Why Call Myers-Briggs “Genius Styles?”


myers-briggs personality types questionA word of warning: This post is primarily for Myers-Briggs and personality psychology geeks (of which I count myself one). If you’re new to personality types, this may or may not be interesting to you. Feel full permission to abort mission at any point.

When I first started learning about personality types and, in particular, Myers-Briggs approximately 20 years ago (+/- a couple of years), the most accessible work on the subject was a book called “Please Understand Me” by the late David Keirsey.

It was pretty revolutionary for me, and started me on a path of obsession that I haven’t quite been able to shake two decades later. Very quickly I realized that the information was powerful, but it was also relatively limited. It was GREAT for understanding the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, and I mastered those types as best I could.

I entered a space I see a LOT of people enter: I became an ‘expert’ at knowing people’s type descriptions and fancied myself an expert at being able to label others. It was a warm, self-satisfied place which gave me a sense of mastery and may or may not have prevented me from creating true intimacy with others. I vetted them based on the boxes I put them in, all the while thinking how awesome I was.

(Not everyone who learns personality types does this. My own personality type has a tendency to run to arrogance in any cognitive mastery, and I’ve had no choice but to let life beat the condescending asshole out of me. I’m a little spongy and bruised, but a much better person for it.)

At a certain point I started to abandon Myers-Briggs, realizing that my relationship with it wasn’t entirely healthy and I might be better off not typing other people, but just accepting them as they present.

Then I ran into another Myers-Briggs enthusiast and learned cognitive functions, and the world of typology burst open for me again. I became obsessed again, learned everything I could, did my own “think tanking” around the subject and once again gained a certain level of true mastery. But this time I wasn’t as arrogant overall, and I didn’t use it as a weapon to yield or a shield to hide behind.

I read everything I could, and of course – like you probably have – I started joining Myers-Briggs communities where everyone was using shorthand to reference cognitive functions and I felt ‘at home’.

Except, I wasn’t at home. In fact, in the course of a year I realized I HATED online forums around Myers-Briggs. Now, admittedly, as an ENTP I was on a lot of NT sites, which happen to be filled with the kind of arrogance that make a bad name for all NTs. The NF forums were a much softer place, often filled with bunnies and rainbows, and the occasional bouts of forum drama. But in comparison to the NT forum-style drama, still much closer to bunnies than, say, Howitzers.

ANYWAY.

To back up a little, there was a major barrier of entry when I graduated from standard, simple MBTI dichotomies (I/E, S/N, T/F, J/P) and into the cognitive functions. It didn’t take a super long time to realize that Introverts who are iNtuitive aren’t necessarily using Introverted Intuition, but it was still a bit of a challenge.

Now, I LOVE personality psychology, so the small barrier of entry wasn’t going to hold me back. But that’s not something I see playing out for everyone. In fact, that barrier of entry can trip people up pretty hardcore. I know people who have read “Gifts Differing” by Isabel Briggs-Myers and STILL don’t understand that she was talking about cognitive functions. As in, totally missed it.

While on the forums (that I came to hate), it became really obvious to me that crossing that barrier of entry was a sort of exclusive little club. As in, they didn’t want the masses to understand cog funcs, because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to stay exclusive in their knowledge. A knowledge, I suspect, that is weaponized more than it’s used as a tool for building up or a gift to give to the world.

So, when my previous business partner and I were talking about bringing this information to the masses we decided to just abandon that barrier of entry  of confusion.

Why have someone say “Introvert Intuitives – they use Introverted Intuition, right?” and then have to respond with, “No, no, only if they’re Judgers, then they use Introverted Intuition. Otherwise they use Extraverted Intuition,” only to have them scratching their heads saying, “Huh?”

Why not just name them something else?

myers-briggs personality types questionHence, the 8 nicknames were born.

No more confusion, no more head scratching, no more barrier of entry. No more conversations around “That doesn’t make sense, I should be using Introverted Intuition, I’m an INFP!” You’re an INFP, you use Exploration. And the response is, “Oh, okay. Cool.”

Thus, accessibility is born.

Second, why do we call it the Genius System?

As a Myers-Briggs enthusiast, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but a lot of people think they “know” Myers-Briggs.

“Oh, yeah, I had to take that personality test for my work one time. I’m an EPTF.”

