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.”
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 here.
And if you want to share your type--please do.
Artwork on INTJ from: http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/myers-briggs/intj.htm