Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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January 18, 2012

Myers-Briggs: A Tool for Authors and Other Humans


 Allow me open a window to your personality, as well as  your character's. If you already know all about the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and the sixteen personality types, you can skip down to the stars, below.

I'm no psychologist and I want to remind you that while I find this interesting, I'm a mathematician first and I reserve the right to be skeptical of everything without proof.  Oh, that does come out in my type.  You'll see later.

If you're like me, you're going to want to know about you before you worry about those characters in your head, so here's a link to a free questionaire and report.   Answer the questions quickly and honestly.  Go with your first gut reaction--not what you wish you were like.  Do not go back to "check" your work.  It's not a math test. There is no wrong answer to any question. 

Your report will include four letters in a specific order:

  • I(ntroversion) or E(xtroversion)
  • N(iNtuition) or S(ensing)
  • T(hinking) or F(eeling)
  • P(erceiving) or J(udging).  

Don't panic--it's not as bad as you might think just from these words!

Let's look at those first two letters  E or I, which refer to how you draw your energy from the world around you.  If you're an E, you draw energy from people, things, and activities.  You tend toward breadth rather than depth.  You have a need for people.  If you're an I, you draw your energy from the internal world of thoughts and ideas.  You prefer depth to breadth and pause to think about things.  You have a need for privacy.

Now for how you take in information, your second letter: N or S

If you're in the N crowd, you prefer to take in information through a sixth sense, a gut feeling, your iNtuition.  You think about what might be.  You like the big picture.  You need possibilities. If you are with the S crowd, you prefer to take in information through your five Senses.  You like concrete and practical ideas.  You have a need for evidence.

The third letters, T or F, (no, not true or false)  refer to how you make decisions.

The thinking T emphasizes logic and reason, truth and fairness in decision-making, looking for objective balance.  T's are unconsciously pre-occupied with truth.  The feeling F makes decisions based on personal values and people-needs. F's are unconsciously preoccupied with harmony with others.

The final letter J or P shows preferences for lifestyle.

J's prefer to live in a planned, organized style.  They like to come to conclusions quickly.  Their bottom line is control.  P's enjoy spontaneity.  They're flexible and adapt rather than needing to control.  They prefer to keep their options open.

If you're like me, you're happy with your letters and wouldn't want to be "the other one" of any pair.  However, each type has potential strengths and potential blind spots.  As with any personality type (and horoscopes!), take what can help you grow and reach your goals.

Since we're writers, let's look a little more closely at the fourth letter.  Here's a comparison of helpful traits and non-so-helpful traits for each.  Remember, there's always room for development.

Judging (J)-Potentially helpful: 

  • able to plan and schedule
  • being deadline conscious
  • able to think on your feet
  • making decisions quickly
  • sticking with a task even when it gets boring
  • valuing orderliness

Judging-potentially hindering:

  • ruled by deadlines and becoming inflexible
  • jumping to conclusions before you have enough information
  • being over-interested in control

Perceiving (P)-potentially helpful:

  • keeping options open
  • able to influence people without too many pre-conceived ideas
  • willing to start over again if the first ideas don't work
  • tolerances for others (bosses, included)
  • willing to adapt to others

Perceiving-potentially hindering:

  • gets bored quickly
  • can appear sloppy and unprepared
  • finds it difficult to make decisions
  • more interested in beginning a project than seeing it through

Welcome, back, you psychology test-savvy readers.  Here at WITS we agreed to share our types with you.  Since I have the psychology degree, I got to write this and go first. In college I had a raincoat that was clear plastic with white, quarter-sized dots.  It barely covered my mini skirt and you could see right through it.  I feel like I've got that raincoat on now. 

What the heck!  I'm a proud INTJ; I'll admit it.

Instead of telling you more about how I think (boring) or how emotions surprise me, I thought I'd share with you my "to do" list of how an INTJ can become more effective.  Those of you who know me will be able to nod your head at these suggestions.  I have to admit that as I was reviewing them, I thought, "Uh-huh, that's why I had trouble last year."  I could take these as my New Year's resolutions. 

