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People Types and Tiger StripesReview - People Types and Tiger Stripes
Using Psychological Type to Help Students Discover Their Unique Potential
by Gordon D. Lawrence
Center for Applications of Psychological Type, 2009
Review by Wendy C. Hamblet, Ph.D.
Apr 19th 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 16)

Since Carl G. Jung first published his ideas for understanding human behavior in terms of psychological "type" (1923-71), the potential for applying this theory to the fields of education and conflict transformation have been recognized and eagerly awaited by practitioners in both fields.  Gordon Lawrence's People Types and Tiger Stripes offers the educational practicum. Lawrence lays out Jung's theory, as rendered practical by Isabel Briggs Myers (1980), in a way that renders the "people types" approach readily accessible and applicable to the classroom, the workplace, and the home situation.

In this highly accessible volume, Lawrence straight off secures our enthusiastic affirmation for the "people type" approach when he opens with two profiles: a troublesome 13-year-old Lisa, whose behavior patterns annoy her teachers; and a 33-year-old Lisa, whose work habits perturb her boss. Many of the readers will recognize the "Lisa's" in people we know--our coworkers and our children. Lawrence's detailed profiles of each of the Lisa's help us to appreciate from the outset the thesis he will unfold throughout the book: people exhibit readily observable patterns of behavior that help or hinder their relationships with others and these patterns tend to endure over a lifetime, overshadowing alternative responses and growing more and more entrenched with the years.

The opening is striking, and it elicits the reader's concern that our "people type" may weigh with deterministic gravity upon our relationship destiny. However, this fear is straightway put to rest, and the pessimism replaced with hope, as Lawrence proceeds to show us that precisely because each type learns in peculiar ways and approaches life challenges consistently, building our understanding of the various people types can give us an enormous advantage and help us to work successfully with others, no matter how different their approaches may be from our own. When parents, teachers, and managers learn to recognize the basic ingredients that blend together to form individual's behavior patterns, they can better understand their wards and make sounder, more educated predictions regarding which strategies will be most effective for working with the individuals in their care.

People Types and Tiger Stripes offers professionals a wealth of resources for broadening their arsenal of strategic methods for working with diverse audiences to accomplish their common tasks, whether workplace, classroom or home-related. Lawrence gives us a system for identifying people types; a scheme for understanding the various learning styles; a solid knowledge base for understanding the motivation patterns that drive individuals; and a bank of strategies for using this knowledge to help struggling individuals toward success.

When teachers appreciate that they too belong to a "type," they may better appreciate that they may be limiting their pedagogical approach to coincide with their own strengths and preferences, rather than reaching out to meet the peculiarities of their students' learning preferences. Then they can use the theory of people types to plan their instruction to include a broader variety of activities that suit the fuller spectrum of their students' needs.  Leaders of workplaces, community groups, or other organizations can apply the knowledge of people types, not only to vary tasks to suit the differences among their staff, but to garner the strengths of each type to the benefit of the whole group. By the end of the book, the reader has come to appreciate that understanding people types is not simply a handy method for controlling and coping with the troublesome Lisa's of our world, but that what appear as annoying qualities are specific skill types that may be capitalized upon, and employed for the benefit of the whole group and the better accomplishment of tasks.

Though Lawrence focuses mostly on the applications of people type theory for pedagogical applications, we begin to appreciate that the most fruitful use for the theory may be in the relatively new field of mediation and conflict transformation. Its highly positive approach, which resists negatively interpreting human difference but instead reframes people's peculiarities as alternative strategies for living lives, provides practitioners with a fruitful and optimistic way of navigating the thorny issues that beset human relationships, helping us to focus on the strengths of each type and the benefits that difference brings to human projects. For precisely the same reasons that contrary types annoy us, they are useful and beneficial contributors to the common good. They will see, from their alternative perspectives, the insights we will miss, and their responses to problems will complement our own.

This is a very accessible book that can help us in our understanding of others and in negotiating the differences that trouble all human groups. A valuable read for educators, managers, and parents, and an invitation to conflict practitioners to take the theory one step farther in their own field.

 

© 2011 Wendy C. Hamblet

 

Wendy C. Hamblet, Associate Professor, North Carolina A&T State University


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