Saturday, November 3, 2007

Myers-Briggs - What Doesn't Work So Well

In a previous post about Myers-Briggs I mentioned how knowing my typology (INFP) helped. Now I want to discuss some of the system's weaknesses.

1. Tendency WHEN?

When we take the tests we are painfully aware that different situations would get a different response. For instance, the example Moomin Light used in a recent conversation about this was buying a car verses a decision about spending time with a friend. She would be INTJ about the car decision, and INFJ about the friend. We particularly gnash our teeth at questions that pit the two types of situations against each other. I know this is probably meant to get at the deepest underlying preference or style, but we know very well that we shift between modes depending on the situation. Facts or emotions or both (and in what balance). We might decide what car and features using facts, but we're likely to pick the color emotionally.

2. Emotional Intelligence?

It seems to me that a person's ability to switch styles (depending on the situation) is a kind of intelligence. I know people who seem consistent in their style, using the same approach for everything, whether that works in the long run, or not. I also know people, many of them introspective, who consciously change their style. I believe it might be helpful to tease out this factor and apply it somehow to the Myers-Briggs typology. I will admit that we have taken simple Internet tests - and a full Myers-Briggs profile might include a lot more - I don't know.

3. Extroverts Win

We have read that recruiting processes sometimes include Myers-Briggs to weed out the introverts (loners). We have seen many websites that advise job hunting introverts to lie on these tests - pick parties over books. Actually, I think the work world would be better served by finding people with various typologies AND that intelligence I described in the previous paragraph. People who can work with concentration alone AND on teams. People who are exceptionally good listeners AND able to speak to a crowd.

4. Excuse and Condone

Finally, it's tempting sometimes to write-off behavior (mine or other people's) as just a result of the typology. No struggle, no considering that another outcome might have been wiser. While it's good to cut people slack, and anything that helps us forgive each other (and ourselves) might be worthwhile, it's easy to get sloppy.

All in all, though, I believe it's been helpful to know my typology, and others, as well.

(I wonder if any of your are trying to figure out what significance the dump trucks and sand have, in the photo up top. I just haven't had an excuse to use that photo and I figured this was as good a post as any... Sometimes a truck is just a truck - if you know what I mean.)


Breanne said...

With regard to your critiques of the MBTI:
1) Neing an INTJ does not mean that you will perform exactly the same as every other INTJ. In addition, the MBTI is all about preferences. As an example, if you are right handed, you are most comfortable writing with the right hand. However, should you not have access to your right hand, you can still function with your left hand. It will be akward, time-consuming, and not pretty, but you could still function. With regard to the T/F dichotomy, someone who has a strong T preference will still consider emotions and feelings, but will go through a more logical pro/con approach FIRST. Thinkers are still Feelers...but a T preference refers to what that individual will do FIRST, and what they do most comfortably. Next, if you still find there are discrepencies in your behaviors for certain situations, then I suggest you take the MBTI form Q which further defines how situations affect preferences. By the way, where did you take the MBTI? Did you know that if you take it anywhere other than with a qualified practitioner or on then you are not actually taking the real MBTI?

2) Your theory is correct. While one does not "switch" types, someone who is "developed" in their type is able to function adequately outside of their preference. I am an example of an introvert who has a sales job. I have to push myself to function as an extrovert because the reawrds of my job (and life in general) favor extroversion. Nevertheless, my energy is drawn from inside. So after a long day of "extroverting" I still have to go home and recharge my batteries by being alone. This is the definition of a true extrovert.
3) The MBTI is not supposed to be used as a recruitment or selection tool. As a matter of fact, if you look at you will see that the publisher of the assessment expressly forbids the use of the assessment for those purposes. Unfortunately, there are people who misuse the tool. Again, here you are correct. Diverse types are a gift to teams, discussions, conflict, etc.
4) People who are educated practitioners in type know that "Type is not an excuse." If you find out your MBTI type and say "okay, now I know" and do nothing to develop yourself, then the only one who suffers is you. Understanding your type is only the first step. Learning how to flex within your type and bridge the communication gap between other types is the true goal of the MBTI.

As I said before, if you took the MBTI online anywhere other than or through a qualified practitioner, then you didn't take the actual MBTI. There are literally hundreds of knock-off versions on the internet with no theoretical or statistical validity. They misuse the MBTI name. Make sure you're taking the real MBTI so that you can truly benefit from the assessment.

Steve Emery said...

Thank you very much for the time consuming comment, and the experience you share in it. We have not taken a certified MBTI - and we realized we were probably not getting a totally accurate picture as a result. So I know that nuance and depth are missing from the assessments we've read.

All of us do feel the urge to go beyond the typology - to see it as an explanation for tendencies that we may previously have disowned, disavowed, disliked - or for tendencies that we love and cherish in ourselves or each other. It has been helpful. And that may yet lead some of us to get the "real" assessment done in the future.