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Know Thyself: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

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Since a new year is the best time for reflecting on our lives and diving deep into our inner beings, let’s begin this year by knowing ourselves. Every one of us has surely asked why differences, clashes, and misunderstandings take place among people. We always startle when our beloved ones disagree with us on our values, judgements, and preferences. We always experience an irritating feeling of being extraterrestrial. For we are neither able to communicate our minds, nor are we able to grasp the unfathomable other.

The author, Isabel Briggs Myers is one of the most key figures in psychology as she has devoted her life to help people understand themselves. Myers was born in 1897 in America, where she joined Swarthmore college to study political science. Myers was a philanthropist who relished dwelling on man's essence and merit. That’s why, although she wasn’t a psychiatrist in the first place, she contributed to one of the most effective psychological theories of the 20th century. At the age of 82, Myers died of cancer in 1980 after a 20-year battle with illness. Afterwards, her son Peter published her milestone book Gifts Differing, which crystalizes her theory in full.

Myers leaned on the theories of the famed Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung. Myers' book is distinguished by its easy language that is totally devoid of jargon, which is why the book is read by a wide spectrum of unsophisticated people. Conversely, Carl Jung focuses in his book on a clinical approach that helps psychiatrists deal with the various disorders based on personality divergences. That’s why, Jung's approach is denser and more psychiatrist-centered. Myers’ contribution lies in bringing people to the forefront as she wanted to make people know themselves by themselves. Moreover, Myers focused on personality differences displayed by ordinary, mentally-apt people, unlike Jung who gave precedence to those who displayed mental disorders.

2 Ways of Evaluation & 2 Ways of Perception

Carl Jung indicates that there are two main approaches, according to which, people judge everything they come across. These two approaches are Feeling and Thinking. This fact might seem well-known to most of us since a great number of people admit they are governed by their feels while a myriad of others admit they abide by reason. People who prefer feelings tend to be skillful in dealing with human relations, whereas those who rely on thinking are more adept in handling factual information. Moving, humans also tend to perceive the world, based on two methods: The first method is called Sensing while the second is called Intuition. When you perceive through your senses, you are focusing on what is happing here and now. Conversely, when you perceive through your Intuition, you are delving into what’s more abstract, or into the realm of ideas. Intuitive people love to entertain possibilities and read what’s between the lies, yet they don’t pay ample attention to the actual world, unlike their sensual counterparts.

Myers further elaborates that by combing the TF module (Thinking vs Feeling) with the SN module (Sensing vs Intuition), our understanding of human preferences will be finely tuned. Myers introduced four combinations: ST Sensing plus thinking, SF Sensing plus feeling, NF Intuition plus feeling, & NT Intuition plus thinking. According to Myers, ST people mainly lean on sensing the actuality around them for purposes of perception and on thinking logically for the purpose of making decisions. They use their five senses — seeing, hearing, touching, and smelling— to have an idea of their world and use their minds to judge it. A patent example of an ST would be Britain’s famed detective, Sherlock Holmes. Indeed, those people are practical and matter-of-fact. The SF (sensing plus feeling) people, too, depend on sensing for perception, but they rely on feeling for judgment. Their decisions are approached from the perspective of sentiment not logic. They love to save away interesting facts about people, society, and history. They tend to have an amicable personality as they love to talk and engage in activities with other people.

NFs rely on intuition rather than sensing. Their attention is not centered around actual existence, as contrasted with what they intend, expect, or believe. NFs tend to think about future goals and new truths. They yearn for inspiration. They love creative jobs and crave humane ventures. That’s why, their cutting edge usually lies in catering to a human need. They excel in writing, teaching, psychological analysis, and public speaking. Regarding NT (Intuition Plus Thinking), these people combine Intuition with thinking; they love ideas and theoretical knowledge, yet they approach it with an objective analysis. NT people excel in scientific research, electronic computing, mathematics, and finance. Myers sums the four categories up, saying: “Everyone has probably met all four kinds of people: ST people, who are practical and matter-of-fact; the sympathetic and friendly SF people; NF people, who are characterized by their enthusiasm and insight; and NT people, who are logical and ingenious.”

The EI VS. the JP Orientation

Another crucial category of preference is The EI orientation— Extraversion vs Introversion. Such a module defines which world are people interested in the most —the outer world or the inner world. On the one hand, introverts, according to Jung, are engrossed in their inner world, meditating and formulating ideas. On the other hand, extroverts are primarily interested in the outer environment. They love engaging with people and are known being sociable. Usually when introverts voice their opinions, they focus on ideas while extroverts somehow tend to judge their sensual world. Besides, Myers elaborates on another binary of preference, which is The JP preference— Judgment vs Perception. This binary mode depicts a way of living. It describes whether a person reorders his life (judgment) or adapts to it with flexibility (perception). Everyone surely navigates between the two, but what Myers is talking about is a more preferred way of living.

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Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

So, it’s time to discover what type of person you are. Take a moment to reflect on your character in terms of what you have read and form the four letters that define you. For example, are you INTJ or ESTJ or something else? Myers has used these four letters to form the most known 16 types of personality in psychology. Another dichotomy that Myers presented is A vs T (Assertive vs Turbulent). It is an easy dichotomy, which is about the two main different mentalities people adopt. Assertive people don’t care much about achieving self-perfectionism, and often are even tempered. Conversely, turbulent people are sensitive, self-conscious, perfectionists, and easily agitated. So, after you pick your four letters, add an A or a T to them. For instance, if you are an INFP, you can be either an INFP-A or an INFP-T.

In a Nutshell

"EI — Extraversion or Introversion: To focus the dominant (favorite) process on the outer world or on the world of ideas

SN — Sensing or Intuition: To use one kind of perception instead of the other when either could be used

TF — Thinking or Feeling: To use one kind of judgment instead of the other when either could be used

JP — Judgment or Perception: To use the judging or the perceptive attitude for dealing with the outer world ."

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