Tuesday, April 08, 2008

You’re Not My Type

Recently Laura posted her personality type, indicating “from KGMom,” but also indicating that “Parts of this made me howl with laughter.” Of course, I am curious as to why, but still don’t know what got her howling.

It did, however, get me to thinking about what a person can learn by knowing her “type.” First, note that Laura’s post is titled Myers-Briggs. This approach to personality typing (NB: there are many other approaches) was first set forth by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs. As the official website indicates the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) personality inventory, based on Jungian psychology, hopes to make the theory of psychological types understandable and useful for people. “The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.”

Carl Jung

I don’t want to get all wrapped up in the theory. I just enjoy knowing my type—INTJ—and seeing how it explains some of the preferences I have.

My husband and I first encountered MBTI when my husband planned a retreat for an adult church group we belonged to at the time. He contacted some people to lead the retreat, and they used MBTI as the basis for their content. All of the retreat attendees had to fill out lengthy questionnaires in preparation.

On the first night of the retreat, the leaders divided us into two groups, calling out our names individually. One group was placed in the middle with all the other people forming a circle out around us. (I was in the middle group.) Then the leaders asked: when you go to a party where there are a lot of people you don’t know, what do you do? The people out around looked genuinely puzzled. What’s the big deal? They laughed and showed supreme confidence that the question was no challenge for them at all.

Those of us in the middle sat quietly. Perhaps we looked down, or tapped our feet nervously. Finally, one of us said—do we have to go to this party? AHA! The first aspect of MBTI had been revealed. There are people who love to be around other people, and then there are people who are quite content to be alone. Hence, extroverts (E) and introverts (I).

It was no surprise to me to learn that I am, in fact, an introvert. Many friends of mine were taken aback, or at least skeptical. I readily speak up in public settings, and for much of my career have been in a front and center type position. But, I crave solitude. I hate big anonymous parties. Nothing makes me cringe more than having to be at a training session where I know no one. I frankly can’t abide small talk.

The second set of initials—N or S—refers how people gather information. This is the one place in which I differ with my husband. I am an N, meaning iNtuitive, tending to see the “big picture” or more like to see the forest rather than the trees. My husband is the opposite—Sensing, that is focusing on details.

The most telling examples come at my expense. I have been known to go to the grocery store, in search of a specific product—let’s use peanut butter for an example. I will get the brand right, but miss the small print—crunchy. Hmmm—I meant to buy smooth! Oh well—big picture, at least it’s peanut butter. But to my husband, the crunchy vs. smooth DETAIL is very important.

One final example. The strangest pairing of letters is the final one—J or P. J means Judging, and P means Perceiving. Neither label tells you much. Judging people tend to be organized, preferring to complete a task. They make lists (boy, do I make lists). Perceiving means keeping options open—don’t ask me how you get that from “perceiving.” When we went to our church retreat, we had our son and daughter along. When our son took the test, he turned out to be a P, where his parents were both Js. LIGHT BULBS all over the place. I work to the task, wanting to get it done. Our son tended (and still does) to want to keep his options open. But when you are a young teen, and you are putting off a task, you can drive your goal oriented parents stark raving mad.

So, that’s why I enjoy knowing my type. No, it doesn’t answer everything. And, yes, it is an explanation, not an excuse. My husband and I are not the same type, but we are very similar and mesh very well. Knowing the type of a co-worker might explain a work habit that has been maddeningly puzzling otherwise. Knowing my own type helps me know how to compensate for what I might rather do.

If you want to take the test, go
And if you want to share your type--please do.

Artwork on INTJ from: http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/myers-briggs/intj.htm


Climenheise said...

When we've done the test (recognizing that people change, although not drastically), I have been ENTP or ENFP, and Lois has been ISFJ. Meshing took some time for us , although it helped to think of our personalities as complementary. Having me finish grad school took all of her SJ! NPs are not good bets for finishing dissertations. What interests me almost as much as our basic types are the situations in which we show the more submerged side of our personalities. I turn all SJ when faced with a pile of dirty dishes, and she becomes amazingly spontaneous and silly in a place where nobody knows us. 31 years together, and we're still learning!

KGMom said...

Daryl--thank you for commenting. I was beginning to think I hit a "who cares" topic.
How interesting that you & Lois are opposites. But you obviously have learned how to blend, complement etc.
31 years together? Really?
Oh, right--we just passed 40.

Beverly said...

Very interesting. I looked at the website the other day after you posted, but I didn't do the test. I know where I would land in some areas, others not sure.

Anvilcloud said...