If you say, “Yeah, that’s not how it works,” they already think they ‘know’ and their input mechanisms close down.

Just to be clear, I think personality psychology is one of the things that will save the world. Seriously. SAVE. THE. WORLD. There are a lot of people who are born leaders, born problem-solvers, born change agents who cloister themselves off from the world and lick the wounds called, “I’m not okay, I’m not good enough, nobody understands me.”

I think this is unconscionable, and it’s my mission to do everything possible to light these people up. To reverse the damage of “I’m not okay,” and reprogram the message, “I’m AMAZING and the world needs me.”

World hunger, war, pollution… all the biggies could be the focus of our attention if we weren’t focused on our personal wounds. If we’re happy, healthy, and coming from a place of psychological and emotional abundance, we can give back in a big way. And I personally believe understanding one’s personality type is a quick, leveraged first step in going, “Someone understands me? I’m actually part of a group of people like me? This isn’t ‘bad’, ‘wrong’ or ‘broken’, it’s just wiring?” And then BAM. The salve is on the wound, and the first steps toward solving major problems is taken.

If we can get people to re-evaluate their assumptions about a system that is becoming too easy to dismiss, if we can remove the barrier of entry to understanding something that could be a Game Changer for themselves and, potentially, the world, then we’ll call it Dr. Scholl’s Miracle Hair Ointment and Personality Salve.

Instead, of course, our marketing experience tells us to call it Genius Styles. Sometimes we call the cognitive functions ‘pillars’, sometimes ‘lenses’. It kind of depends upon the audience and what makes sense at the time. People like it, it makes them feel cool and special (our goal) and bonus: it’s true. Your primary and secondary cognitive functions ARE your genius, if you choose to development them, and so we have no problem stating them as such.

SO.

For you Myers-Briggs geeks (like me) that see something that feels amiss – you’re right. It IS amiss. But not to hornswaggle. To educate, to elucidate and, hopefully, to increase happiness for everyone who comes across the information.

Thanks for the question, Alexander! It was a GOOD one. 🙂

-Antonia

 

 

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  • Preston
    Reply

    Two years later, but since it’s always nice to hear affirmation, may I just say that I completely agree with your article, Antonia. I, too, am a personality geek. I, too, started with Keirsey and found him to be much more accessible. I, too, mastered the 16 types, but then started to feel uneasy about the categorizations (and subsequent dismissal people would be subjected to. By me. INTJ here, surprise surprise). Then one day I finally paid attention to the cognitive functions bandied about on forums, and MBTI was alive for me again. I began to think, “It would be a lot simpler to give evocative labels instead of the misleading (yet logical) compound descriptors. It’s quite difficult to explain these functions to a neophyte.” And then I discovered that someone else had already done it, and brilliantly (this site). So, thank you!

  • Isidora Burgos
    Reply

    HI!
    I see a lot of passion here and I love it. I found MB because I was feeling lost (I’m a med student and I have to choose a specialty) and I found a study that correlated MBTI types with med specialty choices. And I was like “What the hell is MBTI”?
    I live in Chile, latino-américa. Here I never heard about this system, is completly unknown, and the information in the net is mostly in english (I recently found a decent exception), so when I started reading and I took the test, suddenly a new world appeared to me. Since then I have not been able to stop.
    I feel exactly as you, that this kind of knowledge is incredibly powerfull, and it has to be accesible for everyone. I know it is just a part of self growth but is such a good tool to start, I just think of socrates “know yourself”. In that sense, you have made it so easy to catch, so appealing, so practical and so natural. I feel an inner need to share this new knowledge with the world. I want a world where our natural talents are known and celebrated and used to become better. Everywhere, in every language and in every time.
    I think that is my dream, and I found it because of your work. It grows everyday, maybe It will go beyond MBTI, I certainly hope so. Anyway I have to congratulate you for your foresight.
    I don’t know if you wanted to, but you have conquered fronteers.
    Really greatful
    Isidora

    (Hopefully my english didn’t sound too weird)

  • Cordelia
    Reply

    OMG Antonia. This IS profound. Save the world. I wholeheartedly agree with you this can(will?? if and when) Save the World! Yes – rather than people jumping off – going off and licking wounds – rather find themselves and their calling and – (kind of like Montessori ‘can be’ – as opposed to regular school) actually function in this f’d up world. Yeah Antonia – I am enthralled coming back to reading – inter-relating and finding gems of understanding. Thank You… from a grateful heart!!

