Here’s Why I Don’t Like The Way David Keirsey Talked About Personality Types

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 these four types. I doubt this was his intention, but that’s how people seem to have used/misapplied his theories. Read more

Challenging Myths About Sensing Types and Inviting A More Balanced Dialogue In The Myers-Briggs® Community

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.”

Sensing/Intuition Numbers

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

Fictional MBTI – Loki (INFJ)

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.

INFJ Overview

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.

In INFJs, Introverted Intuition is supported by the decision-making function Extroverted Feeling (or “Harmony”). Types that use Extroverted Feeling are extremely good at reading people, and many INFJs say they can literally feel other peoples emotions. Typically, this results in a type that will avoid conflict at any cost because they don’t want to hurt people and because interpersonal tension hurts them as much as it does anyone else (contrary to popular belief, INFJs can be quite selfish). Loki has been avoiding conflict for most of his life — we just see him when he reaches the snapping point. You can see Loki’s Feeling side when he’s manipulating people (this comes easily for types that understand emotions and motivations), when he’s interacting with his mother, and in several scenes with Thor.

Fictional MBTI - Loki (INFJ) | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Speaking of manipulation, it is here that we see Loki fit David Keirsey’s description of INFJs as “The Counselor.” Loki gets power by counseling other people in ways that prompt them to play into his plans. His counsel sends Thor to Jotunheim, cripples Thor with guilt and strands him on earth, subverts The Avengers for a while, directs Malekith’s Kursed lieutenant, sets-up the circumstances allowing him to fake his death, and encourages Thor at the end of Dark World to feel comfortable moving to earth. Loki is frequently typed as an ENTP or ENTJ because of his more theatrical, trickster side and his portrayal in the comics (just for reference, Magneto is an example of an ENTJ villain), but I think in the films that’s a show Loki puts on when it suits him. At his core, he’s much more subtle and would rather control from behind the scenes to a certain extent and use people as puppets instead of leading out in the open.

INFJs who are stressed can effectively “turn-off” their compassion for a while and move to their inferior thinking function, and it’s not pretty when that happens. Introverted Thinking (or “Accuracy”) is an INFJ’s tertiary function, and provides a logical core that can make impersonal decisions. It’s still a subjective function, and is concerned about what makes sense to the individual, rather than with making sense to anyone else. If Loki can explain his actions to himself, he doesn’t feel the need to explain them to anyone else. That’s how INFJs think when they reach a point where they don’t care anymore (though even then there’s still a deep, central part of themselves that desperately wants human connection and affirmation).

Extroverted Sensing (or “Sensation”) is an INFJ’s inferior function. It’s the one we use least effectively, but also the one we end up spending the most time in when we’re stressed. This is where Loki lives for most of the movies.

Loki’s Childhood

Everything Loki does as an adult is informed by his childhood, which we have very little information about. From the first Thor film, we see that Odin told Thor and Loki, “Only one of you can ascend to the throne. But both of you were born to be kings!” Loki was pushed toward learning to rule, but then he was told he could never fill that role no matter how hard he tried. From Thor: The Dark World we know Freya was the one who trained him in magic, which is a much more INFJ-type weapon, but that still didn’t give him the approval he desperately craved from his father Odin.

Fictional MBTI - Loki (INFJ) | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Normally as a maturing INFJ, you develop your primary function Introverted Intuition first, become comfortable with your secondary Extroverted Feeling function as you become a teenager, start using tertiary Introverted Thinking in your late 20s or early 30s, then maybe you start exploring inferior Extroverted Sensing in midlife. All those functions are there the whole time, but you don’t develop them equally and in the case of Extroverted Sensing you might only notice it when you’re stressed. You never use your inferior, or even your tertiary function, as effectively as your primary and secondary functions.

Now, imagine you’re a young INFJ boy growing up with an ESTP brother (this is Thor’s type – click here to read about him). ESTPs use the same functions, but in the exact opposite order. So you see your brother being praised for exercising Extroverted Sensing, supported by Introverted Thinking. You probably hear, “Why aren’t you more like Thor?” all the time. Loki has been living with his stress function held up as a paragon. On top of that, he’s a Feeling boy who probably identifies with his mother more than the men in a world that prizes more traditionally masculine traits. Loki knows he isn’t what his father hopes for in a son, but INFJs are good at imitating other types and he tries to make Odin proud. This goes on for years, until Loki learns that the person he’s been trying to be his entire life isn’t good enough because no matter what he does, Odin “could never have a frost giant sitting on the throne of Asgard.”

