Myers-Briggs #7: “But it doesn’t work!”

I take such delight is discussing ideas with people I know in real life.

Sure, you can find someone willing to discuss most anything on the internet (and for that I’m profoundly thankful), but there is something extra special to me about watching someone respond to my thoughts and ideas in real time.  Getting to see how their brains work.

A month or so ago at church, I was “speaking the language” of M-B with someone across the table, and the woman next to us asked what was going on.  So we explained some of the basics I covered in my first article, and the three of us ended up spending about an hour on the topic (it was potluck Sunday).

Friend #2 (the one new to the topic) ended up taking one of the on-line tests and being impressed (as I think we all are upon first exposure) by how accurate the type description was for her.

When we spoke again on the subject it was plain she’d been educating herself. She’d gotten to the place of recognizing people of other types and the four patterns in adults and children and so on.  She saw it as an interesting tool, and I felt excited to have another person in my real world that knew the language.

Then, before long, I got a frustrated e-mail from her.  The description of the type she tested as– though accurate– was off on several key points. And, she said, the quadrant description of the group she was in got her wrong in several important ways.

And I laughed out-loud.  Not at her frustration, but in vivid recollection. Here’s how I responded.

MB is descriptive, and provides a vocabulary.  It opens our eyes to a set of dichotomies that many people are not aware of. (This is the primary goal, and that’s been fulfilled in what you’ve learned.)

The main challenge you have is that maturity (as I see it) has a great deal to do with “fluency” along the whole length of each spectrum (T<—>F, P<—>J, etc).  The more mature and balanced you are, the more difficult it will be for one side to jump up as 100% *you*.

The best way I’ve found to find an elusive M-B preference is to look for which specific areas require more thought or concentration.  As an N-dominant person, I now know why I get exhausted working out details in real-life (as opposed to organizing novels, which is also work, but not nearly as draining), and with that understanding I was able to tell Jay, in the case of Melody’s teeth issue, “I’m worn out dealing with detail-gathering [S & P demanding stuff], can I please just pick somebody who made a good impression [N & F application] and move forward [J]?”

When he said yes, the pall that had been hanging over me for days evaporated.

Most people start out in M-B with Wow, how could a generic description be so accurate?! Then, as this enthusiasm leads to looking closer, they notice inconsistencies between the depths of who they are, and descriptions that are so detailed they seem like they should cover everything.

When I first discovered M-B and recognized it’s accuracy and implications, I was beyond excited.  I think I experienced what Isabel Myers and her mother felt, when they began the project in a genuine effort to promote world peace.

Really. According to her son (in the book linked above) this project was was the direct result of WWII.

Understanding core identity and motivations is a huge part of getting to peace in most relationships, so I can understand this thought process. But what happens (coming back to myself and my frustrated friend) when you don’t fit into one of 16 neat little boxes?

First of all, you can know this is normal.

How do I know? There are pushing-past 7 billion people in the world.  You’re not going to squish that many individuals into 16 boxes and have everyone in each box look the same. So type descriptions make an effort to collect behavior components connected to that combination of four preferences.

I always enjoy it when someone tells me their type and it’s the same as someone else’s that I know. It’s helpful to be reminded that what might bug me about one (that, admittedly, I’d blamed on type), does not exist in the other.

It is my continual reminder that individuals are individuals.  Even when they fall into patterns.

Which I still believe they do.

On one level, once you know the categories and typical motivations (and weakness), M-B theory has done its most-important job for you.  It’s guided you outside of your automatic way of seeing the world, and opened your awareness to different ways of experiencing reality beyond your own.

Congratulations: you are one step ahead of a lot of folks.

But for a lot of us (me included), that’s not good enough.  We see the potential of getting our our type *exactly* pegged, and there is an impatience (approaching at times desperation) to eliminate ambiguity.

If you are frustrated by what you don’t know, I have two thoughts.

  1. Feel free to ask for help or additional input from those who know you (and M-B language) and will listen to you.
  2. Remember that your M-B type doesn’t tell you how to live or who you are (really). It is to provide a language and patterns to understand interactions. Give yourself time. And if it’s painfully hard to wait and watch, that might be an indication you lean toward the J preference of the final scale.

4 thoughts on “Myers-Briggs #7: “But it doesn’t work!”

  1. Brooke says:

    I think my M-B type changed since college. Can that happen?

  2. Amy Jane says:

    By definition/the “math” of things, your type doesn’t change. But maturity will change you, and as you change you may identify more with a different type than before.

    You might make yourself crazy going in circles over what’s “real” so in the end (for personal use), I think you should just look at your M-B type as a sort of “energy plan.”

    Look at what your inclinations are, and feed/provide for those when you are weary.

    For example, one of my most-effective re-chargers is a one-on-one (I) conversation about ideas (N) with someone I trust (F) when I have “permission” to be done/away from my other responsibilities (J).

    I currently have a reading/writing friend (INTP, actually) who stops by once a week for a nice 2.5 hour conversation before bedtime. If I did this daily it’d probably kill me (or at least suck away all my energy, leaving me *completely* ineffective) but at this level it’s just about perfect.

  3. Becky says:

    “I’m worn out dealing with detail-gathering [S & P demanding stuff], can I please just pick somebody who made a good impression [N & F application] and move forward [J]?” <— NO WONDER I hate dealing with our medical insurance paperwork and reimbursements!

  4. I would add the SJ to the list of dealing with those details like your daughter’s teeth situation, because they thrive in working with detail & procedural work. Ben is an ISFJ and can’t rest knowing that those type of details are resting on the counter, while I hate them. I’ve also found helpful to know that as a J and NF, my J is about bringing organization to relationships, not necessarily systems. I can do the systematic thing, but only when it’s motivated by bringing peaceful relationships.

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