Written by Shawn Bakker
Through their thirty-plus years of working with the MBTI instrument, Damian Killen and Danica Murphy have developed a model for applying type to how people respond to conflict situations. Their theory is that the interplay of the last two letters of an individual’s type code has the most significant bearing on that person’s conflict behavior.
Killen and Murphy believe that the dichotomy in which people have the greatest difficulty using their non-preferred function is Judging-Perceiving. Conflict caused by this tension is accentuated when coupled with a difference in the decision-making process (Thinking-Feeling). By understanding the interplay of the last two preferences one can see their way through conflict more effectively.
T-F Dichotomy: Where we focus in conflict
Since our T-F preferences relate to the decision making process, they often determine what our attention is focused on during conflict.
Those with a preference for Thinking focus most strongly on:
- What the conflict is about
- Opinions and principles
- Analyzing and tolerating differences
- Maintaining a firm stance
Those with a preference for Feeling focus most strongly on:
- Who is involved
- Needs and values
- Accepting and appreciating differences
- Ensuring give and take
J-P Dichotomy: How we respond to conflict
The J-P preferences relate to our way of dealing with the outer world and influence our responses to conflict.
Those with a preference for Judging tend to:
- Seek resolution
- Focus on the past and future
- Be concerned primarily with the outcome of the situation
- Experience satisfaction once the conflict is over
Those with a preference for Perceiving tend to:
- Seek clarification
- Focus on the present
- Be concerned primarily with the input of participants
- Experience satisfaction once the conflict is being addressed
The interaction between these different preferences leads to four conflict pair types. In conflict situations these pairs may look like:
TJ’s – decisive, planned, and organized; at times critical and blunt
TP’s – objective; searches for what is right; at times stubborn
FJ’s – warm; seeks harmony; at times wants to smother with kindness
FP’s – sensitive; attuned to people’s needs; at times worry for everyone
When in conflict, it is useful for team members to know their preferences. However, the true advantage for team members comes from recognizing the needs of others. If you are running a type workshop in the future that looks at conflict, try to shift the attendees focus from themselves, summarized with the thought “What others can do for me,” to that of “What can I do for others.” This more proactive approach leads to better conflict resolution.