Myers-Briggs for Humans

MBTI: How to Decode Your Type & What The Code Can Teach You

mbti for humans p2Last 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:function breakdown chart that isn't ugly

  • 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:

  1. One of each tier-two function type (S, N, F, and T) must be present, four items total.
  2. The I’s and the E’s must alternate.
  3. 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?

infp function code not uglyFor 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:

  1. 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.]
  2. Is S higher than N, or vice versa? [My N is higher; therefore my second letter is N, and I dominantly use iNtuition.]
  3. Is F higher than T, or vice versa? [My F is higher; therefore my third letter is F, and I dominantly use Feeling.]
  4. 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.

In Conclusion

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.]

Myers-Briggs for Humans

MBTI: What It Isn’t, How to Find Your Type, & What Those Letters Even Mean

mbti for humans p1I’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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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…
  2. 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.]
  3. 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:

  1. 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.]
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Myers-Briggs for Humans

On Myers-Briggs & Personhood

type talk and feetI am fascinated by Myers-Briggs. I’ve encouraged numerous people to take the test, which I later found out is actually a joke people make about INFPs (my type). I love learning about the brain and about the way people work, and I love knowing the depths of other people.

But I went a little overboard.

Myers-Briggs (otherwise known as MBTI) is a great tool for understanding the patterns our brains use to function. We call the sixteen combinations of functioning styles “personality types,” but I am learning that can be deeply misleading. When we call them our personality types, we end up subconsciously hinting to ourselves that they are part of our identity. We internalize what we read about our type and start putting ourselves in boxes. Last week, I actually stopped myself from thinking a certain way because, “INFPs don’t do that.” But… I did that.  And isn’t that okay?

“Just because I don’t like something about myself doesn’t mean it’s sin. Sometimes I worry more over those parts than the parts that are sin. Isn’t there enough of the sin to worry about without micro-managing the unique aspects of your personality?”   -Gary Morland

I’m an INFP, yes. I process things internally and look inward often; I use my intuition constantly and connect concepts together; I feel strongly and base many things on principle as opposed to logic; I observe and explore and adapt wherever I am. Those are things I do with my brain often, the functions I use regularly and naturally. But they aren’t the only things I can do. Sometimes I process externally by talking with a friend or writing things like this; sometimes I just purely experience things before I conceptualize them; sometimes I can view things objectively; sometimes I really like to have a plan and a routine. I’m not just an INFP. I’m Tessa. I’m a person. I don’t fit in a box because boxes were made for objects, and I’m not an object. I’m a person.

MBTI doesn’t intend to put people in boxes; it intends to teach us about our brains so we can have a greater understanding of ourselves and be able to grow. The types are not truly personality types as much as they are patterns of the brain functions that we naturally use, and I really love studying them. But I think a lot of us get so caught up in learning about our type that we forget to allow ourselves to be us, to be exceptions… to be different than the world expects us to be.

I know these things now, but somehow I shut them out for a while. And in the process, I think I started putting other people in boxes along with myself. When I learned someone’s type, I would lump them together with the others I knew. Yet I know other INFPs that are a lot different from me personality-wise. Our brains work similarly, so we can have great, empathetic conversations, but we’re still our own people. That is one of my favorite things about humanity, and I’m sorry if you know me personally and I’ve ever seen you as your brain functions before just seeing you, the person I love.

The world will never have someone like you again– so give it the genuine you. We don’t need more versions of other people, we don’t need a watered-down proper version of you, we need you, in your wholeness and uniqueness and brokenness. When we micro-manage and attempt to craft our own personhood, we’re losing the opportunity to be the person the world needs today, the person no one else can be– the person who is fully able to be loved completely as they are. We want to know you. Don’t remove or shut down anything that’s part of you. Allow yourself to be fully loved and alive.

You’re a person, not an object. You don’t belong in boxes.

[Insightful thoughts on MBTI and individuality: “The Biggest Misconception About MBTI Personality Types” by Jennifer Soldner and “MBTI Rant” by Miss Melody.]