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"Now that we've taken the MBTI, what's next?"

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An Interview with Dick Thompson

On The CommunicationWheel™

Dr. Dick Thompson’s innovative approach to type communication theory and application using his CommunicationWheel ™ is causing the MBTI ® community to rethink some of the basics of psychological type and communication. The CommunicationWheel ™ has gained popularity across the US since its public release in 1995 and is also in use in countries such as Canada , Korea , Australia , Trinidad and the United Kingdom . The following interview addresses some of the most frequent questions asked of Dr. Thompson about this system.

Question :What is The Communication-Wheel ™ and why did you develop it?

Dr. Thompson: The CommunicationWheel ™ is a simple visual tool that makes it easy to improve communication effectiveness by understanding the relationship between psychological Type and communication.

During the late 70's and early 80's, I did a lot of work with mid-level to senior-level organizational leaders and also with teams. I was using the MBTI ® as part of their developmental process but was having difficulty teaching communication based on the MBTI ®. The teaching models available at that time seemed too complex for the participants to learn quickly much less apply. As I looked at what was available in the MBTI ® literature, I found that six different approaches were being taught, and none of them seemed to work as effectively as I wanted.

In 1982, Flavil Yeakley published an article in Research in Psychological Type which indicated that each Type had a language preferencesequence and a way of rating the probability of difficulty that different Types might have communicating. This article provided the additional piece I needed to make the leap to The CommunicationWheel ™ System. I developed The CommunicationWheel ™ in 1983 to pull together the key components of psychological Type and communication and explain them in a simple, practical and easy-to-use model. As a visual tool, The CommunicationWheel ™ made it easier to understand the concept of psychological Type and its relationship to communication. During the past twelve years, it has proven to be an effective means of improving communication among all Types.

“As a visual tool, The CommunicationWheel™ makes it easy to understand the concept of psychological type and its relationship to communication.”

A wheel was chosen as the model format because it visually represents the relationships among the various Types and their probable degree of difficulty in communicating. The CommunicationWheel ™ is constructed using three concentric rings. The outer ring is divided into the four communication languages (S, N, T & F). The second ring represents the eight dialects spoken by the 16 Types and contains a language preference sequence for each dialect. The third ring contains the Type preference letters which identify the particular communication style of the dialect. This format allows for Types with the same dialect to be placed side by side and opposite dialects to be placed across from one another. For example, the STP dialect is directly across the wheel from the NFP.

Question:Can people really switch languages?

Dr. Thompson: Yes, definitely. The type and linguistics literature is full of specific, factual examples of language changes. C. G. Jung in his book, Psychological Types, makes reference to learning to speak the languages of his patients. Isabel Briggs Myers in her book, Gifts Differing, describes on page 164 the requirement for changing languages to successfully communicate with other types. Susan Brock, Ph.D., teaches a course called “FLEX Talk ®” on changing languages. Margaret Hartzler, Ph.D., addresses talking to the 16 types in her training, Linda Berens, Ph.D., teaches a course on communicating to the 16 types and the research of Flavil Yeakley, Ph.D., indicates that people can and do change languages. On page 33 of the Resource Book I cite 16 different “type” publications that specifically state or imply that you can change languages.

Language is a universal concept. Everything in the universe communicates with everything else. Quantum particles communicate with each other over great distances. Yesterday, I communicated with my dog by changing to “dog language.” Everything communicates in some type of language and when we change to that language we are able to understand. Someday we might all speak only one language.

Civilization has gone to great lengths to develop and articulate a linguistic system to allow for organized communication among people. Often there are barriers that emerge during the act of communicating that reduce effectiveness. Logic dictates that (1) if there is another language, dialect or style that allows one to overcome the barrier, and (2) we have the ability to change, then it must be pursued. For someone to fail to change would not only be illogical, but stupid.

Deep down, people want to understand and be understood by others. This need compels us to seek ways to communicate effectively and at times, to instictively change languages. Parents will tell you that they talk differently to one or more of their children in order for them to understand. When this happens, they are changing languages.

In summary,I have found that people switch languages on a regular basis. In fact, it is not unusual for a person to switch from their primary to their secondary and then back again several times during a short conversation. Depending on the topics covered during a conversation they might even switch to a third or fourth language.

“ During this long answer I’m sure you recognized the same answer in four different languages, Sensing, iNtuiting, Thinking and Feeling.”

Question: How long does it take to teach people enough to actually use your system?

