The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator helps us to understand more about our different personality types.
Do you have people on your team who just can't seem to get along? And do some struggle to communicate with others, seeming to "live in parallel universes"? If so, identifying their personality types – and acknowledging the differences between one-another – may help the members of your team work together more harmoniously.
While each person is unique, personality theorists believe we have common characteristics that group us into certain personality types. If you know what type you are, it can lead to some interesting insights into why you do things a certain way – or why you do them at all. As a member of a team, recognizing your colleagues' types may improve your understanding and appreciation of one another's differences – and can show you how to get along better with them.
One of the best-known and widely used personality tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI). It's based on the work of Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist who studied personality archetypes, and founded analytical psychology. Katherine Briggs and her daughter, Isobel Briggs Myers, expanded on Jung's theory to identify a total of four pairs of opposing psychological elements. According to the theory, everyone has a preference for one of the characteristics within each pair, and we use that preferred approach most of the time.
The Psychological Scales
The four psychological scales are as follows:
This deals with our flow of energy.
- Extroverts are stimulated by events and people external to themselves. They show their feelings, learn by talking, and work well in groups.
- Introverts prefer private reflection, self-examination, and self-discovery. They hide their feelings, prefer to work alone, and learn by watching.
[S]ensing – [IN]tuition
This is how we learn information.
- Sensing people use their five physical senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) to interpret the world. They like real-life examples, prefer practical exercises, and get the facts while possibly missing the main idea.
- Intuitive people prefer to rely on instincts. They work based on hunches and feelings, use their imagination, and get the main idea while missing some of the facts.
[T]hinking – [F]eeling
This is how we make decisions.
- Thinking people use logic and objective criteria. They ask 'Why?' and enjoy debates.
- Feeling people use their values and subjective ideas. They use lots of words, and they prefer harmony, agreement, and helping others.
[J]udging – [P]erceiving
This is how we deal with the world.
- Judging people are purposeful, and they like structure, plans, rules, and organization.
- Perceiving people take a laid-back, relaxed approach. They're flexible, open to change, and like to explore.
Although one side of each scale is thought to be dominant for each of us, that doesn't mean it's the only way we can relate to the world. However, this is usually our preference and the style we use most naturally. So, if you're a person who relies on feelings, this doesn't mean that you can't use objective data to make decisions. It simply means that you'll probably use feelings to some degree.
Also, part of the MBTI profile assesses the relative clarity of your preferences for a particular side of the scale. This is known as the Preference Clarity Index (PCI).
Determining Personality Type
To identify personality type, the MBTI separates 16 different typologies, based on which side of each scale is dominant. A person who has a preference for Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging would be an ISTJ. A certain set of personal characteristics is associated with the ISTJ designation to describe what this person is like.
For example, ISTJs are serious, quiet, practical, and dependable. They are responsible, accomplished, and determined. They work accurately, and handle high-pressure situations calmly, but they tend to make quick and impulsive decisions. They may be impatient, and forget to appreciate the work of others. The most popular occupations for ISTJs include accountant, corrections supervisor, doctor, engineer, manager, and technical operator.
At MBTIonline, you can find out your type and more. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator will give you important insights into how and why people understand and approach the world in such different ways. You can get a similar assessment at HumanMetrics for free, but please consider that this is not quite the same test.
There's no right or wrong type, and there are no combinations of types that are better or worse in business or in relationships. Each type and each individual bring special gifts. And it's important to remember that even if you had 100 people with the same personality type, each would be different – due to genetics, experiences, interests, and other factors. According to personality theory, however, they would have a significant amount in common.
How to Use Personality Types
The purpose of learning about your personality type is to help you understand yourself better. When you know what motivates and energizes you, it helps you to seek opportunities that most suit the way you are.
This insight also helps improve your relationships with others. The more you recognize your own tendencies, the better you're able to monitor and control your behavior around others. When you know the personality types of those around you, you can use that information to improve the way you work and communicate with each other.
For example, Thinking people and Feeling people often have a hard time getting along. The Thinkers can't understand the need to agree, because they see debate as a healthy way to discover the truth. Feeling people, on the other hand, can't understand why someone would want to argue, because they're focused on getting along. As each becomes aware of the other's preference, they can build tolerance and understanding – and they may even be able to use their different personalities to find a balance, especially if they're working together on a team.
Remember, you're the final judge of which type fits you best. Your MBTI results suggest your probable type, based on the choices you made when you answered the questions. Therefore, your type is not unchangeable, and it's open to personal interpretation.
Of course, type doesn't explain everything: human personalities are much more complex. Instead, MBTI scores show how clearly a particular preference was reported in the questionnaire. They don't measure skills, or ability, or degree of use, but they may help us to understand a person better – or even match a job with a worker.
Typical applications of the MBTI include:
- Managing staff – What are a person's natural strengths? For what role is an individual best suited?
- Guiding careers – What types of jobs and positions will a person find most fulfilling?
- Improving interpersonal relationships – How can we best relate to and communicate with other personality types to maximize understanding?
- Developing education and training – Which teaching methods will ensure that all personality types benefit from the information presented?
