Over the past few years I have heard people comment, “I am Type A, so you know what that means…” and apparently that should excuse whatever it is that they just said or did. My basic understanding of this concept is that Type A individuals are high strung, while type B are more laid back. That is an over simplification, but in some ways this is very black or white. Where are the shades of gray?
Last year at the National Postdoctoral Association annual meeting, I participated in an MBTI personality test. This is Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator testing and allows (in my opinion) for the various shades of gray. Through answering a series of questions, you indicate your preferences between four dichotomies. Then, you combine your four answers to learn your personality type. There are 16 personality types, so clearly there is much more variation than either type A or B.
The test revolves around 4 dichotomies. When you chose one or the other it doesn’t mean you can’t do both, it just means that you prefer one over the other.
1. Do you focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is divided into Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
2. When you consider information, do you focus on the basic information provided or do you interpret and add meaning? You can be classified as either Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
3. When making decisions, do you prefer to consider logic and consistency or people and special circumstances? This separates you into Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
4. When you deal with the outside world, do you prefer to make decisions or do you stay open to new information and options? This final category splits into Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).
Once you know your four – letter code there is a short description of your personality type, which results from the interactions among your preferences. Knowing what others personality types are would certainly help your interactions with them. You could predict how they would respond in certain situations and plan appropriately. It is unlikely, however, that you will ever know another individuals type. It is an intimate and personal detail after all. Therefore, the goal of knowing about these personality tests has to be to understand and appreciate the differences between each group and use this to inform your own actions when interacting with others.
One of the great things about this test is that all types are considered equal. Everyone should be able to honestly answer the questions, as there are no negative connotations attached to any type. Besides, when I was answering the questions I really couldn’t figure out what categories the answers would separate into, so there was no point in attempting to influence the result! It is then an individual choice what you do with the information; either discard it as nonsense or take the opportunity for some serious introspection. Either decision is fine and is probably appropriate for wherever you are personally. I am going to try to bring a little more balance into my interactions with others. Now that I can see my strengths, I will aim to tackle my challenges, and hopefully I won’t have to utter the caveat “I’m an ISFJ so you know what that means…!”