Dr. Thompson: If the individuals are type literate, we can have them using the "Wheel" within a few minutes. To actually become proficient at speaking the third and fourth languages takes time, effort and practice. We can teach a person who has basic MBTI ® training to use the “Wheel” and speak the languages within one-two hours. We have been doing this for over 12 years with groups of people in organizations from the employee level up to senior executives and have found that the system is easy once they understand the basic concepts of languages.

We have discovered that successful communicators have already learned that when you talk to John, you need to talk a particular way. When you talk to Mary, you have to talk a certain way to her. What they are doing is changing languages in order to communicate successfully to these people. They just don't have the labels and the system to use that The Communication-Wheel ™ provides.

Question:Why do you use the extraverted function to determine the primary language?

Dr. Thompson: Myers & Briggs, in their effort to make Jung's theory more understandable, studied how the different types adapted to the outer world. They discovered that all of us use either a perceptive function or a judging function to deal with the outer world. The orientation dimension was added to Jung's theory to provide a pointer, or indicator, as to which of these functions we use to adapt to the outer world. If you are a "J," you use your judging function; if you are a "P," you use your perceptive function. When we communicate, we are engaging the outer world. Research indicates that the method each type uses to communicate with the outer world is determined by the extraverted function. Occasionally a person will switch to the extraverted form of the introverted function and begin to speak in that "language."

Question:What if my language sequence on the Communication Preference Questionnaire ™ (CPQ) is different from that predicted by my type?

Dr. Thompson: Often the CPQ will pick up the language that you are speaking in a particular situation. For example, an ENFJ might speak Sensing or iNtuiting at work rather than their primary language of Feeling. The mental framework you use when you complete the CPQ can cause you to show a different language sequence. The majority of the time the CPQ will match the sequence predicted by type.

Our research indicates that for various environmental reasons people have developed their language preference sequence out of the order predicted by type. For example, an INFP raised in a family of extraverted sensors probably had to learn to speak Sensing to be understood. After 18 years of speaking Sensing, the INFP’s preference sequence might change from N F T S to N F S T.

Question:Is it more important to speak the other person's primary language or the languagethey are currently speaking?

Dr. Thompson: If someone is speaking to you in German, it is more important that you speak back to them in German. If they switch to French, then you should switch to French. The language you are speaking creates a mental framework for speaking as well as listening. Both people should speak the same language. It establishes a rapport and makes comprehension much easier.

“Both people should speak the same language."

Question:Should my focus be more on language, dialect or style?

Dr. Thompson: Your primary focus should be on speaking the language. If you can also determine a person’s dialect, then you should try to match the dialect. If you have the skill to determine the style the person is speaking, then of course you would attempt to change to that style. The more accurately you can match the other person, the more effectively you can communicate.

Question:What is the process that you use to determine the language, dialect and style a person is speaking?

Dr. Thompson: The first thing I try to do is listen to the person’s overall pattern of speaking. Are they focusing primarily on facts, in the present, in an open manner; or rambling through various ideas, possibilities and relationships; or do they tend to be cause and effect oriented, logical and businesslike; or warm, friendly and people oriented. The languages are fairly easy to hear.

“To determine the language I listen for the overall pattern and kinds of words and focus of what the person is saying.”

Occasionally, however, the dialect is so strong that it might be difficult to determine whether a person is speaking Sensing with Thinking (STP) or Thinking with Sensing (STJ). In some cases, the dialect is so strong you have to try either the Sensing-Thinking dialect or the Thinking-Sensing and see which one works most effectively. Whichever language or dialect you use, if the other person is not responding to it, then change until you get a match and you get the response you want.

I try not to let knowing a person's type influence the language I use. It is more important to hear the language that is being spoken and try to match that rather than what type predicts. Basically, I am listening for the overall pattern, kinds of words and the focus of the conversation to give me an indication of where to begin. Science gets you into the ball park—art scores the runs.

Question:What if I mis-diagnose and speak the wrong language?

Dr. Thompson: If you are speaking the wrong language, the person will not respond to you as well as if you were speaking their language. As soon as you notice that you've made a mismatch, change. Don't continue speaking a language once you realize that you don’t match.

Question:Why do you use a different method to determine language sequence for extraverts than for introverts?

Dr. Thompson: The Extravert’s communication preference sequence follows nicely along the Type development sequence predicted by Type theory. With Introverts, however, the formula changes. Introverts prefer to interact with the outside world using the auxiliary function rather than the dominant. Therefore, their first choice for communicating is the auxiliary function and their second choice is the dominant.

