An Introduction to The Myers Briggs Type Indicator

What is MBTI?

If you’ve ever taken an MBTI assessment you will know the answer to that. If you haven’t, the answer may surprise you!

MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) is a personality assessment tool and was developed by a mother and daughter team, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katherine Cook Briggs. Katherine was very interested in the theories of Carl Jung and believed that if there was a way of putting a practical application on them it could greatly benefit individuals. She began this work between the two world wars but the MBTI assessment tool is still being developed and refined to this day.

Jung talked about types of personality and after several years of literally watching people, Myers put together the first paper and pencil questionnaire to assess these types.

Please note- it is a questionnaire never a TEST. You can’t pass it or fail it. It’s not based on the idea that there is a right or wrong way to be, like so many other psychological assessments. Simply put, it helps you appreciate your own strengths, gifts and potential for development. It also helps you understand and appreciate how and why others may differ from you and can be a really useful tool when coaching. Unlike other psychological profiling, the respondent has to be comfortable with their type. If you answer the questions and don’t agree with what the end type, then your view is paramount.

How Does it Work?

Very briefly, the MBTI assessment takes eight types (or attitudes) that are grouped into pairs. The pairings are:

Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

The respondent, after discussion with a qualified practitioner like myself, completes a questionnaire. The questions have been designed and refined, so that you will almost always fall into one of the pairs (or dichotomies), which is one reason why it is so well respected. You then get given your 4 letter type. I am ENFJ, for example. It’s not perfect, nothing that relies on us to give our responses is, but its reliability is very high; it has an 85% retest validity for those to whom that means something.

Myers and Briggs, following Jung’s theories, believed that we all have innate preferences for one aspect of the pairings and this is the one we will pay attention to developing, that will just come naturally to us, like being right or left handed. It doesn’t mean that we can’t do the other, or become extremely skilled at it, but we may have to consciously develop that side of ourselves.

What Are You?

Undertaking Myers Briggs will help you determine whether you are Extravert or Introvert, whether you use Sensing or Intuition, Thinking or Feeling, Judging or Perceiving. By the way, the words Extravert and Introvert were coined by Jung and have been absorbed into the English language but along the way the meaning (and the spelling) has altered a little.

To further explain the differences, when we commonly talk about people being extrovert we mean sociable and outgoing while we use introverted to mean shy and perhaps a little withdrawn.Jung had a different meaning! When he talked about an Extravert he meant those who orient their energy to the outer world,who gain their energy from looking outwards. Introverts direct their energy to their inner world.

Party Animals

Here is a short story to help make it clearer. It’s Friday night and my colleague and I have a work party we feel we ought to attend. At 4pm neither of us wants to go and we are whinging away about it while clearing our desks. However, we have given a
commitment and it would be rude and unkind to pull out at this stage and so we go.

At the party we are both the life and soul. We talk to everyone; we get up and dance when asked (and even when not), we enjoy the food, the wine, the company and to all intents and purposes we have a great time and no one would ever know we hadn’t wanted to go.

But one of us is an extravert and one of us is an introvert – yet we have both behaved in the same way. My colleague is an introvert. She has genuinely enjoyed the party but it has taken its toll and she looks forward to getting home to her own space and curling up with a book. Then she will replenish herself and the energies she has expended doing something that doesn’t come entirely naturally to her. She needs her private time, although she is very sociable, has great social skills, and not at all shy.

I too am looking forward to going home and resting my weary feet and curling up in bed with a good book. But I have no need of replenishment. I have just gained enormous energy from being with people and doing what comes naturally. I still enjoy my private space, everyone needs a bit of time to themselves, but there is a qualitative difference between me and my friend.


I have found using the MBTI to be enormously helpful, not only in coaching but in my own personal development. I love the fact that it doesn’t preach or tell you you’re wrong or lacking in something! If applied correctly, it merely helps you look at yourself in a way that is supportive and useful. If you would like a consultation or any more information, do contact me.

MBTI, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Myers-Briggs, the MBTI logo and Introduction to Type are registered trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust. Strong Interest Inventory, FIRO-B, SkillsOne, and Davies-Black are registered trademarks and CPI 260, CPI, California Psychological Inventory, the CPP logo, the FIRO-B logo and the CPI 260 logo are trademarks of CPP, Inc.


Posted on August 1st, 2009 by

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