As previous blog posts have shown, I like to play with Myers-Briggs. But I'm finding more and more things that seem to make it rather useless. For instance:
- F's. On the Myers-Briggs scale, F stands for people who make decisions based on feelings; T stands for people who make decisions based on thoughts. On internet discussion boards, F's are considered to be warm and fuzzy, while T's are cold and unfeeling. Really, however, there are two kinds of F's - the kind who make many of their decisions based on both their own feelings and those of others (and who can balance the two), and those who make most of their decisions based only on their own feelings (and expect everyone else to adjust around them!). We have a name for the latter kind - "That kind of 'F'."
- Extroverts are wonderful people who keep conversations going. But... are they conversations that you really want to have?
On one hand, I recently worked with a woman who can start conversations with anyone, remembers all sorts of things about people, is warm and friendly and uses her abilities to to draw people out.
On the other hand, there are the extroverts who use their conversational abilities to take and keep center stage while soliliquizing about their toe fungus for half an hour. "That kind of 'E'!"
- J/P. J is for "judging;" P is for "perceiving." P's go with the flow; J's are more organized. I read over and over again about how J's try to organize those around them, give advice, and generally run things. However, I use my J'ish tendencies to remind myself to stay out of other people's business, not give advice, and give other people space (okay, those also come naturally to me). When she was in the middle of her college choice, daughter got lots of advice from Ps along with Js. On the other hand, I, a J who knew far more about everything that went into her choice than just about anyone else because I listened to her lots, didn't give her advice until fairly late in the game. It was her choice - hers to figure out.
Now, I still enjoy playing with the ideas, but after a while, Myers-Briggs just seems like a lot of stereotypes - trying to fit all of humanity, in its infinite variety, into sixteen boxes categories. Concluding that "He's an ESTP" can give you a great excuse to put someone in a box and react to the type, rather than the actual living, breathing person in all their complexity before you.
There's also a great deal of variety among each type, which can make some members of the type opaque to others of the same type. I've had to stop asking dear husband, an INFP, why other INFP's do what they do. Some are as incomprehensible to him as they are to me, an INFJ.*
However, at the INTP Central message boards, I have found one thing that might help Myers-Briggs to deal with the complexity of human personalities - sub-types. Each Myers-Briggs type is made up of four categories, and, if you rank them in order of strength (I-N-T-P, P-T-I-N, etc.) you get twenty four sub-types. After all, an INTP who's barely an introvert, but who's extremely P (say, PNTI), is going to be quite different from an INTP who's barely P, but extremely I (ITNP). At INTP Central, someone has posted humorous one-liners about various sub-types, but only for INTPs and INFPs.
Looking at our family, then, dear husband is a PFNI sub-type of INFP. People are often surprised that he's an introvert. I'm, interestingly enough, overall, an INFJ type of INFJ. However, since I'm pretty close to the middle for everything else except the I, I suppose I could also be an IFJN, INJF, IFNJ, IJNF, or an IJNF depending on the time of the month, position of the stars, tilt of the earth, humidity, whether daffodils are blooming, what books I'm in the middle of, or proximity to chocolate. Older son is a IPNT type of INTP. Daughter is a FJSI. Younger son is too young to tell.
So, if you want to analyze people accurately using Myers-Briggs, you need to not only know their type, but their sub-type as well. However, it will be much more difficult to memorize their sub-types. Types are easy since there are only 16 of them. There are 384 sub-types. Enjoy!
* I rarely meet other INFJs.
[The giraffe yard art is in a yard in the Watts Hospital-Hillandale neighborhood in Durham, NC. It has nothing to do with Myers Briggs.]