After you learn what your own Myers-Briggs® personality type is, it’s usually just a matter of time before you start to wonder what other people’s types are. Probably the easiest way to find out is to ask them. But even if they’ve taken a test, they might not remember their result. Or they may never have heard of Myers-Briggs® before or just never bothered figuring out what their type is.
If they ask you to recommend a personality test, you can point them to Personality Hacker for I think is the best free test on the internet. But if someone’s not that interested or you’re trying to type them on your own, there are ways to guess someone’s type from having a conversation with them. It’s not always possible (I’m still not 100% sure what my own mother’s type is), but in many cases you can get a pretty good idea of at least a few aspects of their personality from a conversation or two. In today’s post, we’re going to look at how to tell if you’re talking with a Feeling or a Thinking type.
Before we begin …
Quick word of advice: if your primary goal in a conversation is to guess someone’s type there’s a good chance you won’t actually get to know the person. Myers-Briggs® types simply describe how our minds work and there is a huge amount of room for individual variation within a type. If you want to get to know someone, you need to listen to them and ask them about themselves. Figuring out what their type is should be a secondary goal after getting to know who they are.
Also, remember the guides I’m giving in this post are general rules. No one fits a single type 100%. We also each have traits that could be associated with more than one type. We’re individuals, not stereotypes. Don’t rule out that someone could be a Feeling type because they have a couple traits you associate with Thinkers, and don’t rule out that someone might be a Thinking type just because they have a few traits that seem more like a Feeler.
We also don’t reveal our whole personalities in one conversation and may change how we present ourselves depending on the setting. You might have a very different guess at someone’s type based on their work persona versus their weekend persona. In addition, how a type shows up can change based on how healthy and/or stressed someone is when you’re talking with them.
Get them talking and really listen
Starting a conversation is a good first step toward typing someone. Try get them talking about themselves without guiding the conversation where you want them to go. Let them direct the conversation as much as possible so they’re talking about things like what they value most, how they make decisions, and what they do with their time.
As they talk, you can start to notice clues that point to what they value most when weighing different options. That’s what you want to focus on if you’re trying to figure out their F/T preference since Feeling and Thinking are both judging functions. They’re the mental processes we use to evaluate new information, make choices, and decide how to prioritize our time and efforts.
Our judging side plays a huge role in how we rationally interact with the world (both Thinking and Feeling are considered rational processes). We all use both Feeling and Thinking, but there’s one that we’ll favor more than the other. This preference tends to show up in how we live our lives, what we chose to talk about, and the things we prioritize.
Feeling types prefer to make decisions based on personal criteria, such as shared values and relationships. They’re interested in how people feel about things and what impact decisions have on them personally. When evaluating something, Feeling types place a high value on morality, loyalty, social obligations, responsibility, and consensus about what “should” be done. These types tend to have keen insight into other people and may even be able to anticipate the others’ reactions and/or needs.
ISFJs, ESFJs, INFJs, and ENFJs (who use extroverted feeling) are highly motivated by the desire to create harmony and meet the needs of other people. They tend to be friendly people who are good listeners. You might find it difficult to keep the conversation on them instead of you, though they’re often fairly open about themselves and readily answer questions. They’ll be quick to follow topics of discussion they think you’ll be interested in, and will probably focus on topics where it seems like you have common ground. They’re quick to avoid anything that might cause an argument. If asked to make a decision, they’ll tend to focus on how it affects others and what their social group will think of their choice.
ISFPs, ESFPs, INFPs, and ENFPs (who use Introverted Feeling) are driven by their own personal, authentic values. They tend to be friendly people who are easy to talk with, though it might be hard for them to express their convictions in words and they’re unlikely to share their feelings with strangers. They might get irritated if you push them to share too much personal information too quickly. Overall, FP types tend to be friendly, empathic, open-minded people who don’t like to impose their beliefs on others even though those beliefs are extremely important to them. You may notice in conversation that they’re comfortable expressing ideas outside the norm and rarely tell others what they “should” do or think.
Thinking types prefer to make decisions based on impersonal criteria, such as analyzed facts and efficient procedures. They’re interested in how things work and how information fits together. When evaluating something, they tend to rely on and value logic, an idea of justice and equality, personal freedom, individual rights, and intellectual beliefs. These types typically have a keen insight into how systems work, and can often anticipate how things will or should happen based on their sense of structure and sequence.
ISTJs, ESTJs, INTJs, and ENTJs (who use Extroverted Thinking) tend to be decisive, focused people who appear confident and in-control. They’re the sort of people who know (and care about) what works and what doesn’t work. They’re efficient and focused on results. They’ll tend to share facts when speaking, think out loud, and may seem tactless because they don’t sugarcoat anything. You might notice they don’t have very expressive body language (TJs have strong emotions and beliefs; they just hide them well). They probably won’t see much point in talking about personal topics, especially with someone they just met. If you bring up a controversial topic, there’s a good chance they’ll be eager to engage in a debate or lecture you on what they think.
ISTPs, ESTPs, INTPs, and ENTPs (who use Introverted Thinking) love to gather new information and learn simply for the sake of learning. Outside admiration or affirmation doesn’t mean much to them — they make decisions based primarily on what makes sense to them. They often take time to think about something before they speak. When they do speak, it’s usually direct and to-the-point. Since so much of their processing happens internally, they might appear withdrawn or look as if they are zoning out of a conversation. They’ll liven up if you get them interested in a debate or new idea, or start them talking about what they’re currently analyzing, exploring, and theorizing about.
Typing someone is not a simple or straightforward proposition, especially if you don’t have training for it. However, there are some things you can look out for that can help you make a more educated guess about whether someone you’re talking with is a Feeling or a Thinking type. I hope this post gave you some useful tips that will help you understand people better and improve your relationships.
If you like this post, you may also like Susan Storm’s article, “A Beginner’s Guide to Identifying Someone’s Myers-Briggs® Personality Type.” Her blog Psychology Junkie is an excellent resource.
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