The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been around for quite some time and is one of the most well-known personal assessments in use today. And while many people may know their Myers-Briggs letters, very few really understand the incredible amount of information packed into that little four-letter code.
Isabel Briggs Myers, and her mother, Katharine Briggs, began developing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in the 1940s as a way of helping people choose suitable work and to promote the constructive use of differences.
According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, millions of people worldwide have taken the Indicator each year since its first publication in 1962.
The principal theory is this: we all use four basic functions. Two of them help us process information. Two of them help us make decisions.
Sensing and Intuition
The information-processing functions are Sensing and Intuition. Sensing is scanning the environment and taking in the data through the senses—the things we can see, touch, hear, etc. Intuition takes it a step further by interpreting or adding meaning. This is what we often describe as “reading between the lines” or having a “gut feeling.” Each person has a preference of one over the other. An S is in the Myers-Briggs code indicates a preference for Sensing. An N indicates a preference for Intuition.
Thinking and Feeling
Once the information has been processed, we use one of the other two functions to make our decisions. These are Thinking and Feeling. Thinkers prefer to focus on logic—the logical consequences that will flow out of their decision, basic “If-Then” statements; whereas Feelers add a people element into the mix—the likely consequences on the people involved in the situation, their desires or values, the unique circumstances at play. And just like with Sensing and Intuition, if a T is in the Myers-Briggs code, that person has a preference for making their decisions via Thinking. If it is an F, by Feeling.
When it Comes to Myers Briggs, What Does This Mean for You?
Each person chooses a dominant function—one of these types, which is their favorite to use. It is the function they develop first, usually by age 7, and are most skilled at using. By age 20, they have also developed what’s known as the auxiliary, or secondary, function. This is used to support the dominant function. Together, these two functions often make up 75 percent or more of a person’s behavior. The third or tertiary function develops in the 30s and 40s, and the fourth, or inferior function, develops midlife or later.
Additionally, each function is either introverted to help with the internal world or extroverted to help with the external world. When the possibilities of function order and direction are considered, you can quickly discover that there are 16 possible combinations and this is where we get the 16 different personality types.
The goal of knowing about personality type is to understand and appreciate differences between people. There is no right or wrong, good or bad type. All types are equal. But the seemingly random differences in the way people behave are actually quite consistent and predictable due to basic, measurable differences in the way they process information and make decisions. This assessment does not measure trait, ability or character. It sorts for preferences, which account for unique interests, reactions, values, motivations and skills.
The more familiar your team becomes with the reality of wiring differences—like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator reveals—the more you will start to notice drastic improvements in:
- Conflict Resolution