Andrea writes on various topics from dating, couples, astrology, weddings, interior design, and gardens. She studied film and writing.
What Is Myers-Briggs?
Myers-Briggs is a popular personality test. It places people into one of sixteen personalities. The personalities are based on four spectrums: introversion to extroversion, sensing to intuition, thinking to feeling, and judging to perceiving. The more you know how the personalities work, the easier it will be to type someone. You may have a situation where you can actually have someone take the test.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind before breaking down the spectrums. There are also personality families, so to speak. There are four main groups where personalities belong: the artisans (SP), idealists (NF), thinkers (NT), and strategists (SJ).
The following article will break down the key terms associated with Myers-Briggs to make it easier for you to understand.
Breaking Down Introversion and Extroversion
Introversion and extroversion mainly have to do with how a person gets their energy. Some people get more charged by ideas while others get charged by being around people.
An introvert does not indicate that a person is socially awkward or incapable of communication. Introversion means someone recharges their batteries by spending their time focusing on ideas, and they can get more easily drained by social situations. Extroverts, on the other hand, need to be around people to feel energized, and they get drained when they’re only focusing on ideas. I find determining whether someone is an introvert or extrovert is one of the easier parts of Myers-Briggs.
Some personality types veer more toward the middle of the introversion-extroversion spectrum. For example, an INFJ is actively social because they like people, but they also really enjoy getting away and reading books, making food, and reflecting on who they are because they are so empathetic that they can be like a chameleon. Other introverts are more obvious, like the INTJ and INTP. Both of those personalities spend a great deal of time thinking and putting their social connections at a distance.
Extroverts tend to be more at the center of parties. They have a busy schedule that revolves around people. They want to know what’s going on, who’s popular, and how they can get people included. They’re not always friendly, but they tend to thrive off social interactions. A lot of extroverts like to talk, be in several different social circles, and have people visit them at their home.
Extroverts like to be seen and heard. They like to share their ideas. They’re usually smiling, making affirmative body language, and multitasking. An extrovert may show signs of depression or loneliness if they are taken away from people for too long.
Introverts, on the other hand, like learning things by themselves. They have the same kind of energy that extroverts have, but it’s inward. They tend to want to stay in one part of a place when at a party rather than constantly be moving. They can handle long periods of isolation. They may need time to reflect on their own private world before expressing themselves out in the open. They’re great at one on one conversations.
They’re good listeners and one on one time with a person works well for them because there are not as many distractions — as you would find at a larger social gathering. Introverts are more like cats whereas extroverts are more like dogs. Introverts can have an army of friends, but if you see them needing a lot of space and time on their own, they’re probably leaning more on the introverted side.
An ambivert is someone who falls in the middle of the scale. They’re not really dominated by extroversion or introversion. Other information may be needed to figure out their MBTI.
Spends a great deal of time seeking social interaction
Needs lots of private time with ideas
Likely to volunteer in a class setting first
May appear shy or modest
Loves to be the center of attention
Loves a quiet area without distraction
Always knows where there is a good party
Knows good books, movies, art, etc.
Comfortable performing in front of others
May have stage fright
Wants to get people involved
Great listeners, one on one conversations
May overdo social interactions
May be too quiet and in their head
Sensing and Intuition
The sensing and intuition spectrum is one of the hardest to understand. This has to do with how people gather information for their brain, and since you can’t literally see how a brain is doing that, it makes it difficult. You’ll have to watch how they act and interpret information. Someone who has a strong preference for sensing gathers information through their five senses. Intuitives rely on patterns and inferences. Intuitives piece things together from past experiences.
Sensing types tend to be more down-to-earth and literal. If you’re using a lot of metaphors and analogies, you’ll probably wear them out or annoy them. They are good with details, but they’re not so great at getting the big picture or having a global understanding. They tend to be more sensual and physical. They’ll want to make sure that all the basic necessities are covered from food, clothing, and shelter. They generally come across as normal, especially SJ types. ESFP and ISFP can come off as eccentric.
As for intuitives, they thrive on metaphors. They read a lot between the lines. They tend to be creative, and they don’t need every detail told to them. The easiest way to annoy an N person is to constantly go over every detail with them. They don’t see the point when they know the big picture and how things fall into place. There are fewer N types than S types in the world. The introverted-intuitives make up an even smaller proportion.
In fact, introverted-intuitives are some of the rarest personalities. They’re also some of the smartest. The INTP, INTJ, and INFJ tend to top the charts when it comes to intelligence tests and grades. That doesn’t mean that intuitives are automatically smarter than their counterparts. They are great at reading, writing, math, and all the other traits schools tend to prize.
Great with details
Great with big pictures
Uses their 5 senses to gather info
Down to earth, normal
Into physical appearances
Good at managing physical environment
Great at theory
In the moment
In the past and future
Needs structure detailed
Needs structure open and explorative
Knows their environment
Knows the potential
Thinking and Feeling
All people experience thinking and emotion. The thinking and feeling spectrum has to do with how people make decisions. If you make decisions based more on objective information, you’re a thinker. If you base your decisions more on subjective information, like people, then you are a feeler. Both of these are different forms of logic.
