The ambiguity of my Myers-Briggs

Have you taken the Myers Briggs type indicator? I have, more than once. And I got more than one result…each time. And they were different. With the profile we do at my (new) office, though, I can tell you why. That seems pretty cool.

According to Myers Briggs, ca. 2002-03, I am (was) an INFP. We took the test for a class my senior year of high school; my teacher looked over my shoulder at my result and exclaimed, “You are NOT a ‘P’!” I replied that I was, noting that I was a pretty good procrastinator (which we had been told was an indicator of a ‘P’). We were both right.

According to Wikipedia, Js like to “have matters settled” while Ps like to keep their options open; also, J vs. P determines which of the other characteristics is most apparent to others (N/S for a P, or F/T for a J). So if I’m T and J, I’ll seem more logical than anything else (T is thinking); if I’m F (feeling) and J, I’ll seem empathetic. An N (intuition) and P seems abstract, while an S (sensing) and P is more concrete. The problem for Myers-Briggs is that I am three of these four. I can be excruciatingly logical, but I am also extremely attentive to minute detail (concrete). And at the same time, what person could thrive as a philosophy major if she’s not quite an abstract thinker? I do MATH in an intuitive way, for goodness’ sake! The only thing I probably don’t exhibit clearly is empathy. Maybe I don’t know how — I am the uber introvert, you see.

I am consistently Introverted. The other three variables…well, vary. At various points, twice for classes and other times in online versions, I have come up as anything from INFP to ISTJ. Generally, I would call myself an I – N/S – T – P/J. The F and T have on occasion been pretty close, but I’m more consistently a T. So…why all this variance?

Consider 4 modes of thinking: Analytical, Structural, Conceptual, and Social. Analytical wants evidence, arguments, logic and explanation. Structural wants details, precedent, order and punctuality. Conceptual likes originality, intuition, and the big picture. Social wants to know how ideas and actions impact people.

We all put some amount of energy into each mode of thinking, and how much of each is something that is partly natural to each of us and partly developed through the environment in which we grow up. I am mostly analytical, with significant and nearly equal portions of structural and conceptual thought, … and almost nothing of social. I am a social idiot.

Now consider three spectrums of behavior: expressiveness, assertiveness, and flexibility. The questions here are approximately these: How loudly do you make your thoughts known? How aggressively do you impose your opinions on others? and How likely are you to be persuaded to change your mind once it’s made up? (Generally — anyone can be pushed outside of their norms now and then.)

My answers are: as quietly as a mouse, no more aggressively than grass, and I’ll be damned if you ever change my mind with anything less than solid proof and impeccable reason.

So, why can’t the Myers-Briggs indicator figure me out?

I am most emphatically ‘I.’ You can see that in my expressiveness and assertiveness percentiles (5%ile). But I am both Intuitive and Sensing (equal preferences for Conceptual and Structural thinking), though I may lean towards Sensing more often (an extra push from my Analytical preference), and I am both Feeling and Thinking (both Conceptual and Analytical). My thinking modes include both the abstract and the concrete, but thanks to the lack of Social thought, I am unlikely to come across as empathetic or as really “connecting” to people I interact with (I don’t really ‘get’ people – I don’t ‘feel a vibe’ from a group of people, and that phrase doesn’t really make sense to me, though I can analyse and describe what it might mean along more concrete terms).

Since I have three different thinking preferences (modes of thought into which I put at least 23% of the total energy I put into thinking), I tend to take a fair amount of time coming to a position on any given issue. I can see the issue from several different angles, all of which have some validity and must be reconciled with each other. This winds up looking like the Myers-Briggs’ type ‘P’, since I am undecided or put off action. However, once I’ve come to a decision, it is solid – it’s settled, and it’s going to stay that way. More like the ‘J’ – and it will require concrete argumentation or evidence to move me, like you’d expect of a T-J.

So in a longer-than-necessary attempt at explanation, you have the ambiguity of my MBTI (I-N/S-T-P/J), and a different way of explaining how I think that helps to show why the MBTI is ambiguous.

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