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

Feeling Is A Rational Function, and Other Things You Might Not Know About Thinking and Feeling in Myers-Briggs®

In the Myers-Briggs® typology system, a preference for Feeling (F) or Thinking (T) shows up as the third letter in your personality type. But what does it actually mean to use Thinking over Feeling, or vice versa?

You’ve probably heard that Thinking types tend to be more rational and cerebral than Feeling types, who are typically more emotional. There’s a lot more to it than that, though, and the stereotype isn’t entirely accurate. Keep reading to learn 5 things you might not have known about the Thinking and Feeling processes.

They’re Both Judging Functions

Thinking and Feeling are both what we call “Judging” functions. They’re used to describe the psychological process you use most often when making decisions. If you have an F in your four-letter type code, then you use Feeling to make decisions. If you have a T in your type, then you use Thinking.

If you’re a Judging (J) type, then that means you use your judging function to interact with the outer world. A TJ type uses Extroverted Thinking and an FJ type uses Extroverted Feeling as their most comfortable way of making decisions. If you’re a Perceiving (P) type you still have a judging function, but it’s oriented to your inner world. A TP type uses Introverted Thinking and an FP type uses Introverted Feeling.

Both Thinking Are Feeling Are Rational

One of the biggest surprises when I started diving deeper into research on psychological types is that Feeling and Thinking are both considered rational processes. Read more

Why Is It So Hard For Certain Personality Types To “Just Get Over It”?

You know when you’re struggling with something bad that happened to you and someone says, “Just get over it,” but you know it’s not that simple? For some reason, this particular hurt lodged deep inside and letting go seems well-nigh impossible.

For this post, I’m not talking about a hurt like grief over losing someone you love. We know why things like that are hard to “get over,” and in many cases it wouldn’t be appropriate to move on quickly. Most people recognize that hurts of that sort require time to heal and grieve. I’m talking about interpersonal hurts that might seem “little,” but have a big impact anyway. For example…

  • You express an authentic part of yourself (like your happy, fun-loving side), then people assume that’s all there is to your personality.
  • You receive 99% positive feedback about a project, but that 1% haunts you anyway.
  • You help someone out of the goodness of your heart, but others misinterpret your motives.
  • You decide to open up to someone, then lie awake at night worrying about their reaction.

Hurts like this touch on the core of who we are and/or our relationships with other people. These hurts are often deeply individual, and others might not understand them. If you don’t care what other people think of you, then you’re not going to understand why someone else is so upset about the one person in their life who’s a critic. If you find it easy to adapt to different social situations, you might not understand why someone’s so upset about not being able to express their true self all the time.

The reason why things like this can hurt us so deeply is often nuanced and complicated, but it has a lot to do with how we use the Feeling sides of our personalities. Everyone has a Feeling side (whether or not there’s an F in your four-letter Myers-Briggs® type), and we each use this part of our personality a little differently. Read more

Fictional MBTI – T’Challa (ISFP)

I saw Black Panther yesterday, so naturally today’s post is a new installment in the superhero Myers-Briggs types series. I know I get pretty excited about most of the MCU films, but this one is seriously good. I love the hero characters and the principles they stand for like loyalty and peace. The acting is great, the plot’s tight, I love the music (I’m listening to the score as I type), and while it still has a superhero-movie feel it doesn’t shy away from digging into some really deep and difficult subjects.

T’Challa’s judging functions are pretty easy to pin-point: Fi/Te. But the fact that he uses Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Thinking when making decisions only tells us that he’s either a TJ or FP type. We’re going to need a little more to go on than just those two functions if we’re going to narrow-down a type for him. After Captain America: Civil War came out, most people typed T’Challa as an ISFP. However, a couple of the discussions I found online pointed out that he’s an ENTJ in the comics. I haven’t read the comics, though, so this typing is only going to focus on his film portrayal. From that, I ended up going with ISFP.

A Personal Code

Everyone has and uses both a Thinking and a Feeling mental process as part of their personality type. They’re both a “Judging” function, which means you use them to make decisions and answer “should” questions. The one you’re most comfortable with is either your driver process or co-pilot, and then its opposite is either your inferior or tertiary process.  Personality Hacker uses nicknames for the Jungian cognitive functions, and I think they make it easier to talk about exactly what I mean when saying T’Challa uses Fi/Te when making decisions.

Fictional MBTI - T'Challa (ISFP) | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Introverted Feeling is nicknamed “Authenticity” and it’s an ISFP’s primary function. It’s an internally focused, subjective process that mostly boils down to making decisions based on what “feels right” to you. Unlike the Extroverted Feeling process, it’s not primarily worried about what other people think. Authenticity is concerned with making a decisions that lines up with one’s own personal beliefs. And that’s what we see in T’Challa.

