The Meyers-Briggs system is criticized as largely unscientific, and for good reason, it’s been called “the fad that won’t die.” As an INTJ, I find it difficult not to notice the theory’s frailties, yet, I continue to endorse it. “Hypocrite,” you might be thinking. Why would I bother becoming an expert in MBTI if I don’t fully agree with it?
To this question, I give you the most stereotypically INTJ answer of all time:
IT IS USEFUL.
When I was 11, I had a sign on my bedroom door that read, “Knowledge is of no worth unless we put it into practice,” a principle that I have upheld my entire life.
I was introduced to Meyers-Briggs as a 17-year-old sophomore in college, when I was asked to take the test as part of a class. The students were asked to split into groups according to their type, and naturally, I was the only INTJ. In fact, I was the only INTJ the professor had ever encountered in all his years of using the test in classrooms.
I wasn’t surprised. I knew I was an anomaly. Everywhere, for my entire life, I had felt like an illegal alien walking among citizens of another planet, haunted by the constant fear that if I wasn’t careful, someone would discover me.
Yet, I was confused by the fact that anyone thought it logically possible to label all people under only sixteen categories. There was no way I, with my alien qualities, fit into a stupid label. The MBTI system is largely based on generalizations that attempt to get at the specific. As a result, there are many aspects of it that are largely questionable, yet regardless of whether the MBTI system is scientifically plausible or realistic, it has many uses for which thousands of people are perpetually ingratiated.
#1 It opens doors to understanding
Beginner enthusiasts typically start by exploring their own personality type because the accuracy of the profiles just screams “you are not alone!” It’s comforting to know that in all your strangeness, you fit in somewhere.
Others find that Meyers-Briggs sheds light upon parts of themselves that they did not understand, allowed them to stop questioning why they behaved certain ways and learned to embrace their strengths. Many people have a hard time determining what their strengths and weaknesses are, and the MBTI system tends to help promote strengths and root out weaknesses.
Even if unscientific, MBTI still gives people a starting point from which to understand their thinking process.
Furthermore, it is in the nature of Meyers-Briggs to arouse curiosity about other people’s inner lives. Even if we never fully understand others, MBTI opens the door to awareness of other people’s varied thought processes.
#2 It reduces communication barriers
I know an ENTJ who is not only a blunt, pathological truth teller, but a man who experiences the persistent urge to show people more efficient ways of doing things. Most people can’t stand to be in a room with him, but because I understand his thought process, I can and quite frequently enjoy spending time with him.
Everyone faces communication barriers on a day-to-day basis. Oft times, disagreements arise due to misunderstandings and even failure to communicate at all.
Because the Meyers-Briggs theory so clearly focuses on individual thought-processes.
#3 It Helps us Avoid falling for Emotional Manipulation
My family jokes that I am the only person they know who can’t be manipulated.
It amazes me the shear number of people who allow themselves to be pushed about by emotional manipulators. Yet, many of them do so because they cannot recognize the manipulation as it’s happening.
The understanding that MBTI can give you of the widely varying thought processes of others can be extremely liberating when it comes to avoidance of emotional manipulation.
#4 It is an excellent characterization tool for writers
After my initial exposure to MBTI in the classroom, I sought out further information for its usefulness in fiction writing.
As many of my readers will know, I am a creative freelance writer. That being said, my initial interest in MBTI stemmed from its potential usefulness for character design. It’s often difficult as a writer to create characters who are believable and consistent, and having a system to remind you, “no, this character doesn’t think like that,” when you start heading off the map can be very useful.
I started this blog as a casual way to practice using the Meyers-Briggs system. I figured that if I could type other people’s fictional characters, I shouldn’t have a problem typing my own. Then one day, out of nowhere, my blog viewership skyrocketed.
My first thought was one of opportunity, so I created my trademark Ask an INTJ Anything page. Then, over time, I’ve gradually worked my way into professionalizing the layout and focus of my blog.
21 thoughts on “Meyers-Briggs is Rubbish, but Here’s Why You should Keep Using it”
#4 for the win! I found it really useful for my writing too. I found it interesting as I researched an INFJ character a IxTJ I found more about myself than I thought. I thought for sure I was an INFP, but I realized I am not a perceiver even though I use some of the functions.
That done, I think I broke the system. I did a stange function stack test and got something like Ni Ne, Ti, Si, Te, Se.
I retook the 16 personalities test and depending on how I sway with a few questions I get either an INFJ or INTJ. Both of them fit very well.
Reading both of those types really helped me understand why there are times I get annoyed and want to improve things at work, push people to try new things, take a rather detached view when it comes to debates, etc.