How INTJ's can become more effective:

  • Praise more, criticize less
  • Postpone making a decision (sometimes) and just go with the flow
  • Accept how much detailed work has to be done by others before the ideal can become a reality
  • Be alert to the danger of constantly escalating standards
  • Accept that things are all right as they are (sometimes)
  • Genuinely involve and consult others when your decisions will affect others
  • Tell the people close to you about your feelings
  • Learn to control your impatience, or let another manage it
  • Get work into perspective
  • Arrange genuine leisure activity which is just fun
  • Get enough exercise
  • Smile more, frown less
  • Ask for help before something becomes a crisis

Okay, one on the list I've mastered.  Really.  Not telling you which one because I don't want arguments.  That leaves one thing to work on each month.  That's doable.  I'm smiling now.

What if you were to have your characters take the Myers-Briggs test?  You could look at ways they could become more effective, to know how they operate, and what pushes their buttons. You can see the potential for conflicts when a Thinking T has to make a joint decision with a Feeling F.  There are sixteen different personality types.  That's a huge potential for conflict.

Next week, our own Laura Drake reveals her letters.

So, what's your type?  Or your protagonist's type?  Did you find something that makes you say, "Aha?"  If you have a question, throw it out here.  We know it's about one of your characters, not you! 😉

0 comments on “Myers-Briggs: A Tool for Authors and Other Humans”

  1. Wow. The test is amazing. Guess what was the career suggestions for my type? All the professions that I happened to consider. That's creepy and just goes to show that its accurate. Thanks for bringing this useful tool to our attention.

  2. I read a book relating the Enneagram to fiction character development. Would be great for someone to do the same with Myers-Briggs.

    1. I have that Enneagram book, Ian. There aren't that many more "personalities" with the Myers Briggs assessment, but to my knowledge, no one has done anything similar. Great idea!

    2. Well, Ian, we're in luck. Reece just posted a comment about a book, Plot versus Character (where was that info when Laura and I had that throwdown?) by Gerke. I'm going to check it out.

  3. I LOVE the MBTI. I have a counseling degree and used this personality assessment in my career counseling internship. I have taken the test a few times. I am an INFP. With a strong N and a P, I find myself with lots of ideas and difficulty follow-through on a single idea from A to Z. I thus use external checks on my time and progress - like to-do lists, accountability groups (ROW80, for instance), and deadlines (which are somewhat flexible even then). Great coverage of this test! Thanks.

    1. Aha, Julie. One of the ways INFP's become more effective is to regard deadlines as helpful frameworks rather than mechanistic processes which stifle creativity. Sounds like you've already figured that one out.

  4. Very cool. I know about this test, but never took the time to answer it. I found out I was INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging), and it really does apply to me for the most part. 🙂

    Happy writing!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

    1. It sounds like you've figured out a way that INFJ's are more effective, Angela. I bet you've developed the political skills of working in organizations. Thanks for trying out the test.

  5. Thanks for this timely post - I want my daughter to take it since she is so multi-talented and has a hard time figuring out what intership might suit her.

    1. Don't you love it when the universe delivers a "package" right on schedule? When I was teaching I did a Careers in Math unit and students took the test. It really helped several with future direction. Good luck!

  6. This is a great explanation of the Myers-Briggs types. I review books for New Jersey Romance Writers newsletter. I reviewed Gerke's book Plot versus Character. He relies on Myers-Briggs to set up his characters and much of the book shows how to incorporate character types and how to use that to develop a plot. Your descriptions would be very helpful for people reading and applying his knowledge.
    It is also fun to see where we fit in the character types---also, you start guessing where friends and characters fit in.

    1. Oh, don't you just love it when someone tells you their type? (Personally, I think just knowing your type gives you some kind of points.) So much better than "What's your sign?" (But that can be useful, too.)

