Keri teaches a communication course at a community college. For her, teaching is highly rewarding and, most importantly, fulfilling. In her class, she takes advantage of her natural strengths, or preferences. Meeting the needs of a classroom of students and then exceeding them is a skill that comes naturally for Keri. By nature, she is outgoing, empathic, structured, and concerned mostly with the effect she can have on her students. Using these preferences, Keri’s personality can be categorized.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a tool capable of cataloging a person’s personality. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator(MBTI) is a personality profile created by Isabel Myers to classify people’s behavior based on their psychological preferences when interacting with the world. Keri is referred to as an “ENFJ.” What is an ENFJ? ENFJ is an acronym assigned by the MBTI to differentiate personalities. Isabel Myers spent her entire life working on and marketing the MBTI. It was her ambition to continue the work her mother Katharine Briggs started.
The MBTI’s origin can be traced back to the early 20th century. Katharine Briggs, an avid student of psychological profiling, was focused on decoding the behavioral differences among people. Spending her time analyzing people’s behavior to figure them out, Briggs began work on a system of sorting out diverse personality traits. In 1923, her research hit a turning point when an English translation of Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung’s Psychological Types was released in America.
Jung had been studying the differences in humans himself. As referenced in The Cult of Personality Testing, Jung stated, “There are other people who decide the same problems I have to decide, but in an entirely different way. They look at things in an entirely different light, they have entirely different values” (107). Katharine Briggs, in awe of Jung’s research, swept her own research aside, taking on his ideas.
Using Jung’s theories, Briggs continued her research on psychological typing. Her daughter Isabel Myers also became involved in the psychological typing. Myers studied other personality tests, until she found herself displeased by the ineffectiveness of these tests during World War II. Knowing that the majority of the profiling systems she studied did not accomplish what they should have, she took on the task of creating her own. Days and nights went by as she worked on her own personality typing system. In 1943, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was created.
Myers had expanded upon Carl Jung’s theories to create the MBTI. Carl Jung proposed the existence of three dimensions of human behavior. First, humans have a source of energy preference, either Extraversion or Introversion. The second dimension is a method of gathering information, Sensing or Intuition. The third explains the preferred basis of making decisions, Thinking or Feeling. Myers took these three dimensions and added a fourth. The fourth dimension is a preferred lifestyle, Judging or Perceiving. These four preferences combined into an acronym to form a person’s “type.” In the case of Keri, her type is ENFJ. ENFJ stands for Extraverted-iNtuition-Feeling-Judging. Intuition is abbreviated with an “N.” Isabel Myers described herself as an INFP, an Introverted-iNtuitive-Feeling-Perceiver.
The first psychological preference used in an MBTI acronym is the person’s source of energy. People have two different ways to prefer to gain energy, either through extraversion or introversion. Isabel Myers says in Gifts Differing, “It is easy for people to see that they have a choice of two worlds on which to concentrate their interest” (24). Extraverts focus on the external world. They crave interaction with the world around them. An extraverted person would rather be doing than thinking. Introverts, however, are focused on their inner world of thoughts and ideas. They are the ones to think before acting. One common misconception is that Extraverts are social and Introverts are anti-social. Extraverts are naturally drawn to other people, while Introverts are more reserved.
After a prolonged session of socializing, people of different types have varying responses. Extraverted types are energized and recharged by being around and interacting with other people on a consistent basis. People that are extraverted become more active in the company of others. In this same situation, Introverts would be drained of energy. Introverts would need to remove themselves, seeking time alone to recharge their “batteries.” Extraverts think as they go, engaging more than reflecting. However, Introverts are more inclined to take in information, reflect on it, and then act.
Extraverts are the ones to talk more than listen. They often speak as they think, verbalizing their thought process. Introverts keep their thought process inside. One such example from Type Talk:
When the teacher poses a question to the class, the Introvert responds by thinking, “I know the answer. I just need to get it in focus.” The Extravert, meanwhile, says, “I know the answer. Let me start talking until it becomes clear,” and then raises a hand—or, better yet, blurts something out, perhaps: “Well, let me see. I think that the answer to your question is . . .” And plop, the answer becomes clear, just in the nick of time (37).
Introverts are not ones to draw attention. They prefer their solitude, and wish that others do not compromise it. Extraverts, on the other hand, seek a more physical lifestyle and a wide circle of acquaintances. Keri, an example of an ENFJ, is an Extravert. Her career brings with it a high amount of social interaction with students and faculty members. The nature of her occupation also places demands on her from her external world. Her batteries are recharged by these obligations, allowing her to take in the relevant information to function. How does she decide which information is relevant to her?
The kinds of information that people tend to notice or prefer to look at are also split into two dimensions. Information is gathered largely through Intuition or Sensing. The MBTI Manual states that “persons oriented toward Sensing tend to focus on the immediate experiences available to their five senses” (24). They trust what they can feel, see, touch, taste or smell. A Sensor is focused more on the present and the past. Intuitives would rather rely on their intuition, or what is not immediately noticeable. The future and its possibilities are intriguing to them. They have a vivid imagination and a love for the abstract. As described in Life Types, “Intuition is the preference that relates to paying attention to the world through a “sixth sense,” “gut feel,” or “hunch.”” (23)
One other area where Sensors and Intuitives differ is what they are focused on in their lives. Intuitives are more interested in the big picture. Generalizations are appealing to them, as they are not interested in details. Sensors tend to be detail-oriented, making them more apt to concentrate on specific things. This orientation makes a Sensor frustrated by vagueness. If given a task to do, Sensors generally look for guidelines. Intuitives would rather take the assignment, and create their own solutions.
