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Myers-Briggs Personality Differences

How the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory Works

The Myers-Briggs Inventory (MBTI) focuses on four pairs of basic personality traits in human beings. The inventory, based on the theories of Carl Jung, was created by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs in the 1940s. According to their work, every person’s personality falls somewhere along a line between the extreme ends of each pair. The pairs are:

Extraverted (sociable) > Introverted (private)
Sensing (practical) > Intuitive (creative)
Thinking (logical) > Feeling (emotional)
Perceiving (flexible) > Judging (organized)

The traits in each pair are like opposite sides of a coin. Extraversion (sociable) is the flip side of Introversion (private) and vice versa. While some people are at the extreme ends of a trait continuum, most are somewhere in between. However, even those who score at one end or the other are capable of thinking and behaving like their opposites some of the time. Myers and Briggs believed that the traits by which a person is classified are simply his or her preferred modes of thinking and acting.

You’d think that having identical traits would make people more compatible. It can actually cause problems. Two extraverts may fail to take time away from social activities to enjoy each other in a relaxed way. Because they’re always with other people and never alone, the partners drift apart. On the other hand, two introverts may tire of each other’s company and start getting on each other’s nerves. The chances are, they need the influence of outside friends and activities.

Introversion vs. Extraversion

Extraverts seek out the company of others. They’re energized by parties, meetings, and other group activities. They’re outspoken and often prefer talking to listening. When the phone rings, the extravert is likely to jump up to answer it. If left on their own for long, extraverts get jittery and start looking for company.

Introverts get worn out by too much interaction with others. They prefer their own company or being with one or two close friends. They’re independent thinkers and don’t need others to help them make up their minds. Only when they have strong feelings about something are they inclined to speak up or ask advice. Introverts may seem moody at times and go off by themselves. Close friends can be offended. It’s usually nothing personal.

Sensing vs. Intuition

Sensing types are matter-of-fact and literal. They get impatient when conversations dwell on the meaning behind people’s actions. They don’t take much stock in undertones or innuendoes. This practical type is more interested in what he or she sees than what might be under the surface. When they talk about the price of something, they know it to the penny. They’re detail-oriented.

Intuitive people are more imaginative and rely on their instincts. Intuitive types don’t need hard data to make all their decisions. They often act on their hunches. The interesting thing is that they’re usually right. They’re interested in new theories and ideas. They’re witty and fun to be around.

Thinking vs. Feeling

The thinking person makes decisions based on objective information. The feeling person is swayed by emotions. Thinking types often believe that those at the feeling end of the scale are too soft. Feeling types often find thinkers callous and overly concerned with hard facts.

Feeling types go out of their way to help others. They’re compassionate and understand emotions. If they hurt someone’s feelings, they’re quick to apologize. They dislike conflict and avoid it whenever possible. They know how to make others feel good.

Perceiving vs. Judging

People of the perceiving type are flexible. They usually don’t plan tasks from beginning to end. They start work and then make things up as they go along. They frustrate co-workers and friends with their tardiness and their habit of  meeting deadlines by the skin of their teeth. They’re easily distracted from what they’re doing. If an interruption is interesting enough, they’ll drop the task at hand and turn their attention to the diversion. Perceiving people are generally easy-going and without strong opinions.

Judging types are organized, neat and punctual. They get disturbed when they find themselves in a chaotic environment. The judging type is systematic in his or her approach to life. They dislike big surprises, even pleasant ones. They like to undertake one project at a time, finish it, and then go on to another. Unfinished work frustrates them.

Understanding Type Differences

According to Myers-Briggs theory, one trait is no better than its opposite. They’re just different. Studying MBTI types can give you helpful insights into why you and others think and act the way you do. The perspective you gain by appreciating personality traits helps you to enrich your relationships and understand yourself better. And it gives you a preview of where rough spots are likely to occur—challenges you face as an individual and issues you sometimes have with family and friends.

PSTD in INFJ Women After Sexual Assault

Several readers have asked whether INFJ women are more prone than other Myers-Briggs types to getting PTSD after sexual assault. The readers have themselves been victims of rape. I’d never considered this idea before, but I think they’re onto something.

In my opinion, INFJs tend to have stronger emotional reactions to events than other types. Sexual assault is a particularly damaging experience and PTSD is common among rape victims. Many suffer for months, years or even a lifetime.

Role of Myers Briggs Preferences

The combination of I, N, F and J functions in INFJs sets the stage for PTSD.

1)    Introversion causes them to isolate after an assault—the last thing a rape victim needs to do. Rape victims must have support and protection but they’re afraid to seek it.

2)    Intuition prompts INFJs to seek meaning in personal situations. In most cases of rape, this is a fruitless exercise because rapists are hostile to women in general, not one woman in particular. Most rapists have assaulted women before and they’ll do it again unless stopped by the legal system.