A thinker may see what is the best optimal plan to carry out, but they may not account for how other people feel and how that plays into a situation — this is where a feeler thrives. A feeler can gauge a room’s emotions and know how to make compromises.
Thinkers tend to make their decisions without having to worry about others. They’re more likely to take jobs or go to school away from their family. They can get overwhelmed by an outpouring of emotion, or they can be easily manipulated by it. They thrive on getting the right answer. They’re more likely to argue, and they’re harsher toward stupidity.
A lot of them don’t need lots of color in their wardrobe or more superfluous items — especially those that are NT. Thinkers tend to be better at making money and are great at board games. An ST likely will be good at sports and keeping up their physique.
Feelers are more likely to pick up an animal off the street and keep it. They’ll want to be around their family and will make their decisions based on their family. They tend to be better at expressing their emotions. They’re creative types, and they may want to do things their own way, even if it isn’t tried and true. They base their decisions on social experiences.
Feelers can find arguments hostile and can even feel overwhelmed by them. This doesn’t mean they do not know how to argue, but they prefer different methods of communication. Feelers tend to care about others' feelings. They’re good at empathy and want others to feel good. They have a tendency to be people-pleasers and gossipers.
Motivated by objective reasoning
Motivated by subjective reasoning
Great at arguments
Great at taking others opinions into account
May struggle with being cynical
May struggle with accepting reality
Great at logistics
Great at expressing emotions
Does well with information systems that do not involve people
Does well with information systems that involve people
Can make decisions without worrying about people, such as taking a distant job
May feel the need to stay close to home to be close to family
May come off cold or sterile
May come off neurotic or overly expressive
Sees the problem first
Sees the humanity first
Judging and Perceiving
Judging and perceiving have to do with people’s perceptions of time and cleanliness.
Judgers tend to be more pressed for deadlines. They want things clean and in order. They love structure, routine, and predictability. These people tend to dress nice, are more conscientious of what they eat and drink, and worry relentlessly about the cleanliness of their house.
The judging types have a strong awareness of time and schedules. Be aware that NFJ types think on a whole other plane when it comes to this. It’s easy to mistype them as NFP because they are less J-oriented than the others. NFJ can fit easily around the P group. Their NF is so strong that they don’t worry as much about details, and they care more about others… so they’ll sacrifice their J preference for the needs of others.
As with any spectrum, some people fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to judging and perceiving. You may moderately care about cleanliness and are adequately punctual.
Perceiving types don’t care as much about time or cleanliness. They can be messy, spontaneous, and easy-going… if not to the point of passive-aggressive. They can procrastinate and then be baffled by demanding deadlines. They are more likely to do things at the last minute. They don’t tend to put as much thought into their clothes — expect that they’ll wear mismatched clothing, have unruly hair, or don strange eclectic pieces like a giant owl necklace.
Perceiving types start and stop projects all the time. They have gusts of energy for what they want to do, but keeping it long-term can be difficult. They’re generally a lot of fun, but sometimes they’re wishy-washy. They prefer things uninhibited. Common P traits are tattoos, messy desks, and stacks of unfinished projects and ideas.
It’s important to think of the letters in a combination with each other. There’s a big difference between an INFJ and an ENFJ — the ENFJ is a super extrovert, while the introvert might show mild qualities of an extrovert. An ENFP has the veracity of Robin Williams whereas the INFP has the cool demeanor of Johnny Depp or Ryan Gosling. One letter makes a big difference in personality typing, so it’s important to know how the letters all come together.
I recommend reading about several personalities, so you can get a feel for it. Some letters for certain personalities stick out like a sore thumb — it’s easy to tell that an INTP has a strong N and T. It should also be easy to tell that an ISTJ has strong… all of those letters.
People tend to click better if they’re the same when it comes to S and N. It’s difficult for an S to understand an N who is constantly in the world of double meanings. An N will get frustrated that an S doesn’t understand them. People’s friend groups tend to be mostly S or N.
With temperaments, you can figure out a person’s personality by their motivations. The NF idealist family tends to be creative, people-oriented, friendly, and strange. The SJ group tends to be methodical, down-to-earth, and excellent strategists.
Makes lots of projects
Desires clean home
Needs the interchangeable
Gets things finished
Loses track of time
More easy going
Functions are not easy to understand right off the bat, but knowing them will make it even easier to type someone. Functions have to do with the dominant giftings of a personality. For instance, an INFJ personality is guided by Introverted Intuition — they’re constantly pulling information subconsciously. This means their weakest gift is Extroverted Sensing — they struggle with the physical world and might be clumsy. They may not mean for something to be funny when they say it, but it just kind of is.
It would take too long in a single article to break down all 16 personality types and their functions. There are eight different functions altogether and each personality has four. Every function will be the dominant function of two personalities. For instance, Introverted Intuition is the dominant function for INFJ and INTJ.
The ENFP and ENTJ have dominant extroverted intuition. Seeing how they use their intuition in an extroverted or introverted way is a big clue into how to type a personality. If you can figure out what dominates a personality, then that will give you a big hint on where everything else falls into place.
