Last week, I shared with you some introductory information about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). We talked about why MBTI is valuable, we found multiple methods we can use to discover our own personality types, and we also took a brief look at what each letter in the types stands for. Now that we have that covered, we can dive into what might be my favorite part– what I like to call “The Code.” It can seem a little complicated at first, but I’ve found a lot of excitement and breakthrough in the process, so I hope I can articulate this well for you!
What The Code Consists Of
The four letters in your type are important, but not solely because of what they mean at face value. Your four-letter combination is a shorthand way of representing the more detailed order of your functions. As we established last week, we all use all of the functions; our types are simply a matter of what we’re dominant in and how we use what we have.
I threw this chart together so we can delve further into how this works:
- All of your mental activity can be sorted into two categories: either you are taking information in (Perceiving), or you are using that information to seek a conclusion (Judging).
- Likewise, there are two categories for Perceiving: you are taking in information either based on experiences (Sensing) or based on concepts and ideas (iNtuition).
- There are also two categories for Judging: you are processing information either through logic (Thinking) or through your values (Feeling).
- And, finally, every tier-two function has both an internal (Introversion) and external (Extroversion) mode. These are represented by putting the two letters together: Fi (Introverted Feeling), Fe (Extroverted Feeling), Ni (Introverted iNtuition), Ne (Extroverted iNtuition), and so on.
Although everyone uses every function in some capacity, we use either the internal or external mode of each function in our main thought process. Your type is dependent upon which ones you use and the order in which you use them. Those four items will make up your code.
What difference does it make for a function to be Introverted or Extroverted? Mainly, it affects the focus you have when you are using that function. This can best be explained by briefly looking at the specifics of the functions:
- Sensing: if you use Si, you look for comfort and stability; if you use Se, you look for new experiences and excitement.
- iNtuition: if you use Ni, you put your energy into dealing with a few big ideas; if you use Ne, you enjoy ruminating over a multitude of smaller-scale ideas.
- Thinking: if you use Ti, your reasoning deals with the long-term and subjective; if you use Te, your reasoning deals with the more immediate and objective.
- Feeling: if you use Fi, your strongest values have to do with authenticity and the individual; if you use Fe, your strongest values have to do with kindness and community.
Again, you will see yourself in each of these in some measure, but you are dominant in one over the other, even if it’s by a small margin. This is where the coding comes in.
Finding Your Own Code
Every type obeys the same few rules when it comes to the code:
- One of each tier-two function type (S, N, F, and T) must be present, four items total.
- The I’s and the E’s must alternate.
- The twin functions must not alternate. In other words, if F or T (a judging function) is your first function, T or F must be your last; if N or S (a perceiving function) is your second function, S or N must be your third.
To figure out what order your code follows, look at the list of the items and read the specifics to see which you identify with the most. Try finding your top two. This process is meant to be played around with and explored, so don’t stress out about it too much; you can always try another combination if it doesn’t work out the first time. What stands out to you? What do you really care about? What fits well with your passions?
For me personally, one of the most important things to me (and the thing I do most often) is discovering more about myself and seeking to be honest about who I am. That fits in well with Fi, so Fi is probably in my top two. Another huge thing for me is listening to people, getting ideas, and turning those ideas every which way in my head to learn all I can from them. That fits Ne, so Ne also probably belongs in my top two.
I decide to place Fi at the top because it is slightly more important to me than Ne, and also because I know a defining trait of mine is that I’m such a deep feeler. That puts Ne, my second choice, in the second spot. The last two functions in my code, then, because of the rules, have to be Si and Te. It’s slightly remarkable to me that although I’m just following the rules, I still would have chosen those two, in that order. This may not be the case for everyone, but I like that it so often works out this way.
Now that my code is in place, I can decode it and see my four-letter type. The process is pretty simple; just ask these four questions:
- Is my first function an I function or an E function? [Mine is an I; therefore my first letter is I, and I dominantly use Introversion.]