    • Charis Branson
      Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Cordelia! We are thrilled you are as excited about this as we are. 🙂

  • Leon
    Reply

    Hi! I thought more and more about your system, which I absolutely love the clarity of. It helped tenfold in explaining to newbies what the functions are. I have a suggestion, though it is up to you, that “Memory” or “Si” be called “Sustenance”. Si involves memory but it is not memory. Si sustains memories, but it also sustains other things, like make sure things are in upkeep. I also think all the SJs would appreciate “Sustenance” because the word conjures up someone who has a purpose, whereas “Memory” in itself has no purpose.

    “Sensation” or “Se”, just my opinion, can be called “Experience.” Sensation can be confusing because both Si and Se are called “sensing.” Plus, experience has a greater positive valuation than “Sensation.” It is defined in the dictionary as “practical contact with and observation of facts or events.”

    • Antonia Dodge
      Reply

      Thanks for the suggestions!

      Because both Si and Se are perceiving – or learning – processes, we opted to give them nicknames based on how they learn over a description of the result of the learning. Sustenance and Experience are both the result of Si and Se, or where their style of learning generally takes them.

      Si learns by capturing information in the moment and then ‘post-processing’ it, helping them understand themselves and their reality based on a subjective memory of what was experienced.

      Se learns in ‘real-time kinetic’, or in the moment utilizing all of the senses, which would include more than just the 5 general senses. (Balance, temperature, time, etc. would be some of the other senses.)

      All of the perceiving processes are named after how they learn. Ni learns by perspectiving – watching their own mind’s perspective, and getting into varied perspectives of others and of time. Ne learns by exploration, pushing buttons, pulling toggle switches and following/blazing trails unfamiliar to them.

      All of the judging processes are named for the criteria they use to make decisions. Te uses what will ultimately work, or be effective. Ti uses the most accurate data possible. Fe uses what will bring people together and create harmonious social interactions, and Fi uses what feels right, or authentic, to them.

      There were so many nicknames to choose from for each process, some ‘sounding’ more right than others. Ultimately, though, we decided upon the word that best fits the etymology of how the process works (in the case of learning) and what the process is trying to accomplish (in the case of decision-making).

      We tried to make all of them neutral, because they are used in both healthy and unhealthy expressions. (In the case of tertiary and inferior processes, or in an unhealthy person in general.)

      -A-

      • Leon
        Reply

        Thanks, I think I understand more now.

      • Thai Nguyen
        Reply

        Reading this makes me understand more about your Genius System, thanks a lot! 😀

  • Leon
    Reply

    Actually I was thinking about it…Memory and Sensation does work. I like them better now. I guess though where I was coming from was that though the others were functional too they had a bit of a human component, but now I see that in Memory and Sensation too.

  • Leon
    Reply

    I think the nicknames are a wonderful idea! I can explain the functions a whole lot better to people now. I just think though the sensing nicknames stand out because they still sound functional (Memory and Sensation), whereas I imagine people placing positive value on the other words (Authenticity, Exploration, Effectiveness, Harmony, Perspectives…these all sound like they are cool).

  • Richard Dawson
    Reply

    Thanks for your article Antonia, I first came across the MBTI during marriage counseling in the 80s, originally testing as a eFj, (Married to a federal prosecuting attorneys) we were introduced to “Please Understand Me”. i became fascinated much as you described and used the MBTI as an adjunct in the hiring and dating process and predictably it quickly became a hobby.

    I have since come to believe it was an unconcious adaptive result. As a VP of a Fortune 500 company in sales/marketing I had adapted a style from observing successful people around me. In the fullness of time ( now retired) I have reverted to my “childhood self” I now test as an e/I N t j/p. Off the charts N, balanced in every other aspect.. I closely identify with both the e/I N t/p styles and have developed an aversion to everything “s”. I do however, believe there is a time for honey and a time for vinegar, especially when dealing with the ever so predictable “s’s” of the world.

    I agree with Chris vis the flawed system, but so is cosmology and the theory of everything. It has its place as a predictive tool to better understand the universe of people. Ahhh, that they could all be Spock!

    Personal Motto:
    “I am like electricity, I have always taken the path of least resistance.”

    • Richard Dawson
      Reply

      I note my iPad changed the original enfj, sorry.

