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  • Nicole Baxter

Myers Briggs, explained

Updated: Jun 17, 2018

The MBTI has long been a tool of personal awareness and insight into our relationships with others, but beyond fun memes, online tests, and type descriptions, what does it really mean?


Desctriptive illustration of the sixteen personality types; courtesy of MBTI

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator describes our personality by looking specifically at how we gather information and make decisions, based on the natural mental processes we prefer, with each position representing a different step in the overall decision making process. It is important to note that we each use all of these elements in our lives, but the assessment looks at where we are most comfortable and which we instinctively prefer. No type is better than another and does not indicate how we will perform at any given task or job, and each has its inherent strengths and stretches. As we age and grow and develop new skills, psychologists have found that our inherent preferences do not change over time; you may feel comfortable being more extroverted as you age, but your natural state will still be introverted.


The first letter describes how we focus our energy and recharge. Those who naturally direct it inwardly and need time alone to recharge are (I)ntroverts, while those who direct their energy outward and recharge their energy through interaction with others are (E)xtroverts. When we are unable to recharge or rest in our natural element, we feel distracted, drained, and exhausted. Homes are naturally designed with common spaces for family gathering and interaction, which is perfect for Extroverts, but creating a quiet and private space for Introverts is often over-looked, but well worth the investment.


The second space describes how we gather information. (S)ensory types notice tangible characteristics of a space or event and have a wonderful ability to recall the details by using all five of their senses. Information is mentally gathered, sorted, and organized by what is known and familiar I(N)tuitives, on the other hand, are future oriented and gather information through the energy, noticing patterns, and seeing possibilities. New information is left free-flowing and easily accessible. While an S-type may say X is like X so it goes with X, and N-type is likely to say X made me think of B which makes me think of Q. They jump around to what looks like unrelated ideas and topics, but to them, it makes total sense.


The third position addresses what we do with the information we've gathered- (T)hinking or (F)eeling. It is easier to think about this as the difference between objective and subjective. A T-type processes the facts and can be distant and concrete in their thinking; they assess the data and make decisions based on the data, and are very confident in their thinking, because it is fact-based. F-types look at how the information affects other people and strive for win-win situations. They will not willingly sacrifice people for to meet a specific agenda, but instead, think about how the agenda includes individuals. During the crash of 2008, S-types looked at the numbers and cut jobs and departments to meet the company's financial objectives and keep the company alive, while an F-types looked at intangible items and unnecessary spending, as found creative ways to keep employees, like furloughs and job-sharing, and offered packages to employees who were willing to leave.


The final position tells us what we do with the information and decisions we've made. (J)udgement is purposeful, efficient, and deliberate. They take action, make lists, and love to cross things off. Predictability is their friend, and they require structure and planning- spontaneity is not welcome, however, and a sudden change of plans can leave them cold. (P)erciving, on the other hand, loves to keep their options open and are flexible, but definite action is a constant struggle, since they do not like to have limited choices, and are more comfortable with ideas than action.


While this covers the basics of the letters and the purpose of the assessment, it does not address how different letter combinations work together, which we will look at further in separate (and for now, future) posts.


The Myers Briggs Institute offers the most accurate and extensive online exam that you can take here for assessment.


For a free assessment, please visit 16personalities.



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