What’s your type? Opposites attract, birds of a feather flock together
Type: a kind, class, or category, the constituents of which share similar characteristics (The Free Dictionary)
By nature, we like to categorise people into groups. This how our brains deal with the complexity of the world. We chunk information, remember phone numbers, in groups of three or four. (Psychology experiments have shown us.)
Categorising people in groups help us remember, learn, and predict behaviours. Question is not if we do, but on what basis, and if those categories are reliable?
Historically, we type people into Zodiac signs e.g. Virgos can’t make up their minds. According to astrology, you have the personality of whichever star sign you’re born under. Chinese we have the Zodiac signs according to the year of birth. Those born in the year of dragon are destined for greatness. Female babies born under the stars of tiger and dragon though, will climb over their husbands. In the days before hospitals, the wise mid-wives and families will “cover up” the birth year and report an auspicious timing.
It is in the context of categorising people into types that I want to introduce the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. [For that matter, other psychometric tools in the market, such as Enneagram, DISC, 16PF etc are very useful too.] MBTI is based on the works of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who in 1921, published “Psychological Types“.
There are a several fun websites where you can read more about types and what hobbies you like.
People display patterns of behaviour. Jung developed the idea of introverts and extroverts, popularly used today. Watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk and read her book “Quiet- the power of introverts“. My personal favourite book for introverts is The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, by Marti Laney, Psy.D with CT scans showing that introverts and extroverts have different neural pathways leading to brain stimulation, and how we can cope with these differences and work together, both introverts and extroverts. There’s value in reading both books.
According to Jung, introverts and extroverts differ as to where you direct your attention and energy. Extroverts to the external world (big groups of people) and introverts in the Inner world (reading, reflecting, one-to-one)
No one is 100% introverted or extroverted. We have both qualities on a continuum although a dominant inclination towards one side or swing to the other side (when we’re highly stressed).
In addition, there’re four other modes of orientation:
Thinking – people who value debate
Feeling – value relationships and aware of others’ emotion
Sensing – people who look at the parts and details
Intuitive – The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. See the forest but miss the trees.
Catherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers took Jung’s theory and combined the attributes, adding the last category: Judging and Perceiving into 16 personality types.
Judging – (not judgmental, but people who like to plan and make “to-do-list” and stick to their plan.)
Perceiving – (spontaneous, go with the flow, make changes last minute, be “present” in the moment)
The MBTI is not to be used as a tool for prediction, i.e. recruitment selection test. Otherwise, it will skew people’s results. Errors could be due to the fact that it is a self-reporting instrument. We are subject to bias due to our level of self-awareness (see Johari window), and tendency to either under-report or exaggerate the results. Given a motive/ reward to be biased, this instrument will lack objectivity. [Our perception is not always the most objective.]
Do “Opposites attract?” or “Birds of a feather flock together?”
Think of this scenario. A fun-loving talkative extraverted lady meets a well-read, interesting guy who listens to her every word and gazes into her eyes. They get married. One year later, they explode, she accuses him of never wanting to out and do stuff, meet her friends. After a day’s work at the office, he has nothing to say to her, and wants to just read. Familiar? MBTI will explain that both have not changed. The lady is an extrovert and the man in the story an introvert. Successful couples learn to communicate about each other’s differences and work around the differences and respect their space. No two introverts are alike. My favourite tool is to combine it with “VATK” and Honey/Mumford “Learning Styles.
The MBTI is a “mirror”. Perception of beauty is skewed by self-image and others’ perception. For instance, traditional Chinese beauty is the “olive-shaped face and thin, willowy figure”. During Tang dynasty, beauty defined by the standards of Royal Consort Yang Guifei was “moon-faced and full figured”. There is no good type nor bad type. Use the tool as a reflection of your state of communication health rather than a predictor of career success.
If you work in an environment daily that doesn’t use your preferred strength, you are exposing yourself to higher levels of stress. Peers operating in their comfort zone, and with their own tribal environment will take to their work like fish to water.
Knowing I’m an introvert, shouldn’t be used as an excuse for not making new friends or trying out new space. Very few people work alone. Being alone can subject us to higher levels of depression. But it helps to know that I’m normal when I feel drained after a networking session whereas my extroverted friend is re-charged in a high energy session. I feel less guilt going home to recuperate and have some “alone time” before going out again.
1. Don’t conform your behavior to fit your reported type.
2. Use the results as a tool for reflection and development.
3. Understand the people in your eco-system, whom you interact with (work, family or social), i.e. your tribe. Do they have certain patterns different/ similar to you?
4. How can you improve your communication style?
5. Understand that the opposite party’s communication style is not meant to irritate you, how can you work around your differences and accommodate both parties?
6. How can knowing your type help you manage your stress?
My personal preference for using MBTI is simply because many of the Jungian concepts introduced have crept into our everyday language such as introversion and extroversion, and that the tool has been tested by the US Army. All tools that rely on self-reporting or human interpretation, are subject to biases.