’s in and the opposite group. This will help him solidify the preference he initially thought he had, help him see that the opposite preference is a better fit, or give him information to ponder as he tries to figure out his true
  • Give feedback based on your observations. If a person in, say, the Intuition group is using a lot of Sensing language, feed that back to her. For example, you can say, “I noticed that you asked a lot of detailed questions in that last activity, which could indicate a preference for Sensing. Help me understand how that fits in with your preference for Intuition.” The person might truly have a preference for Intuition but had asked those detailed questions because she simply had a need for Sensing information in that moment. Or she might discover that she really has a preference for Intuition. Also, if you’re using the MBTI Step II™ (Form Q) assessment, you could examine the S–N facet results page of the person’s Profile or Interpretive Report to see whether she has any out-of-preference facets.
  • Use multiple sources for clarifying type. Remember, any one activity you do to help participants determine their preference in a given preference pair is only capturing one slice of that preference pair, not the entirety of those preferences. So in addition to using activities, use other resources, such as your Introduction to Myers-Briggs® Type


When people exhibit behaviors that are far different from the preference they are owning, it can be a challenge to resist saying something like, “But you’re such an N!” But our role as practitioners is to be type interpreters—that is, to guide people in discovering their preferences, not to tell them what we think their preferences are. And while you’re interpreting, you can learn a lot about the nuances of type along the way!



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