Beyond Introversion and Extraversion: The Myers-Briggs ‘Rhythm Section’
Each of the sixteen personality types described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment is an arrangement of four preferences, each of which is one side of a two-sided coin (or preference pair or dichotomy in MBTI lingo):
- Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
- Sensing (S) or iNtuition (N)
- Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
- and Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
The first posts in this series walked through this basic setup in a little more detail, so if this paragraph is already making you scratch your head about definitions, you can reread those posts here and here.
In the last post, we discussed how the Extraversion/Introversion preference pair describes how each of us gets our energy and what kinds of interaction will wear us out. E/I preferences head up the ‘four piece band’ that is known as personality type, but it’s not that band’s only member and though it gets a lot of media attention it’s actually no more or less important than the other three preference pairs.
If E/I is the lead singer, S/N and T/F may very well be the rhythm section. Each lend the sixteen personality types their unique style, all driven through what often appears to be the most mysterious of the dichotomies: Judging/Perceiving (our ‘lead guitarist’). In this post, we’ll unwrap these crucial members of the MBTI band and show how they work together with E/I preferences to make the music of Myers-Briggs type.
You play ‘Metal’ I play ‘Jazz’: how to approach S/N preferences and T/F preferences
Sensing/Intuition preferences and Thinking/Feeling preferences, are the pairs that give each type their unique groove, however they’re expressed and however they’re energized. But what do each of these four terms really mean? A quick search online will return dozens of (often quite different) descriptions of the unique styles indicated by Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling. As with the labels applied to music genres, some of the terms and descriptions used for each of our Myers-Briggs type quartets will resonate more with each of us than others do. But at the end of the day, the song remains the same: Thinking/Feeling preferences describes how we make decisions, whether through analysis and reasoning or empathy and personal values; while Sensing/Intuition preferences describes how we take in information, whether it be in a factual and concrete way, or an imaginative, future-oriented one.
What the world sees: the ‘mysterious’ J/P dichotomy
Newcomers to the Myers-Briggs type theory and all its parts often have the most difficulty making sense of the Judging/Perceiving preference dichotomy–it could be the enigmatic Jimmy Page, Jerry Garcia or John Frusciante of type. But it really isn’t as unfathomable as it can appear on the surface. The J/P preferences define how we deal with our outer world, whether it be in a planned and orderly way, or a flexible and spontaneous way.
Beyond adding its own unique style to each type, the J/P preference pair tells us which parts of type (S/N preferences and T/F preferences) each of us most likes to use to interact with the outer world. So what does this mean? If you have a preference for Judging in your type, the outside world sees either Thinking or Feeling preferences: the take-action decision-making side of things. If you have a preference for Perceiving in your type, data gathering and/or idea generating is what others see in you most prominently. This may sounds a little complicated, but this is the beginning of what we call “type dynamics” and really what gets into the full depth of what you can get out of the Myers-Briggs type for yourself and for anyone else you know.
There’s more than one way to say it
Personality preferences express themselves in all kinds of ways, so there’s a wealth of information that describes how these play out in different contexts. If one resource doesn’t resonate with your understanding of your own type, another very well may, so check out www.myersbriggs.org for some of the most concise and readily accessible descriptions. Ultimately, the goal of the MBTI assessment is to help you learn about yourself, on your terms. We hope this series will help you expand your knowledge and unscrambled some MBTI jargon and encouraged you to adopt that goal in developing your own understanding of your type.