One of the most influential names in personality theories surrounding Myers-Briggs® types is David Keirsey. His book Please Understand Me II was one of the first I read when I decided to study personality theory because it was so widely recommended.
The more I studied Myers-Briggs types, though, the less comfortable I felt with Keirsey’s version and the more questions I had. Was his insistence on grouping the 16 types into 4 categories really all that useful? Is the practice of giving each type nicknames doing more harm than good? Why did he seem to ignore Jungian psychological functions? I started to think maybe he’s not the best resource for studying Myers-Briggs, though he does offer an interesting perspective on how the 16 types might relate to historic 4 type systems.
I’ve debated quite a bit whether or not to actually write this post. But I’ve been reading Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual by Lenore Thomson, who is a former managing editor of the Junginan journal Quadrant and who has taught courses on psychological types at the C.G. Jung Foundation in New York City. In her discussion of the ITP and IFP types, she voiced some of the same frustrations with Keirsey that I’ve felt, particularly in regard to how he talks about the SP types.
If you’d like to get a copy of Thomson’s book, click here. Please note that this is an affiliate link, which means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.
Keirsey’s Focus on SP Types
I do want to start out by saying that I know Keirsey’s intentions were good in how he described SP types. He saw himself as “championing” the SPs (who he called “Artisans”) more than any other type because his parents, brothers, and many of his friends were Artisans. In addition, much of his work for 30 years as a family therapist was spent working with Artisan children who gave their parents and schools a hard time when they were noisy and restless or didn’t finish assignments.
My long association with and understanding of Artisans of all ages has enabled me to be more useful to them than to others of different temperament. I think Artisans ought to be enjoyed for what they are instead of condemned for what they are not, something that can also be said of the other three temperaments. (Keirsey, Please Understand Me II, p. 33)
While I agree with the sentiment, I think that some of Kersey’s theories did a disservice to SP types by constraining them into an art-making, hedonistic stereotype. There’s so much more to them than that, and I think by simply focusing on their shared SP traits we lose a lot of the nuances of each of these four type. I doubt this was his intention, but that’s how people seem to have used/misapplied his theories. Read more →
One of the most disturbing trends I’ve noticed in the community of Myers-Briggs® enthusiasts is a bias against Sensing types. You’ll see it in comments from Intuitives about how they don’t want any Sensing friends because they couldn’t possibly understand us. It’s someone saying a fictional character is too dumb and shallow to be an INFJ so they have to be ISFJ (or insisting another character has to be INFJ because they’re relatable and imaginative). It’s assuming all SP types are dumb jocks who’d run off a cliff just for a thrill and all SJ types are conservative traditionalists who’d rather die than see the status quo change.
There was a similar issue when introverts finally started realizing they weren’t broken extroverts. In some cases, the introvert hype turned into an idea that introverts are better than extroverts, which is simply not true. It resulted in stereotypes being used to tear-down extroverts and build-up introverts. We’re still undoing that damage, but I think we’ve finally started to balance out and realize that introverts and extroverts are equally valuable.
Unfortunately, I’m not seeing a similar shift toward balance in how Intuitives view Sensing types, at least no everywhere. There are some wonderful groups out there (like Personality Hacker’s “Intuitive Awakening”) that insist on no Sensor-bashing while exploring what it means to be an Intuitive. But outside those groups it still happens. And even if we’re not staying Intuitives are better than Sensors, I wonder if the fact that there’s so much more material out there for Intuitives than for Sensors is still sending the message “you don’t matter as much as us.”
