The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) indicates specific differences for ways we would like to behave in the world. The world, however, imposes it's own game plan on us and often has opposite expectations for our behaviours. These opposite expectations have inherent in them -- tensions.

According to Dr. Carl Jung, the tension of opposites is the very essence of life itself. Without tension, there would be no energy and consequently no healthy personality development. All personality types experience stress when dealing with the tension conflict with others can produce in us. An understanding of our typical approach to dealing with conflict, combined with conflict management insights, can help produce more effective results for dealing with tension when the world and people in it don't conform to our expectations.

To understand personal approaches to tense situations that cause conflict between people who are required to get work done with and through others, we can view ourselves through the eyes of personality theory. The MBTI® deals with four scales of opposite preferences, which are:

1. Extraversion versus Introversion (E vs. I) -- how we process information and where we prefer to go for our stimulation and energy when sorting it out.
2. Intuition versus Sensing (N vs. S) -- what kind of information we prefer to focus on.
3. Thinking versus Feeling (T vs. F) -- how we prefer to make decisions about, and relate to, the information we take in.
4. Perceiving versus Judging (P vs. J) -- how we prefer to organize and go about dealing with the world we live in.

HOW WE PROCESS INFORMATION WHEN GETTING THE JOB DONE WITH OTHERS: When a strong Extravert is around a quiet Introvert, the tension of opposite preferences for processing information can be experienced quite differently by each: the Extravert often interprets the quietness of the Introvert as standoffish. Introverts, on the other hand, often see Extraverts as superficial people who fill the air with a lot of talk. When the strength of these preferences is too great or too strong, a disliking of the other person begins to form. If understanding of each other's process for taking in and working with information is not understood, the disliking of the other person will continue to grow.

The problem with talking is that nobody stops you from saying the wrong thing.
-- Jerry Seinfeld

WHAT WE FOCUS ON WHEN COMMUNICATING ABOUT CONFLICT WITH OTHERS: The Sensor-dominant person often believes work-related conflicts are centered on the facts and specifics of what has been said and done. They need to be reminded that there's more to conflict than just the immediate facts of a situation. The intuitive-dominate person, however, looks at conflict by focusing on the implications and meaning about what is happening. They need to stick to the issues at hand rather than relate the conflict to a global analysis thereby pulling in non-specific data unrelated to the immediate situation.

HOW WE DECIDE AND RELATE TO CONFLICT WHEN WORKING WITH OTHERS: The Thinker-dominant person may see the dominant Feeler as too touchy-feely. Feelers may see Thinkers as too objective and detached. Thinkers tend to get along better with other Thinkers while Feelers have an easier time getting along with both types because they look for, and read, other people's processes more often in their attempt to harmonize with them. Both Thinkers and Feelers have a difficult time dealing with conflict. The Thinking types tend to want to avoid conflict seeing it as an emotional waste of time, while the Feeling types tend to personalize conflict feeling that they've caused the conflict or feeling guilty because they couldn't resolve it effectively.

GETTING THE JOB DONE: The strong Judger wants structure and tight planning when they are involved in getting the job done with others, while the strong Perceiver wants to gather additional information and look at all the possibilities of the job in order to be certain they have covered everything. One style is pushing for closure while the other style is pulling for openness.

If the tension of opposites is the very essence of life itself and without tension there would be no energy and consequently no healthy personality growth, then the question has to be asked, "how can we use this push and pull of opposites to create a win-win model for dealing with conflict as opposed to a win-lose situation that so often exists in the workplace?"

When conflict is viewed as a win-lose situation, the tension between opposite preferences among people can be seen as destructive resulting in ineffective interpersonal skills and diminished business results. Conflict as a destructive pattern creates communication and problem-solving strategies that take a position where decisions are made in an "I win, you lose" context. This position, of course, leads to negative attitudes and feelings of dislike of the other person (or people) and eventually leads to avoiding the other person or having minimal contact and only when required. This will, of course, lead to more "win-lose" behaviours and a spiraling downward effect that produces low company morale.

You cannot shake hands with a fist. -- Golda Meir

When conflict and tension is seen as a creative pattern, it can promote healthy communication and problem-solving strategies by using a constructive "win-win" decision making context. This context leads to positive feelings, a liking for one another, and a seeking out of each other for both informal and formal interactions. This pattern, of course, leads to more "win-win" problem-solving decisions and spiraling upward company morale which creates a lively team spirit and increased productivity.

When conflict occurs in the workplace, people become intolerant of the work styles that are different from their own. The two steps involved in addressing the tensions of opposite functions and the inherent conflict that can exist between people are:

An understanding of the appearances of non-productive approaches for dealing with conflict.

A willingness to try new skills for constructive conflict management.

When problems and conflict exist, the tension we experience gets focused on two basic concerns that produce various degrees of positive or negative work-related results. The two concerns are: a) a concern for one's self and one's position and needs, and b) the concern for the other person and their position and needs. The combinations of these two concerns provide descriptions of conflict management approaches one might take when confronted with the tension within oneself.

