Myers-Briggs

Last week, I was having a discussion with someone who mentioned that a mutual acquaintance is an INTJ. I think she knew that I was familiar with Myers-Briggs, but regardless, it was one of the most helpful remarks she could have made. I’ve been interested in Myers-Briggs for quite some time. I find it to be a very helpful, descriptive (as opposed to predictive) tool for understanding how different people perceive the world.

Myers-Briggs divides personalities along four axes: Introvert-Extrovert (I/E), Sensing-Intuition (S/N), Thinking-Feeling (T/F) and Judging-Perceiving (J/P). The I/E axis is probably the one that most closely reflects the standard definitions. S/N refers to how much one relies on facts and data-points (sensing) versus intuitive work. T/F is pretty close to standard definitions. J/P is the most confusing. Judging in this case is really “decisiveness,” while Perceiving refers to adaptability, spontaneity, etc.

What I’ve found is that the Myers-Briggs personality types are fairly good at describing a person. Not perfect, obviously, for example, there isn’t an honesty/dishonesty axis. But overall, a pretty good descriptor. For example, I’m an INTP (one of the more rare types, but well represented in IT) and one of the best descriptions of me was from someone who never met me – it was a generic INTP profile off of the INTP website (yes, we really all are nerds).

What’s interesting, and harder to get a handle on, are the differences and the relationships between the different types. One of the things that I find interesting are the four types that are adjacent to mine (ENTPs, ISTPs, INFPs and INTJs). Each of them is like looking in a fun-house mirror. Their personalities are similar to, but not quite the same as mine. They reflect different aspects of my own personality.

ENTPs are, not surprisingly, outgoing and dynamic. They are smart and articulate. In a project, I love teaming up with an ENTP. They’re much better with working people and explaining the project to them.

I don’t know many ISTPs (at least to my knowledge). Some of the Myers-Briggs sites suggest that we arrive at similar results, but with different approaches.

INFPs seem very similar, but their intuition and perceiving manifest themselves in ways that often feel dreamy and silly. I was looking in on an INTP website one time and, apparently, every time an INFP would show up, it would wind up in (electronic) tears. We think in similar ways, but about completely different things. An unfair generalization is that INTPs think about computers, photography, philosophy, etc.; while INFPs think about ponies and unicorns. Hey, I admitted that it was unfair.

INTJs scare me.  INTPs tend to study or get involved with a broad number of topics.  If you ask an INTP if s/he knows something about a topic, they might say, “some.”  When you talk to them, you find out that they know quite a bit; they just don’t realize what they know and they are often uncertain – we’re seldom willing to claim that we are absolutely right about anything.  INTJs on the other hand know exactly what it is that they know and they know they are right.  There’s little doubt in their minds.  If an INTJ says s/he knows something, they do.  If they don’t know it, they know they don’t.  There’s no uncertainty and they are quite likely to think they are right.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire the INTJs – they make much better IT leaders than INTPs; but their definitiveness scares me.  When they’re wrong (and they occasionally are) it’s hard to argue with them and hard to convince them otherwise.

Anyway, there wasn’t much of a point to this, just musing – as we INTPs are wont to do 🙂

2 Comments

  1. Will said,

    July 11, 2007 @ 6:13 pm

    Do you think INTPs–I’m one too–are particuraly drawn to Myers-Briggs? I serves that need to have things explained in a logical way.

    Will

  2. cec said,

    July 13, 2007 @ 10:16 am

    Absolutely – Myers-Briggs is a model for describing the world and that’s what we INTPs do best 🙂

    -cec

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