How Understanding Your MBTI Can Help Your Relationship
The Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI) test assesses people according to four preferences (see the Wikipedia article). Though it is by no means a universally accepted method to assess personalities, it is nonetheless a useful and interesting tool for evaluating relationship dynamics.
I've taken MBTI tests a few times in my life--mostly for work--and I've always seen the value in them. The MBTI helps you understand why you think and behave the way you do, and how your 'type' interacts with other 'types'. It can also guide you toward strategies for working in difficult relationships, both at work and at home.
Work relationships are difficult by nature: people with different backgrounds and experiences are thrown together for five days a week, and expected to be professional and effective. Most of us have had bad experiences with co-workers, bosses, or employees from hell. Sometimes co-workers are guilty of no more than our most annoying pet peeves, but sometimes colleagues' behaviours can deeply affect how we perceive them, and ultimately, how we work together. This is why many companies use the MBTI as team-building exercises, built to help people analyse and understand team dynamics.
The following are examples of how people's work behaviours can be explained if you understand the MBTI.
Perception: Liz is new. She tends to ask very few questions, and people think she's a little stuck up.
Reality: Liz (INTP) would rather use her tools and resources to find out things for herself. Only when she has no other recourse does she ask for help.
Perception: Emma peppers her work-related conversations with "You know what I mean?", which drives some people up the wall.
Reality: Emma (ESFJ) thrives on communication with others, and needs to know that she is understood.
Perception: Darcy sometimes gets uncharacteristically grumpy when his co-workers engage him in work-related conversations. Co-workers think he must not like work much.
Reality: When Darcy (ENFP) has a lot of work to do, he needs to focus entirely on it, with few interruptions. His moods should not be taken personally.
Perception: Bianca always wants to talk to her boss about every step of her projects. Her boss thinks she's a little insecure.
Reality: Bianca (ISFJ) needs frequent feedback--especially affirmation that she's doing a good job--in order to work effectively and happily.
Learning about your own type, and those of your colleagues, is useful not only to avoid and resolve conflicts; it can also help the team work better in as a whole.
MBTI tests can help personal relationships too. Personal relationships--especially couples--can be difficult if the parties involved cannot understand each other.
Let's take a couple, Brandon (ENFJ) and Marianne (INTP).
Perception: During an argument, Brandon accuses Marianne of insulting him. Marianne finds the accusation bewildering, and honestly has no idea what he means.
Reality: Being an ENFJ, Brandon is very sensitive, and is wounded easily because so much of his self-esteem derives from what others think of him. He does not tend to take things at face value, which is the opposite of Marianne: she says things plainly and says exactly what she means. In this case, Brandon sees criticism where none was intended.
Perception: Marianne explains what she meant by the perceived insult, which was not a personal comment. Brandon gets increasingly upset, while Marianne restates that she said nothing wrong. She thinks Brandon is irrational.
Reality: Because Brandon is already upset and convinced that Marianne insulted him, Marianne can defuse the argument with an apology, saying that no offense was meant. But being an INTP, Marianne does not consider Brandon's feelings, and is too focussed on trying to get Brandon to see what is (to her) an obvious truth: that she made an innocuous statement.
Brandon and Marianne are very different from each other; they're almost opposites. It is thus important for them to try to see things from the other's perspective. Brandon does not mean to be 'irrational', just like how Marianne does not mean to be insensitive. Both sides have to consider the other's mindset, and be aware of how their own actions can affect the other. They may even discover different ways to approach one another--in times of harmony, and in more trying times.
MBTI, and other personality tests like it, are not meant to pigeonhole you into a kind of stereotype. Depending on how moderate or extreme you are on the scale, you might test as ESTJ one time and ESTP a few years later. People are always changing, so taking the test more than once can help relationships, especially long-term ones, as they progress and change over time.
Ultimately, the value in knowing your MBTI depends on how willing you are to look at yourself objectively, and how open you are to personal growth. Understanding, appreciating, and empathising with those who are very different from you can help you enrich your relationships, at work and at home.
Note: I'm not an MBTI expert, and the examples contained here are based on the tests I've done and the people with whom I've done the tests.
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