De-Mystifying the Psychological Type Indicator
Knowing your Myers Briggs Type Indicator is an explanation, not an excuse. It helps explain why you do what you do. It doesn’t, therefore, justify pleas of ‘I can’t possibly sit and finish this report by myself. Do you not realise that I am an Extrovert?!’ Instead the psychological tool gives us information about why Extroverts might feel the way they do about such things. More about Extroverts (and Introverts) later.
Many people live long and happy lives without ever knowing their personality type……yet I think it’s a richer experience when they do!
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is about preference, not ability.
- Fold your arms – What does that feel like? Normal? Natural? Comfortable?
- Now fold them the other way around – You might have thought it was going to be difficult. Perhaps even that you wouldn’t be able to do it at all. Did you manage it even so?
- Okay, now unfold them again – What did folding them in a different way feel like? Uncomfortable? Unnatural? Weird?
- Okay. Fold your arms again. Did you revert to your most comfortable version?
If so, it’s not surprising. We usually do this without thinking. There’s a similar principle behind the preferences identified by the MBTI.
We can fold our arms differently – we have the ‘ability’. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we want to fold our arms in the new way of going forward. Why would we, if we can do it more easily and more comfortably in our preferred way? So, if we can work in ways we are naturally ‘wired’, using our innate gifts, then we are more likely to feel at, and perform at, our best. It’s worth saying that knowing your personality type doesn’t suddenly make you aware of what you enjoy most or least. You no doubt already know this. What it does do is shine a light on why this might be. Of course, we may still have to get on and do those things we relish least in the world of work and in life. We may even get quite good at doing them! However, our preference won’t change because of our new-found ability.
Introverts & Extroverts
“For many Extraverts, “hell at a party” is “not being able to get in.” Many introverts see it as “being there”.” Isabel Briggs Myers,Take this scenario: An Extrovert may have to take more time inside their head than they would ideally like in order to complete that report. An Introvert may need to take more time being ‘out there’ networking with people than they might naturally choose. They can do it, but it might feel uncomfortable, perhaps even draining, if done for long periods of time. We’ve mentioned Extroverts and Introverts; of course, the psychological type indicator is much more than these descriptions alone. They are just two of the eight preferences that this particular personality indicator measures, and are perhaps what people think of first when it comes to this personality instrument. Later in this article, we’ll look at some speedy ways to make informed guesses about other people’s personality type indicator preferences.
Briggs’ MBTI is based on a theory of personality type initiated by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.
During the years of World War II, mother and daughter team, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, took Jung’s work further. They were curious about how people were similar, and how they were different. They wanted to do their part by finding a way for people to understand rather than destroy each other. Also, more immediately, they saw many people in the war years taking jobs out of patriotism, but finding themselves really unhappy when they were being prevented from using their gifts in the roles they had taken. From very humble beginnings, taking over 20 years to build on the work that Jung had started, they went on to create the MBTI questionnaire that we know and use today. It has been translated into over 20 languages and is used to help people in numerous organisations and institutions with leadership, influencing, change, career development, team-work, conflict, managing others, developing relationships and more besides. There are 16 different MBTI Types, none better or worse than any other.
Finding out about your type frees you to recognise your own natural preferences and to trust your potential for growth and excellence. It can be a real eye-opener when thinking about ‘what next?’ in your career. Or even when thinking about how to bring more joy to your current role – how might you make it more ‘you shaped’? It can help you make sense of feedback you might receive or how you can build better relationships at home, with colleagues and customers. The list is endless, as its value for self-awareness and self-management is enormous.
I hear people calling MBTI a ‘personality test’ or ‘personality quiz’. It’s neither of these. There are no right or wrong answers with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, though some people wrongly call it either a ‘test’ or a ‘quiz’. Instead, each of the 16 types has a unique set of gifts and blind spots. Knowledge of type helps us appreciate the different gifts that people bring. So often if people are ‘different’ to us, we see only their downsides; we don’t always value what they naturally have to offer – and that they bring us balance.