- Coaching and advising people – How can we help people understand themselves better, identify their strengths, and address their weaknesses?
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a questionnaire designed to make psychological types understandable and useful in our everyday lives. MBTI results identify valuable differences between people – differences that can be the source of misunderstanding and miscommunication.
Completing an MBTI allows you to explore your personality, and reading your MBTI profile can be enlightening. Being aware of your personal preferences is one step toward understanding yourself better, and improving your relationships with others. By recognizing your preferred style, you have an opportunity to develop skills to strengthen the weaker side of the scale. And this can help you become more well-rounded, and more capable of achieving great things.
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One of the most regular questions I get as a self-identified MBTI nerd is ‘Which books do you recommend?’
There are a lot of Myers-Briggs books on the market – of varying quality. And if I’m being 100% honest, there is a lot of KILLER information online that will probably teach you more than most books. However, if you happen to be a big fan of books that you can actually hold in your hands (like myself), I’ve put together a list just for you!
Here are my personal favorite MBTI books – but by no means is this list comprehensive when it comes to quality MBTI literature!
If You’re Looking For A Brief Introduction To The MBTI
Gifts Differing – Isabel Briggs Myers
Why it’s worth a read: This is an introduction to the MBTI that comes straight from the horse’s mouth – it is written by Isabel Briggs Myers, who is one of the two original developers of the MBTI. Though it’s now fairly outdated, it’s important to understand the ideas that originally founded the MBTI.
What this book does well: This book clearly and concisely explains the dichotomies of the MBTI, which is a straightforward and easy-to-understand introduction to the system. It provides good surface-level profiles of each type as well as many interesting statistics regarding type (though the statistics are fairly outdated).
Not recommended if: You are not a beginner to the MBTI. If you already have a base level understanding of most types and cognitive functions, you’re unlikely to learn much new information from this book.
Please Understand Me II – David Keirsey
Why it’s worth a read: You should read this book because it’s super famous and everybody in the MBTI world argues about it all the time.
What this book does well: It explores the four ‘temperament groups’ in extreme depth. It also delves into individual type descriptions with incredible accuracy and detail. The reason people argue about this book is because a large margin of the personality community believes that the temperament groups shouldn’t be sorted the way they are. But, in order to decide for yourself, you should read this book and come to your own conclusions.
Not recommended if: You haven’t read anything else about the MBTI. In many ways this book is a good resource for understanding different types but Keirsey is controversial (his perfect type pairings also make a lot of personality nuts go ‘ennnnnnnnh, maybe not though’) so you should read him alongside other authors to gain a well-rounded understanding of the MBTI.
If You’re Looking To Deepen Your Understanding Of Type Theory And Cognitive Functions
Neuroscience Of Personality – Dario Nardi
Why it’s worth a read: Dario Nardi is pretty much the only person who has done significant research on the neuroscience behind cognitive functions. This book is an absolutely fantastic resource for deepening your understanding of the cognitive functions and understanding what your type says about how your brain concretely functions.
What this book does well: This book offers an excellent introduction to each cognitive function and explains which regions of our brain are active when we’re using each function. Simply put, this book does concrete scientific research well. Which can’t be said for a single other MBTI book on the market.
Not recommended if: You are brand new to the MBTI. The concepts in this book are relatively advanced and it may be difficult to understand if you don’t have a base understanding of the dichotomies and the cognitive functions before picking it up.
Carl Jung – Psychological Types
*Note: This book was added to the list after a few readers commented on its absence – purely unintentional! This is one of, if not the most important MBTI books to have on your shelf!
Why it’s worth a read: Carl Jung literally invented personality types. He characterized the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ as well as the cognitive functions. This book is an important read because it lays down the foundation of personality theory and reminds us what each key term meant before type theory was eclipsed by a plethora of stereotypes in pop culture.
What this book does well: This book lays down the original definitions of each cognitive function and gives its reader an indisputable understanding of where our current concept of psychological type stems from. Jung explains introverted and extroverted intuition, sensation, thinking and feeling as they were originally coined, giving the reader a straight-from-the-horse’s mouth understanding of the cognitive functions.
Not recommended if: You only want a base-level understanding of the MBTI, or are only looking for practical, hands-on tools. This book is the theoretical framework of personality psychology, not a manual for its current applications.
Was That Really Me? –Naomi L. Quenk
Why it’s worth a read: This is the only book on the market that explains each type’s ‘grip behavior’ in extreme detail. In a market full of flowery, ‘feel great about who you are’ MBTI books, this one offers absolutely invaluable insight about how each type behaves when they are unhealthy and under extreme stress.
What this book does well: This book explains cognitive functions and what it means to be in the ‘grip’ of your inferior function in extreme detail. It is the single most useful function-based MBTI book I have read to date, as well as the only book of its kind on the market.
Not recommended if: You are brand new to the MBTI. Like ‘Neuroscience of Personality,’ this book is relatively advanced and will be easier to understand if you’ve done prior reading on type theory and cognitive functions.
If You’re Looking For Books With Practical Applications
Just Your Type – Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger
Why it’s worth a read