Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
We know intuitively that our students have unique personalities. From the moment they walk into our studio we assess how they see the world and how they experience their voice and the voices of others. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a self-report questionnaire that provides valuable information about our personalities. My favorite testing website is 16personalities.com. The questions are easy to answer and the whole process takes only 5-10 minutes. The website analyzes the participant’s answers and provides a four-letter code along with a narrative of how to interpret the information. Each of the letters stands for a different trait, as described below. The code does not mean that the person is solely on one side of the spectrum, but rather shows a preference in that direction.
I have found that this information enables me to form stronger bonds with my students and adapt my teaching to fit their needs. Before I talk about how I use this in my studio, let us first take a look at the options for each of the four preferences.
Extrovert or Introvert
The first letter of the Myers-Briggs personality type describes whether a person primarily focuses on the outer world (extroverted) or their own inner world (introverted).
|Outgoing, a people person||Reflective and/or reserved|
|Feels comfortable in groups and likes working in them||Feels comfortable being alone and likes to work that way|
|Seems to know everyone||Keeps a smaller and closer group of friends|
|Jumps quickly into activities, often without thinking before getting started||Often spends more time reflecting and is slow to act|
Sensing vs. Intuition
The second letter defines whether a person focuses on basic information first or if they tend to interpret and add meaning.
|Remembers events as snapshots of what happened||Tries to read between the lines about what happened at an event in search of meaning.|
|Solves problems by working through facts||Solves problems by jumping around between different ideas and possibilities|
|Pragmatic. Looks at the bottom line.||Interested in doing things that are new and different.|
|Starts with facts and then forms the big picture.||Looks at the big picture first then seeks out the facts.|
|Trusts experience before words or symbols.||Trusts impressions, symbols, and metaphors more than personal experience.|
|Pays so much attention on facts that they may miss new possibilities.||Sometimes spends too much time focusing on possibilities and not enough time turning possibilities into realities.|
Thinking vs. Feeling
The third letter is associated with how people make decisions. The questions in the test seek to determine whether a person prefers to assess a situation logically or by looking at the people involved and any special situations.
|Enjoys technical and scientific fields where logic is important.||Is oriented towards people and/or communications.|
|Notices inconsistencies.||Is concerned with harmony and is nervous when it is missing.|
|Looks for logical explanations or solutions to everything.||Considers what is important to others and expresses their concern for others around them.|
|Makes decisions from the head and wants to be fair.||Makes decisions from the heart and wants to be compassionate.|
|Believes telling the truth is more important than being tactful.||Believes being tactful is more important than telling the truth.|
|Doesn’t always value the “people” part of a situation.||Doesn’t always communicate the “hard truth” of situations.|
|Can be seen as too task-oriented, uncaring, or indifferent||Sometimes perceived by others as being too idealistic, too mushy, or too indirect.|
Judging vs. Perceiving
The fourth and final letter addresses the outside world and asks if you prefer to get things decided or to stay open to new information and options.
|Likes to have things decided.||Likes to stay open and respond to whatever happens.|
|Appears to be task oriented.||Appears to be loose and casual, resists planning.|
|Makes to-do lists.||Works in bursts of energy|
|Likes to get work done before playing.||Likes to approach work as play or a mix of work and play.|
|Plans ahead to avoid rushing to meet a deadline.||Is stimulated by an approaching deadline.|
|May focus on the goal to the point that they miss new information.||May stay open to new information for so long that they do not make decisions when they are needed.|
When students join my studio at Shenandoah Conservatory, I have them take this test and
tell me their personality type. I then use the information to inform how I cue the student and how I interact with them. With students who lean toward extroversion, I can be loud, lively, and energetic. However, I have learned that many of my introverted students are overwhelmed by that energy and with them it helps to pull myself back a bit and allow them more time to self-assess during lessons. Students who are “sensing” will often have a great handle on what they are feeling when they sing and we can talk technically about vocal production. Those who are more intuitive often do better with abstract concepts about how to produce a given sound quality. Students who are “thinkers” seem to enjoy logical explanations and approaches to interpreting a song whereas those who are “feelers” seem to be more attracted to the emotions behind a piece. Finally I have found that students who have a “judging” preference really need structure while those who are “perceiving” like to work in a flexible environment.
Of course these are broad generalizations, but in my experience they have been rather accurate and quite helpful. I encourage you to first take the test yourself and then have a few of your students take it and see if the answers provide further insight about how you can help them thrive in the studio.
Have you used the Myers-Briggs questionnaire in your studio? Do you have another personality assessment tool that you have found useful? If you do, I would love to hear your experience in the comment section below. If you are not already following the blog, please sign-up on the bottom right of this page.
Thanks for reading!