70% of the population are Sensing types, but when you Google individual personality types only 19% of the search results relate to Sensors (that’s if my math’s right — numbers aren’t one of my strengths). I searched each type and compared the number of results that came back. Here’s the full list:
INFJ – 16,100,000
INFP – 15,300,000
INTJ – 13,700,000
INTP – 8,090,000
ENFP – 5,680,000
ENTP – 3,510,000
ISTP – 3,100,000
ENFJ – 2,270,000
ISFJ – 2,230,000
ISTJ – 2,080,000
ESTP – 2,040,000
ENTJ – 2,020,000
ISFP – 1,900,000
ESTJ – 1,890,000
ESFP – 1,280,000
ESFJ – 1,210,000
No wonder so many people mistype themselves as an INxx — we’re the types flooding the internet with articles about what we’re like and inviting people to identify with us. That’s great for people with those types, but it’s actually one of the things contributing to the anti-sensor bias.
One of the reasons that so many people online identify as INFJs is because there is just so much more, and so much better, and more in-depth content on INFJs. If every second article you read is about INFJs, it’s only natural to come to identify more with INFJs, simply because we relate more to things that we understand more.” — Erik Thor, “Have You Ever Thought That You’re Actually Just A Smart Sensor?“
If you Google “INFJ” you get back about 16,100,000 results. Search “ISTJ” and you get about 2,080,000 results. That’s almost 8 times as many results for the world’s rarest type as for the one that’s most common. We can argue that it’s because INFJs need more support online since they don’t get as much validation in-person from meeting people like them. But don’t Sensing types deserve the resources to learn about how their minds work as well? and the connection of seeing their types positively portrayed and defended by people writing about personality types? Read more →
My first Fictional MBTI post was about Loki, and though it wasn’t the most complete or polished post it quickly became the most active in terms of comments. Even now, over a year and a half later, people are still posting new insights and observations on Loki’s character. And when the latest comments are more in-depth than the original post, it’s time for an update.
Quick note: my typing for Loki is wholly based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not on the comics or on Norse mythology. Loki is a controversial figure to type (as those 40 commends on the last post can attest), and his instability further complicates things. Also, I suspect Tom Hiddleston is an NF type, which would color his depiction of Loki.
The letters “INFJ” stand for Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling and Judging. This means INFJs lead with a function called Introverted Intuition (called “Perspectives” in the Personality Hacker system). Introverted Intuition is a perceiving function that takes in and processes information, and is particularly interested in things that can’t be directly experienced. Intuition is great at pattern recognition and extrapolating future possibilities, and I’ve never seen anyone argue Loki is not an Intuitive. Read more →
I suspect that, much like you’re not supposed to have favorite relatives, you’re not supposed to have favorite personality types. One of the core tenets of type-theory is that no type is better than another. And yet … I do have some favorites. ENFJ, ENTJ, INFJ, INTJ, INTP, ISTP, ESTP, ENTP …
Strangely enough, it’s not necessarily related to my interactions with a type in real life. In person, I can find common ground with most personality types depending on the individual person and the circumstances of our meeting. So when I talk about my favorite personality types, it requires an addendum that I am friends with and like people of all types (for example, my best-friend-who’s-not-a-relative doesn’t fit any of the types I listed above).
Still, there’s something about certain personality types that is irresistibly intriguing. I know several ENFJs, and the friendship and genuine communication that can exist between them and INFJs is truly amazing. I love talking with INTPs and INTJs because their minds are so incredibly keen and they challenge me to really think deeply about things. And then there’s the ENTPs ❤
David Keirsey, and many other type psychologists, describe the ENTP personality type as the “soulmate” for INFJs. Of course, type compatibility in relationships is much more complicated than that, but I can definitely see why. At least, I think I can. I haven’t actually met a self-confirmed ENTP in real life. I know a guy who is either ENTP or ENFP, and knew someone I think was ENTP. Other than that, my interactions with them have all been online. Although, if fictional character’s count, we all know some that are (probably) ENTP:
(note: there are female ENTPs, just as there are male INFJs. They’re just more rare, and hence harder to find.)
