I’m a huge fan of Myers-Briggs personality types. If I’m being honest, learning about my own type (INFJ) helped get me through some rough times, like a divorce and changing careers. Reading descriptions of INFJs, I had never felt more understood. Suddenly, a lot of things in my life made sense.
Eventually, I went on to create the publication you’re reading right now. As a result, I come in contact with a lot of MBTI fans. I’m also in a lot of personality type Facebook groups, and I read practically everything about personality type that I can get my hands on.
Sometimes, what I see worries me.
I’m not saying that every personality type enthusiast makes these mistakes. Nor should my words be considered an “official” MBTI take. But, in my opinion, here are 7 ways people use personality type wrong:
1. They think personality type can explain everything. From your sleep habits to how long you spend in the shower, some newly-minted MBTI enthusiasts mistakenly think personality type can explain literally everything. For example, probably once or twice a week in some Facebook groups, someone makes a post asking for everyone’s zodiac sign (or blood type), because they’re hoping to discover that all INFJs are Cancers, have B negative blood, or whatever. The reality is many factors create who we are, such as our experiences, how we were raised, how much privilege we have, our genetics, and the circumstances that are staring you in the face right now. I repeat: Personality type cannot explain everything, such as why your INFPgirlfriend broke up with you or why your ESTJ boss takes her coffee black.
2. When someone doesn’t fit their personality type mold, they accuse them of not being that type. My INTJ boyfriend was in a personal development seminar when the presenter, a huge MBTI fan, called him out. “You can’t be an INTJ,” she said. “You’re too warm. You must be an INFJ.” I live with the man, and I can tell you for a fact that he’s an INTJ. He uses cold hard logic to make decisions, he loves efficiency, numbers, and facts, and he is often very blunt — so much so that he hurts my delicate INFJ heart at times. Several years ago, he embarked on a personal development mission to improve his social skills. Methodically, he forced himself to talk to strangers and used each conversation to improve on the next. Today, he comes across as warm and friendly (even extroverted) in public, but few people know that if left to his own devices, he would spend hours alone researching random topics online and arguing about politics with strangers on Facebook.
3. They put people in boxes and make assumptions based on their type. They assume INFPs won’t follow through, that all ISFJs love kids, or that ISTJs will never change their minds. The reality is human beings are a lot more nuanced than four letters.
4. They panic when they take another personality test and get a different result.This is probably the question I get asked the most. Someone thought they were an INFP, but they took another test, and this time, they got INTP. Who are they really? I hate to break it to you, but a lot of random online tests are just not that great. In fact, the official Myers & Briggs Foundation recommends taking the test and then talking with a certified practitioner who can assist you in interpreting your results. My favorite test is this one from Personality Hacker.
5. When they find out that the test can be inconsistent, they write it off forever for not being scientific enough. It’s true, the MBTI has come under fire because it can give inconsistent results. However, in my opinion, this doesn’t mean the test still can’t be useful. The test is based on self-reporting. Some days you will feel more extroverted and emotional, while other days, you’ll want to hide in your bedroom and build your own Lego Imperial Assault Hovertank. The results are inconsistent because humans are inconsistent. So, yeah, the test isn’t perfect, but do you know anything that is?
6. They try to mold themselves into the person they think they should be based on their personality type. Before I really got into personality type, I took a random personality test online and got INTJ. I was proud of my “mastermind” status, and as a result, I tried to squash my emotional side and project a cold, hard, evil genius facade. This became a real problem, because INFJs need to tune into their emotions to help them navigate through life. Thankfully, years later, I came across INFJ descriptions that really hit home. Moral of the story: Don’t change yourself to be more like your test result.
7. They use personality type as an excuse to continue unhealthy behaviors. Some INTJs I know have the attitude that everyone needs to nut up and shut up about their rude ways because it’s just their personality type, so deal. Some INFJs let people walk all over them because their personality type demands they be self-sacrificing. Personality type should help you understand yourself and others better, not become an excuse for self-destructive behavior.
What’s the right way to use personality type? For personal growth. As a young introvert, I wasn’t aware of what introversion means — or my strengths and weaknesses. I had made such a habit of detaching myself from my body and emotions that I didn’t even register when I had a preference (or distaste) for something. Personality type gave me more self-awareness and a language to understand myself better. I used it to identify my strengths and lean into them; I worked on my weaknesses. I’m a happier, more confident person today than I was several years ago, and I give a lot of credit for that to personality type.