Myers-Briggs madness

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The trendy thing at my house right now is the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory.

Basically, you take a long test and then it tells you who you are, based on where you fall on a spectrum in four different categories.

Teya will not stop analyzing herself, analyzing us, analyzing our extended family members, analyzing characters in movies we watch, analyzing characters in books she reads, analyzing my friends… you get the point.

It would get old, except that this test is so freakily accurate.

(If you’re interested in taking the test, one link is http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp.)

Teya wanted me to retake the test when I got home for Christmas break, because she didn’t think my type was quite right. I’ve been an INFP all my life, and I was rather attached to that label, but I agreed. After taking the test, it was revealed that I am in fact not an INFP, but rather an ISFP. Goodness gracious.

After my head stopped spinning, I read through the description of this strange new type.

And suddenly, everything made sense.

Here’s a quick review of the different options for you, before I delve into this.

The first letter is I or E — introversion or extraversion.

Introversion means that you recharge with solitary activities. Perhaps you go on walks, or work out, or play solitaire, or read a book, or perhaps you have a one-on-one conversation with a trusted friend (yes, this counts as introvert time).

Extraversion means that you recharge with group activities. Maybe you go to a concert together, or have a bunch of friends over and watch movies, or just sit together and have animated discussions.

Do you need to charge yourself up mentally for alone time, or do you need to prepare yourself for being with other people?

I’m definitely an introvert. I have to brace myself whenever I’m going to be with a big group — with few exceptions, I dread large-group occasions. But I love smaller groups. One or two other people is ideal for me, because then I can process everything that’s going on. With larger groups, there is just too much input for me to handle. Not that I can’t deal with large groups in a socially acceptable manner. However, doing that is exhausting, and at some point in the event (probably too early), I desperately need to either engage in one-on-one conversation or leave and be by myself. And I don’t like to be a party pooper; if there’s something going on, I want to be there! But I don’t need to be there for hours on end.

The next letter in the Myers-Briggs profile is S versus N. These are sensing versus intuition.

Sensing people see the world as it immediately is. They tend to trust their five senses. They live in the moment right now, not the past or future.

Intuitive individuals see the world as it could be. They trust their ideas and the ideas of others. They live in the world of possibilities.

This is the letter that changed for me. I had tested out as intuitive, but I think now that that has always been wrong. I am definitely sensing. Sometimes at work, we receive surveys that ask things like How can we improve your work environment? What are things here that you would like to see change? Inevitably, I write something cheery about how great working there is. I simply don’t have ideas about how to change my surroundings. Obviously, I have a few opinions on how to improve obvious problems when they arise. But typically in a situation like that, my mind is a complete blank.

One description I read of the difference between sensing and intuition went something like this: a group was told to go off by themselves into the woods and write about what they saw. The sensing members of the group wrote about the dappled sunlight on the grass, the tender flowers pushing up through the dark earth, or the scaly bark of the gnarled oak trees. The intuitive members wrote about how the three flowers they saw reminded them of Jesus and the two criminals on Golgotha, or how it was difficult to concentrate on the task at hand, or how everything they saw brought a new idea to mind. (I’m not sure I can do the intuitive section justice, but hopefully you get the point.)

The next letter is T versus F. This is thinking versus feeling.

Thinking individuals make decisions primarily based on logic and reason, and can at times appear cold or indifferent.

Feeling individuals are more swayed by their emotions when making decisions. They are more likely to state that they “feel” a certain way, rather than saying that they “think” something.

I am feeling, but I have learned to operate with logic and reason as well. There isn’t much to say about this one, I don’t think, because it’s a fairly obvious category. I’ll explain how it works in my life a bit later.

The last letter is J versus P. This means judgment versus perception.

People who test out as judgment-oriented always like to have a plan. They can expect plans to change, but without a plan, they are lost and frustrated. Schedules tend to make them feel more secure and in control. They feel most comfortable in situations where they can be decisive, not waiting for answers.

Perception-oriented individuals like to leave things more open-ended. This doesn’t mean that they’re naturally more easygoing or fun, but their schedules are usually more flexible. They usually have trouble with procrastination. They are more likely to put off making a final decision, and then once that decision is made, they tend to second-guess themselves.

I am very much a perceptive person. I hate making final decisions, and I definitely have trouble with procrastination. But as I spend more time at college and out of the house, I have developed more J tendencies. I can operate on a schedule now, and I like to have a plan. But I still fall strongly on the P side of the spectrum, more often than not saying, “Let’s just wait and see how everything works out.”

So there are sixteen possible combinations of these letters.

My dad and Teya are INFJs, which is labeled “The Protector.” They can be very analytical, very organized, and very systematic. But at the same time, they are very intuitive, trusting gut feelings. And their guts are eerily accurate. This sometimes leads them to be stubborn when their opinions are challenged.

