Exploding Egg

Myers Briggs Personality Fun

I’ve always been fascinated by schematics and other little tidbits of information that can help me understand other people and what makes them tick.

A while ago I tossed up this post on the whole left-brain right-face, right-brain left-face thing — which is sort of a quick and dirty way to assess whether somebody is more technical or creative.

A bigger and more well-known schematic, however, is the Myers Briggs test, which breaks people down into 16 basic types, depending on whether they’re introverted or extroverted, intuitive or sensing, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving.

If you take the Myers Briggs test, you’ll end up with a four-letter description of your personality type, like INFJ, which is mine.

You can take the test yourself here at HumanMetrics to find your own type, if you’re interested.

The words behind the four letter designation sound a little vague, but I’ll tell you what they mean, generally:

Introvert or Extrovert: This one is fairly self-explanatory. Introverts tend to prefer small social settings or being alone, tend to think things out before saying anything and need time by themselves to recharge their energy. Extroverts like big social settings with lots of people, tend to think out loud and need social stimulus to recharge their energy.

Intuitive or Sensing: Intuitive people tend to be more focused on the big picture, on thinking about what might happen in the distant future and on concepts rather than facts. Sensing people tend to be more focused on the here and now, on thinking about what details are necessary in the short term to make something happen and on facts rather than on big picture concepts.

Thinking or Feeling: Thinking people tend to be more strongly rooted in analytical thought, in mentally assessing a situation before acting and behaving in a somewhat methodical way. Feeling people tend to be more strongly rooted in their emotional lives, in wondering how everybody around them feels about a situation, and they can be known to listen to their hearts over their heads.

Judging and Perceiving: The final bit of the schematic breaks down a lot more simply than you might think. Ask yourself this question: Are you obsessively on time to things, or do you show up when you show up? If you’re obsessively on time and like to schedule things, you fall in the Judging category. If you don’t like anything to be scheduled and are usually late for appointments, you’re Perceiving.

I used to talk a lot about this stuff with an old professor of mine from the University of New Mexico, and one thing he said to me is of the four different categories, it’s actually the JP one that causes the most trouble — because pedantic Js get irritated when others don’t meet their time scales and flakey Ps don’t like people trying to make them fit into a time mold.

The thing about these descriptions is that all of us have a bit of every letter in our personalities. But each designation is a sliding scale — so a person might have a tendency to be more in the Feeling category than in Thinking, but they still have some Thinking aspects.

Part of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which is based on Myers Briggs, is a further reduction of the 16 types into four basic archetypes.

There’s a basic overview of them here at Keirsey.com

Basically the four break down into two-letter sequences from the Myers Briggs, which are SJ/SP and NT/NF.

Sometimes Myers Briggs types can slide around a little over your lifetime. The scales tend to move. But these four archetypes tend to remain the same across our evolution from child to adult to old age.

Knowing a little bit about them, if you’re able to make an assessment of somebody, can help you communicate more effectively with other people — at least it has helped me do that.

So here are the four archetypes:

The Keirsey site labels SJs as Guardians. They are detail oriented, practical, and are the sort of people that keep a society running. The Kiersey site says that “Guardians make up as much as 40 to 45 percent of the population, and a good thing, because they usually end up doing all the indispensable but thankless jobs the rest of us take for granted.” It includes a little description of them:

  • Guardians pride themselves on being dependable, helpful, and hard-working.
  • Guardians make loyal mates, responsible parents, and stabilizing leaders.
  • Guardians tend to be dutiful, cautious, humble, and focused on credentials and traditions.
  • Guardians are concerned citizens who trust authority, join groups, seek security, prize gratitude, and dream of meting out justice.

The site labels SPs as Artisans. It’s an archetype for people that are constantly in motion, constantly doing things — and their focus is most often on what’s in front of them, what’s happening right now. The Kiersey site says that “There are many Artisans, perhaps 30 to 35 percent of the population, which is good, because they create much of the beauty, grace, fun, and excitement the rest of us enjoy in life.” Their description:

  • Artisans tend to be fun-loving, optimistic, realistic, and focused on the here and now.
  • Artisans pride themselves on being unconventional, bold, and spontaneous.
  • Artisans make playful mates, creative parents, and troubleshooting leaders.
  • Artisans are excitable, trust their impulses, want to make a splash, seek stimulation, prize freedom, and dream of mastering action skills.

It labels the NFs as Idealists. It’s an archetype fascinated with big-picture thinking and concerned about the welfare of the world. They’re also focused on understanding others and what makes people tick. The Kiersey site says that “Idealists are relatively rare, making up no more than 15 to 20 percent of the population. But their ability to inspire people with their enthusiasm and their idealism has given them influence far beyond their numbers.” Their description:

  • Idealists are enthusiastic, they trust their intuition, yearn for romance, seek their true self, prize meaningful relationships, and dream of attaining wisdom.
  • Idealists pride themselves on being loving, kindhearted, and authentic.
  • Idealists tend to be giving, trusting, spiritual, and they are focused on personal journeys and human potentials.
  • Idealists make intense mates, nurturing parents, and inspirational leaders.

And it labels NTs as Rationals. They tend to be problem solvers, scientists aimed at understanding the world around them in big and small ways, and their interested in practical solutions but also in learning about the realities behind those solutions. The Kiersey site says that “Rationals are very scarce, comprising as little as 5 to 10 percent of the population. But because of their drive to unlock the secrets of nature, and to develop new technologies, they have done much to shape our world.” Their description:

  • Rationals tend to be pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem-solving and systems analysis.
  • Rationals pride themselves on being ingenious, independent, and strong willed.
  • Rationals make reasonable mates, individualizing parents, and strategic leaders.
  • Rationals are even-tempered, they trust logic, yearn for achievement, seek knowledge, prize technology, and dream of understanding how the world works.

I find this helpful because there are some trains of thought or tangents I might go on that really only other NFs would find interesting. If I’m talking to one of my SP friends, on the other hand, I know I’ll probably bore them to death with that talk, but they’re great for playing around with quick witty conversation or when you need somebody handy to go camping with.

It’s also useful if you’re out there interviewing people because it can help you determine a line of questioning that will keep conversation flowing.

Anyway, there’s a lot more out there in Web land about the subject, but I thought I’d share it with you all because it really fascinates me.


April 16, 2010 - Posted by | Musings | , ,


  1. Very interesting. I’ve been thinking about me and some people. It also explains many things, especially when you read about the guard type.

    Comment by Mary | April 16, 2010 | Reply

  2. What type are you, Mary?

    Comment by SueVo | April 16, 2010 | Reply

  3. If I estimate myself, it is difficult, then NFs as Idealists. it fits a lot, before all because I am assessed so romantically…and you?

    Comment by Mary | April 16, 2010 | Reply

  4. I’m an NF — INFJ is the full one. You can give yourself the test at that HumanMetrics site from the post if you’re curious. Doesn’t take all that long.
    It was funny in college, a group of friends and I were looking at our personality types, and we found we were all NFs, which fit because we were all sort of big picture intuitive types.

    Comment by SueVo | April 16, 2010 | Reply

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