Constructive Conversation: How to Advance Opinions Without Advancing Hate

Perhaps one of the most detrimental status quos that develop in a society is that of the "GroupThink" mentality. In "GroupThink," only a single opinion is advanced, and those who tend to disagree with that opinion are either too frightened to vocalize it for fear of rejection or are ostracized and prejudiced against by the group. GroupThink begins with ideological intolerance, but this intolerance changes into a militant, insultive stance, turning into ideology and identity discrimination toward those who disagree with the prevailing thought. Societies run by the GroupThink mentality often result in an inefficient or volatile living situation with people who become blind to other ways of approaching problems. In all, GroupThink has a tendency to be detrimental to society at large by removing the ability for those who have better or more efficient solutions to voice such solutions. 

The main culprits for the development of GroupThink is fear of rejection and a tendency for people to be conflict-averse. These tendencies are recipes for disaster when a society functions on the ability to adapt in a positive way. Life has constant change, and everyone serves a purpose in the fight against perilous change. However, in a GroupThink society, those whose purpose is to solve a specific problem can sometimes be completely ignored, to the detriment of everyone. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid this perilous mentality and keep people from becoming militant toward those who oppose them.

Using Socionics to Determine Personality Type

One important aspect of communication that must be remembered is that people process and imbibe information differently. This is because not everyone is the same personality type. The propagating field of Socionics, which is most popular in Russia and Eastern Europe, developed out of a curiosity toward understanding how different personality types function in a society. This theory developed around the work of Carl Jung, who laid the groundwork for most modern popular personality type systems. Socionics provides an excellent method for understanding people and speaking to them in a way that will resonate.

The theory maintains that there are two ways in which people process information and two ways in which they acquire information. A person's personality type revolves around which combination of information processing and information acquirement a person chooses to use. This is coupled with whether their focus in on the world around them (extraversion) or the thoughts present in their minds (introversion). This is normally summarized with a four letter abbreviation that looks remarkably similar to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. The reason for this is because both Myers Briggs and Socionics are based on the same theory of personality developed by Carl Jung. However, their application is slightly different.

The two modes of information acquirement are either Sensing or Intuition. Sensing (S) people mainly pay attention to the who, what, when, and where of a situation, whereas Intuitive (N) people, mainly focus on the why and how. Sensing people prefer to know the facts, but Intuitive people prefer to know the underlying causes, patterns, systems, and ideas.

Once people acquire information, they must process it, and the two main ways in which a person processes information is through either Thinking or Feeling. Contrary to what this may appear to state, Feeling people are not those who make their decisions through their feelings. Both Thinkers and Feelers use their brains to process information. However, their mode for solving problems is either mostly based on logic and rationality (Thinking function (T)) or perspectives (Feeling function (F)). This means that, if a Thinker and a Feeler were both solving the same crime, the Thinker would begin by analyzing the situation through what information they have received to determine what happened, whereas the Feeler would try to determine the different points of view and decide which one they agree with from among those points of view.

Perhaps the most tricky part of typing people is Extroversion and Introversion. Since Introverts generally spend more time in their heads than in the physical world, that leaves much less information sharing for which a typing assessment can be completed. However, Extroverts, since they are generally open and talkative, are much easier to type. However, these traits are not what makes an Introvert or an Extrovert; rather, these are merely external indicators of where a type chooses to focus his energy. Introverts prefer to focus on their own heads. Whatever ideas, memories, or reactions that happen inside their head are what the Introvert prefers to focus on. Extroverts, on the other hand, prefer to focus on the world around them.

This does not mean that Extroverts dislike ideas. It merely means that Extroverts prefer to focus their lives on the outside world versus their internal world. An Extrovert can still be interested in politics, for instance, and think about the different ideologies because they will affect his outer world. Conversely, an Introvert might not always be interested in philosophy and ideas. Some Introverts prefer to focus on fantasy and fiction in their inner world and could become animators, writers, playwrights, etc. which bring joy to many people. Therefore, what can be gleaned is that the main difference between Introverts and Extroverts is where they focus themselves, whether in their head or on the world around them.

Using Type Dynamics to Specify a Person's Personality Type

The extroverted and introverted traits can determine which type is most present in the conversation. However, it is important to know that every individual uses every function. Extroverts also have some introversion, thinkers have some feeler processing, and intuits use sensing function. However, usually, a person will settle on the order in which they use the Thinker/Feeler mode and the Sensing/Intuition mode, etc. The names of order for the functions as follows: Dominant, Auxiliary, Tertiary, Inferior. The order in which each trait (S/N and T/F) is placed creates a person's personality type. Another important fact is that the four functions alternate between introversion and extraversion.

The alternation between the traits makes it difficult to determine a person's type in they are an introvert, since the dominant function is only present in the inner world and not really shown or used much in the physical (outer) world. Therefore, and Introvert (I) who uses Feeling (F) as his Dominant function will not use this function with the physical world but instead with the inner world. Therefore, their Auxiliary function will be the one that is used in the external world, and it will also be the one that will first be noticed.

The functions must coexist with each other, which means that there is only one logical procession of the functions. For example, if the acquiring function (Sensing or Intuition) is the dominant function, then it makes sense that the preferred acquiring function would be the Dominant function, and the other acquiring function would be the Inferior function. Then the processing functions would be placed as the Auxiliary and tertiary functions. Therefore, whichever function is Dominant, the other one in the same trait is inferior, and whichever function is Auxiliary, the other one in the same trait is Tertiary.

