This week started off in a rather introspective manner as I attended a course largely based around the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment.
If you are not familiar with MBTI you are obviously starved of management courses as in my experience it is quite prevalent – this is the third time that I have been assessed using this psychometric technique. Based broadly on the work of the philosopher Carl Jung it seeks to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.
MBTI assess you against four ‘dichotomies’ giving a total of sixteen possible ‘Types’:
Extroversion (E) – Introversion (I)
Sensing (S) – Intuition (N)
Thinking (T) – Feeling (F)
Judgement (J) – Perception (P)
The description for each of these dichotomies is very detailed and beyond the scope of my blog, but clearly you can see how this can be very useful in identifying why you behave in the way that you do and to help provide an understanding of why others behave in different ways which to you may seem irrational or even crazy.
The trouble is, after two days I’m still not entirely clear who I am – in fact I may be more confused than when I started.
The assessment is first done by questionnaire, where you are asked a series of either/or type questions. This is a recipe for trouble as I can never answer a simple either/ or question. My wife says this is because I am indecisive: this may be true, but I’m not sure.
In this instance however, it is genuinely fraught with difficulties. The questionnaire seeks responses about your behaviour and preferences in certain scenarios and in almost all cases I want to answer ‘it depends’. I don’t remember any of the actual questions, but they are things like ‘when I am with a group of people I like to speak my mind’. Well, it depends, doesn’t it? Who are these people? How well do I know them? How confident am I feeling on that particular day? How knowledgeable am I about the subject? How much do I care? See what I mean?
Then there’s the problem of how to tell whether how I would react is my innate preference (which is what I am supposed to be answering based upon) or whether it is a learnt response, especially in the work place where you learn to act in a certain way to be professional and to be seen as credible. And is my answer how I would really react, or how I would like to think that I would react?
As I said: minefield. This is why, after doing the questionnaire three times, I have come out with three different answers.
This time the questionnaire said: INTJ.
However, before getting this answer, as a group we get to explore the four dichotomies and come up with our own self assessment. In this I decided I was ISFJ.
Not much agreement there then.
I am not convinced about either entirely, but have decided to stick with my self assessment as it is closest. Clearly I am in touch with my feminine side as this is the most popular type for women, whereas men tend toward ISTJ.
It’s not perfect: for instance there is a bit about how I would have done really well at school due to my respect for authority and love of uniforms and structure. When I mentioned this to my mother she almost fell off her chair laughing and reminded me again of all the times she was called into school due to my preference for wearing a leather jacket rather than a blazer.
So is it any good this MBTI stuff? I think so, as long as you use it as it is intended as a tool to better understand yourself and others, not as a way to pigeon-hole people. Group hug anyone?