Myers-Briggs Type Indicators in Practice
Our page, Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI), outlines the basic theory of personality types and explains the characteristics of each main type. It demonstrates how you can identify each type by the way that an individual approaches the world, processes information, and draws their energy.
There are, however, more profound insights to be gleaned from the theory. Have you ever wondered why someone else chose to work so differently from you? And have you ever struggled to make someone understand why you wanted to work steadily to a deadline?
It’s because they’re a different personality type. Not wrong, just different.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI)
The MBTI system is made up of four pairs of descriptors. For each descriptor people will fall into one of the two types:
- Judging (J-type) / Perceiving (P-type)
- Thinking (T-type) / Feeling (F-type)
- Intuitive (N-type) / Sensing (S-type)
- Introvert (I-type) / Extrovert (E-type)
Whatever Works for You
MBTI shows us that no one way of working is right or wrong.
Many people make the basic mistake of assuming that everyone is like them; for example, parents may assume that their children will work like them and think like them, and so try to teach them ways of working which have worked for them.
This approach just doesn’t work. For example, if you’re a J-type (judging) parent with a P-type (perceiving) child, you’ll be trying to encourage them to work steadily because that has always worked for you.
Instead, they’ll prefer to work frantically at the last minute. You will be worrying like mad, but they’ll probably pull it off given the chance.
MBTI at Work
Perhaps unsurprisingly, analysis of personality types in particular jobs show that certain types tend to gravitate towards certain jobs.
For example, there tends to be a high proportion of ISTJs among accountants and surgeons, because they are very good at focusing on detail and order, and like quiet time to think and process information. That’s not to say that other types don’t make good accountants or surgeons, but ISTJ is a particularly good fit with the job requirements.
ENFPs, on the other hand, tend to gravitate towards jobs that are ever-changing, full of possibilities and require relationship handling, such as teaching.
Detailed example: INTJ
INTJs will prefer to live in an ordered world but, nonetheless, one of possibilities rather than facts and data.
Such people are concerned with order and logic, rather than feelings, but will be able to make intuitive leaps in their reasoning which, thanks to their introvert tendencies, will often be hidden from view and therefore incomprehensible to those around them.
INTJs tend to be:
Good at: Strategic jobs requiring thinking and analysis of possibilities, such as think-tank work.
Not so good at: Jobs which require good emotional skills like nursing.
Other Ways to Use Myers-Briggs Type Indicators
Aside from the overall choice of career, and the way in which MBTI influences that, there are other ways of using MBTI.
For example, if you’re part of a small project team, you can use MBTI to work out how each individual will prefer to work, and allocate the work accordingly. Used alongside Belbin’s team roles (see our page: Group and Team Roles for more information), it can be a useful way of playing to people’s strengths.
For example, ENFPs tend to be good at gathering information from people. They’ll pull together a potentially vast amount of interview information without making any judgements about it as they go along. Unlike a J-type, they won’t discard information that doesn’t support a hypothesis.
S-P-types will be good at research from books and online. And once the information is gathered, J-types can then pull together the analysis and shut down some of the possible options, tempered by the need of the P-types to keep gathering more information. N-Js will look at possibilities; S-Js will just look at what is there.
It can be difficult for P-types and J-types to work well together in a team because of their timing preferences (last minute vs steady work). If they can manage it, however, it makes for a stronger team because there is focus on both gathering lots of data, and shutting down the data collection and drawing conclusions. Finding the balance is hard, but it’s more productive than either end of the spectrum.
MBTI is equally useful in management relationships. Managers can support and nurture different personality types in different ways at work using a coaching approach. See our pages: What is Coaching? and Coaching Skills for more.
MBTI in Education
The education system across the globe tends to favour steady working rather than last-minute scrambling to deadlines, especially as many educators are reverting back towards exams from coursework (effective revision very much depends on steady work over time).
The world of work is more evenly balanced. Children who fail to thrive at school may find that work suits them much better. However, a failure to achieve any qualifications is going to hamper them in finding work. With a better understanding of the personality types, parents and teachers can find a way to engage those children and support them through school, perhaps with ‘learning on the job’ or more experiential learning.
Another example is that S-type children learn to read best with a phonic approach and tend to enjoy factual books. However, most books given to children are stories. It can be a struggle to find factual books to stimulate an interest in reading, especially when the ‘rules’ of reading don’t seem to work at first. Finding the right books can be a huge boost for those children, and give them a real incentive to read.
You may find our page Reading with Children useful.
Armed with an understanding of the different personality types, parents can support their children through the education system with a better grasp of what will work for and engage those children.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicators are a useful tool in thinking about how others prefer to look at the world and deal with it.
Whatever type we are, each of us is a unique person.
We all think and behave differently in different situations and perhaps that’s the most important insight of all.