Those on a journey of growth and self-improvement are always on a quest to understand how they may be holding themselves back in different areas of their life. They seek to find ways to improve themselves especially, when it comes to how they approach problems in different areas of their life. And always want to know where the gaps are, and how to fix those gaps when working with others. If you are one such kind and are an avid problem solver, one of the greatest way to improve is to gain knowledge of different personality types that can give you an ability to understand how different people solve problems.
“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” — Christopher HitchensTweet
We all solve problems differently as we differ in our competence and aptitude. When it comes to processing different information, all of us are often limited by our personality types. In fact, so many confusions and conflicts arise because we all don’t go about solving problems the same way. We all differ in our approach and in the process, we might even remain closed to other people’s solutions without seeing where they are coming from. Making an attempt to understand individual preferences and what their approach can make the process easier. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an effective way to know if one is proficient, logical, critical or analytical in solving problems.
Personality types & Problem Solving
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a means of categorising and understanding people according to their preferences, strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, etc. The following are the four MBTI polarities that can be incorporated into effective problem solving , planning and decision-making.
Extraversion (E) & Introversion (I) People can be either extroverts or introverts depending on the way they respond and interact with the world around them. We all exhibit extraversion and introversion to some degree, but most of us have a preference for one or the other.
- Extroverts are mostly “outward-turning” as they are oriented towards outside world of people and things. They attend to external reality and are effective in talking through problems in group. Extroverts will want to talk through their ideas and continually seek feedback. They compare and contrast their own opinions with the opinions of others.
- Introverts on the other hand are “inward-turning” or oriented towards inner world of ideas. They tend to be thought-oriented, and enjoy deep and meaningful social interactions. Introverts want to reflect on the problem and are more likely to consider their own understanding of important concepts and ideas. They need to have time and space to think and clarify their ideas before they begin talking.
Sensing (S) & Intuition (N) This categorisation is according to how we gather information from the world around. Just like the above type, we all spend some time sensing and intuiting depending on the situation. However, we tend to be dominant in one area or the other.
- Sensing types prefer to seek everything and sense everything based on facts and details from past and present. They base it on personal experience or practicality of solutions and conform to standards. Sensing types lay a great deal to what they can learn from their own senses, focus more on facts and details, and are more realistic/ practical.
- People with intuition preferences will more likely attend to the meaningfulness of the facts. They pay more attention to patterns, details, consider prospects for originality. Intuition types spend more time in thinking about possibilities, look for connections, and exhibit tendency to develop new, original solutions.
Thinking (T) & Feeling (F)
- Thinking types deal with information on basis of its structure and function. Individuals with thinking preference will tend to use logic and analysis during problem solving. They make decisions based on the information that they gathered from their sensing or intuition functions and prefer solutions to make sense in terms of facts, models and/or principles.
- Those who prefer feeling pay more attention to people and their emotions when arriving at a conclusion. They evaluate solutions based values and tend to be subjective in their decision-making. Also, they consider values and feelings of others and how their decisions can affect them.
Judging (J) & perceiving (P)
- This final personality type involves how we tend to deal with the outside world. They prefer structure and firm decisions. And are relatively more stable with their work habits and follow rules when solving problems. Since they follow a step-by-step procedure to find and implement a solution, they identify possible defects.
- Perceiving types are more open, flexible and adaptable. They are curious and likely to consider a variety of techniques and fresh perspectives in solving problems.
Why knowing different personality types is important
Since for most of us, our work and personal life situation gets structured in a way that allows us to function within our boxes. While some people are natural problem solvers, others might struggle with analytical thoughts. Being aware of different personality types, one can recognise these differences, identify their own strengths, and understand strengths of others
While some may be comfortable in a particular box for a lifetime, others might try and stretch outside their box to successfully manage a problem situation. Those times require accessing one or more of the opposite of our preferences. So, becoming aware of the major characteristics of the type preference can help you chart what would be your normal problem-solving process and see which of these preferences you typically engage in. When you are part of a group, this is of great advantage in adopting a strategy that allows you to touch upon the characteristics of different personality types.
