Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI)See also: MBTI in Practice
Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, or MBTI, describe the way in which different people think and approach the world.
Based broadly in Jungian psychological thinking, MBTI outlines 16 personality types with various traits and preferences.
A familiarity with the MBTI theory can be helpful in thinking about how to approach, work with, and live with different people.
It’s important to emphasise that although there are tests that you can do to decide which type you are, it’s more about which one you feel comfortable with as a description that matters. MBTI is very much a self-description, not a pigeon-holing tool.
Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter Myers called their seminal book on the system developed by Briggs Myers and her mother, Katherine Briggs, ‘Gifts Differing’, and that encapsulates this approach:
No one type is right or wrong. We are all different and each of the 16 types brings different gifts to the table.
Four Pairs of Descriptors
The MBTI system is made up of four pairs of descriptors. For each descriptor people will fall into one of the two types:
Judging / Perceiving (J/P)
Thinking / Feeling (T/F)
Intuitive / Sensing (N/S)
Introvert / Extrovert (I/E)
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Judging / Perceiving
The first pair of descriptors considers how you like to live your life.
Perceivers, or P-types, tend to look at and note what they see. Everything is interesting and everything is potential data. They value flexibility and change and like to have lots of projects on the go at once. They often like to work in a rush, close to deadlines.
Most likely to say: Let’s go out now, I can do this tomorrow.
Least likely to say: Let’s just get this finished first.
Judgers, or J-types, in contrast, try to make sense of what they see and put it into some kind of order. They tend to work on one project at a time, and like to close things off. They prefer to work steadily towards a goal.
Most likely to say: I’d like to get this sorted, before we move on to anything else.
Least likely to say: Let’s leave it open for now.
Thinking / Feeling
The second pair of descriptors is about how you process the information that you have gathered about the world and how you make decisions.
Thinkers, or T-types, tend to use logic and data to make decisions. They are objective and respond to ideas, rather than emotions. They seek fairness in life and tend to look at situations from the outside.
Most likely to say: Yes, that idea’s OK, but I can see some immediate issues.
Least likely to say: I’m worried about how people will feel as a result.
Feeling, or F-types, think about people’s feelings. They respond to values, rather than ideas, and are good at understanding what makes people ‘tick’. They tend to respond to situations as a participant.
Most likely to say: I’m worried about how everyone must be feeling.
Least likely to say: Let’s just do it, it doesn’t matter whether anyone likes it or not.
Sensing / Intuition
The third pair of descriptors is about what information you use to make sense of the world.
Sensers, or S-types, tend to draw their data from external sources. They work step-by-step towards a solution, focusing on facts. They tend to look at what works in the here-and-now and work steadily, often paying a lot of attention to detail.
Most likely to say: Let’s look at this step-by-step, and consider the detail.
Least likely to say: Let’s not worry too much about the facts.
Intuitives, or N-types, tend to draw on imagination and the world of possibilities. They focus on what could be improved and what might be, usually looking at the ‘big picture’. They often leap to conclusions and can be a bit careless about facts.
Most likely to say: Don’t worry about the detail, just give me the broad outline.
Least likely to say: Can you just run me through the detail again?
Introvert / Extrovert
The final pair of descriptors is about where you draw your energy and get inspiration.
Introverts, or I-types, tend to focus internally. Although they can be very sociable, they are often quite happy with their own company. When they need to ‘recharge their batteries’, they will tend to go off by themselves. They like thinking and writing and will usually internalise ideas before speaking.
Most likely to say: I’ll give that some thought when I’ve got a bit more space.
Least likely to say: I can think best in a crowd.
Extroverts, or E-types tend to get their energy from interactions with others. They are very sociable and usually chatty. They often do their thinking out loud, and learn from experience and discussion. With an extrovert, what you see is very much what you get.
Most likely to say: Let’s have a chat and see if we can work it out.
Least likely to say: I’ll just go off on my own and work it out.
Sixteen Personality Types
Each one of us has a preference for using one of each of the four pairs of descriptors, giving 16 possible personality types: E/I N/S T/F P/J.
Furthermore, each personality type has different preferences for how they view the world and how they like to operate, building up from the four preferences above.
There are slightly different issues with introverts and extroverts, because introverts tend to hide their preferences, but you can broadly work out what type someone is from the way that they like to operate and the kinds of phrases that they use.
Knowing which MBTI somebody prefers can provide insight into how you can best work with them, whether as their manager, parent, spouse or friend.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicators give us an insight into how others view and approach the world.
By working out what type someone is likely to be from the sorts of things that they say, you can see what’s likely to interest them and how they will want to work.
It is important to remember, however, that MBTI only shows a preference. It should never be used to pigeon-hole anyone.