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Interaction Styles

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Interaction Styles are groupings of the 16 types of the MBTI instrument of psychometrics and Jungian psychology. The Interaction Styles model was developed by Linda Berens, PhD, founder of the Temperament Research Institute. This model builds on David Keirsey's Temperament model and its subcategories, and is based on observable behavior patterns that are quite similar to David Merrill's "Social Styles" and William Moulton Marston's DiSC theory.

Temperament and Interaction Style
iStJ iSfJ iNFj iNTj
iStP iSfP iNFp iNTp
eStP eSfP eNFp eNTp
eStJ eSfJ eNFj eNTj
Temperaments and Interaction Styles in the MBTI.


David Keirsey, who had mapped the four temperaments of his Keirsey Temperament Sorter to the MBTI system, ended up minimizing the role of both Thinking/Feeling (T/F) and J/P (Judging/Perceiving). Starting with S/N ("Sensing" and "Intuition", which he renames "Observation" and "Introspection" or "Concrete" and "Abstract", under the category of "Communication"), he divides this by the new scale of "Cooperative" or "Utilitarian" (also called "Pragmatic") under the category of "Action"; which yields his "four temperaments" (SP-Artisan, SJ-Guardian, NF-Idealist, and NT-Rational). Next, this is divided by "Role-Directive" and "Role-Informative", into eight "roles" or "intelligence types" (STP-Operator, SFP-Entertainer, STJ-Administrator, SFJ-Conservator, NFJ-Mentor, NFP-Advocate, NTJ-Coordinator, and NTP-Engineer). Finally, these are divided by E/I (Extraversion/Introversion also called "Expressive/Reserved"), yielding the sixteen "types" of the MBTI.

Linda V. Berens, another doctor of Psychology and a former student of Keirsey, would also use a similar system, pairing the Interaction Styles (which were implicit in Keirsey's system) with both the temperaments and the cognitive processes. Just as Keirsey combined S/N and his "Cooperative-Utilitarian" into "temperaments", Berens would pair "Directing" and "Informing" (as she calls them) directly with E/I (which she calls "Initiating – Responding") creating the four "Interaction Styles" in addition to the four "temperaments". This then matched the several other two-factor models of personality, beginning with the original four temperaments which had been observed in terms of fast or slow response, and short or long delay.

Comparison and cross-mapping with Keirseyan Temperament[edit]

Keirsey generally correlated his temperaments with the ancient temperaments as follows: Artisan=Sanguine; Idealist=Choleric; Rational=Phlegmatic and Guardian=Melancholic. However, among others interpreting the theory, there is no complete agreement as to which correspond to which. For instance, while the Artisan is almost unanimously matched with the Sanguine, the other comparisons are not consistent. The Guardians are often associated with the Melancholic, but then they are also linked to the Phlegmatic, with the Melancholic being the Idealist.[1] Idealists and Rationals are often switched back and forth between representing Cholerics and Phlegmatics in comparisons. These anomalies may have stemmed from the fact that Keirsey based his temperaments on a "Greek god" typology created by pairing together the philosophical Apollonian and Dionysian concept with Carl Spitteler's "Prometheus and Epimetheus" epic (1881), rather than using purely the Galenic descriptions. Believing the "humor" names were "misleading",[2] he originally named his temperaments after the mythological figures.

Plus, he also drew more upon the likes of Ernst Kretschmer and Eduard Spranger, who had other models which he correlated with Galen's temperaments (though they were not necessarily perfect matches of them); while others followed Pavlov and Eysenck, who shaped the modern theories of those who held onto the Galenic names. Kretschmer, for example, used different factors ("Cycloid": gay vs. sad, and "Schizoid": sensitive vs. cold), instead of the "extraversion" and "people/task-orientation" scales that define temperament in many other systems. Spranger had six types; the two that were omitted ("Social" and "Political") fit the classic behavioral descriptions of the Sanguine and Choleric (love of people or love of power); while the remaining four, which did not correspond as clearly to the temperaments would be compared to Keirsey's model. This omissions was because "Political" was a category containing both Theoretic and Artistic, and "Social" contained Economical and Religious.[3] Hence, it corresponded more with Keirsey's own "cooperative" and "pragmatic" categories.