Though T’Challa certainly cares for other people, when he makes decisions they’re in line with what he believes is right rather than what will make the majority of the people around him happy. Fi is the mental process that drives his decision at the end of the film to share Wakanda’s resources with the world (see — I told you we were going to talk spoilers). And this personal code is also why he let his father’s killer live at the end of Civil War. He discovered that killing an unarmed man for revenge wasn’t in line with his moral compass (though making sure he faces justice is). Similarly in this new film, he offered to save his cousin’s life even after the man tried to kill him and steal Wakanda.

Impersonal Logic

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Extroverted Thinking, or “Effectiveness,” is a much more impersonal function than Introverted Feeling, though it’s still used for making decisions. It’s an ISFP’s fourth function — the one they’re least comfortable using.

Effectiveness users look for the most efficient answer to a question. In other words, this process makes decisions based on what’s going to work. This is why in Civil War T’Challa tells Natasha that he doesn’t approve of all the politics. It’s because a hundred people arguing in a room doesn’t seem like an effective or efficient way to actually get things done.

I also don’t think his decision to go after Bucky himself was just fueled by an emotional type of revenge. It was also a coldly logical assessment of the most efficient way to handle the problem since he knows that, as Black Panther, he can take down a super assassin. Since Te is where an ISFP goes when stressed, it makes sense that one of the times we most clearly see T’Challa using it is after his father’s murder.

Interacting With The Real World

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SP types have a certain advantage in physically-demanding tasks since this mental process is so focused on real-time interaction with the outer world. While being the Black Panther certainly enhances T’Challa’s abilities as a warrior, this new film shows us that he’s quite capable without them. He displays the sort of “real-time kinetic” intelligence that Personality Hacker says characterizes types that use the Extroverted Sensing, or “Sensation,” process. On a side-note, the ritualistic combat you see in Black Panther is inspired by real-world African martial arts, which is pretty cool.

SP types thrive on being in the middle of the action. And since Sensation is their Learning/Perceiving function, this is also how they prefer to learn new information. The things they can experience and verify with their five senses are the things that seem most reliable. And they often use their skill for interacting with the real world in creative, productive ways, earning ISFPs nicknames like Artist, Composer, and Producer.

As an SP type, T’Challa isn’t content with delegating tasks and that he can do himself. He goes after his enemies personally, even when not required by tradition and ritual. And he doesn’t just want to read reports or have people come to him to say what’s going on in Wakanda. We see him visiting his people and interacting with their worlds first-hand. He’s also interactive when planing missions. For example, there’s an early scene in Black Panther where he’s watching a projection of a convoy he’s about to attack as part of a rescue mission and he picks up one of the projected trucks to move it around and get a closer look.

Possibilities and Patterns

Fictional MBTI - T'Challa (ISFP) | marissabaker.wordpress.com

As far as we know, T’Challa is the first Black Panther to reveal his powers to the world at large. And he’s certainly the first king of Wakanda to share their country’s secrets with the world. While there is a struggle between the part of him that believes in a vision for Wakanda’s future where they help the world and his duty as king to protect his own people above the others, the idealistic visionary side wins out.

An ISFP has Introverted Intuition as their tertiary or “10-year-old” mental process. It’s also called “Perspectives” and it functions as a pattern-recognition system. ISFPs typically have conscious access to their Perspectives function, but it’s not always reliable.  T’Challa is mature enough to recognize this and does not rely on his Ni too much or make a rash decision based on it.

However, he’s also comfortable enough with Intuition to not shy away from what his friend Nakia and sister Shuri have to say about considering a future where Wakanda and its technology play a larger role in the world. And as an Ni-user myself, I find it very satisfying that Wakanda’s first outreach center will be built in the location where T’Challa’s father killed his own brother and abandoned the brother’s son to protect Wakanda’s secret. It brings the pattern together in a way that feels right.


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

Bucky Barns – ESTP

Loki – INFJ

Scott Lang -ISFP

Steve Rodgers – ISFJ

Thor – ESTP

Tony Stark – ENTP

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types

Because INFJs and INTJs both use Introverted Intuition as their favorite mental process, the two types can appear very similar. Quite a few people who take a Myers-Briggs test and get either of these results (or both on different tests) are left wondering, how can I tell whether I’m an INFJ and INTJ?

My personality type is INFJ and my sister’s is INTJ. It would be well-nigh impossible to assume we share a personality type, but if you don’t have that contrast living with you (or if you’re a little less extreme on your T/F preference) I can see how deciding which type is your best fit could be a challenge. INFJs and INTJs lead with the same mental process and they react in very similar ways when stressed out. The main differences between the two types have to do with how they handle their Thinking/Feeling preference.