ENTPs are characterized by high energy, “compelling enthusiasm,” independence, their pursuit of possibility, a constant string of projects that command their attention, and being “startlingly clever” (Isabel Myers, Gifts Differing p.106-108). There’s individual variation within all types, and Isabel Myer specifically says that
“Extroverted intuitives are hard to describe because of their infinite variety. Their interest, enthusiasm, and energy pour suddenly into unforeseeable channels like a flash flood, sweeping everything along, overwhelming all obstacles, carving out a path which others will follow long after the force that made it has flowed on into other things ” (Gifts Differing, p.106).
INFJs and ENTPs
Maybe what Myers talks about in the above quote is one reason INFJ’s like ENTPs so much. We have plenty of ideas, but struggle with moving them into the real world. We want to make big contributions, but we have trouble putting ourselves out there. We want to pour ourselves into people, but have limited energy for social interactions. So the idea of partnering with someone who specializes in active idea exploration in a big way is very attractive. Please tell me I’m not the only INFJ who has thought it would be wonderful to be the Pepper Pots to someone’s Tony Stark? (note: I’m not typing Pepper as an INFJ, just using it as an example.)
Looking closer at the two types, we see similarities in their function stacks that also helps explain the compatibility:
Both types lead with Intuition, but use that function in different ways. Intuition is a perceiving process, which has to do with how we take in and process new information. It’s close enough for the two types to understand each other, but different enough to compliment instead of overlap.
The two middle functions for both types are the same, just in a different order. Thinking and Feeling are both judging processes, which means they affect how we make decisions and what we believe the world “should” look like. INFJs and ENTPs approach this in a way that is easy for the other type to understand, but they are strong in different areas.
Their inferior functions are both sensing, but one is extroverted and one introverted. Our inferior functions typically show up when we’re stressed, so having different inferior functions means that different things stress these two types out. That can be really useful if you want someone who can help you out of stress instead of getting pulled in with you. It’s also important that they’re not exact opposites, since types who use intuition as their inferior function can get stressed-out by dominant intuitives (e.g. an ISFJ who is stressed by change might find it uncomfortable to spend much time with an ENTP).
What about you? anyone else want to confess they have favorite personality types? 🙂
On my list of potential blog topics (which I recently lost — the horror!), I had a note that said “Superhero MBTI types from the MCU.” I’ve written about Captain America as an ISFJ and about Loki’s more controversial personality, so I thought we’d continue with that until I come up with a new list of topics (any suggestions?) or read another book from my Classics Club.
I’ve seen Iron Man from the comics typed as an ENTJ or ESTP, but most people agree that in the Tony Stark portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is an ENTP. David Keirsey called this type “The Inventor.” While I often think Keirsey’s type descriptions are too stereotypical, it does fit Tony Stark.
It is so natural for ENTPs to practice devising ingenious gadgets and mechanisms that they start doing it even as young children. And these Inventors get such a kick out of it that they really never stop exercising their inventive talent, though in the workplace they will turn their technological ingenuity to many kinds of systems, social as well as physical and mechanical.
Myers-Briggs types have much to tell us about ourselves and other people. Our MBTI type reflects our preferences for crowded parties or small gathering, describes how we connect with other people, shows us how we naturally respond to stress, and gives us a picture of our innate strengths and weaknesses. Another thing it’s often used for is trying to predict what type of person we’ll be attracted to, and most compatible with, in a romantic sense. Unfortunately, MBTI only gives part of the picture in this regard.
Types in Love
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Use of the MBTI for romance is subject to much debate. Isabel Myer wrote in Gifts Differing*, chapter 11, that “it seems only reasonable that the greater mutual understanding between couples with more likeness than difference should lead, on the whole, to greater mutual attraction and esteem.” This was supported by her study of 375 married couples who were most frequently “alike on three of their four preferences rather than on only two, as would be expected by chance.” However, Isabel Myer was an INFP woman happily married to an ISTJ man. According to her own personality theory, they “shouldn’t” have gotten along, especially since she thought that shared S-N preferences were the most important for predicting a couple’s happiness together and understanding of each other. Obviously type isn’t the only important ingredient for happiness.
