I’m an ENTP, preferring extroversion over introversion, intuition over sensing, thinking over feeling and perceiving over judging. In case you didn’t know, this is my MBTI® score, or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®. When I first took on my new role in a leadership development group, I heard everyone throwing around these letters “I’m a J, so I’m going to need to get into the details here”, “I’m going to need some time to process this alone because I’m an I”, etc. I had no clue what these people were talking about, but it all seemed to mean something to them and they would talk for hours on end about their interactions with their teams, their families, and with each other using this jargon.
According to the Myers-Briggs organization, “the essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.” By taking a test, rating preferences of various situations and activities on a sliding scale, the claim is that your underlying personality type and preference can be mapped. “The theory of psychological type was introduced in the 1920s by Carl G. Jung. The MBTI tool was developed in the 1940s by Isabel Briggs Myers.”
I was a total sceptic. As far as I was concerned, the idea that by answering a few questions, my personality type could be reduced to 4 letters (with some granularity of preference under that) was pure mumbo jumbo. Moreover, I was sure that there must be a degree of self-selection; at some level I would guess what the question was trying to measure and would select an answer based on how I wanted to be rated.
And then I took the test and had the results explained to me by a certified MBTI® practitioner. I have to say, I’ve been totally converted. I did the MBTI® II level, which gives the greater granularity and the results were so spot on, and not necessarily what I would have “chosen” to be represented as, thereby undercutting my self-selection theory. As I scanned through my report, I realized that this test had totally nailed who I am and what my preferences are. It was explained to me that it is certainly possible, and often necessary, for someone to act out of preference, for someone who’s a P like me, preferring to plunge into tasks, to force themselves to be more methodical, but that such “out of preference” activity will never be easy or pleasant for me, often putting me “in the grip”, MBTI® terminology for experiencing extreme stress. And it’s so true; I can be methodical and organized, it’s just never natural or pleasant. Similarly with so many of the other preferences.
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