In The Grip

If Loki is an INFJ, then the only times he really has a chance to use his dominant functions are when he’s using his Intuitive grasp of abstract concepts to dream-up complex plots and solutions to problems and wield magic, and when he’s using Extroverted Feeling to manipulate people. Otherwise, he spends his time first trying to win Odin’s approval by being like Thor, then lashing out at the people who hurt him while trying to discover who he is now that he’s no longer Odin’s son. That, on top of the huge amounts of stress he’s under in the films, means INFJ Loki spends most of this time in the grip of his inferior Extroverted Sensing function.

One of the questions asked by a commenter on the previous Loki post was this: “can you see yourselves (as INFJs presumably) carrying on a constant fight with everyone around you for the majority of your existence? And all so you can continue your life as their master and ruler?” While I couldn’t say “yes” to this exactly how it is phrased, I can say that as an INFJ, I will fight for the right to be my authentic self, especially if I feel like I’ve been stifled. I will turn into someone people don’t expect when I reach the end of my rope, and if I’m stressed and feeling out of control I don’t shy away from conflict like INFJs typically do. My goal isn’t to continue life as “master and ruler,” but I desperately need to restore order to my world and if that means taking control, then that’s what I want to do.

Fictional MBTI - Loki (INFJ) | marissabaker.wordpress.com

The Avengers is probably the film where Loki seems least like an INFJ, but this is also the film where he’s dealing with the most stress. The last thing he heard before falling into the destroyed Bifrost was Odin voicing disappointment in him, then he is captured and presumably tortured by Thanos.

“Loki disappears through that wormhole of space and time, when the Bifrost is destroyed, and he kind of goes through the Seventh Circle of Hell. And he’s on his own. He’s on his own in the dark corners of the universe, and the journey he goes on is pretty horrible. It’s like getting lost in the rainforest or something. You’re going to come out the other side a bit mangled on the outside, and on the inside.” — quote from an interview with Tom Hiddleston

Naomi Quenk’s book Was That Really Me? includes information about what she calls “lengthy episodes in the grip.” Usually, we experience our inferior function for short periods of time when we’re stressed. If you spend months or years working out of this function, though, bad things happen. For INFJs, she says it looks like this:

Obsessiveness about details in the form of micromanaging others both at work and at home may cause great distress to other people in these environments. “Irrational” accusations by INFJ can alienate others, causing them to avoid the person or attempt to remove him or her from a position of authority. Family members of an INFJ in a chronic grip state may be unable to find ways to sidestep the ready anger and criticism expressed by their loved one. Co-workers are likely to be similarly at a loss. …

Chronic grip behaviour may lead the individual and others to believe that fierce anger, excessive control of others and the immediate world, and distrust that approaches paranoia are a part of the natural makeup of the INFJ, and that the person has always been that way. Since the process of becoming chronically in the grip is often gradual, even people who have known the person in a non-stressed state are likely not to notice what, in retrospect, will be recognized as a radical alteration of personality. The person will appear to be a rather exaggerated, poorly developed, and distorted version of an Extraverted Sensing type. (Quenk, Was That Really Me? page 202)

Interestingly, the latest comment on my previous Loki post states, “Loki pre-snap seems quiet and very introverted, but afterwards seems to become a twisted version of Thor: self-centered, narcissistic, showy, entitled to power at the expense of others, and merciless in conquest.” This is pretty much exactly what Quenk says of INFJs looking like a “distorted version of an Extraverted Sensing type,” which is what Thor is as an ESTP.

When you take into consideration his background and the fact that he’s operating out of his inferior function for most of the films, the objections against typing the MCU’s Loki as an INFJ don’t carry nearly as much weight. Loki doesn’t look like a stereotypical INFJ, but he does act like an INFJ who’s been stressed to the breaking point.


If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings:

Bucky Barns – ESTP

Scott Lang -ISFP

Steve Rodgers – ISFJ

T’Challa – ISFP

Thor – ESTP

Tony Stark – ENTP

Save

Save

Save

Some INFJ Thoughts on ENTPs

Some INFJ Thoughts on ENTPs | marissabaker.wordpress.comI 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 ❤

ENTP Type

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.)