  7. ENFP! I've taken the Meyers-Briggs several times in my life. It's always on target but changes with life. I'm always extroverted and Feeling. Love the reminder, though. I wonder how useful M-B would/could be for character development?

    1. Winona, you certainly sound like you've got the enthusiasm and insight that gives ENFP's the gift of meeting people on their own terms and stating new interesting projects. When you get a chance, take a look at Reece's comment about a book for character development using Myers-Briggs.

  8. What a great idea to use the Myers-Briggs test as a way to construct characters! When I first took the test in high school, I was an INTJ, but I've noticed that I tend to fluctuate between that and the INTP and INFP -- all depends on what mood I am when I answer the question, I think. But that list of ways INTJs can become more effective looks like it was lifte straight out of my to-do list!

  9. ENFJ today (I know that's SUCH a big surprise to you...LOL) :
    moderately expressed extravert - 44
    moderately expressed intuitive personality - 38
    distinctively expressed feeling personality - 62
    slightly expressed judging personality - 1

    Careers: Counselor, Psychologist, Teacher, Doctor, Computer Programmer, Management and I'm the same type as Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. 🙂

    Oh, you remember I couldn't remember my last one? It was ESTP ( The Promoter), which comes under Artisan. Today's is under Idealist. I wonder if it's motherhood talking.

    1. Could be that maternal instinct, Jenny. I'm such a stick-in-the-mud no-change person that it amazes me people get different results. Since we at WITS agreed to put it out there, I've got some ways an ENFJ may become more effective for you and all the (current) ENFJ's out there.

      • let people learn from their mistakes
      • prioritize where socializing is concerned
      • sometimes avoid pressing for conclusions and leave things loose
      • plan in sufficient free time with no responsibilities
      • spend more time looking at hard evidence when supporting new ideas
      • listen carefully to people who query a pet conclusion
      • learn from personal feedback, even when it seems hostile
      • recognize the weak spots, even in the best good cause
      • accept that loyalty to individuals may have limits
      • face up to performance problems

      Well, after typing that list, it seems you've already mastered most of your TO DO list, Jenny. I will have to work on not being jealous of you for that!

  10. INFP here. (with occasional swings into the INFJ territory)

    I definitely find it accurate, and I have used the temperaments as a general guideline in creating characters. For those that "interview" their characters, make them take the test. 🙂

    1. You bet, Amber. I don't interview my characters--they wouldn't tell me anymore than I tell myself!--but I think making them take the test is going to be SOP from now on.

  11. ENFP (22,25, 50, 44) for me today, and I think that's fairly consistent with the other times I've taken this test. Career: Writer, Social Worker, Journalist, Park Ranger. Moving on to the IQ portion of our test, which of the preceding careers does not...

    Never mind.

    Eyes rolling up to Jenny Hansen's post above. Is she judging me?

    FUN! Think you REALLY know your characters? Take the test "for" them multiple times to see if "they" answer the same each time.

    1. The IQ portion? Yipes, (scurrying sounds) I have to find that part.
      It sounds like you're busy as ever, Gloria, but--as an ENFP-- I hope you're building in enough time for rest and exercise.
      Don't worry about Jenny judging. Tomorrow Fluid Jenny may have moved on to different letters!

  12. Thanks Fae, it will take some time for me to digest all of this. My main letters are ADHA and COD, I might have needed AA at some point and I invert accromyms and numbers, can't spell and require huge amounts of TLC. Not to make light ... but I honestly believe at one point in my life I was one set and then changed. I gradually became another set and then evolved. It is the old argument between Freud and Carl Rogers. The personality as staid or fluid. What we were, we are not necessarily now. In the life of a writer, this can translate to the learning development of one set of skills, that eventually lead us to new skills. Oh, I can't wait to hear what Laura Drake adds to this 🙂

    1. Oh I loved this response. I am ADHD---
      I tested as one at one point in college. (ages ago) I recently took it as part of a course and had changed. I like your the "personallity as staid or fluid." I'd rather think of myself as "psycho." Sometimes, I wonder about all the labels we put on each other.