My mom is an INFP, which is known as “The Idealist.” Her primary quest is to find her mission in life. She’s definitely a perfectionist. According to the website Personality Page, “Although [INFPs] may be reserved in expressing emotion, they have a very deep well of caring and are genuinely interested in understanding people.” That’s very accurate.

I always thought I was an INFP. But the INFP’s main way of understanding the world is via intuition. I can’t do that. It may seem sometimes like I just know things, like I trust my hunches, but I am always reading the smallest signs and signals given off by those around me. I use the information I can take in through my senses.

As an ISFP, I understand myself through feelings and I understand the world through senses. I’m not sure that I understand this next point yet, but I’ll attempt to explain it. Because I feel so deeply on a personal level, my feelings are very important to me. They are precious, and I get thrown off or wounded easily if someone belittles them or opposes them. But I can freely discuss my thoughts, with little personal damage if someone despises the result of my cognitive or intellectual processes.

I do not hesitate to share my thoughts with the world. But my feelings? Except for the most superficial, those are stored much deeper than the public-access level.

My sister Teya is the opposite, which boggles me. She is quite comfortable tossing out her emotions hither and thither, but she carefully guards her thoughts away from the public eye.

One point that Teya noticed in the ISFP description has been lurking in the back of my mind since she mentioned it. The Personality Page site says that “People who don’t know [ISFPs] well may see their unique way of life as a sign of carefree light-heartedness, but the ISFP actually takes life very seriously.”

Teya read that and said, “Yeah, you talk to me when you’re at Bethel and you say, ‘My friends and I watched Pocahontas, and then I went and made cookies, and we’re having a Nerf gun war,’ and this, and that, and I think, Oh Lord, my sister’s such a ditz. But you’re really not. I’m pretty sure you take life more seriously than I do. I seem like I take life really seriously, but inside I don’t. You seem like a ditz, and everything is deadly serious for you.” I laughed at that. It’s so true.

Long story short, though, figuring out that I am sensing rather than intuitive has changed the way I see a lot of things. Silly as it sounds, I don’t feel obligated to have my head in the clouds. I always was a little thrown off by the INFP description, because it was so… abstract.

I felt obligated to be an abstract thinker. And I am a ridiculously concrete thinker. Don’t give me theories. Give me stories of people who have lived this. Don’t give me formulas. Give me illustrations of shapes and angles, or better yet, give me a model I can hold in my hands. My need to apply theory to reality doesn’t make me feel stupid anymore. I can expand on my strengths, rather than repeatedly bash my thick skull into the wall of my weaknesses.

So this is what’s popular at my house. Just thought I’d share.

(Also, I am publishing a blog post at 1:40 am because Teya didn’t realize that chocolate-covered espresso beans contain caffeine. Our aunt is staying in Teya’s room right now, so Teya is sleeping in my room… except she’s very much not sleeping. Therefore I blog.)

6 responses »

  1. I’ve worked with your mom over the years and she posted something on facebook about your CD. I woke up about an hour ago and did my usual insomniac FB check. It’s 4:40AM now and I am fascinated by your thoughts. Thank you for blogging. Your paragraph above, “I felt obligated to be an abstract thinker. And I am a ridiculously concrete thinker. Don’t give me theories. Give me stories of people who have lived this. Don’t give me formulas. Give me illustrations of shapes and angles, or better yet, give me a model I can hold in my hands. My need to apply theory to reality doesn’t make me feel stupid anymore. I can expand on my strengths, rather than repeatedly bash my thick skull into the wall of my weaknesses.” spoke to me and has motivated me to follow your link to the test. Maybe what I’ve viewed as character flaws all these years can be analyzed, explained, even accepted as traits that are common to others! I’m so very concrete, and abstract concepts frustrate me as incomplete communications. Also, did I not cry at my son’s wedding last summer because I’m “the ice-queen” or was it because there was just so much joy around me and inside me that my tears laid low and quiet? Inquiring minds want to know (at least this one does). Thank you for pointing me in a new direction to explore. OH and I want a CD. How do I do that? God bless you!

  2. I really appreciate your comment, Carol! (Also, I’m glad someone else checks Facebook at 4:40 am sometimes.) Yes, the whole idea of “character flaws” being nothing more than perhaps a cultural or even personal subjective opinion is liberating! Obviously, not that all issues can or should be explained away that easily… but I don’t think you nor I would extend that idea into hyperbole. Abstract versus concrete has always plagued me, and now I’m not frustrated or angry when in class we’re discussing mathematical concepts and I need a visual or physical aid to understand. Different minds. I like your own analysis of your supposed “ice-queen” reaction! I could see why that might have been a little disturbing at the time, but I think your own analysis is a much more logical and likely explanation! As far as a CD goes, I saw your comment on Facebook and took the liberty of sending you a friend request. I’ll message you details. Hope that’s alright!

  3. ISTJ…WHO KNEW?! Can’t wait to tell my husband. “You’re the extrovert, you do it” won’t work on me anymore. NUH-UH!

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