- Is S higher than N, or vice versa? [My N is higher; therefore my second letter is N, and I dominantly use iNtuition.]
- Is F higher than T, or vice versa? [My F is higher; therefore my third letter is F, and I dominantly use Feeling.]
- When I look at my first E function, is it a perceiving function or a judging function? Look at the function breakdown chart again and see that S/N are ways of perceiving, while T/F are ways of judging. [My first E function is Ne. N is a perceiving function. Therefore, my last letter is P and I dominantly use Perceiving.]
Stick all of my answers together, and I am an INFP!
Hopefully I was able to explain this in a way that made sense. If I did, and you are able to see your function order, I am pumped about the discoveries you can make with this knowledge! You don’t have to go through the process of figuring out your code if you already know your type, but I think it’s fun because I’m a bit of a brain nerd. If you’re already confident in your type and don’t want to go through the process, you can either work backwards to code your type, or you can simply look at a chart like this one, which conveniently lists it all out for you. The important thing about your code is that you know it and understand what the individual pieces mean for you, which is why I wanted to explain the process. This is also a great way to learn your type if tests always seem to give you different answers.
Utilizing The Codes
Not only does your code crudely list what is of highest value to you, it also reveals to you the order in which your brain processes things. You can look at your code and what each item of it means, through the lens of your intimate knowledge of yourself, in order to figure out what your process looks like.
For example, I am an INFP. I start in Fi, which means my very first step in processing something is to understand how I feel about it, how it matches up with my values. Next I go to Ne, which means I then toss ideas and possibilities around about the information I’ve received. Next is Si, which means I look to see if the idea I’m getting is safe or if it makes me uncomfortable. Lastly, I use Te, which means I seek the objective truth in or about the information. My process has then been relatively completed, and I am able to act out of what I’ve learned in it.
To use another example, my mom is an ISFJ. She starts in Si (which you may remember I also use), meaning she immediately tests the information to see how safe it is. Next she uses Fe, which means she considers the feelings of others and how the information may affect the harmony in her environment. Next she uses Ti, which means she begins to reason logically with the information. Lastly, she uses Ne to arrive at a handful ideas and possibilities she can utilize to put the information to work. My mom’s process is very different from mine, even though we share two letters and two functions. Neither of us process incorrectly.
Knowing the details of your general thought process is such a useful, exciting way to utilize MBTI. But possibly my favorite thing about the codes is that now we can better understand how our family and friends process, too.
I used to think that my mom wasn’t excited about the things I presented to her, but that is actually not true! My feelings and ideas are at the front of my process, so I get excited first, then I look to see if it’s possible. My mom’s first function cares about safety; she doesn’t arrive at the excitement of possibilities until her very last function. She does get excited about many of the same things I do! But while my first thoughts are, “This is something I am passionate about and desire,” her first thoughts are, “Can we? Would that be okay?” Knowing this has helped me understand that while my mom and I work differently, we still usually care about the same things.
Something else important the code teaches us is that being one letter different in type can still mean a very different thought process. One of my best friends is an ENFP, which is only one letter different from me, but when we decode her type we can see that she uses all the same functions I do, only in a different order– “Ne, Fi, Te, Si.” Another of my best friends tends toward being an INFJ, also only one letter different from me (isn’t that interesting?), but when we decode her type we can see that we have none of the same functions; she has “Ni, Fe, Ti, Se.” One letter’s difference in your type can mean a world of difference in how your brains operate.
I hope this information is getting you excited, and that as you go through the process it helps you discover more about yourself and the people around you. I’ve found comfort in learning more about my brain; comfort in how I was built and comfort in my skin. I want the same for you.
I know it all can seem a bit complicated at first, so if you have any questions or just don’t get it, feel free to talk with me about it! I just really love this stuff and want to be able to share it with you.
[I first learned about the code and what it means for the types by watching this video, and I would love to give credit to him, as well as to thank him for making it! If I didn’t explain it well, I think he definitely did.]