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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INFJs use auxiliary Extroverted Feeling as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Thinking. INTJs use auxiliary Extroverted Thinking as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Feeling. The auxiliary process is how they prefer to make decisions and interact with the outer world, but they can slip into their tertiary quite easily. It’s not as well developed or as reliable, but it can seem comfortable since it’s introverted (just like their dominant intuitive function).

How comfortable each INFJ/INTJ is with their thinking and feeling processes depends on a number of factors, including age, environment, and past experiences. You can find INFJs who are very people-oriented and social, or INFJs that seem distant and logical. Similarly, you’ll meet INTJs who are stereotypically blunt and calculating, and INTJs who are comfortable experiencing their own emotions. Even so, the way these functions shows up looks different for each type.

My Cup of T

An INTJ’s Thinking side is focused on the outer world. It’s also the function they’re most comfortable using when making decisions. While mature, well-balanced INTJs will take the human side of a question into consideration, it’s typically secondary to finding the most logical, fact-based solution. Personality Hacker calls this mental process “Effectiveness” and says it “focuses on impersonal criteria for making decisions” and prioritizes efficient problem solving.

INFJs, on the other hand, use an inward-focused Thinking process and they’re not usually as comfortable with it as they are with their Feeling side. Personality Hacker calls Introverted Thinking “Accuracy” and says this function gives users “the ability to reason through a subject or concept within one own’s understanding, even if it doesn’t match ‘outer world’ data.” Basically, this process is trying to work through things until they make sense.

INTJs are much more likely to express their Thinking judgements externally than an INFJ. They’ll often seem more blunt and direct because efficient communication is more important to them than worrying another person’s feelings. INTJs are also more likely to draw on objective, external facts to support their ideas. They want their ideas to work and they want outer world validation for their problem solving. That’s not nearly as important to INFJs, who need things to make sense personally more than to the people around them.

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
spotted this on Pinterest and I love it

Feeling The Feels

An INFJ’s Feeling side, like INTJ Thinking, is the function they use most comfortably when making decisions. It’s also outward focused, but it’s primarily people-oriented. Personality Hacker nicknames this function “Harmony” because it “makes decisions based on how things are impacting people on an emotional level.” The key thing to remember about this function is that it’s outward focused. INFJs are more in touch with other people’s feelings than they are their own.

INTJs use a Feeling process that’s introverted, which Personality Hacker calls “Authenticity.” While it’s also concerned with how decisions impact on an emotional level, it’s focused on one’s own emotions rather than other people’s. To again quote Personality Hacker, “Introverted Feeling is about checking in with all those inner parts and voices to determine what feels the most in alignment with oneself.” Somewhat ironically, the stereotypically cold and logical INTJs are often much more in-tune with their own feelings than the stereotypically emotional INFJs.

INFJs are more comfortable expressing feelings in the outer world and also more likely to pick-up on what other people are feeling. They’ll typically seem much more empathic and expressive than an INTJ. An INFJ who’s comfortable with their Extroverted Feeling side will also appear more social and “extroverted” than a typical INTJ. But INTJs are far more in-tune with their own emotions than most people (and many type descriptions) will give them credit for.

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Jordan McQueen via StockSnap

INxJs In Real Life

Even after you know about the technical differences between the ways INFJs and INTJs use thinking and feeling, you might still wonder they show up in real life. Let me give you some quick examples.

  • When making an everyday decision — an INFJ’s first impulse will be finding what makes as many people as possible happy, while an INTJ’s first impulse will be quickly finding the most logical answer. For me and my sister at least, the INTJ has a much easier time making simple decisions without overthinking them than the INFJ does.
  • In a stressful/emergency situation — I’m the one who’s in logic mode and my INTJ sister is the one indecisive and unsure. We’re talking something that calls for quick action and is stressful enough to push you out of your most comfortable mental processes (such as deciding to take someone to the hospital), Might not hold true for every INFJ or INTJ, but it’s an interesting observation I’ve made.
  • If asked to change their minds — an INTJ is most likely going to stick with what they’ve already decided because they know their idea is based on logic and that it feels right to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present a fact-based counterargument that matches their deeply held beliefs about what’s right. A confronted INFJ will second-guess themselves because now they know someone isn’t happy with what they chose but they’ll also be reluctant to abandon something that makes sense to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present an argument that hits emotion as well as logic.

I hope this helps you with telling the difference between these two types If you can’t tell if you’re an INFJ or and INTJ, looking at the differences in Thinking and Feeling functions is a good place to start figuring out your type. You’re not going to be a perfect 100% fit for every description of any one personality type, but there should be one that’s a “best fit” for your personality.

Your Turn: What are some differences and similarities you’ve noticed between INFJ and INTJ types?

