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​The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and why you should take it

I have a confession to make: I’m mildly obsessed with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I’m a firm believer that this test helps individuals better understand their relationship to others, themselves, and the world around them.

For those of you to whom this name sounds alien, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a questionnaire which gives you a four letter code; for example, the result I always receive is “ENFJ.” Each of the four letters in this result have two variations, ultimately manifesting in 16 possible combinations of personality types. For those of you who have never taken it, a quick Google search should take you to one of many free online venues.

These letter combinations tell you whether you have tendencies toward extroversion or introversion (E or I), intuition or sensing (N or S), feeling or thinking (F or T), and judging or perceiving (J or P). I will give you all my best brief description of these categories, but I don’t claim to be an expert. For more detailed and accurate information, I recommend doing your own research. Psychology professors, perhaps you will cringe when reading this advice; however, I openly welcome any critique emails if I’m largely missing the bar in any way.

Extroverts tend to be energized by large social situations, whereas introverts get drained by constant social stimulus and need more alone time than their extroverted counterparts. This doesn’t mean that introverts are shy, they just need time to recharge.

Sensing types tend to live in the concrete world, preferring hands-on activities to theoretical ones and requiring plenty of evidence before drawing patterns or conclusions. Intuitional individuals, by contrast, quickly jump to patterns, often occupying an abstract, visceral inner world rather than being firmly grounded in the real one.

The thinking and feeling divide is a little bit trickier. Feeling individuals, in my experience, are often more aware and connected to their own emotions and to the emotions of others, which tends to influence their decision-making processes. Thinking types, on the other hand, have a stronger relationship to logic and actively work to separate from emotions when making decisions. This is not to suggest that they do not experience emotions of their own.

Judging individuals are not necessarily more judgmental than perceiving types, but they do seem to put their judgements into decisive action. Perceiving types often spend a lot of time absorbing the world around them, which can be overwhelming when they have to use all information at hand to make a decision.

All of these qualities fall along a spectrum, which can cause confusion for those who are in the middle of several or all categories. By no means is the MBTI the end all, be all to understanding the human psyche.

This test does have several set-backs such as those of self-bias and reductionism. You cannot fully reduce an individual down to a four letter code. If this were true, there would only be 16 types of people in the world.

We’re all far too complex for that.

So why should we care about the MBTI? Because it allows us opportunities to better understand ourselves and possible paths

toward self-growth and actualization. (Be careful, though, you may read profiles of yourself that bring you face to face with personal flaws you had not considered before.)

Truly, I feel in love with the MBTI because it forced me to stop so holistically projecting my own values onto others and to start recognizing the value of functions opposite from my own. In this way, many fans of the test claim that it saved their marriage.

Because I have very high tendencies toward extroversion, intuition, and feeling, I often projected these qualities onto other people, assuming that they felt the same way.

I struggled to understand introverts, who often detest small talk and need far more alone time; sensing individuals, like my mother and father, who don’t always enjoy talking in abstract terms; and thinking types, who don’t always empathize or cater to the emotional needs of others.

The problem is: If you’re always projecting your ideals onto others, you may be missing out on half of the world. And, to me, that’s a terrifying thought.

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