Also, whatever is your strongest function — whether intuition, sensing, feeling, or thinking — is directly related to your weakest function. If your strongest quality is feeling then your weakest is thinking — the other two functions of intuition and sensing will fall in the middle.
If you’re struggling to tell whether someone is a thinker or feeler then those are probably a person’s middle qualities. If someone is more dominated by information gathering, N or S, then they tend to be guided more by a perceiving-like quality — regardless of whether they’re an INFJ, INTJ, etc. This is where Myers-Briggs can be really confusing.
If someone is more dominated by feeling or thinking, they have a judging preference. A perceiving person is more guided by their information gathering skills while a judger has a preference for decision making. Perceiving personalities observe; judging personalities act.
Here is a breakdown of where the personalities fall, which again is based on one's dominant function:
Overall Perceiving Types (Observant)
- INFJ (Ni)
- INTJ (Ni)
- ENFP (Ne)
- ENTP (Ne)
- ISTJ (Si)
- ISFJ (Si)
- ESTP (Se)
- ESFP (Se)
Overall Judging Types (Actants)
- INFP (Fi)
- ISFP (Fi)
- ENFJ (Fe)
- ESFJ (Fe)
- INTP (Ti)
- ISTP (Ti)
- ESTJ (Te)
- ENTJ (Te)
Tips for Using MBTI
Never tell someone what their type is. If you disagree with what someone says they are, don’t be rude and tell them they are wrong. Gracefully show them where something might fit them better.
If someone isn’t interested in Myers Briggs, don’t force it down their throat. Myers Briggs is a theory, and theory always has problems. This isn’t a perfect measure. Psychologists don’t necessarily like MBTI.
The big takeaway: The more you know, the easier it will be to read people. Know yourself before you start trying to know others.
Here are some things I’ve discovered about MBTI over the years:
- S personalities are more common. ISTJ for males is one of the most common personality types overall.
- The least common is INFJ, but you’ll find lots of them in the same place — writing-oriented hangouts, churches, coffee shops, etc.
- Each spectrum is on a 100-point scale. This means someone can be very extroverted, moderately extroverted, barely extroverted, ambivert, barely introverted, moderately introverted, or very introverted.
- Those who are in the same temperament tend to get along — NF, NT, SP, SJ — and those who are opposites tend to not understand each other. NT will likely find SP confusing and vice versa.
- There are more extroverts than introverts.
- There are more feelers than thinkers.
- If you’re stuck on one letter of someone’s personality, read about the two personalities it could be and that may give you an answer.
- Judgers are more decisive; you’ll annoy them by taking forever to make a choice.
- Intuitves need metaphors and otherworldly concepts. They’re not trying to annoy you… and they can’t turn it off.
- Introverts do not automatically dislike people — they just have a smaller diet for socializing. NF introverts are more social than NT introverts.
- The best formula for dating is having someone who has similar preferences. An INFJ does well with an ENFP. Why? Because INFJ has dominant introverted intuition while the ENFP has dominant extroverted intuition.
- One letter can make a huge difference.
© 2015 Andrea Lawrence
Andrea Lawrence (author) on June 01, 2020:
The difference between an INFJ and an INTJ is that an INFJ's second trait is extroverted feeling. INTJ's second trait is extroverted thinking. Both are dominated by introverted intuition. These two personalities make for good friends and blend together quite well.
INTJ might be a little more stoic and socially awkward. They might not be as drawn to religion or more abstract ideas. INTJ will be better about making practical decisions where INFJ will make better social decisions, the INFJ will look to what is happening around them socially first before making a decision. INTJ will look to their logic, what they know, and see if they already have the answer first.
Billy Jay Burton from Earth on May 23, 2020:
Very interesting hub !
What if someone is almost as much an INFJ as he is an INTJ (10% T) ?
What would it entail ?
Andrea Lawrence (author) on April 05, 2018:
Not sure I agree... or understand. But more importantly, I do appreciate your input
I've found it easier lately to think of feelers as having social rational and thinkers as having non-social rational. Both of these have their place, and usually for a personality it's easier to favor one or the other.
Michelle Dalson on March 07, 2018:
Good insight here, but I don't think the major difference between Thinkers and Feelers has to do with objectivity vs subjectivity in making decisions. If you think about the 8 possible cognitive functions of the MBTI (Ne, Ni, Se, Si, Te, Ti, Fe, Fi), the extraverted functions (Ne, Se, Te, Fe) have more to do with objectivity in info-processing and decision-making, while the introverted functions (Ni, Si, Ti, Fi) involve more subjectivity in info-processing and decision-making. The way I see it, Thinkers and Feelers differ mainly in whether they prefer reasons or values their judgments. Thinkers prefer to judge reasons for something, they are more interested in asking "why." Feelers prefer to judge values of something, they are more interested in asking "what's the worth." They may or may not use an objective approach to assess the reason or value.
Raine Law Yuen from Cape Town on August 13, 2015:
this is a wonderful, insightful and well written hub. I think it should be mandatory for everyone to know their profile - in this way we will make better use of our talents and not be so quick to judge others.