Despite our similarities, people are certainly different. This truism has always made me think about the self, and who we are on an individual level. Why are some more drawn towards logic, others more emotional? Why are some more “shy” and others outgoing? Why do some people connect with ease whilst others just cannot get along?
I want to briefly explore and share just one way in which human beings are categorised. Such attempts to categorise us into groups aim to often explain why we do what we do or why we act a certain way. This assumes we are predestined to have a certain disposition, or at least, our dispositions can be neatly categorised into a certain identifiable “type” of person. Although I strongly resist that humans can be categorised so easily and am aware of the commercialisation of this area, I’ve always found attempts to understand human behaviour pretty interesting.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
The MBTI is quite a popular personality test devised by Isabel-Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs. The test builds upon the foundation that there is such a thing as psychologically-based personality types as initially suggested by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It places you into one of sixteen personality types, with four specific preferences, each of which represents a letter.
The test can be taken online on many websites. Here is a website I have tried: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test.
Let’s take a further look at the MBTI.
The first preference to consider – Extroverted (E) or Introverted (I)? An extrovert gets their energy from action and interacting whilst an introvert expends their energy through action. Introverts often need more time alone to re-energise. As a stereotype, an extrovert likes going out more than an introvert. Even more of a stereotype is the idea that introverts are more likely to come across as shy and quiet.
I would fit as an introvert, so I’ve got “I” as the first letter. I’ve had people tell me they consider me an extrovert, though I assume that comes from them thinking that introverts are all quiet, shy people. I’m not shy, and I’m quite outspoken when I’m talking about things I care about. I do however get tired interacting with people for too long and often need time alone to think and re-energise.
The second preference to consider – Intuitive (N) or Sensing (S)? People who prefer intuition are more likely to gather or trust information which is less dependent on the senses, such as through patterns, symbols, wider contexts and hidden meanings. By contrast, preferring sensing means trusting information rooted in the five senses, with an emphasis on details and facts and rejection of hunches. N’s reflect more on ideas and possibilities, whilst S-types are more interested in past or present facts. As a general example, do you see the details in the art (S) or do you think more about what the art represents (N)?
I lean more towards “N”. Whilst I value facts and details, I much prefer discussing theory and am more inclined than the average person to trust my intuition about things. From my own experience talking to N and S types respectively, I think I’ve found it easier dancing from topic to topic with intuitive people and have sometimes found people who happened to be S-types to be more resistant to or less fascinated with ideas and theories. This is not always the case, however.
The third preference to consider – Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)? People who are thinking dominant are often impartial and impersonal when making decisions and tend to prefer looking for logical explanations and solutions to things. The stereotype is a cold, logical person who does not allow their feelings to get in the way. By contrast, those who have the feeling preference may come across as more people oriented and make decisions taking their feelings and the feelings of others into account. The stereotype associated with F types is that they may come across as too soft or biased because of their resistance to being wholly objective about people. The common example is: If there is someone who stole in a shop, but it turned out they had 2 children and were widowed, as the manager what would you do? A T would likely say: hand them over to the police, because they have committed a crime. An F may say: be merciful; or even still, ask what they stole, as if the stealing of essentials, compared to alcohol will result in a different answer.
I received the result of being a Feeler. I am more likely to exercise mercy when placed in such situations as described above. I have no problem with this and find that being wholly objective in all situations when it comes to people may actually be quite negative, despite some obvious benefits. I also strongly disagree that humans can be wholly objective in all cases, regardless of whatever result one would get.
The final preference to consider – Perceiving (P) or Judging (J)? P and J relate to the way in which you organise your life. Those who prefer flexibility, who may be more likely to be late to things rather than early and who conflate work and play are more likely to be P. Those who prefer having things decided in advance, who prefer getting work done before play and who try to avoid getting close or going over deadlines are more likely to be J’s. This is probably the hardest preference to choose for me, though on the balance of things, because I dislike multi-tasking and rather prefer things to be planned in advance, I would lean towards being a J.
The End result – your MBTI type
At the end of this, you have a four letter type; in my case INFJ. From there you can look into the type specifically with all of the various articles online and see if it matches who you are. If it does, it could offer you advice on your strengths, weaknesses and what may work best for you when it comes to forming relationships, approaching work and much more. There are also lists of celebrities and historical figures who have the same type as you which may be fun to look through. Famous INFJs apparently include Mahatma Gandhi, Plato, Jung himself, Simone de Beauvoir, but also Hitler and Osama Bin Laden…
The dangers of “Typism” and Personality types
Before I end this article, it is worth mentioning two issues to consider. The first is the danger of typism. This comes with other personality based tests and typification tools, such as star-signs. One may start judging others negatively, or even positively simply based on their personality type. This is dangerous and ultimately all people are complex and different, despite whatever “type” they can be categorised into. The same goes for the margin of error with such tests, as well as the notion that all people really can be categorised into a box.
With these things in mind, the MBTI still offers an extra way of viewing yourself and may offer useful suggestions for self improvement and development.