The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is deceptively simple. I’m betting you’ve not only heard of it before, but can probably give me a slightly educated guess as to what your “type” is. A lot of people think they have a great understanding of Myers Briggs—but many don’t. I know I sure didn’t until I went through the week long certification course! And even so—sometimes I get my thoughts all confused about it.
So in this series of posts, I’ll be taking some common misconceptions and confusions about the MBTI and breaking them down so we can all have a better understanding of a very powerful tool.
Misconception #1: MBTI puts me in a box.
If you read my writings on Myers Briggs long enough, or talk with anyone who knows the material well, you’ll notice something. We always make what should be easy to say, more difficult to say. Here’s an example:
Instead of saying, “I am introverted” you’ll hear me say, “I prefer introversion.”
Instead of writing, “Intuitive people …” you’ll see that I write, “People who prefer intuition …”
It’s not “Feelers” or “Thinkers”, it’s “Individuals have a preference for Thinking or Feeling.”
The general population doesn’t tend to say it this way. And even sometimes I get lazy and take the easy route and simply say “Judgers do life like this …”
It seems like I’m just complicating it to sound smarter, right? Wrong! There’s a reason for this! Carl Jung’s theory—the one that MBTI is based on—is that each person has an innate set of preferences. We are born this way; it’s our natural state. Just like I might prefer a fruity dessert at a cafe. This doesn’t mean that at times I might not venture out and develop a taste for chocolate. It just means that in my natural, most comfortable state, I prefer a fruit-based concoction of goodness. Like that mixed fruit tart below … or the blackberry one .. or the strawberry … mmmmmmm…..
There are eight preferences, split into four dichotomies:
Extraversion – Introversion
Sensing – Intuition
Thinking – Feeling
Judging – Perceiving
I am not “an introvert”—I prefer introversion. I am more comfortable on that side of the dichotomy. That doesn’t mean I can’t step over into the extroversion side. I don’t like it when someone calls me an introvert, or even when I hear someone box themselves in that way. It paints such a specific picture for people, and this is why many people think the MBTI puts people into boxes. But it doesn’t.
With Myers Briggs, it’s all about preferences.
My mom prefers Perceiving. (The J-P dichotomy speaks to how an individual prefers to organize her world.) People who prefer Perceiving (there’s that long way of saying it again) like to keep their options open, love spontaneity and dislike confining routines, schedules and details. However, as a mother of seven-now-eleven (we all keep getting married), she has developed many skills over the years to manage and organize her brood. Quite well, I might add! And that says a lot, coming from her daughter who prefers Judging!
Of course, these preferences can be influenced by our environments—the family we grow up in for example. Or the person we marry. Or the job we choose. Every person who prefers Intuition can develop skills on the Sensing side. Every individual who prefers to make decisions based on Thinking can learn to incorporate a Feelings-based perspective. Every Extravert can value some Introversion time.