Many of you know I’m a big fan of the Myers-Briggs personality instrument.  Remember that fun little 4-letter tag that can explain so much about who you are?  I’m INTJ (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging).  Here’s a  little article my dad just sent me about how it and similar instruments are being used more in life coaching and family therapy.

I can see this really helping people in understanding themselves and their relationships with others.  One fundamental premise behind personality instruments like Myers-Briggs is that there’s no right “answer” and that different types bring different capabilities and perspectives.  These instruments help people understand that everyone is different and that’s okay, we just need to understand how they tick.  And often the conversations we have in more detail once we get on the topic are what helps us understand each other the most, because it gets us talking in a non-confrontational way.

As a newlywed, I’m very happy to have this tool and others to help work through a new relationship.  Just last night my new husband gave me a big hug and affectionately said “aw, honey, I never would have guessed you were more of an introvert than I am”.  People think both of us are extraverts: Eric because he’ll make smalltalk with anyone and is often the entertainer in the crowd, me because I’ll share details of my personal life to people I barely know.  But both of us have introverted tendencies and often need time to think through things or just be by ourselves, which can rub people the wrong way if they don’t get it.  But we both get it and don’t take offense at behaviors that might rub (ok have rubbed) others the wrong way.

On another facet of the Myers-Briggs, Eric and I are pretty opposite.  I’m a “J” (Judger), preferring to have things structured and decided, while he’s a “P” (Perceiver) who prefers to be more flexible and adaptable.  (sidenote: Claudia wrote a great blog last week on Js vs. Ps).  This came to play recently when we planned a wedding in nine weeks (while I was finishing the book, we were working hard on our day jobs and moving).  I had a 100 line Excel spreadsheet with the couple tasks we needed to do each day to stay on track and he was more about doing things as inspiration struck.  I’m still not sure which of us was more frustrated by that process and hopefully we won’t go through something that extreme again anytime soon, but the conversations we’ve had about it since have really helped us just understand each other in day to day life.  I have so much appreciation what happens when I give him the space to be creative and innovative when the time is right (for him) … and I think he appreciates my lists, at least a little.   We are very different on this front and have had many conversations about how to appreciate each other’s differences.

One other thing I’ll say is that people do tend to over simplify these instruments. Not all introverts are the same, not all extraverts are the same.  Not all people who exhibit a dominant perceiving function are the same, and not all people who exhibit a dominant judging function are the same.  The Myers-Briggs test gets really interesting when you get into all the sub-facets of each preference.  Example: I’m an introvert, overall, but I’m far out of preference (i.e. I test like an extravert) on the “expressive” versus “contained” facet that people think I’m an extravert just because I’ll tell them very personal things right after meeting them.  I’m containing myself right now from giving you examples.  You really have to get into the facets of each preference to truly understand someone, especially when they are out of preference.  Anyway, just something to think about before you go too crazy analyzing your spouse, parent, child, friend, co-worker based on a few letters…