Myers-Briggs® Personality Testing
Understanding How We Relate to the World
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 them – may help the members of your team to 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 show you how to get along better.
In this article, we'll explore one of the best-known personality assessments: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI). We'll explain how it works, and how you and your team might benefit from using it.
What Is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI)?
This widely used personality assessment tool is 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 four pairs of "opposing" psychological elements, to create four "scales" – between extrovertion and introversion, for example, or thinking and feeling. (See an explanation of all four scales, below.) 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 MBTI asssessment tool involves answering a series of questions about yourself. At the end, you're assigned a four-letter code based on the four descriptors that best apply to you.
The MBTI Instrument 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. So, 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, the model says that 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, and technical operator.
At MBTIonline, you can find out your "best-fit" type and more, for a fee. You can get a similar assessment at HumanMetrics for free, but this is not quite the same instrument and isn't endorsed by the Myers & Briggs Foundation or the Center for Applications of Psychological Type.
Here's the set of 16 designations in full:
ENFJ ENFP ENTJ ENTP
ESFJ ESFP ESTJ ESTP
INFJ INFP INTJ INTP
ISFJ ISFP ISTJ ISTP
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 brings 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 also have a significant amount in common.
How to Use Myers-Briggs Personality Types
The purpose of learning about your personality type is to help you to 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. And when you know the personality types of those around you, you can use that information to improve the way you work and communicate with them.
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 mutual acceptance 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 instrument 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 assessment 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 less-dominant side of the scale. And this can help you become more well-rounded, and more capable of achieving great things.
Permission to reproduce terms from the MBTI instrument kindly given by the Myers & Briggs Foundation.
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