Chances are, you’ve probably seen these strange four letter acronyms (INFP, ENSJ, ISFP, ESTP, etc.) floating around on blogs or social dating apps and wondered, what do they mean? Well, these four letter acronyms originate from what is called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and they are used to denote the 16 distinct personality types for which people can be categorized as. For 2.5 million people, government agencies, educational institutions, and 89 out of the 100 fortune 500 companies, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has become a ubiquitous psychological assessment tool for revealing people’s personality preferences while giving insight to how people interact in all facets of their lives—business, social, and personal.
The MBTI tool was created in the 1940’s by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs and the first questionnaire was published in 1943. Katherine’s inspiration for creating the MBTI began when she noticed that Isabel’s future husband, Clarence Myers, had a different way of seeing the world than her and her family, which then prompted her to begin research on understanding different temperaments. Shortly after, Carl Jung’s publication of Psychological Types was introduced providing Katherine with further literature, research, and insight for developing her ideas.
The name Carl G. Jung should sound familiar. He was a well-renowned Swiss psychiatrist and is credited, along with Sigmund Freud, to be one of the founding fathers of modern-day psychology. In his publication of Psychological Types, his theories of psychological types were introduced and proposed that people are innately different in how they see the world, how they take in information, and how they make decisions. Katherine Cook Briggs wanted to make his ideas accessible to the whole world and help people understand each other’s innate differences in creating her psychological assessment tool.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a personality inventory that helps you understand and appreciate differences between how you and others like to use and apply your perceptions and judgements in the world. The goal and purpose of knowing your personality type is to help you discover your personal preferences when it comes to your interests, interactions, values, motivations, and skills. Once you realize your personality type, you can begin to focus on honing your stronger personality traits while improving certain characteristics which you feel might need improvement, growth, or development.
The MBTI identifies your basic preferences which are categorized into four dichotomies: your preferred world, how you process information, how you make decisions, and how you structure and approach the existing world. From the four dichotomies of personality preferences, a total combination of 16 personality types emerges:
In your favorite world, do you prefer to be alone or do you thrive off the company of others? In other words, are you introverted (I) or extroverted (E)?
Don’t be misled. These terms introversion and extroversion refer to different meanings from everyday usage. If you’re introverted, it doesn’t mean that you are shy or reclusive. Everyone can be extroverted or introverted at times. Introversion and extroversion in the context of the MBTI refer to Carl Jung’s definition of people’s attitude in directing their energies.
For extroverts (E) , they like to be involved with the outside world, socializing with people and feeling energized around large groups. They like to talk aloud, share their thoughts and emotions while receiving feedback. They like big parties, going to events, constantly moving/travelling, and surrounded by lots of action. Naturally, they are seen as outgoing people persons who know lots of people and have a wide variety of friends. Lastly, they jump into action quicker than they think about why they do the things they do.
For introverts (I), they thrive dealing with their own ideas, thoughts, and emotions that are inside their head or inner world. They only like doing things with a few close friends or people that they are comfortable with. They feel comfortable being alone and doing things on their own. They are seen as pensive or reserved people. Customarily, introverts spend lots of time thinking all the possible outcomes and consequences before they decide to act and may spend too much time thinking rather than acting. Also, they sometimes forget that their personal ideals does not always align with the realities of the outside world.
When you take in information, do you absorb everything simply through your 5 senses or do you like to see possibilities and patterns that can occur or might emerge? Simply put, do you like to use sensing (S) or intuition (N) more?
Much like introversion and extroversion, we all spend some of our time using both our senses and our intuition. Furthermore, the term sensing should not be confused with sensuality. To determine whether your personality type is sensing or intuition, ask yourself which of these characteristics from each type that comes naturally and effortlessly to you.
Those who are sensing (S) like to use their touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. They pay attention to the information that is at hand, grounded in the present reality. These people highly value experience over words and practicality over theory. They are pragmatic thinkers that use concrete facts to reach conclusions. They sometimes can put too much emphasis on facts that they fail to see new possibilities that may occur.
People who use intuition (I) like to go by their impressions of things. They look for hidden meanings, symbols and patterns in what they observe. When they recollect events, they remember them as impressions rather than actually recall them in exact concrete detail. These people love to theorize about abstract ideas and to think about how to solve a problem rather than being hands-on. Characteristically, these people like to read between the lines. On the flip side, these personality types spend so much time looking at possibilities and metaphors that they forget to see how it all connects to reality.
Using the information, how do you reach your conclusions and make a decision? Do you like to use your logic or do you prefer to examine special circumstances and use empathy? Basically, are you a thinker (thinking – T) or are you a feeler (feeling – F)?
Again, the terms thinking and feeling refer to a different meaning than their traditional context. Thinking should not be confused with intellect or intelligence and feeling should not be confused with emotion.
If you like to use thinking (T), then you appreciate logic that is based on technicalities and proven by science. You leave emotion aside to reason with pure logic analyzing all the pros and cons. You follow a guideline of basic truths and principles that you apply when making your decision about a specific situation. To these people, truth is of the utmost importance rather than the inconsistencies of a more humanistic empathetic approach. Because of this, people who are thinking tend to be seen as too unsympathetic and uncompromising.
People who like to use feeling (F), believe that the best decisions can be made by understanding what everybody wants, thinks, and feels when it comes to solving certain situations. They love harmony for a group of people and seek the coexistence of a wide range of values. To others, these people are seen as warm, caring, and tactful because they make decisions with their heart and compassion. It is also because of this, that they find it difficult to communicate hard truths, which may lead them to seem indirect and too idealistic.
When dealing with the world, would you rather like to reach quick decisive conclusions or do you like to keep yourself open to new information and options? In short, are you quick to make judgements (judging – J) or do you rely on your perceptions (perceiving – P)?
These two preferences define how you like to live your outer world. Do you like things structured, organized, and predetermined? This means you prefer judging. Or, do you prefer perceiving– where you have a more flexible and adaptable lifestyle?
Sometimes people may feel as if they like to use both methods of dealing with the outside world. While may be true, since sometimes people feel like they prefer structure and organization or might desire a more free-spirited day-by-day approach on the inside, these two terms are about how you actually go about applying these characteristics on the outside world.
If you prefer judging (J), it means that you are person that likes to have things decided. Make sure not to confuse this personality type with those who are judgemental. For this personality type, you like to have a planned and orderly life, where everything is always in your control. These people are task oriented, like to finish their work before they can relax and have some fun, and usually tend to finish up their obligations/duties before the deadline draws near.
If you prefer perceiving (P), you like to understand the world around you and adapt to your surroundings, always remaining open to new information and new experiences. You always remain flexible and, to others, you may seem care-free and spontaneous. Do not mistake perceiving personality type with being perceptive. For people who are this personality type, the closer a deadline reaches, the more motivation they have to complete the task. Furthermore, they love to mix work and play while working with bursts of energy, and keep plans to a minimum. Sometimes, their preference to staying open to the situation causes them to fail to reach a decision when the time is needed.
Check out the color-coded infographic for easy references to all the different personality types out there and discover your personality traits!
To find out your personality type, there are a many free resources online to help you determine your exact Myers-Briggs personality type. Remember, that those resources should only be used to references and not taken as actual determination of your personality type. The real test should be administered by a licensed physician who is qualified to give the MBTI.
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