A few years ago I was introduced to the Myers Briggs personality types by a friend of mine who had undertaken the test as part of a team building exercise at a work study day. His work recognised that everyone has a different personality type (yes it seems obvious and while we know it to be true a lot of the one size fits all corporate environments don’t accept that fact) and therefore they would all work differently.
This friend of mine seemed very enthusiastic about it, and claimed he had learned a lot about himself by undertaking this task, and so I took the test online here, expecting nothing more than an entertaining read for a few minutes, but it blew my mind! (please note that this isn’t an accredited provider for the test, if you want an accredited test done with appropriate feedback from professionals, it can be done through the Myers Briggs foundation here)
The Myers Briggs test was created by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Myers , who adapted the theory of psychological types produced by Carl Gustav Jung ( a swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, the founder of analytical psychology) into 16 personality types that all humans (theoretically) will fit into.
The personality types are represented as 4 letters (for example mine is INFJ) with each letter representing a concept. The quiz will ask you questions to gain an understanding of how you perceive and interpret the world around you in order to identify your personality type.
The first letter will either be I or E – whether you are an (I)ntrovert or an (E)xtrovert. This will be given as a percentage so you can see where you fall on the spectrum, as some people will be 49% / 51% and therefore will be quite evenly balanced between both, or what’s commonly referred to as an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert. Or you could be like me and be very much one way or the other.
The second letter will be either S or N – this is (S)ensing or I(n)tuition, and is about how you process information. If you are a sensing personality type, you prefer to focus on tangible experiences – what you can see, hear, taste or smell, and accept things at face value. If you are an intuitive personality type, you find it hard to accept something objectively without attaching meaning to it, and therefore tend to remember things based on the bigger picture of what was surrounding an event, how you felt about it, or your perception or feelings of the scenario. You read between the lines and attach meaning to things.
The third letter will be either T or F – this is (T)hinking or (F)eeling, and is about how you make decisions. Thinkers examine the pros and cons of a situation and come to a logical decision without letting their own or someone else’s emotions or thoughts sway their decision. Feelers tend to go with their gut feeling or make decisions based on what is right for all of the people involved.
The fourth letter will be either J or P – this is (J)udging or (P)erceiving, and is about how you like to live your outer life and what behaviours you portray to the outside world. A judging person prefers to be planned, orderly and organised, they feel more comfortable when things are organised and under control. These people are the ‘to do list’ people (this is me to a tee – I have a love affair with lists). Perceiving people prefer to be flexible and spontaneous in their outer life, they often have unexplained bursts of energy or creativity and work best when they have the freedom to adapt to the world rather than organise it. However, this is just how you outwardly interact with the world and you can be inwardly organised but outwardly spontaneous. This one, like all the others, will once again be expressed as a percentage, so you may be quite evenly distributed between the two.
So what’s the point to all this? Well I have learned a lot and continue to learn about myself and others through doing this test and reading about the different personality types. I have recognised traits that annoy me in others, and recognise that they are a different personality type to me, and how to adapt to that. I have spent a lot of time reading about the INFJ personality type and thinking about what being an INFJ means for me. Being an introvert, I spend about 90% of my life inside my own head, and because I’ve always outwardly appeared bubbly and outgoing, I was constantly told by others that I wasn’t an introvert and so I never really knew why I felt uncomfortable in social situations or like I wasn’t the person the world saw me as. To this day, I still feel that no one really understands who I am (which definitely isn’t meant in an emo way or a poor me way, but just in a true introvert way) and I am coming to terms with the fact that this is just a common feeling amongst introverts.
Gaining a deeper understanding of who I am as a person has given me a greater understanding of why I do the things that I do. I have realised that my personality type, which is often referred to as ‘the advocate’ is what makes me always seek constant improvements and why I always feel the need to be ‘pathologically busy’ with multiple projects on the go, because I feel like I’m not contributing to society or bettering myself if I’m not studying or doing something to make a difference. It has also helped me to understand why the things that make me feel organised and accomplished, make others feel stressed and overwhelmed. I understand now that I can be full on and come at a project all guns blazing, wanting an answer yesterday, and for a ten year plan with a staff of 100 rearing to go (maybe not quite that intense but intense nonetheless). Not everyone rolls like that, and as I learn more about myself, I learn more about others and identify their personality types and judge how much I have to water down my personality to not send them running for the hills.
As I learn more about myself and how others perceive me (which is quite different to how I perceive myself – remember, introverts live 90% of their life in their head so others only have the other 10% to work with) I reflect on my relationships with my family and friends, colleagues, and every one that I interact with and I start to honour and understand who they are, instead of being constantly annoyed and disappointed that people don’t understand where I’m coming from or who I am (which is another trait of INFJs – they constantly try to understand others and get annoyed when others don’t attempt to understand them). This knowledge is so powerful in improving our relationships with one another, and since gaining this knowledge, I feel that I am a lot more tolerant of the differences in personality types (I am the first to admit that I am easily frustrated by people) because I can identify and understand where someone is coming from.
The main benefit I have seen here is in my relationship with my sister Rosie (who I hope is ok with me using her as an example). Rosie and I were always clashing growing up because she was a free spirit (I can almost guarantee she would be an INFP – the perceiving trait is where we differ) and I was so organised and wanted her to fit in to my plans. We often played school when we were growing up and Rosie would decide half way though the game that she didn’t want to play anymore and run away and climb a tree instead, but I was so regimented and would get so angry if she didn’t do the tests I had written for her. Needless to say, no one wanted to play with me for long. As adults, we’ve gotten past the school incidents, but we still had very different personality types, and I often felt frustrated that we seemed to be communicating in different ways, and often were both left unsure of how to understand and best communicate with each other. Since reading more about my personality type, I’m able to make an educated guess about what personality type she would be and therefore I have a greater understanding about how I need to alter my communication style to give her the time she needs to process the information and not get overwhelmed. I recognise that I often process things in my head for a long time and by the time I say it out loud, I’ve already been pondering it for weeks and want it done now, which isn’t realistic.
Reflecting on ourselves isn’t an easy task, as we are faced with things we don’t always like or see as an attractive quality, but the beauty is in the freedom that we can be whoever we want from one day to the next and if we don’t like a quality that we exhibit, we can change it. Even if we have no interest in changing who we are, having a greater understanding of why we do the things we do, and taking ownership for the quirks in our personality means that our relationships with others will be easier and result in less friction as we understand ourselves and others more.
The learning that comes from these personality types is infinite, and gaining this knowledge can not only help you understand yourself and improve your relationships with others, it can help you advance in your career, identify the best careers for your personality type, and even the best ways and places to travel.
I’m considering doing a travel guide based on the Myers Briggs personality types, so if you’re interested in that or found this post intriguing, let me know!
Also, don’t forget to test your personality type, and comment below what yours is, and whether you felt it was accurate!