The Cult of Myers-Briggs Personality

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Today, I’m an INFP.

Last year, I was an INTJ.

Years before, I scored ENTJ and ENFP.

For the one test I paid for, I scored an ISTP.

The Myers-Briggs Personality-Type Indicator (a name that flows off the tongue) is probably the most famous personality test there is. I suppose that’s understandable. People love these sorts of things. “Which character from Friends are you?” and the like. There’s nothing wrong with that but unfortunately companies believe in this sort shit…shit that’s about as accurate as a horoscope.

Last year, I had an interview with a company that would have paid enough for me to retire from Internet writing forever. When asked “what kind of personalities do you like working with?”, I responded something to the effect of “I work well all different kinds. I’m a very accepting person. I don’t believe that a person’s personality fits neatly into a Myers-Briggs-like category.” That was the wrong answer. You see, at this company, they took the Meyers-Briggs so seriously that people’s types were put onto name badges and hard hats. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

In general, I don’t like to explain the specifics of the subject I’m addressing. I like to assume that my audience is as attractive and intelligent as I am, so no explanations are necessary. But this time, I feel that a brief explanation is warranted.

First letter will either be E (extroverted) or I (introverted). Second, S (sensory) or N (intuition), explains how one “perceives” the world. Those that score “S” tend prefer sense data (“just the facts”) while those with N like “the big picture”. Third is Thinking (T) or Feeling (F). And lastly, Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) can be misleading, but basically it describes how one orients their outer world. Those that score “J” are typically more organized while those with P are more willy nilly.

This comes out to 16 different types one can be. And, I guess, these types are broken down into four categories: NT’s, “the intellect” (example: Albert Einstein), NF’s, “the diplomat” (ex: Barack Obama), SP’s, “the doer” (ex: James Bond), and “SJ’s”, “the gatekeepers” (ex: your mom).

Additionally there are certain primary, secondary, tertiary, etc. “functions” to your personality that can be derived from your type . But I think I described this test sufficiently.

Now again, there’s nothing wrong with these sorts of “tests”, as long as people understand their limitations. The human mind is far too complex to be summed up in this manner. At best, these tests only provide an introduction to your own psychology. The results only show what’s on the surface. Dig any deeper and you’ll find that these pop-psychology tools are laughably incompetent.

But I think that part of the reason behind Myers-Briggs’s popularity is that it helps us feel special. We live in a time when people need to define themselves in specific ways, and this particular test is designed to do just that.

But when you dig into this Myers-Briggs cult, you find that there’s only pride in specific types. Do you think that there’s pride in being a “gatekeeper”, which is described as a person that loves to basically follow the rules and always do what’s right? And is also, by the way, the most COMMON type?

OR

Do you think this “pride” found is the most RARE types…like the INTJs and INFJs…which are said to only account for 1% to 2% of the population?

From what I’ve observed, it’s only those that score in the NT and NF range that even bother telling others their results. Once upon a time, the Myers-Briggs message boards were OVERWHELMINGLY populated by those that were NTs and NFs.

So what’s the deal? Are ISTJs not cool enough?

(By the way, I have overwhelmingly scored as either a NT or NF. So I’m not immune to this sense of feeling special. Which would explain why I took the test so many times.)

But clearly, the most dangerous aspect to this test’s popularity is how some corporations use it to judge how perspective employees might “fit in”. Like I said earlier, I overwhelmingly score as an NT or NF. By that logic, the only jobs I would be suitable for are psychology, human resources, science, writing, and a host of other areas that would allow me to use my intuition and “intellect”. I WOULD NOT be suitable for any occupation that would require me to get dirty, use my hands, or would otherwise not allow me to use my intuitions. YET, that’s exactly what I do in my current job…and I LOVE IT and I am EXCEPTIONAL at it. When companies exclusely use this type of testing for job placement, they are potentially missing out on maximizing employee potential.

I am not saying that a degree of testing SHOULDN’T be used to determine how an employee *might* fit in. There are just more effective ways of doing that than using personality tests!

Contrary to what some want you to believe, the results of these tests are not concrete. When taking the Myers-Briggs, usually I am instructed to not think about the questions for too long….to go with my first reaction. So even though in general, I might consider myself an introvert, when asked “would you rather spend a relaxing evening at home reading a book or going to a party?” SOMETIMES, for long stretches at a time, I’d rather go to a party!

I’m just being honest with the test and trying not to generate a desired outcome.

I don’t blame the designers and administrators of Myers-Briggs. They’ll even tell you that a well-developed person is capable of anything, regardless of the the results. Perhaps it’s best if an independent TRAINED observer score you rather than just taking it yourself. But I think that the importance placed on this test becomes ridiculous when it’s used in an attempt to make “predictions” about behavior or as a way to make someone feel unique about themselves.

And it’s not just Myers-Briggs. Never in my career have I seen much use in personality tests in professional settings. Maybe humans are too complicated for one test to summarize.

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