Have you taken the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)? It is a simple, questionnaire-based personality tool, which uses your responses to sort you into one out of 16 personality types. In theory, you end up with a description of who you are as a person – often to a degree that can almost seem scarily apt.
In the first iterations of our Thriving Life Retreats, we had one exercise delivered by a Dubai-based UK psychologist that used the MBTI. He invited me to join and I typed as an ENFP: Extraverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving, often dubbed The Campaigner and a “true free spirit”.
At first, this seemed to make a lot of sense. I was super out-going at the time and in the process of working through a lot of my emotional baggage. I certainly led an unorthodox lifestyle, as well.
When I randomly bumped into Micah in Bali for the third time before we were a couple, I excitedly told her about my result, and she just smiled and basically said, “Isn’t that nice?” Later, it turned out that she smelled a rat but didn’t want to try and convince me away from my results, knowing that these things can’t be forced.
The first cracks started to appear during the very event where I found out about my supposed personality type. The psychologist wondered if I was really sure about the results, given how I often seemed to like sitting by myself during breaks and after-hours, and how I generally tried to make sense of things. Me, confident with this brave new version of myself, shrugged it off for the time being.
Eventually, once my internal dust had settled a bit, I reconsidered my results. And as it turned out, there is a personality type that wonderfully fits with who I am: The INTP or the Logician. The love of questioning things, discovering unique perspectives and a knack for spotting inconsistencies got me to a “t” – and suddenly, things started making a lot more sense.
Why am I telling you about all this? Because I think it illustrates an important component of personality assessments. All too often, the MBTI and other assessments like it are taken as a prescriptive, definitive thing. This can lead to people feeling stuck with a personality they have supposedly been prescribed, or even turn off people from taking such an assessment in the first place.
However, as my experience shows, this is not what personality assessments have to be. Quite the contrary: They can be a tool to delve a little bit deeper into who we are as a person. And like any tool, their effectiveness depends not only on the quality of the tool itself but also on the person using it.
In order to use the tool of personality assessments right, it is important to reflect and question it rigorously. The assessment gives you a suggestion about your psychological profile. Many things will feel right, but many things may not – and both are equally valuable.
The things that fit helped me a lot in coming to grips with myself, by showing me that I may not be as weird as I always thought. Everything else opened up avenues for further exploration that I would have missed otherwise.
So, I guess I just got reminded of the time I took the MBTI, and of the positive effect, it had on my life. Maybe it can have the same effect on yours, too – provided that you use it as a tool, and not as a prescription.
Have you taken the MBTI and what was your result? How do you feel about it?