Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Personality Type 101

So...a lot of people ask me about this personality type stuff, so I'm going to break down a couple of things about it real quick. Some of it I may have covered on that previous post that I never followed up on. smile emoticon
Mind you, this is **strictly** my opinion and I'm sharing what I understand about it through my own experiences and my own (mostly intuitive) use of it. I'm NOT certified in MBTI, I have never even formally studied it and I don't actually want to, mostly because I think parts of it are bullshit. My understanding is probably more closely aligned with Carl Jung's ideas (the MBTI originated with him). So, take my explanations with a grain of salt, but understand that it totally works for me and my purposes. 
Here are a few things to consider: 
1) Tests results don't actually mean anything, including the free versions online and even the official full battery MBTI. I say this because people often answer the questions based on any number of factors including how they want to be perceived, the work that they do, the relationship they're in, how they've learned to or adapted to be, etc and then they declare themselves this type. This contributes to the idea that MBTI is like a horoscope and that "we can all find something in each type to identify with". Sure, that's true, because we are all complex individuals, but that is not going to help me to gather information about and respond to who they *actually* are in their most natural state. So if someone is like, "I'm an ESTJ because I took the official MBTI at work 8 years ago and that's what the test said" when they are CLEARLY a misaligned ENFP (perhaps having adapted to doing a job better suited for an ESTJ) it doesn't do me any good to respond to that person like they're actually an ESTJ just because they claim to be, because my advice or response is going to fail to resonate with who they *actually* are. So, my #1 rule about this stuff is "Never Trust The Test Results". 
2) Now, that doesn't mean the tests don't give us information. My instructions for someone who's never looked into this at all would be to take several different online free versions and compare results. I don't think it's necessary to pay money to take the official one. I would also add that it's IMPERATIVE to answer the questions from your most natural, reflexive, authentic self. Like, imagine if there were no outside pressures and you weren't in a relationship and you didn't have a job or kids or any other role to play or set of expectations to live up or in to, THEN how would you respond? I know that's sort of challenging considering you're never going to be free of all of that, but do your best to answer from THAT place. You can also take a couple on your own and then sit down with someone who *really, really* knows you and have them answer the questions with you and see if that changes the results. Now that you have an assortment of possible types (or you've typed consistently the same, which is a fair indicator that's your true type) you can google and read about each of the types that came up and see which one is the *best* fit. I can virtually guarantee that one of them is going to make you go "OH SHIT THAT IS SO ME HOW DID THEY KNOW". If none of them make you do that, my guess is you're still bullshitting yourself in the questions. Sorry, friends. As much as we are all snowflakes, I really do think most everyone can be typed into one of the 16 categories. 
3) You can't be "sometimes x type and sometimes y type". That is not a thing. The reason I say that is because the types are archetypes and they all use a different set of cognitive functions (called the Functional Stack, if you want to nerd out on it) and I don't think this changes even though you definitely grow and evolve throughout your life. So my thought is: you may TEST as sometimes one and sometimes another type, and you may BEHAVE as sometimes one and sometimes another type, and you may be living way out of alignment and as such you may not have found your true type yet (all of which is legit) but who you actually ARE AT YOUR CORE (I believe) can be considered a relatively fixed temperament. In other words, any number of factors can influence how we show up in our lives, but our truest self has a set of preferred ways of being that this stuff can really help us sort out and bring to the surface. 
4) Part of my issue with the MBTI as a tool is that the test creates false dichotomies that I think lead to mistyping. Particularly in the case of the P vs J thing. When I learned about the cognitive functions, what I found out is that the P and the J aren't *really* discrete categories. Jung didn't even include these two as options; they were added later when Myers and Briggs formalized his ideas. The P and J actually only serve to clarify what aspect of your temperament is extraverted, or shown first to the world. 
Let me try to break that down further: 
So, if the function that gets extraverted is a decision-making function (Thinking or Feeling) then you're going to be a J (Judging type, which in this context merely means "Deciding") whereas if the thing that gets extraverted is an information-gathering function (Sensing or Intuiting) then you're going to be a P (Perceiving type, which in this case just means information-gathering). How this gets confusing is that, for example, INFJ and INTJ are both dominantly intuitive types, because they both use Ni (Introverted Intuition) as their dominant (most natural or reflexive, which maybe uses like 80% of their cognitive energy) function, but because what gets extraverted (shown first to the world) is the Feeling or Thinking functions, respectively, they are considered J types. But those decision-making functions are actually secondary (aka auxiliary) and so the typical qualities of a "J" type may not actually show up that much. (I'm an INFJ and my desk is always cluttered, my apartment is messy, and I don't care that much about time- all typically "P" things, which might lead me to test as an INFP despite - archetypally- clearly fitting the INFJ type description way more than I do the INFP). INFJ and INTJ are *actually* by definition dominantly perceiving types. So when you take the MBTI, you may not have enough "J" tendencies to show up as a J which could lead to being mistyped because of this false P/J dichotomy. 
Another way this can screw things up is something like this: somebody says for example "sometimes I'm INFJ and sometimes I'm INFP" (which is not a thing, remember). But I get why they say this, because without understanding the P/J thing and the functional stack, it seems like INFJ and INFP should be very similar. And so according to the test, they could go either way because they don't have a strong P or J preference. But INFJ and INFP are actually functionally opposite, because their functional stacks look like this: 
INFJ: Ni Fe Ti Se
INFP: Fi Ne Si Te
INFJ and INFP *actually* have nothing in common, in terms of the direction of their functions. So you are *definitely* going to be clearly one or the other when you read a robust description of each one and think about them as discrete *archetypes* vs thinking of them as a set of dichotomies. 
Next lesson to come if anyone's interested.

Classes on this stuff:


If you want a one-on-one conversation about it: http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2016/12/new-service-distance-coaching.html


  1. I'm interested!! I'm SO STUCK between ENFP and ENFJ. I feel like I'm either a VERY grounded ENFP or a VERY easy going ENFJ. HELP!!!

  2. if you're local you should come to one of my classes! :)
    otherwise: the archetypes of ENFP and ENFJ are fundamentally different when you look at the functional stacks.
    ENFP is Ne Fi Te Si
    ENFJ is Fe Ni Se Ti
    They literally have nothing in common! So maybe taking a cognitive functions test to see which ones you seem to use more of? Also did you read my blogs for each type?

  3. ESFJ here. I look ESTP and ENTJ-ish, but I am most definitely an ESFJ.