Sensors also prefer a hands-on approach. They learn best by doing and rely on their experiences. Since they are more interested in “What is,” they are less likely to try new approaches to known problems. Intuitives, however, are constantly thinking of new ideas and theories, eager to try them out. Intuitives would rather speculate. They are the ones to constantly look to improve things. This is because they focus more on what “could be.”
One common example showing the differences between of Intuition and Sensing is looking at a glass filled halfway. A Sensor is likely to take the object literally, and say that it is “half empty.” An Intuitive will look at the glass, and see what is possible, answering half “full.” This is not to say that Sensors are pessimistic and Intuitives are optimistic. They both just have different views of the same things.
Back to the example of Keri, she is an Intuitive. When in her classroom, she looks at her students and sees potential. Her focus is on what the students can become. This trait makes her an excellent teacher. Her desire for the abstract gives her an innate understanding of theories, allowing her to relate them in her coursework. If Keri were a Sensor, she would be more grounded in reality, preferring order in her classroom. Intuitives feel more comfortable leaping around in discussions rather than following a sequence.
As people take in information via their Intuition or Sensing preference, decisions are made on this information. The dimension of decision making in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator consists of two preferences. These preferences are Thinking and Feeling. Thinkers make decisions based on logical reasoning. They take a detached standpoint from the situation, allowing them to make an unbiased decision. Objectivity is the main goal for Thinkers. People with a Feeling preference instead look at the decision and come to a conclusion based on subjective reasoning. Feelers take into account the people involved in the decision and then decide based on their own personal values.
Thinkers are often seen as cold and unfeeling to Feelers. It is not that they do not feel anything, it is that logic is their highest priority. However, to Feelers, a decision makes little sense to them if the people involved are not pleased. This sort of attitude makes a Feeler empathic. Keri, in a previous example, has a Feeling preference. In her teaching, she looks at the needs of her students, and adjusts accordingly. It is more important for her to take her students into consideration than to look at the same situation impersonally.
Because Thinkers and Feelers make decisions in such radically different ways, they often do not get along with each other at first sight. When Thinkers and Feelers get into arguments, the differences in reasoning can cause major problems. As described in Do What You Are, “When Thinkers and Feelers clash, more often than not the Feeler ends up hurt and angry, while the Thinker is confused about what went wrong” (23). Situations like these arise because the Feeler and Thinker put the same information through different “filters.” The Feeler will tend to personalize an issue, while the Thinker will step back and look at things logically.
Thinkers look to find resolutions consistent among the people involved. To Thinkers, a solution must be neutral and present no favoritism. In resolving the same conflict, Feelers weigh the impact of the decision on the lives of the people affected by it. If the result has a possibility of causing unwarranted stress on an individual that could have been avoided, they rethink the solution. These varying perspectives greatly alter the way in which a people form conclusions.
The fourth dimension of Typing is the basis of preferred lifestyle. People can prefer either Judging or Perceiving. Judgers prefer a life that is structured, organized and predictable. Perceivers however, favor flexibility, spontaneity, and an open-ended lifestyle.
Judgers look to take full control of their life. They want to have goals. Judgers feel they need to know where they are going and how they are going to get there. A laid out plan is not uncommonly seen among Judgers. To do lists are often at the top of the priority list for them. A bad plan, to Judgers, is better than no plan at all.
When making a decision, a Judgers take in all relevant information and come to close on the topic at hand quickly. This is because Judgers prefer closure. They want things to be finished so that they can move on to the next item. In the need for organization, Judgers will impose structure on their life. It is not surprising for them to follow routines, due to the desire for their world to be predictable. Surprises also present immediate danger to Judgers. In contrast, the many rules within the worlds of Judgers would overwhelm Perceivers.
Perceivers see the world as one big adventure. They want flexibility in what they do and do not want to be confined by deadlines. To do lists and plans are seen as unnecessary restrictions. Perceivers prefer to react to things as they come. This is their specialty, which makes them desire fun before work. As opposed to Judgers, who take a more proactive stance on life, Perceivers do just what their name implies, perceive. Rather than seek closure, they rely more on their perceptions than decisions.
Perceivers are generally interested in the process instead of the end result. They see the journey more enticing than the end. Opportunities are usually welcomed by them, as it allows their spontaneity to be utilized. Because of this nature, they are always on the lookout for options. They are at their best when they are allowed to find alternate solutions to problems, rather than focusing on one. As is said in The Art of SpeedReading People, “One of the best cues for Perceivers is their tentativeness and resistance to making decisions, or having options foreclosed on” (82). To Perceivers, a final decision is too restraining. The best solutions are ones that can be altered if anything were to change.
Let us return to the earlier example of Keri. Keri has a Judging preference. As a teacher, along her Intuitive nature that seeks possibilities, she wants to take those possibilities and give them purpose. This is the Judging nature that looks for goals. Her classroom is also run efficiently and effectively. If Keri were a perceiver, she would be running a classroom with a more free-flowing atmosphere. Perceivers would think of new ideas and then implement them immediately. They want to adapt to changes more easily and are skilled at doing so.
Perceivers and Judgers are just a fraction of the whole that makes a personality type. There are sixteen different types made of combinations of all eight psychological preferences. Each type is unique in its own way and has a different outlook on life. No one type is wrong. The sixteen types have their own preferences, reaching the same end goal in different ways.
These eight psychological preferences allow humans to more effectively understand their true nature. It is the instant reaction to a situation that draws on these preferences, exhibiting uniqueness to the world. Whether showcasing extraversion in a social atmosphere or using a Thinking standpoint to form a logical basis for a decision, these preferences affect people every day. From the moment a person wakes up, to the time they fall asleep, these inclinations are relied on to provide strength and influence in their lives.