I’ve been independently studying the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for a while now, and my excitement over it has not diminished. I love human beings and how unique we all are, and MBTI has helped me grow in understanding. I think it allows us to better appreciate ourselves and those around us. I am very excited to spend a few weeks talking about what I’ve learned through it with you!
What MBTI Will Not Do for You
I know many people are uninterested in MBTI (occasionally even repelled by the idea of it) because they know they cannot be tied down to one of sixteen personality types; they are an individual and cannot be placed in a box. And I so agree! I hate the idea of telling anyone that they cannot be or do something, or that they must be a certain way. I don’t believe MBTI wants to tie you down to a type, or remove your individuality, or explain you away. You are a complex masterpiece that you will spend your entire life learning to understand. No one can sum you up. Be proud of that.
The term “personality type” bothers me, and I wish instead we could use “function pattern” or something of that nature, because it would be much more accurate. The four letters in your type do not define what your personality is like; instead, they describe the order of the functions your brain most commonly uses to process information. The order of functions will often result in certain personality traits, but not necessarily. No one is a textbook illustration of their type. We are hand-crafted and one of a kind. We are all exceptions to the rules, and that is one of my favorite things about humanity.
I study and share information about MBTI for two main reasons:
- I love knowing more about the way I work. Learning about my thought process and my tendencies helps me to utilize them better. Because I know what I gravitate toward doing and thinking, I have more clarity in overwhelming situations and can actually give myself room to do what I need to, maybe even help myself process more efficiently. I also like that knowing my functions reminds me that the way I process is not wrong. It might be different from the way many other people work, but that’s okay, because it’s the way I operate the best. MBTI has helped me settle into myself a little more.
- I also love being able to better understand other people. When I know someone’s personality type, it helps me to interact with them in a more compassionate, informed way. Knowing that my mom uses her “brainstorm” function last while I use it second, and that she uses her “safety” function first while I use it third, has helped me so much in being able to communicate ideas and establish plans with her. I’ve learned that usually people are not doing things wrong, they’re just doing them differently than I do; they’re operating in the way that works best for them. I can’t even relate to some functions, and that is so cool to me. We’re all so unique; you have things I need, and I have things you need. We get to figure life out together!
If you’re still not convinced that this is something worth your time, that’s totally cool and I’m still so glad I get to live in a world that hosts your unique presence. But if you’re ready to dive into a few introductory lessons and resources to utilize what MBTI has to offer, I am so ready share!
Learning Your Type
First, two quick tips for when you take any MBTI test:
- Answer with your natural tendencies in mind. I’m an organized/structured person on the outside because I was raised to be, but it’s an effort. I am actually very adaptable/spontaneous and the process of planning things is still the bane of my existence. Be aware of your tendencies; see if they are a little different from your learned behavior.
- Don’t linger over a question too long. Often your gut choice will say the most about you.
There are a few methods I regularly recommend to help you figure out what your type is:
- The 16 Personalities Test. This test is free and in-depth. I’ve found it to be one of the most accurate tests I’ve taken; it was the first to give me the INFP result, which I am now confident is my true type. Once you get your result, the website will show you a detailed description of the type and how it manifests in various areas of life. You may not relate to 100% of it, but most of it should feel accurate and relatable to you. If not, you might have been mistyped. Not to fear, though, because there are more resources out there for you! Such as…
- John’s Personality Test. This test is shorter, with randomized questions, so there’s more of a possibility for it to be inaccurate, but I like it because it tells you your top five results with the percentages you showed for those types based on your answers. It also gives you a pie chart with the values you expressed. If you seem to fluctuate between a few types, this might be a helpful thing for you to try out. Maybe take it a few times to see if there’s a pattern. [This website has some great information apart from the test, too.]
- Charts! Honestly, you can explore Pinterest and find loads of information on the types. Although I recommend you check your sources to see how accurate that information might be; is it research from an MBTI or psychology blog, or is it a stereotype from a teenager’s tumblr? I personally enjoy a good stereotype chart, I think they’re clever (the Disney villain stereotypes? Yes!), but I almost always read them purely for fun. This chart is one I’ve found to be the most helpful in nailing down someone’s type (I actually found my mom’s with it!). Just read the descriptions for each letter and see which you find yourself relating to more.
Do not feel downcast if you still aren’t sure of your type after going through multiple tests and methods. The whole point of MBTI is learning more about humans; if you’re discovering something, even if your don’t know your four letters, I’m still excited for you, and you should be, too.
Understanding The Letters
There are four letters in each type that represent your functions. The chart I linked to above explains them very well, but I can briefly share what they mean in generalities:
- Your first letter refers mainly to the way you refuel your energy and to the format in which you dominantly process. You could have an E, which stands for Extroversion; this means that you get your energy from being around other people and often process things externally, looking to your surroundings. Or, you could have an I, which stands for Introversion; this means that you get your energy from retreating to be by yourself and often process things internally (in your thoughts and possibly a form of writing), looking inside yourself. [Side note: I am aware that ambiverts exist; I actually am one! But in MBTI, the terms “extroverted” and “introverted” do not solely refer to energy intake. Because I know I live so internally, I accept introversion into my type.]
- Your second letter refers to the way in which you take in information and observe the world. You could have an S, which stands for Sensing; this means that you typically rely on your physical senses of touch, sight, smell, etc. to inform you, and that you like for things to be tangible and established. Or, you could have an N, which stands for iNtuition; this means that you typically listen to your gut instincts and can sense the atmosphere around you, and that you are fascinated by concepts and possibilities.
- Your third letter refers to your decision-making and to the way your brain handles what is fed to it. You could have a T, which stands for Thinking; this means that you are naturally objective and logic-based when handing choices, and that you deeply value the facts. Or, you could have an F, which stands for Feeling; this means that you are naturally sensitive to what your choices would entail for yourself and others, and that you deeply value harmony.
- Your last letter refers mainly to the way you organize yourself and interact with time and structure. You could have a J, which stands for Judging; this means that you are structured and methodical, and value a plan and established rules. Or, you could have a P, which stands for Perceiving; this means that you are flexible and free-spirited, and value room to try new things and be spontaneous.
It is important to realize that all of us use all of these functions. We will be dominant in one for each category, but my dominant Feeling does not at all mean I don’t think objectively; my dominant iNtuition does not mean I don’t also see the tangible world; and so on. We all carry a balance inside us.
This is where what I call “the code” comes into play. I cannot wait to share all about it next week!
In the meantime, if you have any questions about any of this week’s information, I would be more than happy to try to help you. Feel free to share any of your discoveries with me!