I suspect a person’s mind isn’t fixed on thinking a particular pattern, thus why we see so many questions related to “Am I this type or that type?”
Thank you for tgis article!
MBTI was the tool of choice that was presented in my Advanced project management training at Pretoria University and it made the test results that I had received earlier more understandable. We were encouraged to seek out cognitive and connative tools to a more complete picture but that MBTI because of its key to the 8 cognitive functions hints at the emotional side that most likely exists next to the cognitive traits. So yes, it covers more ground than most tools even though it is not entirely perfect – which tool is? There are too many variables…
What gave me a lot of insight to my emotional development (I am an INTJ) was when I took the Strength Finders and Stand Out Leadership assessments. I not only discovered the extent of my development of my emotional and relational abilities due to my life-long crusade to develop them, but it also completed the picture of me in a way that made it okay for be to me the INTJ (very much so) that I am and still have dominant strengths in individualisation and relation – things that the stereotypical INTJ is not known for.
These things in no way negated the traits that make me an identifyable INTJ. I had a traumatic childhood and have memories of self-reflection and postulating theories from as young as four years old, as well as my coping strategies from age six which I remembers as clearly as if I have time travelled to there an back this past moment. So I have been consciously trying to make sense of myself as well as the world to understand why the two didn’t fit. This has been accelerator to my emotional intelligence growth. I have empathy based on observation and internalisation (I didn’t understand that that was possible) which seemed contradictory to the INTJ sterotype. Yet now looking back I can see how that developed and why, and how that gives me skills now that I wouldn’t have developed otherwise. This doesn’t make the MBTI typing wrong but it complements it and I have a better picture of me.
So I would say – it is useful and relevant, so do use it.
Apologies for the spelling…details…
After discovering the results of the tests, I noticed the masculine nature of the ENTJ preference. It’s worth mentioning since I did not want to become my type. This is where MBTI became useful. I noticed over time, several areas turning into a “fix this” situation, I was unaware of before.
I understand we’re a forward thinking/moving society and with that being said, most women can’t get away with bossing like men do. I found literature on how to express a more feminine way of doing and saying the same things. I’d suggest it to any female with INTJ/ENTJ preference, strongly. Find it and use it.
I still think you should keep your blog. I enjoyed reading.
I really agree with this post.
“INTP” became my shorthand for my particular set of personality traits, strengths and short-comings. I no longer feel disquieted that I seem to be an alarmingly far outlier among most people I know. I no longer have a vague, anxiety-inducing list of things I have to “work on” before I can become like everyone else. I no longer feel unnamed annoyance towards some people now that I realize they have certain type-related inclinations as I have mine. It is a fantastic writer’s tool, a framework complicated enough to start off a fictional character with a reasonable amount of depth.
Yet I know a lot of it is probably bogus. Each preference is more a spectrum than a dichotomy. The four preferences are tangled together strangely and complicatedly – they are independently evaluated, but then they apparently interact within the person. Functional stack theory has a lot of things that bother me – the existence of, say, Te in the stack, for example, automatically excludes Ti, which does not seem to be reflect any truism about personalities.
Like any tool, the greatest danger with MBTI is how we use it. If we use it for an excuse to never improve ourselves, then it is a net negative. If we use it as a starting point for self-understanding, then it’s a net positive…
Thank you for an interesting and enlightening post. I have for quite some time been undecided when it comes to whether MBTI has any value at all. My two main issues with the theory are these:
1. Its frequent use by career coaches and companies, who present it as a scientifically founded tool for finding the right career for an individual or the right individual for a certain job, when the tests and stereotypes on which they base their typing have about the same scientific basis as a horoscope (an elaborate and well-researched system built on complete rubbish).
2. People who use MBTI for normative, rather than descriptive, purposes and therefore try to become or act like a stereotype. A good example of this would be someone who tested as an INTJ and therefore became cynical and machine-like, because “that’s how INTJs are supposed to be”.
However, I see your point about MBTI helping people to understand their own thought processes. When taking the test, my result is fairly consistently INTJ, and reading some of your blog posts on various aspects of being an INTJ has explained so much of the alienation with which I struggled whilst growing up.
(Please forgive any linguistic errors, as English is my second language)
MBTI should never be used as a normative. That’s one of my biggest qualms with it as well.
It is interesting that you are the only INTJ your teacher ever had. In my waste-of-three-perfectly-good-credits group techniques class, the teacher led a group activity using MBTI. (It was the only portion of the class where I wasn’t mentally writing a petition regarding the impractical subject matter to the president. I wrote it down, scathing word for scathing word, in the teacher evaluation. I expect my teacher received many similar responses, considering the MBTI make up of my class.)