Approach A: Some people take an aggressive approach due to feeling threatened. They may react to the situation and the people in it in a forceful manner. Her or his behaviours may be argumentative, they may use a loud voice, they seek to find someone else to blame, and their communication is one way. This approach is designed to control the situation around them -- here the person's concern is purely for him or herself with little regard or concern for the other person's needs. This strategy sets up an "I win, you lose" pattern. Future connections with the other person involved will have negative repercussions. The tension between the people involved in this conflict will increase forcing them either to take a strong position themselves and retaliate, or become quiet and withdraw into themselves as they feel they don't have a chance to make a difference with this person, so why bother. In either case, the tension is unmanaged.

When I was a kid, my favorite ride was the bumper cars. What a wonderful fantasy of the driving experience as it could be. All confrontation, no destination. -- Jerry Seinfeld

Approach B: This approach is to withdraw from the situation and avoid a confrontation with the other person involved in the conflict. This approach shows a definite lack of concern for oneself as well as a lack of concern for the other person involved and is designed to "place it safe" and not disturb the waters. Consequently, there is no creative expression of problem solving and conflict resolution does not take place. The repercussions of this second approach are that festering feelings continue to mount and at some point, either an Approach A is inevitable and the person, with all the stored up tension, lashes out or, they leave the organization choosing to walk away rather than remain in the negativity. They will, however, carry unsolved issues with them into the next work place.

Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught. -- Winston Churchill

Approach C: This approach glosses over tension by refusing to consider that there is a conflict with another person. Appearing as if everyone is happy, this strategy for dealing with conflict is carried out so that people can live in harmony and be "one big happy family". This approach creates an "I lose, you win" pattern where there is a high concern for the other person involved and a low concern for oneself. This approach is designed so all involved will always "like" each other. Here any conflict is seen as being disloyal and is to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, people power is wasted, people don't grow and develop, and the innovative workers often leave the organization to find a more challenging workplace.

If you're playing tennis with the boss, you don't have to let him [her] win. Etiquette does not require you to falsify your achievements in any respect in order to ingratiate yourself with people. -- Fortune Magazine's interview with Miss Manners (Judith Martin)

In order to stay in a problem-solving mode using the tension of opposites for constructive growth requires that we have the willingness to try new skills by: a) focusing objectively on the problem, b) stating our feelings in a responsible manner by owning our own thoughts about the conflict and c) requesting help from the other person involved to resolve the tensions that come from the pull of opposite expectations. These skills ensure that the concern for our own position and needs are addressed at the same time recognizing the concerns and needs of the other person involved. This approach can take the following steps:

Step One -- Acknowledge that I have a problem or conflict with the other person's behaviour -- not the person. I set my mind toward a problem-solving context designed to create a win-win approach for both parties involved by looking at my specific concerns.

For example, I may say something like, "Joe, I feel concerned about the deadline for the project we're working on together. If the project isn't started soon, I'm concerned that we'll be up late again the weekend before the deadline and I'd rather not do that as it puts a strain on me and on my family."

Step two -- Ask for the other person's help in addressing my concerns by saying something like, "What are your thoughts on managing the project deadline? How would you suggest we handle this?"

Step three -- Work out a plan of action each person can take to deal with the problem by asking, "What can I do more of, less of, or differently to support you? What would you be willing to do more of, less of, or differently to support me?"

Step four -- set a follow-up meeting to address any questions and concerns or to make any necessary adjustments to the plan.

Turn a problem into an advantage by dealing with it in a direct, constructive manner. Turn both heads toward problem solving rather than defeating, avoiding, or settling for a less than satisfactory outcome.

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Somehow, concerns over differences in expectations in the workplace must be combined in a constructive manner if an organization is to operate with a positive, constructive conflict management approach. When the concern for self and others is combined for solving conflict and problems related to working with others to get the job done, the tension of opposites can be transformed into a solid foundation of understanding. This understanding creates opportunities for personal growth and the development of emotional maturity along with maximizing human potential and increasing business productivity.

Author's Bio: 

Danielle Gault (An Extraverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving Personality Type) Corporate Training Services – Helping You Make Distinctions – A Health and Human Resources Development Company

Contact Diana O’Reilly – Sales and Marketing Manager (905) 569-6720

Danielle Gault is Co-Founder of Corporate Training Services. As a qualified health and human resources development specialist, she uses psychological models and natural healing techniques for developing healthier lifestyle habits, enhancing focus and vision, improving teamwork, solving conflict, and promoting enhanced business results and career satisfaction.

Danielle Gault has a background in both western and eastern approaches to human potential development. She has a BA in psychology and a post- graduate diploma in human resources management. Trained in the natural healing arts such as Reflexology and Yoga, as well as the Dimensional Training System, Neuro-Linquistics Programming (NLP), and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®), Danielle demonstrates creative ways to enhance interpersonal skills.

Ms. Gault has worked in the training and development field for many years and has acquired a wealth of experience presenting training programs to CEOs, VPs, Managers, Support Staff, and Sales Professionals. This background has provided the basis for her special insights into effective interpersonal skills for enhancing productivity and her thorough grasp of management development initiatives.

As a respected human resources consultant, speaker and trainer, Danielle helps business people discover the secrets of achieving "top-rate" performance through the psychology of self understanding and the enhanced use of interpersonal skills.