By Sonya Sidky
November 15, 2009
I first took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test during a summer school social psychology class in Middle School. From that point forward, I found it an invaluable tool to better understand myself and the behavior of others. I bought several books on the topic and insisted that family and friends take the test. Throughout the years, I got pretty good at guessing people’s personality type even without them taking the test.
So what am I and what does that mean? What is the Myers Briggs personality type indicator and why should you care? I will answer these questions below and also let give you a few examples of how being aware of my personality type has helped me.
What am I and what does that mean?
I am an extroverted, intuitive, thinking, perceiver, or an ENTP. In a nutshell that means that I recharge my batteries through social interactions. I am very analytical and creative and like to bounce my ideas of other people. I tend to be swayed more my logic than by emotions and I like to keep things open-ended as opposed to making decisions that are final.
What is the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator?
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a personality tool that was developed by Isabel Myers and her mother, Katheryn Briggs. Their work was based on Carl Jung’s psychological archetypes. Jung theorized that although people had the same basic instincts, they differed in which preference was stronger and therefore a bigger driver of their behavior. Here are the four preferences and what they mean:
Extroversion (E) versus Introversion (I)
Extraverted people tend to draw energy from being active and engaging in social connections while introverted people need to recharge after social interactions and prefer to focus and reflect.
Sensing (S) versus Intuition (N)
People with a sensing preference gather data from observing what is tangible and concrete while people with an intuitive preference are more likely to recognize patterns and develop theories about how the world works. Sensing people place more value on what they can observe with their five senses while intuitive people are more likely to trust their hunches.
Thinking (T) versus Feeling (F)
When making decisions, people with thinking as a preference tend to place importance on rational data while people with a feeling preference are more concerned with preserving harmony and creating consensus. Thinking people make decisions based on what they observe or logic, while feeling people are more likely to make decisions based on their feelings or empathy for others.
Judgment (J) versus Perception (P)
People with a judging preference tend to gather data based on their sensing or intuitive preference and make decisions while people with a perceiving preference have a tendency to keep things more open-ended. For a judger, there is a beginning and an end—there is black and white. For a perceiver, deadlines can sometimes be a problem because there is always new data to consider and there are many shades of grey.
A few concrete examples about how this has helped me
Per the subtitle of this article, I am an ENTP, not an INTP. When I first took the personality as a young teenager, I tested out as an ENTP. I have since taken various versions of the test several times and up until recently, I continued to test out as an ENTP. Recently I tested out as an INTP. Did my personality type really change? Do I now truly get charged up from time spent alone versus getting energy from being with others? I think not. Many people claim that their personality type has changed over the years or that they have one persona at work and another at home. While it may be true that the expression of their personality changed over time (as did mine) or that they express themselves differently in different contexts, I doubt that their true preference has ever changed. I am with Jung on this one. I believe we have an innate preference in each of these four categories and if all our needs where being met, we would be naturally inclined to express our personality similarly at any age or context.
In my case, I believe that I began having an unnatural preference towards introversion due to two factors that were out of balance in my life. The most obvious one to me was my Sound Sensitivity problem. It is no great surprise that a person who is bothered by sounds that people make may develop a preference for being alone rather than being with others. But that does not mean my personality changed, it just means that my sound problem made it more unpleasant for me to be around people. If my needs were being met, i.e. my triggers sounds were not present while I was with people, then I would naturally be inclined to be around people.
The less obvious reason for testing out as introverted crept up on me over time and is also very telling. When I was young, I had a more carefree attitude about time as opposed to the deadline driven mentality that we get more sucked into as we get older and have more responsibility. I have noticed that over the last ten years or so, I would often turn down social invitations, not because I did not want to be with people, but rather I felt I had too much to do. Also, everybody whether introverted or extroverted needs downtime. So after working hard, it is not a stretch to imagine that a moderate extrovert such as myself may prefer to take a hot relaxing bath rather than go to a party. But this really is not introversion. It is poor time management disguised as introversion. Again, if all my needs were being met and I had done a better job managing my tasks so that I perceived an abundance of time, then I would be naturally inclined to accept more social invitations and would feel charged up from being around people.
In addition to helping me understand when some aspect of my life may me out of alignment with my innate personality preference, it is also useful to think about how my life could improve in an area if I strengthen the expression of a non-dominant letter. For example, I have recently had a breakthrough in productivity by recognizing that my natural preference for perceiving versus judging was getting in the way of my making needed judgments, taking action and moving forward. As a very intuitive and analytical person, I am constantly taking in and processing new data. As a perceiver, I have a natural preference to keep things open-ended and re-evaluate as new information becomes available. This is not always practical when it comes to making decisions whether minor or major or putting an end to a project. Even posting an article to my website such as the one could be a problem because I always am taking in new information that could make the article better.
I could clearly see the difference in how I get things done versus people I admire who are ENTJs. I love ENTJs because they share my vision and creatively and analytical skills, but you are more likely to hear from them than you are from me because they get er done and make decisions! So am I trying to convert to an ENTJ? No way—that would be unnatural for me, however it does help to recognize the difference between me and someone who is naturally an ENTJ and strive to take actions that are more similar to their actions where it will serve my purpose. So I choose to exercise my decision-making muscle quite consciously. Let me emphasize again, that I do not wish to be an ENTJ because my expression of being an ENTP is also very beautiful. One of the strengths I have as a perceiver as opposed to being a judger is that I am naturally more open to re-evaluate my position on any given situation or topic if new data is presented that supports such a change. This type of flexibility may not be as comfortable for a judger as it is for a perceiver and can be a great asset in an ever-changing world.
Why should you care?
Know thyself—just like with the examples I gave above, if you understand what your innate preferences are, then you will be in a better position to discern whether or not you are acting in way that is out of alignment with those preferences. You can also get a sense of what actions a person of a different personality type is taking to get a result that you would like to get an emulate these actions. You can also ask yourself some important life questions such as are you in the right type of career for your personality type. Does the work that you are currently doing allow you to naturally express your innate preference? There are all sorts of books on the Myers Briggs Personality Type and how that may impact your career path.
Know others—As you understand this typology better, you begin to develop a greater appreciation for the different personality types and their needs. After reading this article, do you think that you would communicate the same way with someone who is an intuitive thinker (NT) versus an intuitive feeler (NF)? What about a sensing-judger (SJ) or a sensing-perceiver (SP)? The four two-letter combinations I listed are what are known as temperaments. If you were trying to convince each or these four temperaments to see things your way, you would probably be most effective appealing to an NT with a logical argument and an NF by appealing to their emotions or creating consensus. An SJ would prefer if you would just get to the point and state the facts, while an SP is looking for adventure and would probably respond well to a sense of fun.
Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates.
This book is a classic and covers the four temperaments in detail and provides a brief profile of each of the 16 personality types. There are separate chapters that discuss the four temperaments by mating, in children and in leading.
Type Talk: The 16 Personality Types That Determine How We Live, Love, and Work by Otto Kroeger and Janet M. Thuesen.
This book discusses the temperaments and personality types in detail. It really covers the topic of human relationships and personality type as well as individual behavior in great detail. In addition to covering the broad topics of career, friends and lovers, parent and child dynamics, this book delves into questions such as how the different types behave at parties; who gains weight and who loses weight; and how the different types approach religion.
Life Types: Understanding Yourself and Make the Most of Who you are by Sandra Hirsh & Jean Kummerow.
This book describes each of the four preferences and then provides a chapter on each of the 16 personality types. The following topics are addressed for each personality type: Living, Learning, Laboring (work setting, organizing style, occupations), Leading, Loving, Losing Out, and In a Nutshell.