How the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory Works
The Myers-Briggs Inventory (MBTI) focuses on four pairs of basic personality traits in human beings. The inventory, based on the theories of Carl Jung, was created by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs in the 1940s. According to their work, every person’s personality falls somewhere along a line between the extreme ends of each pair. The pairs are:
Extraverted (sociable) > Introverted (private)
Sensing (practical) > Intuitive (creative)
Thinking (logical) > Feeling (emotional)
Perceiving (flexible) > Judging (organized)
The traits in each pair are like opposite sides of a coin. Extraversion (sociable) is the flip side of Introversion (private) and vice versa. While some people are at the extreme ends of a trait continuum, most are somewhere in between. However, even those who score at one end or the other are capable of thinking and behaving like their opposites some of the time. Myers and Briggs believed that the traits by which a person is classified are simply his or her preferred modes of thinking and acting.
You’d think that having identical traits would make people more compatible. It can actually cause problems. Two extraverts may fail to take time away from social activities to enjoy each other in a relaxed way. Because they’re always with other people and never alone, the partners drift apart. On the other hand, two introverts may tire of each other’s company and start getting on each other’s nerves. The chances are, they need the influence of outside friends and activities.
Introversion vs. Extraversion
Extraverts seek out the company of others. They’re energized by parties, meetings, and other group activities. They’re outspoken and often prefer talking to listening. When the phone rings, the extravert is likely to jump up to answer it. If left on their own for long, extraverts get jittery and start looking for company.
Introverts get worn out by too much interaction with others. They prefer their own company or being with one or two close friends. They’re independent thinkers and don’t need others to help them make up their minds. Only when they have strong feelings about something are they inclined to speak up or ask advice. Introverts may seem moody at times and go off by themselves. Close friends can be offended. It’s usually nothing personal.
Sensing vs. Intuition
Sensing types are matter-of-fact and literal. They get impatient when conversations dwell on the meaning behind people’s actions. They don’t take much stock in undertones or innuendoes. This practical type is more interested in what he or she sees than what might be under the surface. When they talk about the price of something, they know it to the penny. They’re detail-oriented.
Thinking vs. Feeling
The thinking person makes decisions based on objective information. The feeling person is swayed by emotions. Thinking types often believe that those at the feeling end of the scale are too soft. Feeling types often find thinkers callous and overly concerned with hard facts.
Feeling types go out of their way to help others. They’re compassionate and understand emotions. If they hurt someone’s feelings, they’re quick to apologize. They dislike conflict and avoid it whenever possible. They know how to make others feel good.
Perceiving vs. Judging
People of the perceiving type are flexible. They usually don’t plan tasks from beginning to end. They start work and then make things up as they go along. They frustrate co-workers and friends with their tardiness and their habit of meeting deadlines by the skin of their teeth. They’re easily distracted from what they’re doing. If an interruption is interesting enough, they’ll drop the task at hand and turn their attention to the diversion. Perceiving people are generally easy-going and without strong opinions.
Judging types are organized, neat and punctual. They get disturbed when they find themselves in a chaotic environment. The judging type is systematic in his or her approach to life. They dislike big surprises, even pleasant ones. They like to undertake one project at a time, finish it, and then go on to another. Unfinished work frustrates them.
Understanding Type Differences
According to Myers-Briggs theory, one trait is no better than its opposite. They’re just different. Studying MBTI types can give you helpful insights into why you and others think and act the way you do. The perspective you gain by appreciating personality traits helps you to enrich your relationships and understand yourself better. And it gives you a preview of where rough spots are likely to occur—challenges you face as an individual and issues you sometimes have with family and friends.