The Interaction Styles, however, more closely match the behavior of the familiar understanding of the classic temperaments with "Directing" and "Informing" being a closer counterpart to people/task-orientation. Berens herself stated "Directing communications seem to have a task focus and Informing communications have a people focus. MBTI practitioners have long related task focus to a preference for Thinking and people focus to a preference for Feeling". "Descriptors of 'responsive' seem to go with the Informing style of communication and descriptors of 'less responsive' seem to go with the Directing style of communication."[4] Directives are the more "serious" type, defined by Keirsey as "those who communicate primarily by directing others", and Informatives are defined as "those who communicate primarily by informing others". The expressive/directing Berens calls In Charge, and behaves like a Choleric, as the name itself even implies. The reserved/directing is called Chart the Course and corresponds to the Melancholy, who is very analytical and needs order and familiarity. The expressive/informing is called Get Things Going and fits the description of the Sanguine, who is upbeat, enthusiastic and focused on interaction. The reserved/informing; Behind the Scenes is a calm peacemaker who sees value in many contributions and consult outside inputs to make an informed decision and is linked to the Phlegmatic.

In addition to the E/I and Directing/Informing categories, there is also "Attention: Focus and Interest (Control/Movement)", which pairs the diametric opposite styles. In-Charge and Behind-the-Scenes have in common "Control": Focus on control over the outcome, and Chart-the-Course and Get-Things-Going have in common "Movement": Focus on movement toward

The role of Thinking, Feeling, Judging and Perceiving[edit]

Looking at the type division between Directing vs. Informing reveals that this scale can be defined by both T/F and J/P together. Directives lean towards T and J, while Informatives lean towards F and P. (Thinking or "Toughmindedness" as well as Judging or "Scheduling" as Keirsey calls it, are very compatible with "Directing". Likewise, Feeling or “Friendliness” as well as Perceiving or "Probing" (Keirsey) are compatible with Informing). "TJ" in the Jungian-Myersian system represents "extraverted Thinking", meaning the people of these types use critical logic or objective criteria in dealing with the outer world of people, (resulting in their characteristic "directive" behavior); while FP is "Introverted Feeling" (meaning they use values or subjective criteria in dealing with the inner world of thoughts, in which they tend to do what they would want to be done to them). So each of the four types that make up each directing style have a T and/or J, and the informatives have an F and/or P. Since there are only two TJ or FP combinations per E and I, each style also contains one TP and one FJ type. The directives tie TP with S and FJ with N; and the informatives tie TP with N, and FJ with S. So Directives can also be categorized as containing all NJ's (Introverted iNtuition) and ST's (Sensing and Thinking together as the primary and auxiliary functions). Informatives also contain all NP's (extraverted iNtuition) and SF's (Sensing and Feeling together).

The result is that each of the four interaction styles share one of the 16 personality types with each of the four Keirsey temperaments. Berens describes the Keirseyan SP, SJ, NF and NT temperaments (Which she renames "Improviser", "Stabilizer", "Catalyst" and "Theorist") as the "Why" of behavior, while the interaction styles are the "How".

Temperaments and Interaction Styles
Interaction Style Catalyst (NF) Theorist (NT) Stabilizer (SJ) Improviser (SP)
In Charge (Choleric) Envisioner
Mentor (ENFJ)
Mobilizer (ENTJ)
Supervisor (ESTJ)
Executor (ESTP)
Chart the Course (Melancholic) Foreseer
Developer (INFJ)
Director (INTJ)
Inspector (ISTJ)
Operator (ISTP)
Get Things Going (Sanguine) Discoverer
Advocate (ENFP)
Inventor (ENTP)
Caretaker (ESFJ)
Presenter (ESFP)
Behind the Scenes (Phlegmatic) Harmonizer
Clarifier (INFP)
Theorizer (INTP)
Supporter (ISFJ)
Producer (ISFP)

See also[edit]

  • Keirsey Temperament Sorter
  • Myers–Briggs Type Indicator
  • Socionics


  1. Evidence-based Research in Complementary and Alternative Medicine I: History
  2. Please Understand Me, Prometheus Nemesis Books, 1978
  3. Please Understand Me II, Prometheus Nemesis Books, 1998, p.340, citing Haley, Jay Strategies in Psychotherapy p. 8-19
  4. Understanding Yourself and Others: An Introduction to Interaction Styles Telos Publications, 2001 ISBN 0-9712144-0-9 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.

External links[edit]

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