20 students were split up into four groups: 4 SJs, 4 SPs, 2 NFs, and 10 NTs. I do not know the other letters for the non-NT groups, but judging by their statements it is safe to assume the sensors were STs. The entire class probably had less than 5 Fs. Within the NT group, we asked each other for our specific type. We had four ENTJs, two xNTPs, and four INTJs, including myself. It was the first time any of us had met another INTJ. The class activity was designing a dream house and simultaneously engaging and intellectual, but that is irrelevant to this topic.
I think the high representation of NTs, especially INTxs, is due to the nature of my school. I attend Michigan Technological University, which has a reputation for genius, geeky, and introverted students. Most students are engineering, science, and math majors, and most of those remaining are accounting majors, like myself. It is not surprising that NTs dominate.
My intermediate professor is new this year and likes to tell this story: This January he was visiting for a week from Oklahoma, where he taught at a state school lecturing to dead-eyed students, but was stuck at the Chicago airport due to a snowstorm. He saw three boys wearing Michigan Tech sweaters and offered to pay for a rental car if they drove up. In the 12 hour drive, they discussed how to rewire their Wii remotes to replace their TV remote and act a computer mouse. For 8 hours. IN A ROW. That should be the textbook example of Te-Ni/Ni-Te. My professor said that is when he realized he would love teaching up here.
I would love to get this out of my chest since I feel many of you will understand. In my case I am very thankful about how the MBTI theory exists and it is a big relief from the hell my life was wondering why I always was an outcast.
In school I had no interest in getting a boyfriend/making lots of friends like the rest of the class, yet I felt the need to be “normal” like them since the extraverted trait of my parents and teachers affected me this way, it made me feel awful with myself. They made a constant pressure to get me to make more friends, even if I had suffer a lot of bullying as well “for being different” and not following fashion/the group/other stuff. I just felt and I feel exhausted and uninterested when I have to socialise with people my age 90% of the time because of it. I used to play alone or explore my school from time to time too instead of playing with the rest of the kids, but I LOVED to play with them most of the days. Sports was my passion and I had so much fun practicing with the boys.
They don’t understand how a kid could want to spend time alone. I had to socialize, socialize, socialize, never be alone. I was a kid, I had to!
Ironically, when I look back I remember my favorite thing in the world was interacting, but with old people. I loved to hear all those stories about their towns and rural houses, and how they had animals they took care of, how they planted potatoes or corn or how they used to reunite with the rest of the town after working to dance and sing all together. It was all so interesting! Kids could go fuck themselves, this was much better than them.
When I was 14 as well I felt my very first existential crisis which lasted for two years (and of course it was horrible and I suffered so much because that was not normal in kids). I couldn’t reflect in anybody during that time, just in a certain fictional character I felt a very strong connection with, and I thought I was mad. Normal people isn’t obsessed over fictional characters, right? I had to have any kind of mental problem, and to top it off I still didn’t seem to make more friends than one of too. This was not normal at all!
Fast forward I am 22 years old and I love learning about psychology, so I grew an intrest in the MBTI theory. I found out my type is INTJ-A. It was a whole change in my life. Suddenly all made sense!
Now I know the reason for those existential crisis, why I had no interest in people my age at all, why I like to hear about Marx and politics and such instead of manicure and boyfriends and stereotypical girl things. My obsession with that character I thought it was wrong makes sense now, because he shares my personality type. I am reflected on him and hewas the only INTJ in my life all those years, it was helping me copy with that crap and misunderstanding all this time.
Now I get as well why my feelings are numb depending on the situation, it’s just a characteristic of my type.
Everything makes sense. Everything.
You know? My life is 100% better now and I will defend this theory to death. Of course it was its holes, but isn’t science about theories and investigating from them? Freud had a theory which had more holes than a tennis racket and you don’t hear as much crap about it as you hear about this one, it just needs to be more investigated.
I don’t feel strange anymore, just sorta special. Knowing we represent a very little part of the population (specially on woman) leads me to know why no one could understand who I am, it was just that I may probably be the first INTJ-A they have ever met (or maybe the first INTJ-A they had to face as adults). They felt the need to fix me because I was a problem.
I feel some persons have learn nothing from me though. It makes me mad when people doesn’t try to understand and learn from others! I don’t know about you.
What I’m trying to say with this is that the MBTI theory might be a crap to you, dear reader, but for people with very rare types it might be some sort of salvation or inflection point in our lives realizing that we are, in fact, normal human beings who are natural and need no fixing or to be forced to do anything that doesn’t match with their nature.
