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 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

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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

What If …

Instead of my usual Bible Study type post for Saturday, I thought I would share a few of the Bible-related thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind lately. It would be awesome if these sparked a discussion in the comments 😉

Green and Blue

What if the sky and oceans are blue and plants are green because those are God’s favorite colors? I know about the scientific explanations for why chlorophyll in plant leaves is green and how the atmosphere scatters blue light, but I’m thinking about when the science behind the colors was created. I’m sure God could have set up the world so it looked purple and orange, or red and yellow, or any other combination of colors.

The really cool thing is, if you Google “Which colors are the most relaxing?” the top results are green and blue. Psychologists, designers, and certain philosophies all agree these are the most calming, peaceful colors. Blue triggers feelings of serenity, lower blood pressure, and people are more productive in a blue room. Green is calming, refreshing, and the easiest color for our eyes to look at. Isn’t it amazing that God surrounds us with colors designed to make us feel better?

Planks in Eyes

Reverendfun.com 01-23-2001What if the parts of the Bible we avoid the most are the parts we need to listen to the closest? Perhaps the verses that make us angry are the ones which should inspire us to search for planks in our eyes (Matt. 7:1-5).

Here’s  a couple examples I’ve been thinking about. The Bible teaches that women are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24), not teach in church(1 Tim. 2:12), and maintain a physical appearance that clearly shows they are women instead of men (Deut. 22:5; 1 Cor. 11:2-15). Perhaps feeling threatened by such verses is a sign that we could be doing better at exercising Godly femininity. Similarly, there are plenty of verses instructing Christians not give the people of God a bad name by resisting human governments (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:17). Yet these verses are often ignored or scoffed at by those in the church who are most vocal politically. It bothers me.

Jesus and the MBTI

For my last “What if …?” I want to talk about a question that has lead several people to my blog recently. Looking at a summary of search terms used, I see “Jesus infj,” “is Jesus an infj?” and “was Jesus an infj.” Since people are ending up on my blog because of this question, I thought I would address it. To me, it seems almost sacrilegious to claim we’ve pinned down Jesus’s personality type. If there was ever anyone who couldn’t be classified or put into a single box, I think it would be Him. If, however, we accept the idea that personality types exist and people can be categorized by them at least loosely, having a specific personality type could have been part of Jesus’s experience when living a human life. With that as our foundation, I think it would be safe to say Jesus is most like the group David Keirsey called “Idealists.” Of this type, Keirsey says in the description on his website,

Idealists (NFs), as a temperament, are passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Idealists strive to discover who they are and how they can become their best possible self — always this quest for self-knowledge and self-improvement drives their imagination. And they want to help others make the journey.

From there, we have four Myers-Briggs types: the Teacher (ENFJ), the Counselor (INFJ), the Champion (ENFP), and the Healer (INFP). Though I’ve read arguments that go back and forth on whether Jesus was an introvert or an extrovert, I’m not going to offer my opinion or try to narrow this down any more.