      1. You're right, Reece, there are a lot of letters we attach before or after our names to "define" who we are. I'm for keeping the ones you like and chucking the ones that don't fit. I find the older I get, the less I need to label someone.

    2. Sigh, I wish I were a fluid personality, but I'm staid. I guess my consciousness is evolving, but my personality hasn't caught up to it yet.
      Stay tuned, Laura will reveal her letters next week.

  13. How fun! I used to give this test as a GA while in grad school to unsuspecting education majors. I have taken it a number of times over the years and have migrated on a couple of them. I didn't see and explanation of X. Is it still used for fence riders? I have begun incorporating the stuff I learned as a therapist to develop characters. Only took a year or so to think to do so, duh! Thanks for a great article and excellent explanation of the MB.

  14. Interesting - I always used to be an ENTP and now suddenly Ive become ENFJ - the J would have been useful years ago in corporate life but I was always very P - now the J is the strongest part - very strange!

    1. As I look back on my life, I see how I've changed--like when my doctor said if I didn't change from a flaming "A" personality to a "B" I'd die early. My latest studies have been about the evolution of consciousness, so it's wonderful to hear people are able to transition and grow their personalities. Thanks for sharing this.

  15. Um, okay. Knew I was weird. I'm INFJ and fall into a catagory that less than 3 % fall into. I'd make a good councelor because I'm majorly intuitive and what do you know, my self expression comes easier on paper and I tend to have strong writing skills. 🙂

  16. This time, I'm an INFJ, though I often float on the F/T part of the scale. I enjoy examining the Myers-Briggs, since it's one of the more informative 'personality quizes' out there.

    1. I am so solidly entrenched in my letters--still--that I marvel at those who switch every so often. I'm glad you enjoyed revisiting "the test." Thanks for reading.

  17. I'm an ENFJ this time. I seem to swing between that and another - which of course I can't remember right now. I'll have to take it again when my mood changes. The career choices basically give me hives and always have. (I took this the first time for Career Day in high school). The next day I declared my college major in Film and Digital Media. My guidance counselor actually carted me to the office after reading that lol. The careers listed for ENFJs are actually things I excel at too which I find even more confusing.

    On another interesting note, have any of you had your spouse or significant other take the test and had any Aha moments? After reading your descriptions, I am betting that my boyfriend is exactly the opposite, an ISTP, with maybe a toss up between the T and F. I can't wait to have him take it - might be quite illuminating LOL.

    1. It's no surprise that the career choices for ENFJ are things you excel at. They're suited to your personality. And, Lauren, I can't wait to hear the results from your boyfriend. My husband, uh, no aha moment, but then we're talking the quintessential alpha male. (Can you say wrestler?)

      1. Funny thing, this had the wheels in my head going yesterday. In high school, I was given the list that Jenny rattled off above: Counselor, Psychologist, Teacher, Doctor, Computer Programmer, Management - that's the one that gave me hives. I went on a googling spree yesterday after commenting and found quite a few career lists with many many more choices which include everything I've done and ever wanted to do LOL. For some reason, that just makes me feel better 😀

  18. I've taken this test enough times to know I come up INxx. Yes, that's in the centre of both the F/T and P/J axes. They really are axes, BTW: it is possible to be 25% E and 75% I.

  19. [...] Fae Rowan explained the types in a superb way: Let’s look at those first two letters  E or I, which refer to how you draw your energy from the world around you.  If you’re an E, you draw energy from people, things, and activities.  You tend toward breadth rather than depth.  You have a need for people.  If you’re an I, you draw your energy from the internal world of thoughts and ideas.  You prefer depth to breadth and pause to think about things.  You have a need for privacy. [...]

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