I can completely understand you, I am INFJ and when I was little I thought that I was crazy because I didn’t fit in the “girly girl” stereotype. I remember that I was always asking my mother if I was mad or not (she is a psychologist). I always felt alone around people who don’t understand me and see only the surface of my personality thinking that “she is just a weirdo, don’t worry” when I know that my personality is sort of like a maze, and that even if is my maze I don’t fully understand and know it either!
It helped me a lot the MBTI because I was like “There’s finally someone who know me!” (..and then i read that we INFJ are like the 1% of the population, lol)
Ella…are we long lost twins?? You just described my whole d*** life story… INTJ is rare enough, but for us women…offfff it’s even worse. When I discovered MBTI myself, it explained so much.
Certainly it has some holes, but it’s certainly useful for why people think and act the way the way they do :):)
Elizabeth, you have stoked Arvid’s INTJ interest in you. ;-)
Okay, so i am going to help defend your use in using MBTI types. I will let you be the judge as to what type I actually am.
I am relatively new to the MBTI types, only really getting into them a couple years ago, but many of the stereotypes of my own type fit me almost to a T’.
Now no person is going to fit into a perfect predefined box, its like putting a square peg in a round hole, just doesn’t work. However, with that being said people in general terms of personality have tendency toward one way or another. The MBTI is useful when it comes to helping people who are sincere to understand the fundamentals of how they think, if they care to dig deep enough into the stereotypes and understand the underlying reason behind those stereotypes.
Now I have actually encountered several test online (i would have to search for them to put links in) that acutally take your answer to the questions and break them down into what types you are, the dominate type followed by several other percentages that make up the rest of your type. For instance someone may type as one thing but there may be a second and third type that are closely follow the other type, so while they have a strong pull to one type they may not fit perfectly into the mold of that type, mostly due to age, upbringing, beliefs, etc, all personal things that affect ones personality.
So while the basis for the MBTI is some what rubbish and really has no bearing in science, but then again psychology isn’t an exact science. Since we don’t fully understand how our brains work anyway.
But we can help to at least define in some terms how people think and process information, which really is if you dig deep enough into the MBTI test is what it is all about. My personal belief anyway. And it can help some people to cope and deal with themselves in how they function as well as deal with other people.
So you really aren’t telling people to fit into a box more like telling them to look inside the box and see where they fit in to it. So they can understand something more about themselves rather then be just as confused as those around them as to why they have a tendency to do one thing over another.
Anyway just wanted to add my two cents to your blog, stumbled on it while i was looking on pinterest to pass the time, getting side tracked. Great blog and i have enjoyed reading your thoughts on many things.
Excellent summary, though I’d have to hear more about you as a person if I was going to type you. What I got from this was that you’re most likely a Te/Fi user.
Not bad. I am an INTJ – Ni/Te/Fi/Se
I am a Te/Fi user are my middle functions. Something you wouldn’t know unless you knew me on a more personal level is my use of Ni as my dominant function, which doesn’t come through in my post. But kudos to you for figuring that out, there is not type with a Te/Fi in the top functions, or a Fi/Te for that matter.
Can I ask what made you come to that conclusion?
The thing I have come to appreciate about typing, once you get past the stereotypes, is the cognitive processes. That is what I appreciate about your blog and how you type people, you look deeper then what the exhibit on the surface. Anyone can embody a type by taking on there stereotypes, but if one looks past that they can see who the person really is.
I have always found psychology fascinating, I like to understand people. That probably comes from my religious background. I have both a love and hate for people, I balance it out most of the time.
Actually, I suspected Ni based on the fact that you aimed to root out the specific idea that my post was trying to convey, but I wasn’t sure enough to state it outright.
Te – Your comment is organised in a logical, easy-to-follow structure. Your paragraphs keep to one topic relatively well and you’ve clearly looked at the evidence that’s directly found in my text, rather than trying to interpret it from a “this-makes-sense,” or Ti, standpoint.
Fi – You looked at my post in terms of how MBTI can help people as individuals, rather than as a collective. You specifically talk about how MBTI can be helpful regardless of whether they “fit into the box.” etc.
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Your entire content is dedicated to the MBTI personality types, INTJs and how you rubbish it here! Hypocrisy, yes. But the reasons you cite to use it are nowhere convincing enough though.
It’s the one aspect of my life where I feel hypocrisy is justified.
Half the time I honestly hate this blog because I’ll look at a question somebody asks and think, “Really? Why am I continuing to tell people they fit into a box?” But then I remember why I started this all –for the love of fiction.
I appreciate the post.
Utility is the ultimate endorsement. But as with other useful tools the secret is in knowing when, where, and how to use what you have.
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