3)    The feeling function of INFJs often prevents them from taking an objective view of events—an admittedly difficult undertaking in cases of rape. It’s a highly personal crime.

4)    The judging function disposes INFJs to seek closure on issues. After rape, a woman wants to be vindicated and have the attacker brought to justice. This seldom comes about, and as a result there is no closure.

My Experience

On a business trip to St. Augustine, Florida, I stayed at a Holiday Inn. After working all day, I wanted to relax before retiring to my room so I went to the lounge for a gin and tonic. (I was still drinking alcohol at the time.) A hotel security guard in his fifties sat next to me at the bar. He struck up a conversation. I stayed for a second drink and then a third. Before finishing my last drink, I said, “I need to turn in. I have a busy day tomorrow.”

The guard said, “Let me escort you to your room.” I thought that at my age I hardly needed an escort—but he was, after all, a security guard. Being more polite than I am now, I consented. Gallantly he offered to carry my drink, walking behind me in the hall.

After dropping my keycard into the slot and pushing the door open, I turned to take my drink from the guard. Without warning he kissed me. Surprised and confused, I laughed nervously and said goodnight. I went into my room, shutting the door behind me, took my clothes off and got into bed.

After sleeping a short time, I heard the doorknob turning. The guard had used his passkey to enter. He walked to the bed without a word, climbed on top of me, raped me, and left. I lay there groggy and confused. The attack seemed unreal. Strangely, I fell asleep again—a fact that amazes me to this day. I think the guard may have slipped a date-rape drug in my drink while walking behind me in the hallway.

Waking at dawn I felt foggy but knew that something was terribly wrong. I ran my hands over my body and felt grease on my thighs. It looked like suntan lotion. Slowly the hazy events of the night before came back.

Feeling surreal, I threw on some clothes and walked on the beach for an hour, trying to figure out what to do. I decided to report the attack to the Holiday Inn manager. This was a mistake. It gave the manager time to cover the hotel’s tracks and alert corporate lawyers. Then I went to the police. That wasn’t much better.

Back home in Gainesville, I spent the next few weeks isolating myself, fearful and depressed. I was ill, throwing up frequently and suffering migraines. I seldom left the house, never answered the door, and rarely picked up the phone. The least noise made me jump. Finally I called a friend and told her what happened. She put me in touch with the Gainesville Rape Victim Crisis Center. They told me I had acute PTSD.

For six weeks, I attended a support group at the Crisis Center. The four other women in the group had stories as bad or worse than mine. One woman had been raped by an orderly while on a hospital gurney in an elevator. He stopped between floors to assault her, then begged her not to tell anyone because he had a wife and family. He almost persuaded her.

Reader Responses

One reader responded: “I also suffer from acute PTSD. I was curious if you were aware of your personality type before your traumatic events. I am trying to see if the PTSD changed my personality or if I have just become more self-aware and mature. I never thought about my INFJ traits compounding my PTSD.” Referring to her chronic stress syndrome, she added, “In my condition, just saying ‘hello’ or working up the courage to go outside alone again have been almost insurmountable obstacles.”

Another INFJ woman wrote, “Is there anyone out there with suggestions about how an INFJ can possibly deal with a violent assault on top of the issues assigned to us as INFJs?”

My own experience with rape makes me think that I might have recovered from my PTSD faster had I been a different Myers-Briggs type. The combination of introversion, the introspection that goes with intuitiveness, and the tendency to react to situations emotionally probably made matters more difficult. Support groups helped me deal with the trauma. I needed to recognize that I did not invite the attack. I was simply walking through someone’s gunsights.

I’m still susceptible to triggers that catch me unawares. A couple of years ago, a male acquaintance came to my house uninvited. I met him in the front yard. At least, I had the sense not to invite him in. As we were standing on the lawn, he put his arms around me. I went into my old mode of getting confused and laughing nervously. I asked him to leave because I had things to do in the house.

PTSD Symptoms

For the rest of the day, I tried to avoid dwelling on the situation. I went to dinner with a friend that night. Returning home around 9 pm, I felt a migraine starting. Then I got nauseated and threw up several times. I thought I might have food poisoning. I finally realized that my old PTSD was back, triggered by the man’s advances.

Although my symptoms were gone the next day, I was dismayed that I’d learned so little from the rape a few years earlier. I decided to see a therapist. After several sessions, I’d gained more insight into my PTSD. I could see that my defenses still needed work.

Recovery

My therapist taught me to turn my rational brain off and my primitive brain on when a man violates my boundaries. It’s important to defend myself without analyzing the situation. (I tend to overthink troubling issues.)