Think about your own team for a moment
Imagine how good it would be to release people, wherever possible, to work in ways that are natural and comfortable for them. Picture team members truly understanding how they can complement each other’s styles and gifts, rather than rubbing each other up the wrong way because of their differences! Knowledge of the Type Indicator helps you look at people in a whole new light – whether they are work colleagues, or friends, partners or family members! This is where we can help. Contact us so we can support your team to get the best from each other – building both its morale and its efficiency by bringing alive the MBTI for them.
As a psychological tool, Myers Briggs gives one lens on people and personality. It isn’t the only lens, but it’s a useful one. The type identifiers look at 4 things:
- Energy: how you re-tank your batteries.
- Information: what you pay attention to
- Decisions: how you make them
- Living: how you like to live your life!
Imagine a scale for each of the 4 elements above. Picture each scale with two ends and a middle. For each scale, we will be more comfortable towards one side of the midpoint than the other. Whether you are closer to one end or the other, or you are somewhere in the middle, matters little – all are good, right and normal places to be. While in reality, we use both sides of the scale to one extent or another, like we might use our left and right hand, we generally favour one side above the other. That will be where we do our best work and where we will likely be playing to our strengths. The combination of these 4 elements reveals our psychological type – also called our ‘personality type’. Let’s look at each of these scales now:
We can have either an Extrovert or an Introvert preference here.
Extroverts are energised by the outside world of people and activities.
Introverts are energised by their own inner world of ideas and impressions.
The shorthand for this pairing is E or I. One of these two will feel more like ‘you’
We can have either a Sensing or an Intuitive preference to help us take in information
Sensors actively use and enjoy the information they take in through their 5 senses.
If they can see it, hear it, touch it, then it is real and makes sense to them.
Intuitives pay more attention to what is taken in through their ‘6th sense’ and for noticing what might be, making links and using their intuition
The shorthand is S or N (‘I’ has been taken, so the second letter is used)
You can make your decisions using Thinking or Feeling.
If you are a Thinker, it doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t feel. If you are a Feeler, it doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t think.
It’s where you tend to go to first when you take a decision.
Thinkers (‘T’) prefer to organise and structure information to decide in a logical and objective way. For them, it is truth over tact.
Feelers (‘F’) prefer to organise and structure information in a personal, values-oriented way. For them, it is tact over truth.
The choices here are Judging (‘J’) or Perceiving (‘P’)
People with a Judging preference will be those who seem to plan and organise life around them. They will find real joy in coming to a decision, closing one thing down before starting the next…and usually making lists along the way.
If you are a spontaneous and Perceiving preferenced person, the joy of openness is far more appealing…with flexibility, fun and plate-spinning along the way.
The only way to be really sure of someone’s Type is to ask them to complete the Indicator. Talk to us to arrange this.
That said, when you are comfortable with Type yourself, it does get a lot easier to make educated guesses of the Type of those around you, helping you to get the best from them.
In the meantime, there are some simple observations about the 4 elements above that you can make that might help you. And once you know which part of each element someone seems to prefer, then you have a potential 4-letter type that has a dynamic personality to it, rather than a seemingly random set of 4 letters.
Try this now
Pick someone whose Type intrigues you, for whatever reason, and work through the following prompts:
Start with their Energy
They might be an Extrovert if they:
- seem to think ‘through their mouth’
- work out their ideas by talking them through
- answer a question with some of their thought process and ‘mental scribble’
- are sociable and expressive
- enjoy action and variety, becoming impatient with long, slow jobs.
- act quickly, sometimes without thinking.
- learn best through doing or discussing
- prefer to communicate by talking
- find it comfortable speaking at length to express their thoughts.
If you haven’t understood an Extrovert, then you haven’t looked or you haven’t listened!
They might be an Introvert if they
- seem to think things through without talking
- work out ideas by reflecting on them
- answer a question with the result of their thinking
- can be private and contained
- enjoy quiet for concentration, tending not to mind working on one project for a long time without interruption
- like to think before they act, sometimes without acting
- learn best by reflection, mental ‘practice’
- prefer to communicate in writing
- are economical with the number of words used to express their thoughts
If you haven’t understood an Introvert, then you haven’t asked them!
Are they closer to E or closer to I?
