Friday, April 2, 2010

Getting Into Character: The Overview of the MBTI

Alright, folks. We've explored all sixteen choices in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Hopefully you easily assessed yourself and your loved ones. We've learned that we have a preference for how we are energized--either through others (Extraversion) or within ourselves (Introversion). Our preference for how we perceive our world comes either through the five senses (Sensing) or through a sixth-sense type of (Intuition). We make decisions based on a default of logical, impartial criteria (Thinking) or based on how our decisions affect other people (Feeling). And finally we have a preference for how we steer our life. We choose to live an ordered, planned out life (Judging) or to let life happen around us, then react to it (Perceiving).

If you are still undecided between Judger and Perceiver, let me give you a couple scenarios to help you out. One way is to think about how you approach a team project. Do you come to the initial meeting with a notebook, pencil, and folder with notes you've already made to yourself? Do you already have an idea of how the whole process will play out and what the outcome will/should look like? If so, you are probably a Judger. But what if you show up at the meeting empty-handed, even though you may have already done a lot of thinking about the project? Do you balk at the idea of following a strict schedule or of completing tasks in a systematic order? Do you prefer to let everyone bounce ideas off one another and see where the planning takes you? Do you hope to keep all the options open to the deadline and then bring them all together at the last moment? If so, you are most likely a Perceiver.

One more test is to look at how you order when you eat in a restaurant. If you decide quickly and then are happy with your choice, you may be a Judger. This doesn't mean that you always get the same thing; it just means you decide and put it behind you. However, if you can't decide until you've talked to the waiter, surveyed other diner's plates, heard what everyone else at your table is ordering, and changed your mind several times, you probably can give yourself a "P" for Perceiver. Oh, and you may still wish you had ordered something else.

In the general population about 60% are Judgers and 40% are Perceivers, with an equal distribution between men and women.

Okay, there you have it--you should be able to give yourself a label. I am an ISTJ. What are you? I'd love for you to share it with me. Next week we will start to look at the sixteen types, starting with the ESTP. If you let me know your type, I'll do yours sooner rather than later. We will look at possible careers, spiritual disciplines, descriptions, and other interesting stuff. And if any of you are still stuck trying to decide between two letters, when you hear the descriptions, it will all clear up.

I wanted to give you a little background on how the MBTI came about. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, noticed that people had patterns to behavior and that these patterns, while different from some others, were remarkably similar to other people. The son of a minister, he was a deeply spiritual man and thought if we could figure out these patterns, they could help us strengthen our faith and develop this part of ourselves. These patterns are not random. Today we know them as personality. Knowing your personality helps you better understand yourself and those people you are in contact with every day.

Jung wasn't the first guy to think about these patterns. Many other cultures in the world devised ways to classify people. Think of the twelve signs of Astrology. American Indians used the four directions of the compass to describe behavior type. The Greeks based their four-part system on bodily fluids. You can find a multitude of systems, but the MBTI is the most widely used.

Interestingly enough, while Jung studied to understand personality, a mother-daughter team from the United States also studied and came up with eerily similar results. Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers were not scholarly women, they were homemakers. But when young Isabel brought her fiance to meet her parents for the first time, the Briggs' were so astonished at how different he was then they, that the women wanted to find out why. They compared notes with Jung, expanded it and devised an inventory in the 1920's.

People have definite preferences for which hand to write with, which ear they use more often, which foot they lead off with when taking a step, and even a dominant eye. Think about writing your name with your preferred hand (the one you normally use). Describe it. It comes easily, almost naturally, without thinking, quickly, good out-put. Now think about writing with your non-preferred hand. Describe how that feels. Difficult, not natural, hard, really have to think about it, slow, doesn't look as nice. It's the same thing when you are working out of your personality preference--it feels more natural, it is easier, it is less stressful, and hopefully the outcome will be better.

Okay, that's our little overview. Come back next Friday when we start digging in to the specific types. Don't forget--let me know yours. I can't wait to hear from you!

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