Fortunately, I’ve had chances to practice. Predatory men aren’t hard to find. Now, when a man puts his hands on me and makes me uncomfortable, I no longer laugh nervously or get confused. I take a deep breath and say, “Please don’t touch me.” Of course, this usually triggers a dismayed protest of innocence. Predators can be good actors. All I need to say in response is, “You heard me.” He rarely comes back for seconds.

Getting Support

Women who have been raped need support—particularly the support of other women who have undergone sexual assault. They need to realize that they are not to blame. Most of all, they need to claim their personal power and become more assertive.

As females past our teen years, we are not children. We are women with a right to be strong and free.

(Note: I haven’t written about teenage girls because it’s outside the range of my personal experience, both as a female victim and as a mental health counselor. I am convinced, however, that rape is unusually devastating for these young women. They fear exposure, shame, and the risk that people won’t believe them.)

INFJ Meets INFP

INFP (introverted-intuitive-feeling-perceiving) and INFJ (introverted-intuitive-feeling-judging) types are a lot alike. They have rich inner lives and treasure their solitude. Also, their intuition is highly developed, giving them the ability to see what’s going on under the surface. They understand why people do the things they do. Because they see through facades and games, deceivers and players can seldom fool them for long. INFPs and INFJs examine every piece of evidence for its fundamental truth and then seek the wider context into which it fits.

As idealists, both types drive themselves to achieve their goals, which are frequently humanitarian. If they don’t have the luxury of choosing careers that meet their needs, they spend much of their spare time helping others. Their values are strong and their principles firm—unless they find a valid reason to change them. Their biggest question is, “What’s my purpose?”infp_injf table

INFPs and INFJs set such high standards for themselves that they’re often disappointed in the results of their work. Because they don’t give themselves enough credit, they make good partners. Each supports and encourages the other.

They protect their privacy. When they’re not allowed enough time alone, they feel drained. They need solitude to recharge their batteries and get their energy back. As friends and partners, they understand this and are usually generous about giving each other space.

Both are somewhat prone to depression. Their introversion inclines them to be loners, giving them the tendency to brood over problems without checking the facts with others. Their feeling preference inclines them to exaggerate the importance of conflicts or hurt feelings.

Both types are generally well liked due to their warmth and sincerity. They make good listeners, put others at ease, and are valued as friends and confidantes.

Intuition (N)

The intuitive skills shared by the INFP and INFJ form their strongest bond. They usually agree on important matters. Due to differences in their perceiving and judging functions, however, they don’t always carry out practical tasks in the same way. The INFP may start a painting project, then leave it half-finished—intending to finish at a more convenient time. INFJs aren’t happy until the job is complete.

As intuitive individuals, they sift through their experiences to discover their meaning. How does the evidence fit into the big picture? People with a sensing preference, whose intuition is less developed, tend to accept things at surface value. They see no point in overthinking matters. As a result, they may fail to appreciate the insights and predictions of INFPs and INFJs—sometimes at their peril.

Work

INFPs and INFJs frequently find careers in fields requiring verbal skills. They cooperate and communicate effectively with others. Often they hold medical or social service jobs. Their sharp intuition helps them solve problems, their feeling function encourages people to trust them, and their introversion gives them time to contemplate the complex factors in situations. They prefer careers that don’t emphasize details but focus on patterns.

Counseling and mental health therapy are common careers among INFPs. INFJs do this work, too, but they can be less patient with clients’ progress. Because of their judging function, they often make the best writers. They use their verbal skills to build constructs, put them on paper, and get them published.

While both types get along with others, group projects frustrate them. They get annoyed by co-workers who don’t live up to their standards or fail to see the big picture. They generally remain polite, but inside they may be seething. When an INFP and INFJ collaborate on projects, they may have conflicts over deadlines as the former dawdles and the latter pushes to finish on time.

Taking on too much to please others is a problem they have in common. Also, they may give colleagues the impression that they agree on the details of a project when in fact they do not. They need to assert themselves more and learn to be honest, giving negative feedback when it’s important. They need to make sure their own needs are met, too—asking for a raise, for example, when it’s deserved.

INFPs make effective mediators in the workplace—especially in situations where they have no self-interest. They are less likely to take sides than INFJs. They want to hear everything. INFJs can draw conclusions too quickly.

Romance

When INFPs fall in love with INFJs, the natural reserve of the former makes it hard for them to express their affection in words. It’s a little easier for the INFJ, who can also be shy but is better at taking action. Both can be eloquent in their physical expressions of love. As lovers, they are tender and creative. This helps keep the relationship anchored.

The two types are sensitive and easily hurt. One or the other can easily misinterpret a casual statement, offhand action, or forgotten promise and feel rejected. When one says, “I’ll be late tonight” as he or she leaves the house and means nothing more than that, the other may give the statement a sinister interpretation. To avoid bruised egos, they need to remember the importance of frequent reality checks.

