Basic Personality Vocabulary

Now that we’ve touched on the why of identifying personality type, we’ll take a look at the pieces that build a ‘Type’ in the Myers-Briggs system.

Image courtesy of Nate Brelsford via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Nate Brelsford via stock.xchng

The MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) looks at four pairs of contrasting approaches to interacting with life, preferences that are arranged on a spectrum across from their opposite.

For the last two posts I used the example of Extravertion vs. Introversion, and that is the first spectrum of the four M-B spectra.

E ——————————— I

All the spectra are populated with equally valid dichotomies, none more valuable or correct than the others. This is a critical element to keep in mind whether we are determining our own type or guessing the type of others.

For the second spectrum we have the question of perception or awareness. What is it you pay attention to? Where your thoughts go naturally when you are left to your preferences.

One preference is the physical world, your five senses, and tangible details. In contrast is a focus on the realm of possibilities, the future and an inner sense of “just knowing” that you’re confident you’ll find evidence for eventually.

This spectrum is between S (sensing) and N (intuition. The I being taken already by ‘introvert‘).

S ——————————— N

Image courtesy of Mikhail Lavrenov via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Mikhail Lavrenov via stock.xchng

The next question is one of judgement, decision-making. What primary criteria do you use when making decisions?

One preference is toward focused, undiluted logic or problem-solving that is impersonal and detached, looking first at issues separate from the people they effect. In contrast is the style that responds first out of felt emotions or values and gives a lot of weight to how decisions will affect the people involved.

This spectrum is between T (thinking) and F (feeling).

This is a good place to stop and review the fact that none of these designations should completely exclude its opposite. No healthy person thinks without feeling, or feels without thinking.

What these designations refer to are an individual’s natural preferences, such as left- or right-handedness. Most people feel one is more natural, more skilled or stronger.

T ——————————— F

The final pairing asks what your orientation to action is.

Are you an explorer, an investigator, someone who waits to act until you collect all the findable information, someone who can ‘live in the tension’ of things undecided? Or are you someone who needs closure, will act as soon as the next step is visible, who gets tense or anxious when things are not clear and defined?

I use television preferences as a way to look at differences here. LOST was a strongly P show. Every episode was about discovery and clues with a marked absence of closure or answers. These were characters (and viewers) who had to get used to living with questions.

For an alternative, look at just about any crime-drama or body-a-week show (those shows that depend on a dead body showing up each week). These stories are about collecting information in order to reach a specific conclusion– a guilty party, or at least closure for the character(s) and viewer.

Both types could enjoy both types of shows, but this serves to suggest the fundamental contrast between these approaches to life and action.

This spectrum is between P (perceiving) and J (judging), and if you notice an overlap between these terms and the previous two spectra, good for you! That resemblance is entirely purposeful.

P ——————————— J

Next time we’ll talk more about combining letters and how that offers a simplified system for recognizing the way people are different from (or similar to) you. This is the foundation of how to use that knowledge to treat them in a way they prefer to be treated.