Remember before when I encouraged you to take the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator test and you came up with your four-letter personality type? Well, I don’t think I made a compelling case- when I talked about this before- about why this is important to do this and why this is useful. So, I’m going to try to punch out a little case here as quickly as possible.
Ten benefits of knowing about and working with the Myers-Briggs four letter “types:”
#1: Just the Gist
I have found it useful- when I’ve gotten into a rut- to look at my own personality type. Because it will help you see what’s going to make you happy and unhappy given your current situation. What does your personality type tend to like? It can be as simple as: let’s just look at introverted versus extraverted people. If I’m unhappy and I’m in a rut I can say, “Okay, well, I’m an introvert so one thing I can do is spend some time alone doing introverted things like reading a book.” Pretty simple. Kind of a simple logic there. But, I have found it to be very useful.
#2: No One-Size-Fits-All Answer to Big Existential Questions
Again, it kind of helps with this general sort of “knowing what to do with yourself” in life. I feel like a lot of people ask the question “what is the purpose of life?” and kind of big questions like that. I feel that looking at your type will help you. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to these sort of big existential questions. I think that what’s going to satisfy you both in the long-term and the short-term is going to be the same.
It’s going to make a lot of sense in terms of your personality type to answer your “big” questions consistently. What does your personality type like? What’s going to fulfill you and here and now? What’s going to fulfill you overall? So, for example, if you’re an introvert then building a life with a lot of quiet thoughtful study is going to increase your satisfaction with life. It’s going to help you fulfill the meaning of life by building a purposeful life… doing this by just going and “matching with” your own personality type and not fighting against it.
#3: Personalize Advice
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be in a rut and to fail at life in various ways. Using your MBTI personality type as a starting point is just really good in terms of generating practical little tidbits of advice. This is true especially for people who work as a clinician or practicioner, but it’s true for anyone who is giving advice. So, for example, what could a clinician or a practitioner do in a really, really short amount of time with someone who’s struggling?
Well, if you get a handle on their personality type you could help give them some more substantive advice instead of this generic pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all advice that I think
sometimes depressed patients get a little tired of hearing.
#4: Understand Your Shadow
I previously thought the MBTI was just kind of for fun. You know, the science behind it is kind of lukewarm. But, I first really started being intrigued by MBTI stuff when I found myself falling into behaviors that are associated with the “reverse” of my four codes. So there’s
this term: “the shadow.” Your shadow is when you take your four letters and you flip them around. And that’s your backwards code. That’s your shadow.
I first started getting my mind blown by MBTI stuff when I found myself getting into trouble and I found that all those problematic behaviors were all organized around my shadow personality. And so for me as a scientist I was like, “Wow that really kind of seems like there’s some sort of weird general principle here.” And it got me interested in looking into this stuff more seriously.
#5: Casual Critics Know Nothing
Look, there are a lot of really silly, untrue things said about the MBTI online by people who have no background in psychology. In chat rooms and message boards and blogs, the banter around the internet doesn’t matter. Because the only conversation that matters is what’s happening in the academic journals.
The academics in the journals are the people who are asking the question: “Is this legitimate, yes or no?” So basically, the answer is that the MBTI is kind of worthwhile. It’s not the best thing in the world. But I find there to be good enough evidence and I find it to be a very practically, pragmatically useful tool. So that’s why I think it’s “good to go.” You know, it ain’t perfect but nothing is. I think it’s really super useful and I can’t think of anything more useful that will replace it for me.
#6: Deliver Exactly What They Want
Here’s what I use the MBTI for. I recommend that everyone gets good enough at ballparking these four letter codes for everyone that they meet. And if you can get good enough at that through simple small talk, then it’s going to enhance your life so much. Because it’s going to help you read people on this whole other level.
It’s all about you being able to accurately ballpark people within five minutes of meeting them. And actually thinking in your mind coding them. Assigning that four-letter code to those people explicitly in your thoughts. Why is that important? Because you can deliver exactly what they want with another level of accuracy. (Also, it’s important for everybody to understand this kind of stuff because it applies to powerful people like world leaders who hold all our fates in their hands).
#7: Universal Versus Unique
The MBTI helps you see what is specific to you versus what is universal. To give you an analogy: growing up in New Orleans you never really know what food is local New Orleans food versus what is food available all over the world. And it sort of gradually dawns on you. That’s a process that seems similar to me with learning about your personality type. There is a general tendency to think “it’s a universal thing” even when it’s probably a little more specific to just you.
#8: Meet the Everyman
I think it’s useful as a heuristic. Here’s what I mean. Even if you don’t want to estimate everyone’s code, that’s fine. If you want to be super lazy you can say, “I’m going to use it like a heuristic” just like I recommend using IQ as a heuristic. Ballparking everyone’s IQ at 100 is the most “accurate” way to estimate a large number of people’s IQ in a short amount of time. So likewise, you can look up “what are the most common personality types.” Or you could say, “What’s more common, introverts or extraverts?” Extraverts are more common. So just ballparking everyone as an extravert is such a useful heuristic sometimes I can’t even tell you.
#9: Informed Self-Acceptance
Again- with the universal versus specific theme- it helps you figure out what’s “good” and “bad.” You might be thinking of certain elements of your personality as “bad,” when really they’re just sort of the “negative side of your personality type.” And if you can accept that a little bit more it can be useful, so that you’re not dwelling on feeling caught up with your own flaws in a way like that’s not productive. If you’re focusing on some of your flaws, look up your personality type code and see they are just flaws of the type. Maybe it’s okay to just accept it and be like, “Yeah, that’s just who I am.”
#10: Myth of Mental Illness
I want to talk a little bit about this this idea that mental illness is quote “a myth.” There was a book called “The Myth of Mental Illness.” That was a specific book, but I’m talking about this general idea that most psychological quote “problems” are actually adaptations. And perhaps only a very small amount of what we call mental illness today is truly, truly appropriate to look at within a disease-type of paradigm. I think a lot of what we call mental illness- things like depression- are actually adaptations.
And so I think that looking at this personality stuff through this lens of first starting out trying to play devil’s advocate and say mental illness is probably only a really small number of these cases. Where you can truly say there is a true illness versus an adaptation at work. So I think that it helps if you look at your personality type and look at the negative side. Am I really depressed? Am I really mentally ill? Or is this my personality at work? I think that’s an important question for people to ask about themselves.
These have been my top ten benefits of a basic understanding of the Myers-Briggs. I wonder if you’re convinced. Well, whether or not you are, I hope you enjoy hanging out. And I hope you have a great rest of your day.
(The above is a transcript from an old video. I want to re-work this material. Typing it out and re-thinking it is something I’m doing for fun at the moment…)