“So why did you choose the MBTI?”
(This was originally posted as part of a ‘Thank You’ post earlier this year.)
That is a question I get from time to
time when I talk shop with people about personality and social interaction. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator occasionally has its detractors online.
I recently listened to a few different podcasts that made claims about the MBTI that were either not true, or just did not sit well with me. I am not a ‘brand guy’ in the sense that I claim only one way to do things, because I enjoy discussing different options for helping people establish clarity. But I truly like the MBTI for what it can do, and the validity it has presented in helping personal behaviour through understanding.
Here are some of the claims and what I have to say about them:
1. “It focuses on only these certain traits” – Actually, no. As the name states, it is about ‘type’, which is very different than trait. A psychological trait is all about how you perform according to the accepted norm; a type is a broad sense of how you may respond naturally.
2. “There is no scientific basis for its results” – Not true. The sample size for the testing of the questionnaire is quite large; in fact, it’s larger than I ever expected it to be. The board which oversees the use of the material includes noted psychologists from reputable universities, who maintained their positions while serving on the board. They test for validity, consistency, and reliability regularly.
3. “It creates a strong bias, making people respond with their identity as 4 letters” – It can, but it shouldn’t. If you go through the questionnaire with someone like me, a certified practitioner, you will know that your MBTI type is not your identity. It is only a way for you to understand your innate preferences as you interact with others. Many people use “I am…” when speaking of type, but when I walk people through it, I discourage this strongly, and so do the people behind the MBTI.
4. “Your personality changes all the time, so it isn’t valid to stick with one test” – Yes, you do change, but not the way you think. Context, stress, and self-awareness, all have an impact on how you will respond, but it may only show in how strongly or consistently you respond to each item. As we age and grow, we accommodate and adapt to what is best for our social setting, but the internal preferences remain fairly consistent.
Have any other questions about the MBTI? Or maybe you have a setting which could use a coach to shed some light on personality and interaction?