Have you ever wondered why your friends and coworkers might have thoughts and attitudes about life and common situations, so differently from you? It may be difficult to understand the underlying reasons that guide their decisions, or why they place such importance on things that seem completely trivial or inconsequential to you. Psychologists ask many of the same questions, “Why do people behave the ways that they do?” and “What are the thoughts, behaviors, and patterns of emotions that make a person unique, compared to others?” One way of answering these important questions is through the Myers-Briggs personality type test.
In the 1960’s a psychological theorist named Katharine Briggs had many of the same questions you do. She wondered why some of her family members had such logical, linear thinking processes, when she herself was more likely to take values and feelings into account when considering an issue. In her research with her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, she looked into this question and others, and discovered four central aspects of personality. Each one of us can be classified as either:
• Extroverted/Introverted—Do you get your energy from being with people, or being alone?
• Sensing/Intuitive—Do you see what’s actual, or what’s possible?
• Thinking/Feeling—Do you make decisions with your head or your heart?
• Judging/Perceiving—Do you like to make decisions, or keep your options open?
Our classifications on each of the scales is combined to make a four-letter type, for instance, ENTP, or ISFJ. There are sixteen types in all, encompassing all possible combinations.
With so many possibilities, you can imagine how much potential for misunderstanding there is with those around us! If we marry, or parent, or even work with someone who is very different from us, we can become increasingly baffled as to how their minds work. The key to unlocking the mystery and understanding those around us is to first understand yourself.
Where do you think you fall on the scales listed above? It can be difficult to decide, but fortunately, the creators of this theory have also created a scientifically validated assessment that can tell you where you fall. This personality test is called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and is the most accurate and efficient way to identify your own type. Most recently it has become available in an online format, which allows convenient access to anyone wishing to discover more about themselves. The official Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can be used to produce several different types of reports, from basic to detailed, all of which you can refer to as you learn more about your own Type.
Once you have discovered your Type, you can begin to think about how others may differ. If you are an extrovert, you may be surprised when others want to leave a social gathering or end a conversation before you do. It doesn’t mean they’re unfriendly or not having a good time; it’s just that introverts rely on their alone time to recharge. As another example, if you’re a Thinker, you may mistrust people who seem to make decisions based on their “gut” or their feelings rather than logic. But turn this around and you’ll realize that your own decisions may seem cold and uncaring to someone who is a Feeling type. There is no right or wrong; only individual preferences.
The world is made up of many types, and this is for the best! We need people who are gregarious, and those that are content to live much of their lives independently. We need visionaries with their heads in the clouds, and people who will take care of all the details. We need planners, and people who fly by the seat of their pants; when making decisions we need both someone to remind us of the logic of the situation and someone to help us do a “gut check.” Learning more about personality types can help you appreciate all the variation you’ll see around you. Most importantly, it will help you use your differences to everyone’s benefit.