Here’s What Your Myers-Briggs Type Can and Can’t Tell You

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Myers-Briggs. I’ll defend it against people who say it’s useless, write and re-write posts trying to come up with the simplest introduction to function stacks ever, and spend my time musing about how type influences both real people and fictional characters. But as much as I like the Myers-Briggs system of personality types, I also know there are things it’s not meant to do.

In fact, applying Myers-Briggs wrongly is one of the biggest reasons it has come under so much criticism. For example, you can find quite a few articles online that argue Myers-Briggs is basically useless in a work environment. They’ll tell you it’s not a good indicator of job performance nor is it all that useful for screening potential employees. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering those aren’t the test’s purpose. And it’s unfair to dismiss a test for not doing something it wasn’t meant to do in the first place.

So what is the Myers-Briggs test supposed to tell you? And just how much can we apply what we learn from finding our type to real life?

This Is Your Brain On Decision Making

The Myers-Briggs test is designed to measure how people’s minds work. It describes their preferred mental processes or “cognitive functions” (to use the technical term). Contrary to what so many critics of the test think, it doesn’t force people into dichotomies. Rather, each type has a “stack” of preferred functions. So an ENFJ type isn’t someone who’s 100% extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. They’re a type that prefers making decisions with Extroverted Feeling, learning new things with Introverted Intuition, and then also uses Extroverted Sensing and Introverted Thinking to a lesser extent (click here to learn how we get from the four letter type to the functions).

These characteristics of Myers-Briggs theory means that taking the test can help you: Continue reading

Idealist Villains: When NF Types Turn Evil

A few weeks ago I observed something curious in one of the personality type groups I frequent on Facebook. One member started a discussion about what kind of villain different personality types would be and there were a few types they didn’t even list. Their assumption was that most Feeling types wouldn’t become villains and especially not NF or FP types.

Rather than bask in the knowledge that we’re the lest villainous type a surprisingly high number of NFs jumped into the comments to defend our ability to turn evil. Most of their comments went something like this: “Well, I wouldn’t personally be a villain, but I could be because *insert reasons.* And on top of that, *insert fictional or real name* is a villain of my type.” I laughed at the number of INFJs who reminded people that Hitler was an INFJ while at the same time reassuring people they don’t feel Hitler-ish tendencies themselves.Idealist Villains: When NF Types Turn Evil |

Who Gets To Be The Villain?

I dare say when most people think about villains, they think of a detached mastermind. There’s a ridiculously high percentage of NT type villains (and correspondingly few NT heroes; it’s even harder to find heroic INTJs in fiction than it is to find NF villains). In real life, of course, people of any personality type can lean more towards the best version or the worst version of their type. No one personality type is inherently “better” than any other. However, society does stereotype certain characteristics associated with types as better or worse.

Prioritizing other’s safety over your own, a characteristic most commonly associated with FJ types, is often seen as a heroic trait. Hence, we see characters like Captain America with an ISFJ personality type. But what if you have an ISFJ character who decides only a certain group of people (or even just one person) is more valuable and it’s their duty to protect them? Suddenly the heroic trait doesn’t seem so safe any more. Especially when you consider the prime example of a villainous ISFJ is Norman Bates from Psycho. Continue reading

Thoughts on Kylo Ren, the Force, and Evil ENFJs

I saw The Force Awakens on opening night and then again the following Sunday, and was just blown away by how amazing it was. The new characters were a particularly bright spot in this shining film. I loved all the new main characters, but I was surprised to find Kylo Ren the most compelling. I have several thoughts on his powers and his story, but we’ll save those until after the spoiler warning.

Last week in my Star Wars Myers-Briggs chart I did something I wasn’t expecting — I typed Kylo Ren as an ENFJ. Many MBTI fans will argue that NF types don’t make good villains — that they’re too in-touch with other people to hurt them. Even with Hitler as a real-life example of an INFJ bad guy, they still argue that NFs are hard-wired to act for what they believe is the “good” of humanity.Thoughts on Kylo Ren, the Force, and Evil ENFJs |


Spoiler Warning

this post contains Major Spoilers for The Force Awakens, and for other books and films in the Star Wars universe

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Star Wars MBTI Chart

My Star Wars obsession has lain dormant for 10 years, buried under delta shields, gate addresses, consulting detectives, and madmen in blue boxes. As The Force Awakens, so has the part of me that used to spend hours on Star Wars message boards debating casting news and plot points for the prequels trilogy. I’ve seen it twice now — once opening night and then again yesterday.

I know the fact that most of the EU is no longer cannon has irritated/incensed some people, but at least it’s easier to catch-up on what’s in-cannon now. I’ve been watching Clone Wars (which I thoroughly enjoy) and reading some of the novels, so those will figure into this typing chart.