One of the cornerstones of the logic of Type development theory is that the dominant function controls the individual. Furthermore, the perceiving and judging processes are bi-polar. For example, the perceiving process has Sensing at one pole and iNtuitive at the other. Thus, when you are using Sensing (the opposite of iNtuitive), you are doing so to the exclusion of iNtuition. The more a function is used, the less its polar opposite is used. Therefore, the inferior function (the opposite of the dominant) has the least opportunity for use and skill development. Applying the frequency of use rationale to communication preferences, one could expect that if the auxiliary function is the most frequently used function by Introverts, then its opposite (the tertiary) would be the least preferred choice for communicating because it receives the least use and has developed the least amount of extraverted skill. The opposite of the dominant process (the inferior function) is the third preference for Introverts.

Our research and observations over the years indicate that the communication preference sequence for Introverts follows the frequency of use theory rather than Type development. Utilizing this approach for determining preference sequences results in only eight language preference sequences..

Question:What about the recent report in the Bulletin of Psychological Type that says that people listen with their auxiliary function?

Dr. Thompson: Marthanne Luzader’s recent article in the Summer 1995 issue of Bulletin of Psychological Type was interesting. She suggests a bivariate communication model based on a proposition from Walter Lowen’s 1982 book, Dichotomies of the Mind. In summary, she proposes that communication is composed of listening and talking. She agrees that people talk using their extraverted function. For the listening process she uses Lowen’s suggestion that people listen with their auxiliary function. Thus, according to Luzader, introverts speak and listen with the same function, their auxiliary (extraverted function). Extraverts listen with their auxiliary (introverted) and then speak with their dominant (extraverted) function.

First of all, I use a trivariate model—listening, processing and expressing, but that’s another story. Our research indicates that both introverts and extraverts listen and speak with the same language and that the difference is in the processing. In normal banter, introverts and extraverts process with their dominant function. This means that introverts translate from the language in which they listen to their dominant and back again before speaking. Extraverts do not have to make this translation, thus, they respond faster than introverts.

Question : What if we're opposites on the "Wheel," yet communicate very well?

Dr. Thompson: We have found that often people who work together or have known each other for a long time and are opposites on the CommunicationWheel ™ have developed the technique of switching languages to match with each other. Even when these long-term relationships have developed effective communication, we find that when they first come together it often takes a few minutes for the transition to a language match to occur.

We've also discovered that sometimes people do not communicate as effectively with each other as they think. When we ask both parties questions about how well they communicate with the other person, it is not unusual to have them say, "Not very well."

Question:What if we have the same language or dialect, but do not communicate very well?

Dr. Thompson: You might have the same language or dialect and not communicate very well because of other constraints on communication. The first part of The CommunicationWheel ™ : A Resource Book lays the groundwork for the various constraints on communication that might cause two ESTJ's, for example, not to communicate very well. All communication problems are not the result of type. It is also possible with the ESTJ's that one of them switches to their secondary language (Sensing) on a regular basis and tries to communicate with the other one who is still using Thinking. Thus, there are various factors that must be considered when diagnosing communication problems. The CommunicationWheel ™ is an excellent place to begin.

Question:Are there temperament languages?

Dr. Thompson: Yes, we do find that temperaments have a general pattern in which they communicate. For example, Keirsey's Artisans (our Mavericks) have a primary language of Sensing, because they extravert their perceptive function. The other temperaments are not so predictable.

“You get a mixture of languages and dialects within a particular temperament.”

The temperament languages are not as accurate as the type languages, because you get a mixture of dialects within a particular temperament. If you look on The CommunicationWheel ™ , you will notice that ESTJ's and ISTJ's are on the left side of the "Wheel" under Thinking language and the ESFJ's and ISFJ's are on the right side of the "Wheel" under the Feeling language. Although they belong to the same temperament, when you hear the two of them talk, you discover that the languages and dialects are very different. Therefore, we recommend using type languages when teaching communication rather than temperament.

Question:When I change from my primary language of Thinking to my secondary language of iNtuiting, it feels like my personality changes. What happens to my attitude and orientation?

Dr. Thompson: Let's take an ENFJ as our example. ENFJs speak Feeling as their primary language and NFJ as their dialect. Switching to the secondary language of iNtuitive requires a shift of not only a language, but also a shift in orientation from J to P. iNtuitive is a perceptive language and requires a cessation of judging in order to use it. The switch from Feeling to iNtuitive also switches the dialect from NFJ to NFP.

