Published: August 3, 2012
Jennifer Selby Long, Selby Group
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Bride of MBTI

 

Do you remember how the Frankenstein movies started with just Frankenstein, and then there was Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, and classics of cinema like Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster?

Well, we’ve got our own sequel here at Selby Group because last month’s column about the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument prompted many more questions. Ever eager to please our readers, I give you more burning questions and answers in our sequel…Bride of MBTI. Be afraid. Be very afraid….

My personality has changed so much over the years, but I’ve taken this instrument three times and it always comes out with the same four letters. Does this mean it’s wrong or that it’s trying to tell me I haven’t changed?

I don’t know if this will make you feel better or worse, but it’s not telling you either of these things. The tool isn’t designed to tell you the ways you may have changed over the years. It’s definitely not going to argue with you that you have or haven’t changed.

It just indicates what mental functions you probably find more energizing and therefore prefer to use more often. What your brain prefers in this most general regard is probably hard-wired in the womb, but that doesn’t mean you don’t grow and change, and it’s also true that no instrument can accurately figure out the preferences of every person so sometimes it just gets it wrong.

Here’s some information you can use in your exploration to determine the type code that fits you best, regardless of what the form says.

The MBTI is based on Carl Jung’s theory of the personality, which holds that we’re all born with the same mental functions in our brains, and that each individual is more energized by the use of some of those mental functions than others. As we mature, many people gain greater ease using their non-preferred mental functions and also become more confident of what their preferences really are. These things happen simultaneously over the decades and are among the benefits of not being a kid anymore.

Is it possible that your preferences really are the type code that keeps coming up and that you’re getting more at ease with your non-preferences, which is why you feel you’ve changed? That sounds to me like the natural process of maturing.

Is it possible that you’re answering the way you think you’re supposed to be at work because you’re taking the tool at work? It happens all too often. One of my clients did not get an accurate MBTI result until he was in his 50’s. By the time his kids were grown up, he no longer felt the financial pressure that had led to conformance pressure and he could finally feel safe answering as himself.

Is it possible that you’re asking a little too much of the tool? The four-letter type code doesn’t have to fit you like a glove. At the basic level (Form M, for those of you familiar with the various versions), all seven billion residents of earth could be sorted into 16 type preference codes, so many people find that their “best fit” type really is just that – a best fit, not a perfect fit.

While some people immediately resonate with the results in their reports, others find they need more interpretation and self-reflection to determine the best-fit type code. This is the limitation of any tool, and I give the late Isabelle Briggs and Katherine Myers credit for their frankness about this fact.

Be sure to talk with your certified interpreter for more help interpreting confusing or conflicting results. That’s what we’re here for.

I’m a Thinking person because I don’t care about people’s feelings, right?

Alas, if our personalities were that simple, the MBTI would be a free quiz in Glamour magazine.

So let’s straighten out this common misperception. There are two Thinking functions, one defines and the other organizes and measures progress. We all have both functions, along with two other mental functions that play a role in decision-making. One of these other functions is focused on harmony between people.

If you have a preference for one of the thinking functions, it means that defining or organizing/measuring is probably energizing for you and you probably use it more consciously. Defining and measuring don’t generally involve people’s feelings. If your mental function that cares about people’s feelings is unconscious to you because defining or measuring is taking up a lot of your conscious awareness, it stands to reason that you would believe you don’t even have this function, but you do.

With this function residing more in your unconscious, it’s not that you don’t care about people’s feelings. It’s that your mental function that handles this aspect of decision-making resides mostly in your unconscious mind. Functions that live mostly in our unconscious mind very heavily influence our decision-making. We just don’t know it until someone else points it out, because it’s unconscious for us.

Trippy stuff, huh? To me, though, the dynamic nature of personality is infinitely more interesting and useful than the cheery, sunny, and rather static personality type descriptions that make people happy when they read them. Wonderful personal growth comes through deepening our understanding of our whole selves, including the conscious and unconscious parts of our personalities that we bring to work with us -- and that everyone else has to deal with all day.

I swear my colleague prefers ENTP but he says it’s ENFP. How can I convince him of this?

You can’t, because only the individual can determine his or her best fit type code.

If a person is uncertain, the ENTP/ENFP question can be one of the more challenging ones to resolve. These two types share the same dominant mental function. Jung called the dominant function the captain of your ship because he said every other mental function is used in service of the dominant function.

The ENFP/ENTP similarities are so great that we can be almost indistinguishable from one another to casual observers, particularly in environments in which we’re the minority and are adapting our style to the majority. The similarities are so strong that my own Myers-Briggs results are ENTP about half of the time and ENFP the other half.

If you and your colleague are interested in exploring further, you might enjoy three books which would give you a more in-depth perspective on the similarities and differences. The first is very popular and the other two are more what I would call specialty publications for practitioners, but still quite readable for the enthusiast: David Kiersey’s Please Understand Me II, Dario Nardi’s The Neuroscience of Personality, and Susan Nash’s Let’s Split the Difference. Enjoy!

Can you please change those stupid four-letter type codes into regular words? I can’t ever remember mine.

Sorry, but I cannot. I didn’t create them, so I don’t get to change them. Isabelle Briggs felt strongly that the names should not box people in with a label that implied a stereotype or judgment (as all words do), so she intentionally made them bland sets of letters instead of words.

I respect her point of view, and I also fully acknowledge that it makes it harder to remember. For my own clients, I don’t believe it’s critical that they remember their letters because they have a PDF and a print-out of their results should they ever want to look it up.

Most of the time, it’s more important that you remember what you have learned about yourself and others than that you remember the letters. For practitioners, I encourage you to work in common language when discussing the functions and attitudes in addition to the technically accurate terms.

Do you have more burning questions? If so, please send in your request at lighten@selbygroup.com, and I’ll include it in, of course, MBTI Meets the Space Monster.

 

 



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