The following is a Q&A on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) by OKA President and Principal Consultant Hile Rutledge. It is valuable information for people of every level of familiarity; MBTI experts might find some refreshing points, as well as people who have never heard of the MBTI. If the MBTI is something that interests you, learn more about how to schedule a workshop with us!
What is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator used for?
In his ground-breaking book, Psychological Types (1921), Carl Jung asserted that people had hard-wired preferences (not un-like handedness) for gathering data and making decisions. The purpose of the MBTI is greater self-awareness—leading to better self-management. Knowing these deeply rooted and largely unchanging preferences—these cognitive styles—led to a virtually endless pool of insights how we each prefer to communicate, lead, work, and relate to each other.
What will a person find out when they take the MBTI?
In the hands of a competent trainer, coach or counselor, the MBTI will help someone discern their preference for each of four dichotomies—and how these preferences both benefit and hinder effectiveness and success.
- Extraversion or Introversion—how and where they energize and re-charge their batteries
- Sensing or Intuition—whether the data they first notice and more emphasize is rooted in tangible fact and sensate realities or big-picture abstractions and possibilities
- Thinking or Feeling—whether the decisions they more trust and innately seek are derived more in objective, non-personal analysis or in a subjective consideration of values and personal experience
- Judging or Perceiving—is the behavioral face they show the world—more often than not—one of structure, closure and order or adaptation, openness and curiosity
How can the MBTI help a person learn more about themselves?
Every preference brings with it benefits and advantages—while also presenting challenges and down-sides. This value-neutral framework is intended to help people by giving them enough self-knowledge to move with intention toward those tasks and relationships that would better utilize preferences. In addition, knowing their Type preferences also indicates developmental paths that would most work and that are in most need.
What can we do with these learning at home and in our work lives?
Knowing your Type and having the vocabulary the MBTI establishes allows each of us to not just know but share with the surrounding world those things that we each like and want—as well as those things we find more challenging—or even violating. Working, living, loving and communicating well with others requires first that we know ourselves and that we manage ourselves—our words, reactions and behaviors—as we move through our lives.
Is the MBTI reliable and valid?
One of the world’s first and most extensively studied assessments, the MBTI has many hundreds of correlative studies linking it to the field’s other recognized and studied assessments. In addition, there are nearly seventy years of self-selection studies that show clear tendencies for people to gravitate toward fields that exercise their Type preferences (and avoid their non-preferences).
Given that the MBTI is designed for self-awareness and self-development (and was never intended as a selection or evaluation tool), the best and most important validity marker is the self-validation of each individual participant. Any ethical and competent treatment of the MBTI will have the participant take the assessment and then learn about the Type model and even do a self-assessment—all before receiving their assessment results. This process—of self-assessment before receiving assessment results—allows for deep and thoughtful self-validation. MBTI results are not verdicts or answers—they are data that participants consider. The self-validation step is pivotal to the MBTI’s process and is one of the fundamental reasons that the MBTI has been the world’s most popular and sought-after tools since the mid-1970s.
Can you provide an tips for taking the test?
The less reading and/or study someone does about the model or assessment before engaging it, the better. The cleaner the slate is when you engage the questions, the more you will be able to bring an open, honest answer to each item. The assessment was designed to be taken as your “shoes-off” self. The more you can come to the MBTI with all the learned behaviors set aside and all the professional and relational “hats” you wear removed—the better the outcome will likely be. Remember, there are no good or bad answers—no right or wrong outcomes. You will get as much out of the process as you bring openness and curiosity to it.