More musing on Myers-Briggs

I’ve been thinking about the Myers-Briggs type indicator more. I realize that I do not really understand it; I took it at least twice for school (and a few more times online, for kicks), but those supervising or administrating never gave an explanation of the types that was even remotely good (and we know Google is spotty on such points). For years after I first took the test, I had only the fuzziest notion of the difference between the second and third traits in the types (between the Intuition vs. Sensing trait and the Feeling vs. Thinking trait). It isn’t that complicated, either: N or S refers to how you receive information (S prefers tangible data from the five senses, while N prefers the “big picture,” patterns, etc.); F or T refers to how you process information  (F prefers empathy and subjective judgment, while T prefers logic and objectivity).

I just took the test again at : they insist that I am INTJ. And I mean insist. I went back 3 times and changed answers around where I had been a bit hesitant about the choice. INTJ all around. In many ways, this is a fair and really accurate type for me: it incorporates both pattern recognition and pragmatism, scepticism, high standards, and ability to implement new ideas in practice. Another website notes that the INTJ is possessed of an “unusual trait combination of imagination and reliability.” All fair, if I allow myself to admit it. But the INTJ is supposed to be self-confident almost to the point of arrogance — with no caveat given as to the limitations of this confidence. I highly doubt that (in person) I exude any sort of overwhelming cockiness. I am plagued by my own self-doubt; I second-guess everything. Except grammar.

As for others, INTP is another that seems very close; a description of the INTP type states that

…they can demonstrate remarkable skill in explaining complex ideas to others in simple terms, especially in writing. On the other hand, their ability to grasp complexity may also lead them to provide overly detailed explanations of “simple” ideas, and listeners may judge that they make things more difficult than they are.

I burst out laughing when I saw this. It is so true. I can break a difficult argument down into its essential points…or I can take 10 minutes to explain that I don’t feel like having a burger for lunch today. Remember, I’m an introvert — that’s like making “Today is a beautiful day” into a 2000-word essay on recent weather patterns.

But INTP misses something crucial: I am a practical person. I used to be an art major. I quit said major, and what was my complaint? My professors wanted me to make nonfunctional pottery. Why can’t I make something practical, and make it elegant or pretty, too? Why should it have to be useless? That just doesn’t make sense. The descriptions I’ve seen also indicate that an INTP is flexible and adaptable; I am not, not really. I might appear highly flexible at times, but this is illusion. My willingness to defer to others arises from indecision, not from flexibility. Were my mind made, I’d be as stubborn as an ox.

ISTJ gets some things right about logic, dependability, organization and practicality, but it totally misses my interest in abstract, theoretical thinking. That is fail.

ISTP gets a lot right about my interest in systems and how they work, and precision:

They seek precision, such as the exact word to express an idea – noticing the minute distinctions that define the essence of things.

(That’s from here.) But the ISTPs are supposedly thrill-seekers, daredevils. I am…decidedly not that. I am cautious. I am open to experimenting with new ways of doing things, and I will sometimes instigate changes myself, but I am no rodeo-riding skydiver. A well-trained horse (and a well-trained me) would be adventure enough. I don’t need to tempt Murphy’s Law.

INFP, the type I got back in high school, still has some relevance. There are one or two values I hold that matter a lot (mainly, integrity and philosophia); when I see people act contrary to them, it shocks and angers me (though you aren’t likely to know it when that happens). I can come up with creative ideas and find ways to implement them. But INFP thinks that I would  be bored by routine. INFP is confused. Routine is relaxing for me; it’s a comfort, even a refuge if I am in situations involving significant or frequent change.

So several of the Myers-Briggs types are somewhat or significantly right, none completely. All have something significant missing or wrong. I need to get some different perspective on the profile we do at work, to see where that one may be unsatisfying. There must be something.


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