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What Others Are Saying

The sessions were well planned yet flexible enough to allow group dynamics to flow towards areas of need. Our facilitator made himself aware of the Department’s functions and issues prior to the retreats in order to custom the events to target our problems. I was informed of potential benefits and risks inherent in this process. Following each session, he called to give a synopsis and recommendations about the group on which to build the next retreat.

Department Director

Human Machine

A Communication Exercise For Use with the MBTI

We recently received a request via email for "an experiential activity where we involve people kinesthetically," one that brought "out the fact that people with different MBTI preferences communicate differently, that we need to adapt our communication styles to the preferences of the recipients."  (It also needed to be completed in 45 minutes in a 10' X 6' area ... tiny ...)

Short Answer: I don't know of a particular activity that accomplishes the objective as a stand-alone activity; rather, it involves a facilitative process that blends MBTI training with activity.  While I'm reasonably sure that the person requesting the activity knows this, I'm not sure that I can do it justice without providing that preliminary framework, outlined in Process Steps 1 and 2 below.  From the request, I'm not clear on how much time before the session in question can be spent discussing the material, but the activity will be much richer for the participants if these steps can be accomplished.

Preliminary Process

  1. Frontload the activity with a heavy dose of content.  Prior to this session, administer the instrument and provide interpretation.  Provide each person with a copy of Myer's Introduction to Type, and make sure that you provide time for each participant to review the page that details their particular type.  In particular, the section "How Others May See Them" provides clues to their own preferred communication styles, especially the messages they send.
  2. Have each person identify with a preference about which s/he feels clear -- they recognize this preference in themselves.  Form groups based on preference, with each group answering the question "When someone is trying to communicate something to you, what does this preference -- this part of you -- want in order to understand and accept the communication?"1  Have each group discuss and report out to the whole; promote discussion on where potential misunderstandings might occur; ask the opposite preferences in particular to note the communications needs of their opposite.

The Activity

  1. Fishbowl this activity (i.e., ask for volunteers who will observe the process, take particular note of communication styles and issues, and report out to the group after the activity).
  2. Select one of the dichotomies (J-P, S-N, etc.) that displayed the most fruitful discussions in preliminary step 2.  For the rest of this example, we'll use the S-N dichotomy, but any would do.
  3. Ask for 5 Clear S’s and 5 Clear N’s to step forward.  Inform the participants before they volunteer that the exercise will be active and that they will be doing the exercise in front of the rest of the group.  People with back problems should be encouraged NOT to participate.
  4. Distribute bandannas to one of the groups; have them don these in any way in which it is clearly seen.  This step is for the observers to be able to distinguish between the preferences represented because now you will create two mixed groups, i.e., each group will have 2 or 3 Clear S's and 2 or 3 Clear N's.  Ask one group to leave the room.
  5. To the remaining group, explain the following scenario: You have been asked by the National Institute of Cloning Engineering (NICE) to design a human machine, and you only have 5 minutes to do it. There are only a few guidelines:
    1. Machine must be connected,
    2. Must use all 5 members
    3. Must make a noise
    4. Can only use 3 feet, 2 hands that touch the floor
    5. Must move from point A to B
  6. Any questions?  Begin.
  7. Have group 2 come in and do the activity - 5 min.
  8. Debrief: query the observers and participants. Where were the challenges in communicating?  Were there differences between how each group member communicated or understood others to communicate?  How did their preference influence this?  How might they have altered their communication style to adapt to the other preference within their groups?


  1. If there is time (or subsequent times) to investigate other preferences and the effects that those have on communication, the same process outlined above can be used with other activities.  See Limited Senses and the Giant Mississippi Lizard Egg for examples.

1 From the MBTI Manual, 6th Edition, p. 332.


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