Some INFJ Thoughts on ENTPs | marissabaker.wordpress.comLooking closer at the two types, we see similarities in their function stacks that also helps explain the compatibility:

  • INFJ: Introverted Intuition, Extroverted Feeling, Introverted Thinking, Extroverted Sensing
  • ENTP: Extroverted Intuition, Introverted Thinking, Extroverted Feeling, Introverted Sensing

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? 🙂

Click here to check out my e-book, The INFJ Handbook, for more information and insight into the INFJ personality type
Available in the Amazon Kindle Store

Save

Fictional MBTI – Tony Stark (ENTP)

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of using fictional characters to illustrate how Myers-Briggs® types work. I’ve written about Captain America as an ISFJ and about Loki’s more controversial personality (which I identify as INFJ), so I thought we’d continue with that series by talking about one of the most beloved and recognizable characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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.

David Keirsey

The Personality Hacker video that you can watch if you click this link is a pretty good overview for the type. ENTPs lead with a process called Extroverted Intuition (“Exploration” in Personality Hacker’s system). It’s supported by Introverted Thinking (also called “Accuracy”). Their tertiary function is Extroverted Feeling (“Harmony”), and their least developed function is Introverted Sensing (“Memory”). We can see this in Tony Stark’s character throughout the MCU movies.

Exploration/Accuracy

Tony just became an expert on thermonuclear astrophysics. No big deal.

I really love Personality Hacker’s nicknames for the cognitive functions. Antonia Dodge writes that the reason they chose “Exploration” as the name for Extroverted Intuition was because “the best pattern recognition system for the outer world is to mess with everything that can be messed with, and to explore, explore, explore.” Types who use Extroverted Intuition easily bounce from one idea to the next, often out-loud, as they sort through and experiment with different possibilities. This doesn’t mean they can’t focus. They just need to find something that captures their attention. Once they have something to focus on, it can consume them (at least until they understand it well enough to lose interest and move on to the next challenge).

This is where their secondary function, Introverted Thinking, comes in. An ENTP’s Intuition is focused outward gathering information and sorting through data. When they need to think deeply about something, their inward-focused decision-making process comes into play. For ENTPs, this process is concerned with “Accuracy.” Antonia Dodge says the ultimate goal of a type using Accuracy is “information purified from incongruities, inconsistencies and biases which produce clean concepts and an understanding of how things work.”

ENTP Characteristics

Dr. A. J. Drenth in his profile of an ENTP and  Isabel Meyer in her book Gifts Differing both mention several defining characteristics of the ENTP personality type. Let’s look at a few.

  • “Despite their tendency toward restlessness and distractibility, ENTPs can focus when partaking in stimulating discussions or activities” (Drenth). Just witness how focused Tony can be when speaking with Bruce Banner (discussions) or while alone in his private workshop (activities).
  • “ENTPs may not always seem to ‘have a point,’ quickly bouncing from one idea to the next” (Drenth). Tony’s conversation with the other Avengers on the hellicarrier after they catch Loki lasts less than two minuets and the conversation bounces around like this:
    • Begins explanation of Loki’s plan
    • Takes a verbal jab at Thor
    • Continues explanation of portals
    • Notices and comments on the man playing Galaga
    • Questions the design of Fury’s command center
    • More on Loki’s plan, while planting a decryption program
    • Explains his new expertise in thermonuclear physics
    • Introduces himself to Bruce Banner and admires his scientific work and Hulk side
  • “They are more apt to consider how others may affect their projects than how their projects may affect others” (Meyer). Extroverted Feeling — the function ENTPs use to connect with people, is third on their function stack. They use it rather well to read people and manipulate them (Isabel Meyer says, “They enjoy from the cradle a remarkable ability to get what they want”), but people are not the first thing on their priority list. Even in Age of Ultron, where Tony creates Ultron to try and avoid a future where he causes his friend’s deaths, his first focus is on the project, not on how others will react.
  •  “ENTPs scoff at what they see as unnecessary or overly rigid rules, regulations, or procedures” (Drenth). This is the source of much of Tony’s conflict with S.H.I.E.L.D and with Steve Rodgers (interestingly, ISFJs and ENTPs are exact opposites in their function stacks, and can easily act as stressors for one another).
  • When stressed, Naomi Quenk says ENTPs’ inferior function shows up in the form of “withdrawal and depression,” “obsessiveness” and “focus on the body” (i.e. “exaggerated concern about physical ‘symptoms'” of a real or imagined disease). Just watch Iron Man 3.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my other MCU typings:

Bucky Barns – ESTP

Loki – INFJ

Scott Lang -ISFP

Steve Rodgers – ISFJ

T’Challa – ISFP

Thor – ESTP

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Love Languages and MBTI Types

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

Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.

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.

Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, an NF – NT couple

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)

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

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!

*indicates affiliate links