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Befriending Your Inferior Function

Befriending Your Inferior Function | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: “i was just thinking…” by Scarleth Marie

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.

Ah, the infamous inferior function — the way Myers-Briggs theory explains why you don’t always act like “yourself.” If we’re using Personality Hacker’s car model* to illustrate Myers-Briggs types, the inferior function is like a 3-year-old sitting behind the driver. It’s the least-developed function in a person’s stack, but it plays a significant role, especially when we’re stressed. Since we don’t use this mental process effectively, we often try to ignore it or bury it deep and dismiss times when it shows up as being “out of character.”

That side of our personality is not, however, easy to ignore. Continuing with the car analogy, if you’ve ever driven with a 3-year-old you know they’re only quiet when they fall asleep for a little while. Even when they’re happy and chatting they can be distracting. When they’re upset, it’s almost impossible to focus on anything else.

When the 3-year-old mental process in the backseat of your mind is throwing a temper tantrum, it’s hard to see the inferior function as anything useful. Often, I feel more like I’m “dealing with” my inferior Extroverted Sensing than learning from it or profiting by it. But as annoying at it can seem at times, it’s still one of the four mental processes that you have most access too. Even if it’s only 3-years-old, it’s still better developed then one of the four mental processes that’s completely outside your function stack. Instead of treating it as the enemy, maybe it’s time to embrace it as an immature, but lovable, friend.

Meeting Your 3-year-old

First, introductions. You’ve been ignoring this side of yourself most of your life, so if you’re going to make friends with it you have to first learn more about how your mind works. If you don’t know your personality type yet, I recommend Personality Hackers’ test as the most reliable I’ve found online. If you already know your type, you can learn more about your inferior function here:

You can also look up your inferior function by Googling “Extroverted Thinking” or “Introverted Sensing” or whichever function is lowest on your type’s function stack. Most articles you find that way will be talking about a healthy, mature form of that function as seen in types that use it as their primary or secondary mental process. Remember when reading these articles that it will show up differently for your type, since it’s not well developed.

For example, ENTPs and ENFPs use Extroverted Intuition as their primary, or driver, process. It’s an innovative, idea-generating mental function that’s constantly looking for new possibilities and patterns. They’re not only comfortable with exploring new ideas — they crave and thrive on it. When this function is sitting in the inferior position, it’s still exploring possibilities, but in a less-mature way. For ISFJs and ISTJs, their Extroverted Intuition shows up in generating worst-case-scenarios when stressed, and a near-constant worry about “what if?”

Making Friends

You might be frustrated that your inferior function can’t work as effectively in your mind as it does for people who use that mental process more readily. I’m an INFJ, which means Extroverted Sensing is my inferior function. People who use Extroverted Sensing effectively have “real-time kinetic” skills and respond quickly to things happening in the outer world. I’m so oblivious to the outer world that I run into doors on an almost daily basis. Even keeping track of my own hands and feet can be hard — once I wondered why my ankle hurt, and looked down to discover blood dripping from a cut I couldn’t remember happening.

Things like that can be really frustrating. But if we’re trying to befriend and cultivate our less-developed mental process, it’s better to start out accepting it how it is than hating how our minds naturally work. In fact, many of us could already be using our inferior function and not realizing it. An ENFJ who works with computers is using their inferior Thinking side at work. An ISTP with who cultivates close friendships in their local church is tapping into their inferior Feeling side.

You might start out exploring your inferior function through hobbies. When you’re reading about your inferior function, take note of what sort of skills and hobbies are usually enjoyed by types who use that function effectively . In my case, I’ve always enjoyed gardening and cooking, which are two endeavors that use Sensing skills. I’ve also started consciously cultivating awareness of the world around me through my yoga practice.

Growing and Learning

I’ve found that just knowing about your inferior function is a personal growth step. You finally have an explanation for why you react to stress the way you do, and why sometimes you have a “Was That Really Me?“* moment (which is the title of an excellent book by Naomi Quenk on inferior functions). Once you start understanding why your mind works the way it does, you can start learning how to use your natural stills more effectively.

Naomi Quenk’s book includes a section on how each of the types changes as they learn to use their inferior function.  I also touch on this at the end of each post in my “Learning From Your Stress Function” series. Here are those links again:

Type theorists often call becoming comfortable with your 3-year-old mental process ‘incorporating your inferior function.” This should make you a more well-rounded, balanced individual who’s comfortable in their own skin and it better able to exercise forgiveness/acceptance toward self (and others) in areas where we’re naturally not as strong. As an added bonus, you’ll also start to strengthen that under-used part of your mind, making it less likely to trip-you up (at least in theory).

Your turn: What sort of hobbies do you enjoy, or skills do you have, that are not typical of your personality type? do you consciously use your inferior function?

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