An intro to Myers-Briggs

The first time I was informed about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) I was a sophomore in college. I had taken the self-assessment, tallied my answers, and the few paragraphs describing an ESFJ. Has someone been following me, able to read my thoughts??  I had never had someone understand me – the way I think, make decisions and judgments – so detailed and accurately.

MBTI was never meant to be an all-inclusive personality test, and while several people use it as a means to scan, tag, and categorize people around them, I’ve utilized it as a self-discovery tool and as a way to better know and love someone. We are not all the same, and sometimes I forget that. People energize me, but others are drained by parties. I love to-do lists and schedules, but for some people will feel trapped and suffocated by these things.

One common complaint I often hear about MBTI is how individuals feel pegged into stereotypes when that really isn’t him/her. Myers-Briggs, as it is commonly referred to, is not black and white but a sliding scale. You can have an extreme extrovert on one side and an extreme introvert on the other side, with everyone in the middle. Just because you and I are extroverts does not mean our people tolerance is the same. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Your Myers-Briggs is a combination of 4 letters, and for each letter there is an option between 2. This is where the scale comes in – each pair is a scale, so while multiple may result in ESFJ, we will not all operate identical (plus a long list of other reasons why). But we are similar enough to be grouped together. There is a total of 16 personalities, each titled differently – e.g. ESFJ is the Caregiver. Once you start familiarizing yourself with the types, it’s fun to look at the variety of pop culture charts like this one or this one. So what are the 4 pairs?

Extrovert / Introvert

Sensing / Intuition

Feeler / Thinker

Judging / Perceiving

Extrovert vs Introvert is more than people skills, it is about how you recharge and how you process. Your energy level is often compared to a battery, and what drains or recharges your battery is different for introverts and extroverts. Just like a battery, if a person’s level is empty, they are no longer able to function. This is why it matters – not only for your own self-awareness and self-assessment, but to be able to love others well, especially when they are different from us.

Introverts start the day with a full battery and every interaction drains a percentage of their battery. Depending on how extreme of an introvert someone is will determine the percentage drained – a higher introvert will have a higher percentage drained from each conversation. Time alone for large periods of time is an introvert’s fantasy.

Extroverts start the day with a half full battery (or, at least I do – sleep only charges so much). Each conversation charges the extrovert’s battery, and often the more people involved the better. Parties for extroverts are similar to plugging in your phone – a steady stream of recharging. Time alone for large periods of time is an extrovert’s nightmare. I literally went 12 hours without talking to anyone this week and felt I would disintegrate on the couch. I started calling people before I hit the depression level.

Sensing vs Intuition is about what you trust – what is available to any of your 5 senses or your gut. This then leads to what you focus on – the details or the big picture.

We all have that friend (or you are that friend) that doesn’t know why x is the right answer, but they just do. Intuitives have that gut feeling that is always, or almost always, right. When quick decisions have to be made, they trust their gut. Intuitives often live their life, then, not worrying about the details of things, knowing it will all work out. They focus their attention on the big picture, on the 20-year life plan, or the next big idea. And they are always bursting with ideas! They think of what could be, not limited by what is currently.

Sensors do not have that gut feeling, and therefore rely on their 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch). They are hesitant to make decisions, often falling back on what has been proven – why fix what isn’t broken? Sensors, relying on their senses and facts, then find comfort in the details. They are the ones coming up with a 10-step plan to get from here to there, and the mile markers we need to hit to stay on track.

Feeler vs Thinker refers to the way we process information and how we make decisions. Being a feeler or thinker does not mean you have a heart and no brain, or vice versa. An old co-worker and I would often bicker about this, myself the strong feeler and him the strong thinker. We finally agreed to disagree on the matter, both thinking the other person was wrong.

Feelers relate to the world through – you guessed it – feelings. Decisions are made based on how I’m feeling at the moment, toward that person or group, or how I think I will feel in the future, or a combination of any or all of the above. High feelers can be seen as a roller coaster of emotions, wearing their hearts on their sleeve, and often deemed as “too sensitive.” As a feeler, I care about how I’m feeling, how you’re feeling, and how my actions will affect other people’s feelings. It’s more than a web – it’s an eco-system of feelings.

Thinkers, then, relate to the world through facts or logic. Information is power, and a thinker explain why a decision was the most logical outcome. Thinkers do have feelings, but do not consult them when making decisions. Thinkers are not interested in the back story of a decision, but the black and white solution, and will move forward appropriately. Thinkers often love debates, an opportunity to show off how much information he/she holds and ability to outsmart his/her opponent.

Judging vs Perceiving refers to time – and more than just showing up on time. Each side wears a different pair of glasses, in a sense, seeing the world extremely different. Judgers see the world as black or white – something to be named, tagged, and placed in a nice labeled box. Perceivers view the world as a variety of shades of grey, and it all depends on what you’re comparing it to as to what color the original topic is.

Judgers love lists, color coordination, and schedules. These are the people who expect a printed out agenda for the retreat they are attending, including exact times, speaker names, speech titles, and addresses. These are the people with the multI-tabbed binders gleefully handing copies out at a meeting, and may have a not-so-secret obsession with post-it notes (or maybe that’s just me). Judgers view the world in either/or with very little wiggle room. Clearly defined lines and people following the rules would make the world a better place.

Perceivers, on the other hand, are much more fluid. Time is all in relation to everything else that is going on. P’s, as they are often called, love spontaneity and can’t remember where they last saw their cell phone. Schedules suffocate them, taking away the mystery of the future. P’s also love a variety of fun things, and find it hard to sit and listen or sit and write emails for long periods of time.

So what do you do with all this information? First, start learning about yourself. Read more about your MBTI and learn what makes you different. Self awareness is definitely a tool to help you succeed. Low battery? How can you make space to recharge it? Once you know more about yourself, start learning about friends or family. How can you better love and serve them with the information you now possess?


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