David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me II* agrees with Myers on the importance of S-N pairings, saying that his SP Artisan types are most compatible with SJ Guardians, and that NF Idealists are most compatible with NT rationals. His ideal pairing is someone who shares your S-N preference and is your opposite in the other three preferences. For example, he would pair an INFJ with an ENTP.
Continuing with INFJs as our example, these theories have influenced many INFJ profiles online. Jennifer Soldner’s Guide To INFJ Relationships lists ENFP, ENTP, INTJ and INFJ as the best matches for an INFJ. The worst matches are ESFP, ESTP, ESTJ, and ENTJ (note that this last one contradicts Keirsey’s rule for pairing NF and NT types). For the most part, these suggestions seem logical at first, much like Isabel Myer said when theorizing that people will get along best if they are similar. It doesn’t explain, however, why one study found that INFJs were most likely to marry either INFJs or ESTPs, or why Myers herself was happy married to someone so dissimilar in terms of type. Clearly there’s something else going on here.
The “Something Else”
Even with their generalizations about which types get along most easily together, both Isabel Myers and David Keirsey admit there are other very important ingredients to a lasting romantic relationship.
Individual relationships defy generalizations, and it should be stressed that two well-adjusted people of any two temperaments can find ways of making their marriage work for them.” (Keirsey)
“Understanding, appreciation, and respect make a lifelong marriage possible and good. Similarity of type is not important, except as it leads to these three. Without them, people fall in love and out of love again; with them, a man and woman will become increasingly valuable to each other and know that they are contributing to each other’s lives.” (Myers)
A mutual willingness to work together and actively build-up the relationships is more important than compatible MBTI types. One aspect of this is understanding the other person and learning how to love them. Becoming familiar with their Myers-Briggs type will help tremendously, but it’s not enough by itself. You also benefit from an understanding of Love Languages.
The five love languages theory was first published in 1995 by Gary Chapman, a relationship counselor and pastor. He says every person has a “language” that they use to communicate and receive love, either Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, or Physical Touch. Everyone has one primary love language, and you might have a secondary love language as well. If someone’s partner is not speaking their love language, they will not feel loved. There’s a test on Chapman’s website if you don’t know what your love language is and want to find out.
Layering Love Languages
In theory, any MBTI type can be combined with any one of the five love languages. I’m guessing, however, that there are some love languages that are more likely for certain MBTI types. Let’s take a quick look at the characteristics for the four type groups as related to different love languages.
SP types are typically concerned with outward, concrete ways of viewing the world, and focus on the here and now. Keirsey describes their preferred role in a romantic relationship as “playmate.” I could see SP types being particularly inclined toward Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, or Physical Touch as a primary love language. These all involve doing something for or with the loved one, which would appeal strongly to SP types.
Duty-fulfilling SJ types tend to play what Keirsey described as a “helpmate” role in relationships. They are stable, traditional, and thoroughly dependable people. SJ types might be most in tune with Acts of Service, Quality Time or Words of Affirmation as a love language. These love languages visibly or verbally confirm that a SJ’s loved ones appreciate their constant reliability.
NF types are idealistic, enjoy abstract thought, and are natural romantics. Keirsey described their role in a romantic relationship as “soulmate.” They search for deep, genuine connections. Quality Time and Words of Affirmation seem like the most likely love languages, though Physical Touch and Acts of Service are also good possibilities. The key for NF types is genuine depth in a relationship, so they are inclined towards a language that increases emotional intimacy.
The NT types are highly intellectual, and Keirsey described their relationship role as “mindmate.” They are logical, abstract, and have little tolerance for the superficial. Words of Affirmation and Quality Time seem like the most likely love languages for an NT type, but after reading two different forum topics on MBTI types and love languages (one on Typology Central and one on Personality Cafe) I learned many NTs favor Physical Touch as well. My personal theory is that NT types view Service and/or Gifts with suspicion, wondering what the other person wants from them, while the others seem more genuine.
What about you? What are your Myers-Briggs type and love language(s)? Do you see a connection between the two? Share in the comments!