In Socionics, to complete the typing sequence, a final letter, either j (judging) or p (perceiving) is placed at the end of the type. These letters explain which trait is dominant (the acquiring trait (S/N) or the processing trait (T/F)). If the acquiring trait is dominant, then the person is a perceiver. However, if the processing trait is dominant, then the person is a judging type. It is important to note that judging is not the same as being judgmental, all this letter shows is that the processing trait is the Dominant trait.

An excellent real world example of type dynamics (the functional order that was referenced above) would be President Donald Trump (ESTp). Since Trump is an extrovert, his dominant function is also his extroverted function. Since there is a "p" at the end of his type, this means that his Sensing trait is dominant. This would be abbreviated as "Se" (Extroverted (e) Sensing (S)). Since "Se" is the dominant function, and the opposite function to the dominant function is the inferior function, then that means that Trump must be Inferior Intuition. In this case, since the four functions alternate between introversion and extraversion (the order o alternation depends on whether a person is Introverted or Extroverted. If a person is Introverted, then the alternation will be I-E-I-E. However, if a person is Extroverted, then the order will be E-I-E-I.), it would be abbreviated as Ni (Introverted (i) Intuition (N)). At this point we have Se-X-X-Ni. The two middle Xs reference the Auxiliary and Tertiary functions. In the case of Donald Trump, Thinking (T) is his Auxiliary function, and since the Tertiary function must be the opposite of the Auxiliary function, That means that Feeling (F) must be Trump's Tertiary function. Further, since the functions alternate between extraversion and introversion, Trump must be a "Ti" (Introverted (i) Thinking (T)) and an Fe (Extroverted (e) Feeling (F)). This makes Trump a Se-Ti-Fe-Ni or ESTp.

Applying Personality Type to Better Conversate

Knowing how the different personality types work can provide extraordinary help in conversation. If it is noticed that a person is an extrovert who focuses primarily on the facts, then this means that they are an Se Dominant type, and the best way to communicate with an Se type is to stick to the facts and allow them to process the facts themselves. However, if it is determined that another extroverted person is an Fe Dominant type, then it would be best to communicate to them through speaking about yours and others' perceptions about an issue, which will allow him to process the information in a way that best suits him. However, it is equally as valuable to determine the Auxiliary type, since knowing this type will help you determine precisely how this person uses all the functions, and precisely how much of each function to use. The introverted functions will be the most difficult to ascertain, but if both extroverted functions are determined, then the introverted functions can be pieced together to create the personality type.

One method to expedite the process of typing is to apply the four temperaments to personality typing:
ST (Sensing + Thinking):
The Administrator: This type of temperament prefers order and by-the-books enforcement and lifestyle. They will naturally focus on the facts of the conversation and on the logic applied to those facts and will not care so much about ideals or value statements. In conversations with this type, perspective (feeler) comments will rarely surface.
SF (Sensing + Feeling):
The People Person/Empath: These people generally focus on people. In general, they will be warm and approachable, and in conversation they will focus on the facts and people's perspectives. Since they are Sensing + Feeling, they will pick up on the who, what, when, and where of the moment and process what it means for others.
NT (Intuition + Thinking):
The Thinkers: These people are ideas people. They use their Intuition to pick up the underlying patterns and of a situation and are always looking for ideas. They then process these ideas with logic and, when given facts, they will try to find the underlying systems and ideas present in a situation. A conversation with an NT will typically focus on ideas and their logicality.
NF (Intuition + Feeling):
The Visionary: These people are the dreamers of society. They look at the world and have a drive and passion to make the world a better place. They will use their Intuition to gather the underlying patterns, ideas, and systems, but will be driven to make these patterns etc. better for everyone because of their Feeler component. A conversation with a Visionary will often focus on humanity and visions of making humanity better.

Regardless of whether a person is introverted or extroverted, they will still evince one of these temperaments.

Example From Real Life

One of my classes from my time at University exemplifies how type dynamics can negatively or positively affect conversation. In my 7:30AM biology class, the Professor was certainly an SF temperament, and a person who regularly spoke up in class was an NT temperament. The conversations between these two were normally train wrecks because the professor would spout out a long series of facts and finally end with a conclusion and the NT would respond by challenging the conclusion by logically processing the facts. This would make the professor feel offended because the NT was not taking perspective into account, and when the professor explained this concept to the student, the student normally sat in angered silence because he cared more about the truth than what perspectives others may have had.

These train wreck conversations could have been avoided if both the professor and the student rephrased their arguments to tailor to the other's personality temperament. In the SF professor had explained how the facts logically align, the NT might have responded differently. Further, if the NT had decided to rephrase the logical argument to a perspectives-based one that emphasizes the facts and how they can be interpreted, then the professor would have better understood the student. However, since the professor and student were speaking according to their type and not the other person's, the conversations generally devolved into two frustrated individuals who stifled their annoyances and anger toward one another to simply push the whole conversation to a conclusion so that the material could be covered.

This situation exemplifies the importance of learning personality typing. If the student and the professor had both been proactive about personality typing, then they would have both chosen a route that would have better resonated with the other person. Using personality typing can help a person who feels unable to explain their point of view explain it in such a way that could potentially resonate with the other people present. Doing this sort of proactive typing can help to eliminate GroupThink and lead to a more ideologically open society.