  • Tanja
    Reply

    It was all fun and games till u started using abbreviations, now I’m lost, bored and TMI. Sorry I dont put that much effort into much unless it keeps me entertained. Maybe break it up into dealing with each personality separately, because I really don’t care what is wrong with everyone else just wanted a short cut to answers not other peoples problems, lol. Thanks anyway, I see how your program works its just too much for me.

    • Antonia Dodge
      Reply

      Thanks, Tanja – You’ve just totally illustrated the point of the article. 🙂

      MOST people feel the way you do, and so making sure we keep our information accessible to ALL types (whether they like nicknames about their type only or they’re so far ‘into it’ they like the abbreviations) is important.

      Cheers!

      -A-

  • Alexander Korf
    Reply

    Thanks for clearing that up. I also agree with the challenge people face when going from MBTI to Jung’s cognitive functions to actually understand the inner workings. But I feel ambiguous about the chosen path. Sure, renaming the cognitive functions will help shorten the transition time at first to clear things up. Your example of an INxx not necessarily having to be dominant Ni makes a strong case. There is however a catch to this all; multiple words or definitions for the same content creates a new ‘universe’ and brings about the danger of separation from Jung articles on other sources.

    This ‘could’ be a commercial motive. This is meant merely speculative and in a generalising way, not to judge you. My gut feelings tells me your motivation is most likely authentic, but it is something I have seen happen across the interwebs. Too many consultancy companies have re-coined the temperaments to uniquely sell their products, but as an effect leading people astray from the core: Jung’s Cognitive Functions.

    I would like to share my solution from MBTI to Jung by this diagram I developed: http://farikogaming.com/photo/fariko-quadrant-2 It has the advantage of quickly showing the dominant and secondary cognitive functions in relation to their respective MBTI. Feel free to use it in parallel with the Genius system.

    Another aspect of the nicknames is that they are a bit narrow. I am not saying the nicknames are wrong; they also could be named differently.
    For example, I could make a case to name Ne creativity, Ni deductive reasoning, Ti reductive reasoning. Now the point here is not the exact choice of nicknames, but the mere fact that someone could interpret the cognitive functions in many different ways. This can cause ambiguity in the use of terms and causes another separation. But, I again see the advantage of making the learning curve a bit easier for people starting to learn about Jung’s cognitive functions.

    A similar aspect occurs when you translate Beebe’s model to a car with four people. Again, it helps ease the understanding of the way the first 4 cognitive functions work in a person, but also separates it from Beebe’s model which has a greater level of detail. I must state that I am not sure that you don’t refer to Beebe’s model in relation to the car example, so I could be wrong with my suggestion. If so, my apologies. 🙂

    All in all; yes, from a teaching/learning point of view I like the way you make the cognitive functions more accessible. From a scientific point of view it would not be my choice to walk that path and in a way separate myself from the original.

    To conclude “Just to be clear, I think personality psychology is one of the things that will save the world. Seriously. SAVE. THE. WORLD.” really resonated with me being an ENFP. From all the ENTP’s I have met YOU are the first to place MBTI in favour of other people. 🙂

    • Antonia Dodge
      Reply

      I pretty much agree with everything you say. There’s a cost of specialization involved here (accessibility v. accuracy), and we’ve chosen accessibility… in the beginning. We teach courses on a number of subjects, and the reference material invariably references Jung. I tell pretty much all of my students to read “Gifts Differing,” “Personality Types: An Owner’s Manual” (by Lenore Thompson Bentz) and Dario Nardi’s book on Neuroscience. I teach a course called “Profiler Training” which becomes VERY detailed oriented and extremely accurate about Jungian’s functions (I am Ti, after all) and is available for anyone who wants to do a deep dive.

      However, I want the information to be accessible to anyone, even if they have no interest in going down that rabbit’s hole. They shouldn’t have to become an armchair professor to get the benefit of the wisdom of the system. So I try to make our programs available at all levels of interest.

      And yes – part of it IS a commercial move. This is a purpose/mission-driven business for me, but it is a business. I’ve made peace with that.

      Thanks for the dialog. I think it was something that needed to be addressed and I just haven’t yet. 🙂

      • Alexander Korf
        Reply

        You have been deemed ‘authentic’ by the board of ENFP’s. 🙂 GL with your endeavours in improving mankind!

