On MBTI (and other personality typing systems)

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Photo by Raphael Schaller on Unsplash

I’m not a huge fan of MBTI, or any of the other personality typing systems out there. And I don’t really try to hide that fact. I do think some of them have some merit, and can be very helpful in identifying commonalities with other people, as well as shortcomings a person may have. Personality typing systems can help in finding others who think similarly to you, and getting support for working through aspects of a person’s personality.

But, I’ve also seen a huge obsession in certain circles with the MBTI system, to the point that it almost seems that’s the only way people can figure out to start a conversation, or to relate to other people. And I don’t think that’s healthy.

I’m not writing this with the intention of saying that anyone who uses MBTI (or any other system) should stop, or that it’s inherently a bad thing. I just want to throw out a couple thoughts and concerns I have about a reliance on the system, in order to maybe start a conversation. I think it’s enough just make people more aware of how they use personality typing systems, so they don’t unwittingly use them wrong.

Exclusivity. This is first because it’s the least of my concerns, but it’s still worth mentioning. I understand it can be great to find people who think mostly like you, and to gravitate toward them and want to be around them. But don’t get carried away with that, and let other people who don’t have a similar personality type to you slip past, just because they’re different. Maybe they won’t end up being your closest friends, and that’s okay. But don’t think just because they have “that” personality type you won’t be able to find any common ground with them, or to relate to them in any way.

Writing people off. This is related to the above point, but it digs a little deeper. Don’t automatically pass someone by for being “that” type just because that’s what they’ve found themselves to be, or that’s what they’ve been told. Just because you know someone you don’t like who’s from “that” personality group, does not mean they’re all like that, or that one person’s flaws are indicative of a whole group. Because they’re not, and I’m concerned that sometimes people think “I can’t be their friend because they’re a such-and-such.” This is very hurtful to everyone involved. Certain types may have a propensity to specific issues, but that still doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, or that a person should be written off immediately for being one thing or another personality wise.

Blame shifting. I cringe every time I see the phrase “because I’m a such and such, I…” usually followed by a character issue or personality flaw. Sometimes it’s a good trait, but I’ll get to that in my next point. Personality typing systems have the potential to give someone an out, a way to excuse things they may need to work on in their life and character, by giving them a way to say “it’s just the way I am, I can’t help it.” I don’t believe personality flaws are so ingrained in us as humans that we cannot by the grace of God work through them, and I know from personal experience having something to give as a cause of our flaw makes it easier not to have to deal with them and excuse it away as it’s just “who I am.” This can not only hurt the person with the flaw, by making them unlikely or unwilling to recognize a flaw for what it is and to work to grow past it, but it can also hurt those around them, who may be being harmed by their given flaw.

Arrogance. The flip side of the previous point can be an arrogance in one’s personality over others. A way of thinking “I achieved this because I’m this type” and it can be just as hurtful as blame shifting. No type is inherently superior to any other, just like no person is superior to another. Each and every one have both good points and flaws. No one is better than anyone else, and especially not because they’re just a different personality type. But by placing every aspect of a person’s character on their personality type, it opens the floodgates for this kind of very detrimental thinking.

All this isn’t to say I think personality typing systems are entirely and inherently flawed. They do have good points to them, and the desire to better understand how people think and operate is both healthy and normal. My concern is with the obsession with personality typing, and the complete reliance on these imperfect systems that people use to define themselves, and others. I don’t believe that mindset is useful or healthy, and I want people to be careful that they don’t fall into these traps themselves.

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