Readers have been so happy with my Disney princesses chart trying to sort characters by their actual type rather than shoe-horn one into each category that I decided to do something similar for Star Wars. Share it with your friends, spread it around Pinterest, comment with what you like and dislike. For interested parties, I’ve added some of my reasons for typing each character this way below the chart. Enjoy 🙂

Update January 2017: I’ve updated  the chart with characters from Star Wars Rebels. Click here to visit the post analyzing their personality to read article, "Personality Types in Star Wars Rebels" |

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Finding Your Real Myers Briggs Type

It’s so easy to take a pseudo-Myers Briggs test on the internet. You can click through a quick quiz, get your result and think, “Wow, I guess that does sound like me.” A few weeks later, you can stumble across another short quiz and take it again. Maybe you get a different answer, and the description still sounds like you. Now you’re wondering whether this whole Myers-Briggs thing is all it’s cracked up to be, and if it is, then why were your results different?

This is one of the reasons Myers-Briggs tests have come under fire from critics who don’t really understand how the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is supposed to work. They look at the short little quizzes with generic feel-good results, and say it’s too simple and unreliable. But if you dive into the theory behind Meyers Briggs, and especially cognitive functions (click here for my first and second posts explaining that), you start to realize how helpful the MBTI can be as a tool for understanding yourself and other people.

One of the principles of Myers-Briggs theory is that people only have one type, and it stays consistent throughout their lives. You grow and develop within your type, but you don’t change from an INFP to an ENFJ to an ISTP or any other combination of letters. So how can you find your true type with so many conflicting results floating around?

Finding Your Real Myers Briggs Type |

Take A Good Test

If you can’t take the official MBTI, there are a few decent substitutes out there on the internet. My favorite by far is Personality Hacker’s Genius Style test. They ask for an e-mail address, but it is free. Similar Mind’s Jungian test is another I’ve recommended (note May 2017: recent changes to the test questions may screw results). Some people really like the test from 16Personalities, but it’s not my favorite. These tests all give you a series of questions which are designed to learn what cognitive functions you use, then give you a four-letter test result.

I’d recommend starting with the Personality Hacker test, and then taking one or both of the other tests to compare results. Try not to read the full results of one test before you take the others — you want to take each one as unbiased as you can. If they all give you the same result, that’s a pretty good indication you’ve found your personality type. If they’re different, though, it’s time to start reading.

Compare Results

Now that you have one or more 4-letter type results, read some descriptions of your personality type. If you prefer physical books, Gifts Differing by Isabel Briggs Meyers is a good place to start. Online, your test results should include good descriptions and Personality Hacker has videos and podcasts as well. Personality Junkie is another excellent place to read descriptions of all 16 types.

Read the descriptions for each of your type results. Even if you only got one result, there are a few others you could look at which use similar cognitive functions. Here’s a few guidelines for which other types to look up based on your test results.

If you test as an …

  • Introvert, read about the type which is opposite you on the J/P scale. The J/P preference describes how we interact with the outer word through our extroverted function, so an I–J type actually leads with a perceiving process and an I–P type leads with a judging process. This can affect test results.
  • E–J, take a look at the type opposite you on the S/N scale. The tests found that you lead with an extroverted judging/decision making process, but might not have accurately found your introverted secondary process.
  • E–P, take a look at the type opposite you on the F/T scale. The tests found that you lead with an extroverted perceiving/learning process, but might not have accurately found your introverted secondary process.
  • -SFJ or -NFJ, read results from ENFJ, INFJ, ISFJ, and ESFJ. These types all use Extroverted Feeling, and can often be mistaken for each other. Shy ESFJs and ENFJs can be mis-typed as introverts, and outgoing ISFJs and INFJs can be mis-typed as extroverts.
  • -NT- types, read the type opposite you on the E/I preference. ENT- types, especially ENTJs, are among the most “introverted extroverts” and might mis-type.

Think About Stress

Most tests look at your primary and secondary function — the driver and co-pilot processes that lead in our personality. This makes sense, since other functions are less well developed and we don’t use them as much unless we’re stressed. When we’re trying  to discover our true type is, though, how we react under stress is a good indication of which type matches us best.

Good type descriptions will also talk about the inferior function. An excellent book on this topic is Was That Really Me? by Naomi Quenk.

Keep In Mind …

No personality test result is going to be a 100% perfect match. You’re looking for the one that fits you best. You will find elements of other descriptions that sound like you, but there should be one that fits better than the others. Pay close attention to descriptions of how your type uses cognitive functions. Descriptions of INFJ and INFP types, for example, sound similar but they lead with very different mental processes.

Good luck on your journey of self discovery! There’s a plethora of resources out there that can help you, including type-based Facebook groups and forums where you can talk with people of different types to see how they think. And if there’s anything I can help with, just ask!


Learning from Our Stress Function – Inferior Thinking

When we’re talking about someone’s personality type in the Myers-Briggs system, we usually talk about their primary and secondary functions (also called mental processes). An ISFP, for example, leads with a process called Introverted Feeling (a judging/decision making function), which is supported with Extroverted Sensing (a perceiving/learning function). An ENFJ, on the other hand, leads with Extroverted Feeling, supported by Introverted Intuition. Using Personality Hacker’s car model, we can compare our primary function to an adult driving a car, and the secondary function to a second adult navigating in the passenger seat.

