Myers Briggs theory is very popular. Millions of people every year discover their personality type, using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or one of a wide range of alternative questionnaires. Often the argument goes that, if you can discover your preferences, you can play to your strengths and develop your individuality.
However, the creator of the theory (C.G. Jung) argued that knowing or using your preferences can lead you in one of two directions – one being cultured, the other barbaric. His view receives support from a perhaps surprising source – the Buddha.
Your personality type can change the meaning of the words you use. This can potentially lead to confusion, misunderstanding, or conflict.
For example, people who prefer Thinking tend to use the word “sorry” to mean they have made a mistake. Those who prefer Feeling tend to use it to show sympathy or empathy. This can lead to misunderstanding because:
When a Feeler says “I’m sorry”, the Thinker can misconstrue this as being an admission of an error.
When a Thinker fails to say “I’m sorry”, the Feeler can misconstrue this as lacking care or concern.
In some cases, the argument that ensues can end up in the law courts. For example, if a doctor apologises for the bad outcome of an operation, a patient might mistake this for an admission of liability. (Using an apology as evidence of liability has been outlawed by some US states.)
Myers Briggs theory is based on four psychological functions – Sensing, iNtuition, Thinking, and Feeling. They are used to perceive facts or possibilities, and make decisions using objective logic or subjective values. (The other letters of the Myers Briggs code – E, I, J and P – describe how those functions are used.)
Isabel Briggs Myers derived her theory from Psychological Types by C.G. Jung (Briggs Myers 1980, p. xvii). However, Jung’s book describes five psychological functions. The fifth, which he called the “transcendent function” (Jung 1921, p. 480), was the most important (Jung 1935). He also produced a paper on the transcendent function five years before publishing Psychological Types (Jung 1916/1957).
One of the reasons that Carl Gustav Jung developed his theory of Psychological Types was that he had fallen out with Sigmund Freud. He wanted to understand what had caused the conflict between two people who, on the face of it, had very similar interests.
One of the causes of stress at work is a having a difference in preference for Judgment or Perception with your boss. This is because the two types tend to have a different orientation toward deadlines. Whether you meet a deadline is nothing to do with your personality type – the J/P difference is concerned with how you meet the deadline.