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Myers-Briggs® Personality Testing

Understanding How We Relate to the World

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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:

  1. [E]xtroversion –[I]ntroversion

    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.
  2. [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.
  3. [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.
  4. [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.

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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 KnowYourType, you can find out your type and more. The KnowYourType personality test 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?

Key Points

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.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (14)
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote

    Welcome to the club! As you have discovered, there are articles and tools available on a wide variety of topics. If there is something you are looking for and are unable to find, come join us in the Career Cafe Central forum. We would love to see you over there.

  • Over a month ago OYEYINKA wrote

    I am a new member and I'm enjoying reading the articles. I'm a founder/CEO of a HR Coy and I have always had the task of continuously developing myself as well as my staff to give better value to our clients. Thank you.
  • Over a month ago K_arenT wrote
    There are other similar profiling assessments available such as DiSC and Clarity4D of which I have used both. Did I forget to say that I am a Everything DiSC Certified Trainer (LOL). Happy to put people in contact with a very good friend of mine who would be happy to talk more on this subject drop him an email at jon @advancing businesspeople
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