An Encounter with Meyers-Briggs Part I

Had a really interesting class last week in which we discussed the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. For those who haven’t heard of it before, this is one of the most popular instruments to identify personality. You respond to different prompts and based on those responses you are placed in either of two preferences in four categories leading to classification in one of 16 groups. The four categories are briefly summarized below:*

*For a more in-depth look at the Myers-Briggs and to take your own assessment, check out the official site: Meyers Briggs

Where you focus your attention:

Extroversion v. Introversion
This one is pretty straightforward. Extroverts tend to focus their attention to the outer world of people and things while introverts focus on inner world ideas and impressions.

The way you take in information:

Sensing v. Intuition
Sensing is taking information using the five sense and focusing on facts. Intuition is looking at the big picture and future possibilities.

The way you make decisions:

Thinker v. Feeler
Thinkers tend to make decisions based primarily on logic and on objective analysis. Feelers tend to be irrational and make silly mistakes. Kidding! Feelers focus primarily on values and subjective evaluation which takes into account people concerns.

How you deal with the outer world:

Judging v. Perceiving
It was funny cause when you read the choices in this category, your mind immediately went to your very condescending friend and some obnoxious comment that they made once. It is okay, I did it too.
Judging is used in the older sense of the term and in this definition it means planned and organized. Judgers like order is an easy way to think about it. Perceivers on the other hand tend to like flexibility and spontaneity. Keeping options open if you will.


So just looking at the categories, you can pretty much feel out which one that you are in each category and when you combine the first letter of those selections, you get your Meyers Briggs type.

For instance, my results came out Introversion/Sensing/Thinking/Judging: ISTJ

From a Meyers Briggs interpretation book:

ISTJ: The theme of ISTJ is inspecting, looking for discrepancies and omissions, and reporting these deviations from the set standards to the appropriate authority. ISTJs want to conserve the resources of the organization, group, family or culture and can be depended upon to persevere toward that goal.

Of course the book goes on to at length to determine general leadership qualities and management styles. A bit heavy but I found to be fairly accurate. The ISTJ group has been labeled by some “The Duty Fullfillers” which I think is a a good way to summarize. I certainly find myself more there than say “The Idealists” (INFP) or “The Visionaries” (ENTP). Now that also isn’t to say that I take 100% stock of this one test that I took one time in 20 minutes. And that was not the intention of the professor giving the test. As with most tools for evaluating and classifying human beings, it is imperfect but useful. Imperfect because everyone does not fit into one of sixteen neatly labeled boxes and one evaluation is not a determination for future actions.*  But useful because there are similar trends with similar type of people.

*Be on the lookout for part 2: Inherent Ability
Understanding different types of people is important at any level. If you know that your boss is bored with data and figures and likes to look at the big picture, you can cater your presentation so that it makes sense to him/her. Or if a coworker is introverted, making sure to pick words carefully, you can take a moment and give them the opportunity to deliver an answer, making sure that they are not drowned out by people who like to talk out their ideas.

Pretend that it is marketing for your life. Arguably the most important part of marketing is identifying the audience. While you may just say “everyone” that presents a difficult task as it is hard to market to everyone at once. It is much easier to segment your market, using demographics or geography, that way you can focus on each group to better communicate your message.** In a similar way, in your workplace or out with friends or at home, you probably already know how to tailor your message for the audience. In some way you have identified certain traits with people and what you can or cannot do or say around that person. Using tools such as the Meyers Briggs not only gives you an opportunity to further unveil the best way to reach someone but more importantly, the way to best exploit that person’s strengths and minimize weaknesses.

**An example close to me right now is mutual funds. Some mutual funds have just finished implementing online resources so that people can check balances, makes purchases and withdrawals. However there still is a tremendous use of paper. Statements have to come out on paper and many changes have to be submitted with proper certification on letterhead or using fund-specific forms. In order to capture the next wave of investors, these old firms must adapt to survive. That means creating a bigger online social presence, generating mobile apps, and changing procedures in order to better accommodate what is becoming an increasing paperless society. 

To me, psychology is a mixed bag. There is a lot of things going on upstairs that I don’t want to know about or frankly care to know about. In most situations I find it unnecessary to find the reason why someone does something or acts a certain way, the act or thought or action is important.  But that ties back to my personality I suppose.


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