Each type also has a tertiary function (the opposite of their secondary function), and an inferior function (the opposite of their primary function). These are less well developed. In the car model, our tertiary function is like a 10-year-old sitting behind the co-pilot, and the inferior function is like a 3-year-old sitting behind the driver. The processes you use most readily are the ones typically visible, and they define your personality as others usually see it. Our less developed functions play a significant role as well, though. Today, we’ll be looking at types which use Thinking as an inferior function.

Learning from Our Stress Function - Inferior Thinking |

Everyday Life

Inferior functions often show up in the type of hobbies people choose. INFPs and ISFPs, for example, may enjoy strategy games or something like crossword puzzles to engage their Thinking side. More than other types, though, dominant Feeling types often choose careers that tap-into less dominant functions (Quenk 149). An ENFJ might use their thinking and intuitive sides to work with computers, or an ISFP could work in engine repair using their sensing and thinking sides. In this case, they’d be using their dominant function in hobbies and play, and their less-developed functions at work. ENFJs, ESFJs, ISFPs, and INFPs in this type of situation often retreat into nature or opt for a more social activity to relax.

Characteristics of Inferior Thinking

ESFJs and ENFJs use dominant Extroverted Feeling, which makes Introverted Thinking their inferior function. It’s their least developed function, and has different characteristics than the Introverted Thinking used by types like ISTPs and INTPs. Naomi Quenk says inferior Introverted Thinking displays the following traits (I’ve put the traits of dominant Ti in parenthesis):

  • Excessive criticism (Impersonal criticism)
  • Convoluted logic (Logical analysis)
  • Compulsive search for truth (Search for accuracy and truth)

ISFPs and INFPs also lead with a feeling function, in this case Introverted Feeling. This makes Extroverted Thinking their stress function, and it looks different than the Thinking used by ENTJ and ESTJ types. Here are the traits Quenk associates with inferior Extroverted Thinking (and their counterparts in Te-dominant types).

  • Judgements of incompetence (Competence)
  • Aggressive criticism (Truth and accuracy)
  • Precipitous action (Decisive action)

Stress Reactions

Inferior Thinking types are sensitive about how other people perceive their intellect. They’re very careful when handling facts and can become irritated or defensive if people question their competence (or if they feel someone might question them). When stressed, they’re quick to point out other peoples’ errors and judge them as incompetent, often aloud. Normally, dominant Feeling types value peace and harmony, but when stressed they are much quicker to voice their criticisms.

They can also turn this “excessive” or “aggressive” criticism inward. I have several good friends who are ExFJ types, and they are very hard on themselves whenever something goes wrong or pulls them into depression. It’s very frustrating to outside observers because it’s almost impossible to talk them out of self-criticism. When working out of their stressed function, Feeling types, especially ESFJs and ENFJs, often insist on solving problems alone and fall into a pattern of “convoluted logic” (Quenk 154). One ENFJ that Naomi Quenk interviewed talked about coming up with a plan to break her leg in an accident so she wouldn’t have to participate in a sporting event that had her stressed out (she didn’t actually go through with it).

Stressed Feeling types often feel compelled to take some kind of action to correct a problem and regain control. The introverts, whose stress function is extroverted, usually try for outward action without thinking it through (Quenk 108). Extroverts, with their inferior introverted function, are more likely to take internal action and seek out books or lectures they think might help (Quenk 155).

Getting Out of Stress

All Feeling types benefit from alone time away from everyday routine to process stressful situations. Introverted types especially say that their “grip experience” needs “to expire on its own” (Quenk 115). They need time to process what’s going on without other people trying to interfere too soon. Some INFPs and ISFPs, especially women, want to talk eventually but not right away.

ESFJs and ENFJs do need alone time, but they also need someone to bounce ideas off of much more than the introverted types. They need a friend who is willing to listen without criticism, take them seriously, remind them of their good qualities, and reassure them that they’re a good person (Quenk 163). Many Extroverted Feelers also appreciate someone taking the time to involve them in a low-pressure social activity.

Learning From the Inferior

For many people, the side of their personality that’s related to the inferior function stays a mystery throughout their lives. Type theorists say that most people who successfully incorporate their inferior function do so around middle age, but you can start working on it sooner. Isabel Meyer suggested that every type can, and should, exercise all their functions on a regular basis when making decisions. Dominant Feeling excels in weighing how much you care about different options, takes into account others’ well-being, and seeks the most authentic and harmonious solution. Making a conscious effort to incorporate Thinking adds a level of impersonal analysis that helps when working with facts and making long-term plans (Meyers, Gifts Differing, 197).

Naomi Quenk says that ENFJs and ESFJs who successfully incorporate their inferior functions learn to take better care of themselves rather than always putting others first. They’ll often dig into their inner lives more fully and give themselves permission to explore interests they’d pushed aside when younger — like one ENFJ who left a successful law practice to become a minister (Quenk 165). The introverted types also become more comfortable with themselves, and more confident when making decisions. Incorporating their inferior Thinking helps INFPs and ISFPs cope with their own shortcomings and relax (Quenk 117, 118). It also helps both types learn to deal with outside criticism effectively.

Learning from Our Stress Function - Inferior Thinking |

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