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The Importance of Verifying Best-Fit MBTI® Type

As you begin to feel comfortable interpreting MBTI® results for friends, co-workers, and clients, you may also find yourself becoming fairly confident in your ability to “predict” someone’s type based on your day-to-day interactions with them. For example, if you know someone who is impressed by punctuality and is annoyed by indecisiveness,  it’s hard to not assume that they have a preference for Judgment.

It can be tempting to run through friends and family and “assign” them a type, but it is still an unethical use of the assessment, and based on personal experience, I would strongly discourage you from doing this. I want to share a recent eye-opening experience that I had. Hopefully it will demonstrate how important it is (even with friends and family) to administer and interpret the Myers-Briggs assessment properly, setting the right mindset beforehand, and confirming the best-fit type afterward.

My friend Jeff has hated the MBTI for as long as I have known him. His sister is a practitioner, and she had him take the MBTI several years ago, with the results coming out as ESTJ (coincidentally, the rest of the family – including the sister – has SJ preference.) Jeff says at the time he didn’t really understand the best way to take the assessment, and that he wasn’t really interested in the results, so he took the test, got the results, and that was that. However, Jeff’s sister was excited about his type, and looked to explain his behaviors and make connections based on it. Jeff resented this, although he would say he didn’t know exactly why.

By the time I met Jeff, he was sick to death of the MBTI, was convinced it was a joke, and resented any attempts to relate with him on the basis of type. This was super frustrating to me, because while all my other friends who know what I do were very impressed with the assessment, Jeff chalked everything I said about the MBTI up to nonsense and horoscopes.  I tried everything I could think of to “sell” the value of the MBTI to him. At one point, I had him take the assessment again on my skillsone site, and his results came out ENFJ. He took it one more time on his own (using www.mbticomplete.com) and the results came out ENTJ. In both cases, he wasn’t interested in the interpretation, and I was left doubly confused about where he fit into the 16 types.

One day, I decided to take a new approach. It had never occurred to me that perhaps Jeff had not had a full interpretation of the Myers-Briggs, so I sat down with my Introduction to Type book, and started going through the dichotomies, not asking him to choose what he was, or saying anything about what I thought he was, but just explaining the differences in neutral language. As he rolled his eyes and claimed he “didn’t have a type,” I just kept going with the neutral descriptors for each, and asked clarifying questions as we went through. (Clarifying questions are a great way to get clients to self-identify. For example, one “F/T” clarifying question I like to ask is, “What is your definition of fair?” Typically, those with a Feeling preference think it’s more fair to treat people as individuals, and to take their personal situation/hardships into account. Someone with a preference for Thinking would most likely say fairness is more about treating everyone equally according to set rules or standards.)

As we went through the Introduction to Type Book, Jeff began to drop the attitude, and even began self selecting. He knew right away he had a preference for Feeling, and after a little thought, he conceded that while he was good at Sensing behaviors, he was really in his bliss when he could be Intuitive, and envision the possibilities openly. This was huge to me – while he had been labeled ST for years by his family, his function pair was actually NF! (Click here to see the different descriptions of the function pairs.)

After Jeff identified himself as an ENFJ and we began going through some of the descriptors of the whole type, the flood gates opened. We began to talk about everything the MBTI impacted, from family life, to communication, to careers.

We discussed how as an engineer, he had struggled to make friendships and work in harmony with his fellow engineers, and how his co-workers seemed less phased by conflict, and were often more content to work alone than he. He also said that he often felt like he was the only one who cared about how the current projects could be applied to help people. This makes sense, because engineers typically tend to have the ST preference – as an NF, Jeff would be the minority in this style.

In terms of Jeff’s home life, we discussed how he never felt encouraged by his family to be inventive, non-traditional, or original, and how he was always teased for jumping from one idea to the next and daydreaming about future possibilities. Because his family was all ST or SF, he had felt like there was always something a little different about him, and the understanding of his preferences explained it very clearly. It can be hard to be different from the rest of your family, and it was comforting for him to look at their types, and look at his, to see where there were major differences, and to brainstorm about how he could better handle situations with them in the future.

At the end of our meeting, I was amazed by the change in Jeff’s perception of the MBTI – all it took was a proper interpretation, and self-selection of a best fit type. My favorite “aha moment” was when I showed Jeff that ENFJ guys are rare (1-3%) and he exclaimed triumphantly “I KNEW I wasn’t like everyone else!” He went on to say that when his sister had showed him the ESTJ description in the past, he had felt so boxed in, like he was being forced to fit in with a group of strangers.

What’s the point of my story? We (those who are MBTI certified) are tasked to always administer the MBTI (or any other assessment for that matter) purposefully, and to ethically interpret the results. Even when you’re working with someone you’ve known for years, be it a husband, sister, child, or friend, it is so important to let them identify their type. If you need some help with this, here are some tips for finding your best fit type. Remember – the MBTI is only able to be used as a helpful tool when the person in question agrees with their results, and sees meaning in it for themselves. We can’t prescribe type, we can only present the concepts and help the clients find the meaning in their own way.

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