Know Thyself – Socrates
Throughout my life, I’ve been fascinated by personality type tools because I believe they can offer useful insights into your own personality, behaviour and motivations as well as those of other people. The idea is that if you can recognise different behaviours more fully you can, if you choose, become more adept at living and working together. These days such profiling tools come in all sorts of flavours and fashions. Examples include Enneagram, Belbin team roles and the Kiersey temperament sorter.
My personal preference is for the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) model, which identifies 16 different personality types and seeks to find one that describes you. Each of these are of equal value and non-judgemental (there is no good and bad, just different) and there is no attempt to describe the intelligence, ability or the skills you have. Neither does it claim to improve your love-life (erm, it isn’t Tindr) or make you rich, except perhaps in spirit.
Instead, it suggests that though you are an individual you still have a fundamental personality type with characteristic strengths and weaknesses, which can change as you develop over your lifetime. It is based on four main factors; where you get your energy from (introvert or extrovert), how you take in information (by evidence or intuition), how you prefer to make decisions (by thinking or feeling) and how you prefer to live your life (control or spontaneity). Your attitudes to these places you in one of the 16 categories that match your preferences, each being described by a combination of four letters, such as ENFP, INFJ, ISTP etc.
While MBTI has decades of research and refining behind it and millions of people have taken the test, there has been plenty of criticism (as there tends to be for all theoretical models of behaviour). Some will doubtless see such methods as akin to believing in horoscopes or the I-Ching and others may find that their preference type does not seem to describe them accurately. Others follow the results so slavishly that it in itself becomes a mind-trap. Yet I’ve found it helpful as a way to think about my own fundamental preferences, why I get on with some people rather better than with others, how I could be more effective, what motivates me and how I react under stress (oh, Jekyll and Hyde resonates with me!)
I have taken the MBTI test many times and not only do I always come out as the same personality type but I find the detailed descriptions of my preferences scarily accurate – there is clearly a best-fit that works for me. However, while I’m an advocate it’s important to remember that this is only about preferences, we are all human and imperfect and MBTI isn’t a set of rules, rather suggestions. Make of it what you will.
There is no way I can do MBTI justice in a blog, millions of words have in any case already been written about it, some good and some bad. But if you are curious to find out more then there are plenty of websites offering free online questionnaires that will give you an idea of your personality type. If it seems to work for you then you could consider taking the full MBTI test, which is more detailed. The most succinct and accessible publication about the subject I have ever read is by Jenny Rogers.
As an example, the following descriptions of how people react to rules according to the MBTI preferences is a lighthearted look and not to be taken too seriously. I can’t claim originality for this list or recall where I first saw it – if the author is out there I’ll happily credit. See if you recognise any of these!
ENTJ: I MAKE the rules
ESTJ: I’ve written down the rules and here are *hands out* copies for everyone
ESFJ: I’ve bent over backwards to fulfil all the rules
ENFJ: Rules are just great – they help us be better people
INTJ: I’ve discovered all the inconsistencies with the rules and therefore consider them void
INFJ: These rules are not benefiting everyone. So I’ve made up my own rules but I might not tell you what they are
ISTJ: I’ve completed everything according to the rules
ISFJ: These rules suck!!! *then goes along with the rules anyway*
ENFP: OOPS! I didn’t realise there were rules!
ENTP: I’ve discovered these rules are not actually fulfilling their purpose. Let me tell you why…
ESFP: Is there a fine for breaking the rules? I’ll just pay that…
ESTP: Watch me break all the rules!!!!!
INTP: I’ve figured out a way to bend each rule
ISTP: These rules are important for others. If I feel like it I might follow along
ISFP: I’m breaking all the rules, but it’s okay because I don’t think anyone noticed
INFP: I’m completely unaware that rules exist. * Worries about why everyone else seems so stressed*
What type are you? Are you an advocate or a critic of such tests?
What type am I? Isn’t it obvious?