Exploring personality differences with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment

The coronavirus situation forced us to spend time with people at home and online in new ways – and differences in personality wear thin when we are trying to cope with everyday life, let alone pandemic-level struggles.

But, interpersonal differences can be explained and quantified, and they give us insights into how to work with others. One excellent tool is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The assessment uses word pairs and phrases to identify ways people prefer to interact with each other and the world around them. MBTI shows our preferences, or patterns of behavior, across four either/or scales that cover much of our daily behavior.

Extraversion or Introversion

Perhaps the most familiar of all Myers-Briggs dichotomies, the Extraversion-Introversion pairing is about where you prefer to focus your attention. Extraverts tend to focus on the outer world of people and activity. Interacting with others and talking aloud typically gives extraverts energy. Introverts typically get energy from self-reflection and appreciate time alone to recharge – they probably enjoyed the recent self-isolation directives.

Sensing or Intuitive

The next dichotomy revolves around information gathering. Sensing and Intuitive types have different preferences for the kind of information they like and trust. People who prefer sensing like concrete and factual information; they trust experience. Sensing types observe and remember specifics they use to build carefully and sequentially toward a conclusion. People who prefer intuition are more comfortable looking at the big picture. They look for patterns and connections between facts; they relate patterns back to the larger meaning. It is not uncommon for Intuitive types to have a hunch about some future possibility that they cannot fully explain but just know to be right.

Thinking or Feeling

The Thinking-Feeling dichotomy explains how we make decisions and the types of criteria we use. Those who prefer thinking tend to solve problems with logic; they generally like to use objective standards to analyze and weigh decisions. When making decisions, people who prefer feeling generally rely on personal and/or group values. Considering how a decision will impact others is a crucial piece of a feeler’s process. It is very important to note both types use rational decision-making processes; whether we use subjective or objective criteria, it is critical we recognize each different, yet equally valid, approach.

Judging or Perceiving

The final dichotomy, Judging-Perceiving, is about how we implement decisions. People who prefer judging typically have scheduled, organized approaches to assignments/tasks. Judgers like having things decided so they can avoid the stress of doing things last-minute. People who prefer perceiving typically like to be spontaneous and flexible; they prefer things be open-ended so they can change them at will. Perceivers feel energized by last-minute pressures and will often say that is when their brains “turn on.”

Putting It all together

You have an individual’s personality type when you consider an individual’s preferences on all four of the MBTI scales. The assessment shows what we prefer to do and what comes naturally, not what we can or cannot do. Each type has something to offer teams, organizations, and our communities.

Members of UW Extension’s community development education team are available to help you learn more about personality types and how to use them to improve group dynamics.

Communication Tips

Give introverts time to process.

Let extraverts “think out loud.”

Know that sensers prefer a linear conversation format; intuitives prefer a circular format.

Feeling types appreciate warmth and tactfulness; thinking types prefer directness and logic.

Kimberly Chapman and Juliet Daniels are University of Wyoming Extension community development educators. Chapman serves southwest Wyoming and can be reached at (307) 783-0570 or kchapma3@uwyo.edu. Daniels serves southeast Wyoming and can be reached at (307) 633-4383 or at Juliet.daniels@uwyo.edu.

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