It’s so easy to take a pseudo-Myers-Briggs® test on the internet. You can click through a quick quiz, get your result and think, “Wow, I guess that does sound like me.” A few weeks later, you might stumble across another short quiz and take it again. Maybe you get a different answer and the description still sounds like you. Now you’re wondering whether this whole Myers-Briggs thing is all it’s cracked up to be, and if it is, then why were your results different?
This is one of the reasons Myers-Briggs tests have come under fire from critics who don’t really understand how the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) is supposed to work. They look at the short little quizzes with generic feel-good results, and say it’s too simple and unreliable. But if you dive into the theory behind Meyers-Briggs, and especially cognitive functions (click here for an introduction to type functions), you start to realize how helpful the MBTI can be as a tool for understanding yourself and other people.
One of the principles of Myers-Briggs theory is that people only have one type, which stays consistent throughout their lives. You grow and develop within your type, but you don’t change from an INFP to an ENFJ to an ISTP or any other combination of letters. So with that in mind, how can you find your true type with so many conflicting results floating around?
Take A Good Test
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If you can’t take the official MBTI, there are a few decent substitutes out there on the internet. My favorite by far is Personality Hacker’s Genius Style test.* They ask for an e-mail address, but it is free. Similar Mind’s Jungian test is another I’ve recommended (note from May 2017: recent changes to the test questions may skew results. You might want to try HumanMetrics instead). Some people really like the test from 16Personalities, but it’s not my favorite. These tests all give you a series of questions which are designed to learn what cognitive functions you use, then give you a four-letter test result.
I’d recommend starting with the Personality Hacker test, and then taking one or both of the other tests to compare results. Try not to read the full results of one test before you take the others — you want to take each one as unbiased as you can. If they all give you the same result, that’s a pretty good indication you’ve found your personality type. If they’re different, though, it’s time to start reading.
Now that you have one or more personality type results, start reading descriptions of your potential personality type(s). Here are some excellent resources:
- Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers (book)*
- Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual by Lenore Thomson (book)*
- Personality Junkie by Susan Storm (website)
Read the descriptions for each of your type results. Even if you only got one result, it’s a good idea to look at similar types that use some of the same cognitive functions. Here are a few guidelines for which other types to look up based on your test results.
If you test as an …
- Introvert, read about the type which is opposite you on the J/P scale. The J/P preference describes how we interact with the outer word through our extroverted function, so an IJ type actually leads with a perceiving process and an IP type leads with a judging process. This can affect test results.
- EJ, take a look at the type opposite you on the S/N scale. The tests found that you lead with an extroverted judging/decision making process, but might not have accurately found your introverted secondary process.
- EP, take a look at the type opposite you on the F/T scale. The tests found that you lead with an extroverted perceiving/learning process, but might not have accurately found your introverted secondary process.
- SFJ or NFJ, read results from ENFJ, INFJ, ISFJ, and ESFJ. These types all use Extroverted Feeling, and can often be mistaken for each other. Shy ESFJs and ENFJs can be mis-typed as introverts, and outgoing ISFJs and INFJs can be mis-typed as extroverts.
- NT types, read the type opposite you on the E/I preference. ENT- types, especially ENTJs, are among the most “introverted extroverts” and might mis-type.
Think About Stress
Most tests look at your primary and secondary function — the driver and co-pilot processes that lead in our personality. This makes sense, since other functions are less well developed and we don’t use them as much unless we’re stressed. When we’re trying to discover our true type is, though, how we react under stress is a good indication of which type matches us best.
- If you test as an EFJ or IFP type, read about inferior Thinking.
- If you test as an ETJ or ITP type, read about inferior Feeling.
- If you test as an ENP or INJ type, read about inferior Sensing.
- If you test as an ESP or ISJ type, read about inferior Intuition.
Good type descriptions will also talk about the inferior function. An excellent book on this topic is Was That Really Me? How Everyday Stress Brings Out Our Hidden Personality* by Naomi Quenk.
Keep In Mind …
No personality test result is going to be a 100% perfect match. You’re looking for the one that fits you best. You will find elements of other descriptions that sound like you, but there should be one that fits better than the others. Pay close attention to descriptions of how your type uses cognitive functions. Descriptions of INFJ and INFP types, for example, sound similar but they lead with very different mental processes.
Good luck on your journey of self discovery! There’s a plethora of resources out there that can help you, including type-based Facebook groups and forums where you can talk with people of different types to see how they think. And if there’s anything I can help with, just ask!
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