Also, whatever your preference is, it inherently involves certain blind spots to other perspectives and can create problems when different approaches are expected out of you. Therefore, it is important to know the opposite preferences and the way these opposites would employ a different process. Your opposite preferences might offer inputs that might cover your blind spots.
What each personality type looks like in problem-solving
Knowing thy self and others certainly benefits, however, this is not to be considered as rule of law in typing others, but is to consider it as a tentative hypothesis. To put it differently, since no two people within a type are truly identical, and there are different variations within a MBTI personality type, it might lead to assumptions. Here are some characteristics of each personality type based on different preferences and how good each type actually is at problem-solving.
Typically someone with ISTJ preferences would naturally employ solving processes that involve a logical, and structured analysis. They start the solving process by looking at the factual background of the problem at hand. Those with this personality type prefer to gather information beforehand and have plenty of time to analyse and understand it. They prefer things well worked out before presenting to others for their input and make an effort in knowing the timeline of the problem. ISTJ’s use their past experiences in solving problems.
However, while working with others, they may expect a more spontaneous, deal-with-it-right-now approach. They don’t like being thrown into new situations as they prefer time and space to do so. May not consider the human element of the problem or the personal needs of others. They can also get stuck in tried and tested solving methods or solutions and might fail to get a deeper understanding of why the problem occurred. Opposite preferences: ENFJ, INFJ & ENFP.
These are practical people, who push themselves to try and solve a problem effectively. They value efficiency and utilise their logical minds to understand the logical cause and effect of a problem. ESTJ’s are researchers and spend their energy and time trying to understand facts first and dismiss irrelevant data or opinions that aren’t rooted in fact or logic. They prefer to look at the history of problem or what triggered to series of things that lead to the problem state to come up with most reasonable solution. Personal opinions and emotions are given low priority. However, they might forget to consider the personal needs of people involved in their effort to maintain an objective logic. Being fixated on facts, they forget to consider its future implications. Opposite preferences: INFJ, ENFJ & INFP.
ISFJ’s analyse the history of the problem, like for instance, What started it and what happened after the problem had occurred. ISFJ types look to their past experiences to see if they can apply to solve present problems. Since they prefer to focus on the emotional and practical needs of others, they can solve problems when it comes to their daily lives, but struggle with more analytical problems. Or have difficulty thinking about how to solve larger scale problems, and simply want to focus on what they can do for those around them. Because of which they might get stuck in a comfort zone. As a result, they constantly rely upon past problem solving methods or use methods they’ve learned in the past instead of brainstorming new ideas or alternative solutions. Opposite preferences: ENTJ, INTJ & ENTP.
ISFP’s are often caring and emotionally charged people with strong inner morals, who are gifted at considering everyone’s core values when solving problems. They first consider what feels right to them and how their values be impacted by a solution or a choice they make. Then they consider the others involved and want to make sure no one’s integrity or values are being ignored or violated. And look for facts as to what do I know to be true and what facts might I be missing. However, since they strive to do what is right, and prefer to live in the present moment, they sometimes struggle with problem solving. They prioritise connection over their desire to solve practical problems. ISFP’s might get hyper focused on just one solution and disregard brainstorming or to look for other possible solutions. Opposite preferences: ENTP, ESTJ & ENTJ.
People with this personality type focus mostly on the needs of others and are decent problem solvers. They look at how the problem is impacting the people involved and want to handle the human aspect of the various issues involved. For instance, finding what personal choices had led to the problem, how will be people impacted by the decisions made, or is there a win-win scenario for everyone? Since they are constantly trying to take care of the needs of everyone else, ESFJ’s are good at solving their emotional problems and try hard to ensure that they are taken care of.