  • john danzer
    Reply

    The MBTI is a very flawed system.
    The various cognitive functions are presented as dichotomous when they aren’t.
    The forced dichotomies of the mbti inventory set up an either/or situation.
    Each should be viewed as individual scales and arranged in a rank order to create a profile.
    That would allow 24 general types based on the permutations of the four scales.
    By the way Antonia you are really a natural ENFP or ENFJ based on your somatotype. There is a difference between a person’s natural style emerging from their constitution and their adaptive style. Everyone adapts to some degree but some adapt an opposite style. You have adapted to an ENTP style which is not a maladatpation because it is a personality that is fairly close. It may be that you have adapted to a ENTP style because of the need to get your message out. Going from an ENFP to an ENTP means you are suppressing the feeling function and amplifying the thinking function.
    In most cases this results from an unsatisfied need for emotional fulfillment which gives rise to a compensatory preference for thinking. Insistence on thinking implies a proud and rebellious demand for independence often seen in adolescents who want to break free from family and parental apron-strings.

    You might want to consider the explanatory power of somatotype. It has the capacity to unravel a lot of problems with paper and pencil type inventories. It’s NOT phrenology.

    • Antonia Dodge
      Reply

      John.

      I think it’s clear you have something you very much want to say and this is a platform you’ve decided it’s important to say it on. I’m trying to figure out your thinking while you 1) attempt to discredit the System of Choice of this website; and 2) inform me that I’ve mistyped myself (in said discredited system) because I’m emotionally repressed and adolescently rebellious. But whatever the reason, it’s not having the desired effect of me saying, “Holy shit! You’re right! I’ve seen the light and I’ve been wrong this entire time. Please guide me.” In reality, your comment alone indicates that your familiarity with Myers-Briggs is pretty limited. They’re not true dichotomies, but gradients, which is not difficult to see that if you have mastery over the concepts.

      I think you’re sincere, but you’re using vinegar where honey would be a far more effective approach.

      -A-

    • Chris
      Reply

      I would agree with Antonia’s post here. The MBTI receives a lot of negative feedback because it is “flawed.” While every psychological assessment can be “better,” I think it is important to consider that you have a flawed view of what the MBTI attempts to provide for the user. The MBTI was never meant to be taken without feedback from a qualified and knowledgeable professional of type theory. MBTI is a theoretical framework– it puts language to cognitions and functions we use in our lives. The MBTI does not aim to tell us “how much” of a particular function we are– Jung would cringe in his grave. Following this, the MBTI is not meant to deliver what the Big Five does. It does not *MEASURE* type, it instead *INDICATES* dominant preference. Being “thinking” does not mean that there is an absence of “feeling.” It simply states that the natural, instinctive reaction of a thinkers mindset is analysis and of thinking preference.

      A fundamental tenet of type is that the user is the ultimate authority of their personality type. You do not get to choose it for them. Common knowledge in rhetoric and forensic debate also says that you do not get to discredit the system, and then attempt to evaluate the author on the said system. You removed any kind of ethos you may have had.

      Type is meant to be used to describe a HEALTHY mental state and on individuals who are in a normal-functioning psychological state. You are not correct when saying that using one function actively suppresses the opposite. When you are conscious of your type preferences, and of the theory as a whole, you can utilize it as a toolbox–using each when most appropriate.

      “In most cases this results from an unsatisfied need for emotional fulfillment which gives rise to a compensatory preference for thinking. Insistence on thinking implies a proud and rebellious demand for independence often seen in adolescents who want to break free from family and parental apron-strings.” <— this is a load of garbage. I won't even respond. You know less than you think you do.

    • Michelle
      Reply

      No model is perfect. Perfect means improvement is no longer needed. That is false. People change over time. So will their needs. A better question to ask is whether the MBTI works for you at this time. If it does, great. If it doesn’t, there are plenty of other models out there. Buddhism, Pathwork, and Michael Teachings are just a few. See what works for you. If self-knowledge is the goal, any of these practices could work.

      • Charis Branson
        Reply

        So true Michelle! As long as we pick a path that helps us connect with our authentic selves and grow to the kind of person that brings value to ourselves and the world, who cares which tool we use. The beauty of this world is the fact that there are so many options to help us reach our goals. The important thing is that we always strive to improve and to build-up rather than tear down.

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