Understanding Personality Types with Myers-Briggs®

two bulldogs, one large, one small
One of my most memorable moments while walking the South Downs Way was a conversation we had about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) – a method of understanding different personality types.

The four of us had been walking together for a few days and our different personalities were becoming more obvious over time. I enjoyed long periods of silence as I journeyed along, while others in the group were keen to chat, take charge of the map, make sure we were on course or point out where we’d gone wrong.

If you’re not familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® I recommend checking out the website of the Myers & Briggs Foundation which will explain the various personality types in a lot more detail than I’m going to go into here.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®

Briefly, the idea behind the MBTI® is that people differ from each other in four main ways.  Using four pairs of preferences and various questions it is possible to work out what your personal preferences are and from that what your personality type is. You can generally work it out for yourself by reading the descriptions online or in a book. But for a more accurate assessment, it’s best to have the MBTI® administered by a trained professional.

The four pairs of preferences are:

Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I) – Do you prefer to focus on your inner world (I) or your outer world (E)?

Sensing (S) or Intuition (N) – When you take in information are you practical, great on facts and detail (S) or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning (N)?

Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) – In decision-making, are you logical, firm and reasonable (T) or are you more compassionate and sensitive to others (F)?

Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) – In your dealings with the outside world do you like getting things done in a structured and organised way (J) or do you prefer to be more flexible and keep your options open (P)?

Understanding Different Personality Types

As we walked along, my friend Marianne explained the different preferences to us and we took it in turns to say which one we thought we were.  There is no right or wrong type and no type is better than the other – each type is just different.

I decided that I was an INFP – Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving – and that when it came to Introversion, I was definitely an introverted introvert!

Listening to my partner and friends discuss their preferences was quite a revelation.  Suddenly people understood why I was so quiet.  We all understood why my partner (bless her!) spoke her thoughts out loud – turns out she’s an extrovert.  At first I was slightly alarmed that my partner and I had mostly different preferences, but it helps to remember that rather than being opposites the different preferences complement each other.

And everyone understood my indifference to the map of the South Downs Way when I realised my preference was Perceiving – I didn’t need to know what to expect at each point of the journey and how long it would take me, I was happy to take the journey as it came.

If we hadn’t talked about the the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® I suspect we may have become quite irritable with each other on our long journey. But by the end of our conversation we all felt we understood each other so much better and could really appreciate our differences.  It was also helpful to remember that we were merely reflecting our personality types in certain situations rather than being deliberately annoying.

Increasing Awareness of Self and Others

My journey along the South Downs Way was life changing in so many ways, one of which was a new found respect and appreciation for my partner and friends’ different qualities.  And while I’m not a fan of putting people in boxes, I do find it extremely useful to have tools to increase my personal awareness and awareness of others.  If nothing else, it’s a good way to get people to talk about themselves in a thoughtful and intimate manner.

What do you think?  Have you worked out your personality type? Has it helped you in any way.  If so, I’d love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below.

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