The difficulty of changing from a judging language to a perceptive one is particularly evident in brainstorming sessions. One of the primary brainstorming rules is "no judging of others' ideas during the idea-generation phase.” Those who have to change from a judging language (T or F) to a perceptive one (S or N) find it difficult to remain in a perceptive mode during the session. After all, the sometimes "wacky" ideas produced in a brainstorming session are easy targets for criticism. Changing to iNtuitive requires suspending judgment, loosening up and going with the flow.

This explains what happens to the orientation dimension when changing languages, but what about attitude? For example, when an INFJ changes from their primary language of Feeling to their secondary of iNtuitive, does their attitude also change?

The answer is yes. [The dominant (D) and auxiliary (A) functions and their attitudes, extraversion (e) and introversion (i) will be designated, e.g., IN DiF AeJ.] The INFJ normally extraverts their auxiliary function F Ae, supported by their dominant, introverted function N Di. In order to switch from the Feeling language (based on extraverting a judging function) to the iNtuitive language (based on extraverting a perceiving function), they have to extravert as a perceptive (P). Thus, their dialect, N DiF AeJ changes to N DeF AiP. Note that when J changed to P, the attitude of the functions also changed. If the attitude remained the same (I), the INFJ would become an INFP. The IN AeF DiP style extraverts the auxiliary function N Ae, supported by the dominant, introverted function F Di. The INFJ's new dialect, N DeF AiP, does not match the INFP dialect, N AeF DiP; it actually changed to match the EN DeF AiP dialect. Observation of INFJs changing from the Feeling language to iNtuitive reveals a sudden "burst of extraversion." When Introverts change to their second language, they temporarily become Extraverts.

When Extraverts change to their secondary languages, they become introverted. For example, when EN AiT DeJs change from the primary language of Thinking to the secondary of iNtuitive, they change to the IN AeT DiP style. An easy way to remember what happens when types change from their primary to secondary languages is that Extraverts change to the introverted style of their secondary language and Introverts change to the extraverted style.

Question : Can The CommunicationWheel™ system be used without a basic understanding of the MBTI ®?

Dr. Thompson: There is no doubt that a thorough understanding and practical application of the MBTI ® can significantly enhance the communication process. We began to ask the question several years ago, “Is it really necessary to be trained on the MBTI ® to communicate effectively?” The answer is “No.” People have been communicating for thousands of years without using the MBTI ®. The next question we asked was “Can a person be taught to use The CommunicationWheel™ without the MBTI ®?” We quickly discovered that the answer to this question is “Yes.”

The non-MBTI ® version of the “Wheel” uses the same language labels, e.g., Sensing, as the MBTI ® version. The major differences are that there is no reference to psychological type, the MBTI, or why the languages exist in the form they do. We only teach to the dialect level with no in-depth discussion of the language preference sequence or its rationale and use a language/dialect only version of The CommunicationWheel™. The Communication Preference Questionnaire™ is used to determine the participant’s primary and secondary languages.

To date we have used the non-MBTI ® version with hundreds of participants and found that they become proficient with it in a short period of time. In fact, they seem to learn it quicker than some of the more advanced type practitioners because they do not have so much “type knowledge” to get in the way of learning.

The non-MBTI ® version makes the system available to any audience without the extra time and expense of using the MBTI ®. It can be included in short presentations with large groups and added into any communication module.

Question:What is the next step with The CommunicationWheel ™ system?

The CommunicationWheel ™ system is more than just a graphic for arraying the types. On the surface, the system provides a simplistic, visual method of teaching the relationship of type and communication. Below the surface is the advancement of how we think about and understand type dynamics and communication. No other publication really attempts to explain the how’s and why’s of the dynamics that are taking place during conversation.

In addition to the graphics and type communication concepts, we are continuing to develop supporting materials for learning, teaching, counseling and applying the system. These range from language cards, workbooks and dialect buttons to multimedia presentations.

The CommunicationWheel ™ continues to spread across the U.S. and to other countries. Our short-term goals are to increase the use of the system by exposing more people to it, providing more support materials and making it easier to use. The long-term goal is to build a body of research supporting some of the more theoretical aspects of the system and to “leap” to the next level.

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The CommunicationWheel and Communication Preference Questionnaire
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