Someday I must make the time to take that test. I think my results would be similar to your own.

LauraHinNJ said...


I don't exactly understand how I can be sooo introverted, yet be a teacher and social worker. Seemed contradictory to me, until someone explained the idea that introversion v. extroversion is more about where you get your 'energy' from - from others at a party or from time alone and solitude.

Makes sense to me at least.

I was glad your blog led me to that test - I'd last done it years ago.

I'd laughed mainly because some of it was so true and uncomplimentary, you know?

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Well I am INFP.

Like you I am an introvert but as a clergyman I was forced to be a public person. I became comfortable in groups only when I was in charge with a clear role.

I often put other people forward to do the public presentation while I enjoyed a supportive role.

On another way of typing people psychologically is somatotyping as put forward by William Sheldon. I am a 3 1/2, 4 1/4 1 1/2. (Body type on a scale of 7 in each category, endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph.) My personality correlated favourably with this categorization.

This is interesting but cannot be self administered. Somewhere in academia are three standardized photos of me naked: front, side, back. I am part of a study of 300 clergy men and women.

Sheldon for years had esy access to lots of Ivy League students who participated in his studies. I wonder what uppercrust people have their naked pictures on file.

If you ever get into the restricted section of a large library you could view the "Atlas of Man" which has pictures of all the possible types from the theoretical 1,1,1, to 7,7,7. (Could that be from the holy ghost to God all mighty?)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somatotype

Denise said...

I took this test and am an ESFP. Any surprises there? I am going to ask Gail to take it and see what he scores. Should be interesting!

Climenheise said...

I'm mildly surprised you're a P, and not an ESFJ (which mother was). Oh well. Live and learn.

KGMom said...

Right after I posted this entry, my dad wrote me an email to say he had taken the test, and came out as an ESFP. He wondered about the results, since he has thought himself an introvert most of his life. I would agree that he is primarily an introvert, but his results do point out a feature of this personality assessment.
Since the test is measuring PREFERENCES in how we approach things, I think it is possible to change over time. I think my dad has become more extroverted in his more advanced years.
So, whatever your test results show you to be now, don't think you are forever going to be that way.
The poet said--grow old along with me, the best is yet to be!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Donna,
Thanks for the link--this was fun. It's nice to take a test where I don't have to worry about pass or fail!
I am ISFJ "The Defender"
ISFJs are traditional, loyal, quiet and kind. They are very sensitive to other people's needs because they are very observant. They have rich inner thoughts and emotions. They value stability and cultural norms. They are very adept at giving attention to detail. They do not seek positions of authority.
(The last sentence of this description gave me a chuckle--I didn't even like training new people in my previous job!)

Denise said...

Gail is an ISFJ - in good company, I dare say (Lois). And, I see that I am the same as my Dad, also in good company.

Ruth said...

Interesting. I am an ISFP (artist) which surprised me. But a lot does fit and thankfully, my occupation as a physical therapist is recommended for my personality type.

Climenheise said...

Dad used to be an INFJ, once upon a time. ESFP is quite a change! I think that the basic personality remains, but as you say, we do change and grow and our preferences may change too. I remember when I first took the test, some friends were surprised that I am an E. They knew me in college during a quiet and relatively introverted stage, to which I can revert under the right conditions.

possumlady said...

Oh, this was fun to do. Takes my mind away from all the problems of the past week. I, also was revealed to be an INFP "The Dreamer":

INFPs are introspective, private, creative and highly idealistic individuals that have a constant desire to be on a meaningful path. They are driven by their values and seek peace. Empathetic and compassionate, they want to help others and humanity as a whole. INFPs are imaginitive, artistic and often have a talent for language and writing. They can also be described as easygoing, selfless, guarded, adaptable, patient and loyal.

I must say, this is pretty much me to a T. Thanks for the link.

nina said...

Our whole family took this test a few years ago when my daughter brought it home as "homework" from school.
Without knowing what each had revealed, we answered the questions and found such a familiar family trend!
(I suppose we could've guessed)--but it brings up the question of how much who we are is based upon inborn characteristics (heredity)or learned patterns of behavior (environment).

I clicked the links to take this and found I had to pay $39.95 to get the report--is there a no-pay option for the short version?

INTJ Personality said...

Interesting to read from someone who learned MBTI in a more practical fashion. Most of us learn it from a book or taking a test. But it seems very impacting to find it out in a group the way you did.

MBTI is definitely powerful for making sense of relationships. Enneagram is also extremely powerful in a different way. The two can be very complementary I find.