However, they can sometime struggle with solving their own problems and might neglect their personal needs. Also, since they focus so much on human element of the problem at hand, may sidestep the most logical solution. At times, they might end up taking criticism personally, it can escalate the problem situation instead of otherwise. They may also focus so much on present issues that they may forget to consider the long-term implications. Opposite preferences: INTJ, ENTJ & INTP.
ESFP’s are fun loving and strive to live in the moment. They are a mix of practicality with empathy. Since they don’t want to deal with stressful problems, they tend to look at the most knowable facts when it comes to problem-solving. They look at the current situation to determine what is most tangible, what concrete facts, and what they know to be true. ESFP’s too make sure everyone’s core values are not ignored or violated. They maintain easy going or we can do this attitude. Because of this they may sidestep most logical solution when they focus on providing immediate results. They may also take things personally in a conflict and may have difficulty in taking criticism constructively. Opposite preferences: INTJ, INTP, & ISTJ.
These are analytical and skilled problem-solvers. They focus more on the details to figure out how different parts of the problem are connected and what mental framework they might need to go about solving it. For this, they break down a problem to have an accurate understanding of how everything happened and would like to analyse the problem from all angles. Looking for possible inconsistencies, pros and cons in order to detect breakdowns in problem solving process and keeping logic and emotions separate makes them unbiased.
They consider facts as opposed to what they believe true or look for effective solutions that lead them to most logical results. ISTP’s adapt themselves quickly to the situation and take on new challenges. However, focusing more on facts and impersonal analysis, they miss considering human aspect of the problem or emotions of those involved. And miss out on underlying meaning or why something happened in the first place. Opposite preferences: ENFP, INFP & ENFJ.
INTJ’s are efficient problem solvers, and have natural ability for figuring things out. They search beyond the information for ideas and relevant insights and connections. Like for instance, figuring out what is the underlying cause or what are the long-term implications and what solutions will have best big picture outcome. They are good at analysing what actually led to the problem and what will prevent it from happening again.
INTJ’s are good at processing a lot of information like facts, procedures and goals to come up with best logical solution. Because of which they are sure of the solution they come up with and are unlikely to be swayed unless someone has very strong logical objection. However they too can lost in logic and might ignore relevant needs of people involved or lose sight of the details. Opposite preferences: ESFJ, ESFP, & ISFJ.
People with this personality type are logical and extremely practical people, who can process many facts and pieces of information all at once. They spend lot of time in researching, learning new things and in retaining facts for a long time. This helps them become skilled problem solvers. They consider asking themselves, What do we know is true without a doubt? What is the immediate thing that needs to be fixed right away? And weigh pros and cons to get them out of negative situations.
They consider framework that can get them an accurate understanding of what happened and what the most effective, logical solution will be. However, they too may neglect future implications of a solution or the root cause of why problem actually occurred. As they focus extensively on the logic, they miss seeing what values are at stake and may become reckless when something gets them into trouble. Opposite preferences: INFP, ENFP, & INFJ.
This personality types too are intuitive and are strongly connected to the emotions of others. They first look at the immediate personal needs of the people involved and consider their own personal values. While staying in tune with their values, they will try to find solution close to win-win scenario for everyone involved. ENFJ’s are good problem solvers and can think quickly to find ways around different problem situations. They look for underlying causes or patterns that are not obvious and consider solutions that have positive long-term implications.
Since ENFJ’s are more in touch with other people’s emotions, they might struggle to solve their own emotional dilemmas. However, they can also become focused too much on people involved that they might miss more obvious facts, details and logic. Opposite preferences: ESTJ, ISTJ & ISTP.
Those with this personality types are very intuitive which helps them speculate on patterns and connections formed by the facts. They consider underlying causes and long-term implications of the solutions they come up with. Also are future focused and look for solutions that aren’t immediately obvious. INFJ’s are analytical and are good at finding win-win solutions or to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs. However, they can sometimes struggle when it comes to solving their own emotionally charged problems. Because they get too focused in finding underlying meaning or where everything is connected, they might end up over-complicating the problem. Opposite preferences: ESTJ, ISTJ& ESTP.