Let’s look at their preference for Information next
They might have a Sensing preference if they:
- use experience or standard ways to solve problems
- seldom make errors of fact
- build carefully and thoroughly towards conclusions
- describe events in a factual, concrete way, using a structured approach
- focus on what is real and actual
- understand ideas and theories by putting them into practice
- notice and remember details
- enjoys applying new learning – there is a practical purpose
They might have an Intuitive preference if they:
- like solving new and complex problems
- make errors of fact or omit detail
- move in bursts of energy, following hunches and sometimes going off at a tangent
- describe events by telling you the highlights, switching from one part of the story to another
- focus on patterns and meanings
- want to clarify ideas and theories before putting them into practice
- are most interested in the big picture
- enjoy learning a new skill without necessarily needing to use it
Are they closer to S or closer to N?
Let’s look at how they make Decisions next
They might have a Thinking preference if they:
- solve problems with logic
- can be firm-minded, giving tough news when appropriate
- hurt feelings without intending to
- critiques new ideas as a way of evaluating them
- are fair – they want everyone treated equally
- strive for an objective standard of truth
- are reasonable
They might have a Feeling preference if they:
- are guided by both personal values and impact on people
- can be tender-hearted, disliking or even avoiding telling people unpleasant things
- enjoy pleasing people, even in small ways
- accept new ideas and evaluate them later
- are fair – they want everyone treated as an individual
- strive for harmony
- are compassionate and empathic
Are they closer to T or closer to F?
Finally, let’s look at Living – how they like to live their life!
They might have a Judging preference if they:
- work best when they can plan their work (and their life)
- like to finish a task ahead of the deadline, even creating their own deadline before this to avoid last-minute stresses
- prefer finishing one task before moving to the next
- write lists to prompt action on specific tasks
- feel satisfied when they have made a decision, but may decide too quickly
- enjoy structure and schedules
- ‘work before play’
They might have a Perceiving preference if they:
- work best when they can be flexible and spontaneous in work (and in life)
- tend to get a burst of energy towards the end of a project and finish bang on the deadline. Are energised by last-minute pressures
- prefer multi-tasking
- use lists as options and possibilities
- prefer to keep their options open as long as possible before deciding, but may decide too late
- adapt readily to changing situations and may actively make change happen
- ‘I can play anytime’
Are they closer to J or closer to P?
Once you have worked through each of these scales, you will have in front of you a 4-letter Type for the person you were trying to guess. The dynamics of the 4 letters gives more information than the 4 individual letters alone. It’s the conversation about your 4 letters that will bring the greatest insights. That’s when the magic really happens. Here are the 16 Types that are possible as a result of your analysis, and you might see them represented in a table like this. The verbal descriptions are those commonly associated with each Type: Getting to know your personality type or that of others, should be an enjoyable experience…so a final thought about type-guessing. What if you could tell someone’s personality type indicator just by looking at their garden…?! Have a look here for some visual clues.
There are many opinions and guesses out there about the Myers Briggs Type of famous people – some more accurate than others. Take a look here. You might also be curious to know which of the Simpsons characters shares your Type! Look here.
You can find further insight, detailed definitions and clarification of all the key Myers Briggs terms mentioned in this guide in our Glossary of Terms.
Take a look here at the TED talk by Professor Brian Little which looks at traits in psychology. Contact us to discover your “Type”. Through discussion and feedback, you will understand how the dynamics of this 4 letter Type say so much more about you than the individual letters alone. So…does knowledge of Type lead to a richer life experience and even a happier life…? Yes, I think it does!
Watch MBTI Video Tips
Here are 1-minute videos on how you can understand and use MBTI better:
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About Sally Booth
Sally has over 28 years experience of the UK Grocery Industry and remains a retailer at heart, having worked for 14 years with one of the big four UK supermarkets, both as a Line Manager and within the Training function, she has practised what she preaches regarding People Development! Sally is passionate about bringing learning to life and enables participants to really experience a new skill and work on it live in the room so that they can see it, hear it, think it and feel it. Her particular expertise lies in the areas of Personal Coaching; Impact and Influence and Leadership and Team Development.