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Learning About Your MBTI - It's More Than Just a Letter

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

How All the Letters Can Define Us and Bring Us Together

I discovered my letters when I was 24!

Many of us took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or similar personality assessments either through work, school, or on our own. If you haven't yet taken a Myers-Briggs type assessment or can't recall your results, you can take a free one now here.

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However, for many of us, it actually became a defining moment in our lives. Really! Over 30 years later, I remember staring at the results - INFJ! But, admittedly, my focus was clearly on the first letter and the other three just faded into the distance.

Oh, I knew I was an introvert. I'd enjoyed hobbies by myself as a kid, I struggled socially in school and I compared myself to the seemingly confident leaders during my first couple of years in corporate America.

But now, at work, I was formally advised I was an introvert. But what was more disconcerting was that once we all got our letters, the extroverts patted each other on the back and cheered each other on while the introverts slinked away. No one, including the HR facilitators, interpreted the results. No one shared the upsides of each personality or how the four letters interact to make the whole.

So self-conscious introverts like myself were left to analyze their results on their own. We tended to affix common stereotypes to ourselves - loner, anti-social, low self-esteem, wallflower, icicle! These are such negative and narrow definitions yet for me, they governed who I was for the next couple of decades until Susan Cain's book Quiet became the catalyst for me to reach out, to learn more about introversion, and to begin a journey that has changed my life.

Focusing on the Letters

Not only was I left hanging needing a more balanced and accurate definition of introversion, but I'd glossed over the other 3 letters, equally important in defining my personality. We often remark that no two introverts are alike. We span a wide continuum. Some of us feel quite sociable at times, some of us are more creative, and some of us avoid conflict at all costs. But these differences aren't based solely on introvert/extrovert differences but more on how that dynamic interacts with the other 3 letters.

In the last couple of months, I've joined some discussions with the Bay Area Association for Psychological Type, I read Barbara G. Cox's book Your Secret Self: Understand Yourself and Others Using the Myers Briggs Personality Test, and I've scanned the Personality Max website. All three have helped shed some light on my decades-old conundrum. So now I wanted to share the insight with you.

First, it's helpful to understand the 8 letters at play, albeit in an oversimplified manner:

Energy Preference

I: introverts gather their energy from within

E: extroverts gather their energy by being with others

Attention Preference

S: sensing individuals focus on what they see/feel/hear right now so they rely upon facts

N: intuitive individuals rely on their hunchs and the possibilities it presents for the future

Decision Preference

T: thinkers prefer to collect info in a logical way, organize it and then make decisions

F: feeling type people prefer harmony and helping others and can be indecisive

Attitude Preference

P: perceivers observe surroundings and respond with more flexibility and spontaneity

J: judging people are punctual, planners who like to be prepared without surprises

What is important to glean at this stage is that each set of letters reflects an aspect of your personality. They can certainly affect each other but none should be treated as stand-alone.

Together Forever

When combined, the letters sort into 16 different personality types. Together, those four letters describe your personality and your tendencies*:

INFJ: most reflective; introspective, quietly caring, creative, articulate, visionary

INFP: most idealistic; creative, non-directive, reserved, strong values, seeks harmony

INTJ: most independent; skeptical, often impatient, perfectionistic, values-driven

INTP: most conceptual; absent-minded; reflective, competitive, independent

ISFJ: most loyal; easy to work with, generous, dependable, sacrifices to help others

ISFP: most artistic; warm, gentle, sensitive, cooperates well with others; self-aware

ISTJ: most dependable; private, organized, reliable, practical, rule follower

ISTP: most observant; sees everything, says little, practical, ready for anything