ENTJ’s are logical in their problem-solving approach and come up with efficient plans for the future, They consider facts and are naturally skilled at determining the cause and effect. This personality types try to keep personal feelings and emotions out of the problem. They put more effort in utilising every possible skill and piece of information in order to connect things together. Their ability to analyse information, weigh pros and cons of possible solution, and find patterns or connections makes them good at solving not only their own problems, but also the problems other people are facing. ENTJ’s might struggle when it comes to solving emotional problems or may ignore relevant personal needs or values of people involved. Opposite preferences: ISFJ, ISFP & ESFJ.
INTP’s have rich intuitive minds that make them good problem solvers. They hone the ability to process loads of information at once, and categorise or sort the information relating to the problem. INTP’s use their own internal thinking frameworks or logical thought processes as a way to figure out hidden connections. They take their time to weigh facts, analyse every angle and use out of the box thinking for creative solutions. However, they sometimes may overthink things until they come up with reasons to step back. This can sometimes force them into inaction. They might forget to consider how solutions will impact people or personal implications of their solutions. Opposite preferences: ESFP, ESFJ & ISFP.
ENFP’s do have flair for understanding the underlying implications or patterns that cause the problem. They are able to use their creative skills to solve problems. Since they possess an incredible sense of ingenuity, they too think outside the box to see whether they can come up with imaginative or creative ideas. They get others involved in problem solving process, make sure everyone is heard and see to it that their values aren’t being violated or ignored.
However, they too can get caught up with creative ways of finding a solution that they might miss out on tried and tested approaches to save time. Or might lose sight of most logical or objective approach. They can also focus more on human aspect of a decision or a problem. Opposite preferences: ISTP, ISTJ & ESFJ.
People with this personality type too are intuitive and highly grounded in their inner value system. They are emotionally charged people and frequently check upon what core values are at stake and how other people are impacted by their solutions.
INFP’s look for unusual solutions and choose to approach problems creatively over approaching them with logic. They want to make sure as to whether everyone had felt heard and spend time thinking through different ways before making a decision. Since they become fixated on values and harmony of everyone involved, they miss out on looking for logical ways in finding solutions. They focus more on big picture or intuitive outcomes because of their extremely imaginative inner minds. Opposite preferences: ESTP, ISTP & ESTJ.
ENTP’s first consider to analyse patterns or connections formed by existing facts. They search for different possibilities, besides that which is more obvious and tend to consider big-picture ramifications of the problem. People with this personality type seek new challenges in order to discover new things and better ways to problem solve. Since they are logical and creative in their approach, they collect a range of alternatives and critically analyse information to figure out the best possible solution.
Weighing facts to using logic to find cause and effect and tendency to consider pros and cons to come up with an innovative way to solve the problem makes them excellent problem solvers. However, they might overlook simple and most tried and tested approaches that would save time. When caught up in brainstorming creative ways to solve problems, they might miss out on moral and emotional aspects. Opposite preferences: ISFP, ISFJ & ISTJ.
What is your MBTI personality type ?
How aware are you of your strengths, weaknesses or blindspots when it comes to problem solving?
With who other personality types do you feel compatible? and Which personality types do you clash with?
What are your individual tendencies when compared to different characteristics that define your type?
What is your dominant preference?
How often do you seek to understand others or work with whose strengths complement your weaknesses?
Being aware of above personality types is not to judge whether one is best or better than another in problem solving, nor it is about looking for a dysfunction. Instead, the goal is to simply learn more about yourself in order to improve your efficiency in solving problems along with others. It equips you to better understand and relate to others and at the same time helps you understand your type and how you are similar or different from others who share your type.
One of the important feature of knowing different personality types is to value differences and understanding that all of us have areas of improvement or vulnerability. Whatever is our weakness, it is naturally counterbalanced by an opposite. As you work with others, seek to understand yourself so to relate to others whose strengths complement your weaknesses.
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