One of the exciting, new pieces of research to come out of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) tool, is an exploration of the notion that sometimes our personalities go into a response pattern that can be characterized as “in the grip.” The grip response occurs when we’re at a low ebb, experiencing fatigue, physical or psychological stress, illness and life transitions. Any of these can occur at any point in our lives, but the research also suggests that we often experience this grip response during midlife.
For example, let’s look at our friend Harriet (ENTJ) who is normally in control and on top of things. She’s usually very confident about her work performance, putting in countless hours. However recently, due to a number of stressors in her life, she ended up giving a presentation that was not well-prepared, and it was a huge mistake. As a result, she now feels totally incompetent. As she’s “in the grip,” Harriet takes the comments as personal criticism, convinced that people don’t like her and suggests it’s time for her to quit her job. This exaggerated response is Harriet “in the grip” of her inferior personality function. As long as she stays there, her choices and decisions will not be in her own best interest.
Let’s look at another example. Ordinarily, Jose (ENFP) is an enthusiastic, innovative contributor to his work team. He often offers suggestions that really help make it better for everyone. A new boss started in the department who doesn’t respond well to Jose’s casual, sociable approach. Feeling that he was doing nothing right, Jose starts to go “in the grip.” As his anxiety increases, he withdraws from people. He is picky and gets upset over little things. People wonder where the warm, fun Jose went. Sometimes Jose wonders the same thing.
Every personality has its own “in the grip” set of responses (click here to view). The good news is that there are also suggested remedies for getting out of the grip. For example, Harriet would do well to find a trusted friend who will take her on some walks and discuss what happened with the presentation and put it in the proper perspective. One bad day does not make or break a career. Most importantly, the friend will help Harriet reframe and refocus her energies.
For Jose, the remedy may be getting enough rest and paying attention to physical needs including finding time for exercise. It might also help to engage in sensing activities such as movies and outings with friends to restore his balance.
So, what are the best steps to avoid the grip? Here are a couple of important ones:
1. MBTI suggests that we have four functions: sensing, intuiting, feeling and thinking. The more we rely on our dominant and secondary function, the weaker we will be in our third and fourth functions. That may set us up for trouble when stress occurs. So periodically, encourage yourself to explore your less dominant functions in a healthy way. In Harriet’s situation, feeling is her inferior function. She would do well to work on identifying and exploring her feelings on a regular basis (sitting quietly and allowing her feeling to come to the surface) rather than having them erupt during an “in the grip” experience. Jose’s inferior function is sensing or using his five senses to process information. He might practice becoming more aware of what he sees and hears from people on a regular basis (non-verbal body language, tone of voice, word choices) to prevent an over-reaction under stress.
2. Know your “in the grip” classic response pattern. We encourage people in training to write their response pattern on an index card and put it in their desk drawer. That way they can look at the card when they think they might be in the grip to check for sure.
3. Know the best strategies for helping yourself get out of the grip (view best strategies) and put those on the flipside of the index card.
4. Remind yourself to avoid making decisions and proclamations when you’re in the grip. They will usually end up being wrong choices that you’ll regret later on.
If you’ve never taken the MBTI and would like to, please be in touch with us to take the tool online and have a coach debrief with you. There are many free versions of the MBTI online, however one should really go through a certified test and be debriefed by a professional. This test digs deep into one’s personality and individuals should seek clarity around what the results actually mean. There is a fee for the service we offer, but it will provide tremendous insight into your leadership style and in the grip response. Contact us here if you’re interested.
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