Both tend to overdramatize situations and ignore the simple facts. When a disagreement comes up, they can get out of touch with each other. They have to release their ego investment and back-pedal in order to find common ground.

They tend to be absent-minded, too, which can be annoying for everyone. Where are the house keys? Did anyone let the cat in this morning? What time were we supposed to be there? Both are likely to shrug and say they don’t know.

Fortunately, they’re tolerant of each other because they share the inability to recall the concrete details of life. Such mundane matters don’t hold their attention.

Family Life

As parents, both types listen attentively to each other and their children, although INFJs are slightly less patient because of their judging function. They’re more likely to interrupt a conversation to see where it’s going. The INFP is content to listen without closure. INFPs wait to think about what’s been said before deciding what to do.

They avoid conflicts. Under normal conditions, they’re courteous and respectful, seldom raising their voices. When a problem comes up, they talk it over. The difference is that INFJs have a stronger need to decide who’s right and who’s wrong, while the INFP’s main goal is to preserve good will in the family. Both get rattled by conflict, but the INFJ is more likely to stand his or her ground on critical issues.

When it’s time for a vacation, INFJ parents are generally the chief planners. Their inclination to arrange details before checking them out with the family can cause problems, but after they’ve set off, the parents have no problem giving everyone time alone. After all, they want that, too. When the family re-gathers, they relax and have fun.

Nurturing their children comes naturally to INFPs and INFJs. They are patient, devoted, and protective parents. However, when friction arises over, say, a child’s behavior, they tend to keep their objections to themselves longer than they should. Eventually the INFJ in particular is likely to blow up.

Famous INFPs and INFJs

INFPs and INFJs whose four Myers-Briggs functions are healthy and well developed can accomplish great things, although they are generally humble about them.lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was an INFP—moody, quiet, gentle, witty and determined. As his law partner described him: “He cared little for simple facts. He cared for the underlying principle of truth and justice.” Other famous INFPs include J.R.R. Tolkien, Virginia Woolf, Vincent van Gogh, and John Lennon.jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was an INFJ. A historian described Jefferson’s character as having “a too-good-for-this-world streak that showed itself in many ways, from his mountaintop house, to his dislike of face-to-face argument.” Other famous INFJs include Carl Jung, Mahatma Gandhi, Agatha Christy, Leonard Trotsky, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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INFJ Meets ENTJ

INFJs and ENTJs are on the same wavelength in many ways. They enjoy spending time together and sharing creative, stimulating conversations. Superficial topics bore them. Both have excellent intuition and can size people up accurately on short acquaintance. They share the ability to comprehend complex situations that baffle others.

ENTJTraitsWhile the two types can become close friends, INFJs should be mindful of the ENTJ’s rough edges. This type can be blunt, with little tolerance for mistakes. Sometimes their tempers flare because they don’t recognize the effect on others. As the ENTJ’s friend you may take offense at some of his or her remarks. Refusing to engage in an argument is the most effective way to deal with this.ENTJTraits

ENTJs have a high regard for their own positions. INFJs must be the ones to establish limits in the relationship, firmly but tactfully setting their boundaries. Most ENTJs have sharp enough intuition to recognize the need for tact if they want to keep the INFJ’s friendship.

Because ENTJs can be so intimidating, many people hesitate to be open and honest with them. This deprives ENTJs of important information. Surprisingly, they respond best to those who stand up to them quietly but firmly. ENTJs have little regard for people they can push around. Eventually, most friends and co-workers learn that the ENTJ’s bark is worse than his or her bite.

While ENTJs may seem like pillars of strength, most have a sentimental side that they try to conceal. They believe that emotional displays are a sign of weakness. When ENTJs are sad or worried, they seldom talk about it. Sensitive INFJs can usually pick up on their troubled feelings and offer compassion while not intruding with solutions.

The major difference between INFJs and ENTJs lies in their need to influence or control others. INFJs lack the ENTJ’s leadership drive. In a work setting this need not be a liability, because the INFJ is comfortable letting the ENTJ take charge as long as the two parties agree on objectives. INFJs don’t have the same ego investment in running the show. They like credit if it’s due, but they won’t ask for more than their share. At home, the issue of control may become troublesome. The INFJ is likely to tire of the ENTJ’s tendency to micromanage and, when things don’t go as planned, to lose his or her temper.

Falling in Love

ENTJs are usually drawn to attractive partners. This preference is a reflection of their high standards. Most ENTJ men prefer beautiful women and most ENTJ women like handsome, confident men. To get along with an ENTJ in a relationship, an INFJ needs a well-developed sense of self. It helps to have a sense of humor.

If you’re an INFJ man, you may find ENTJ women intimidating. They are hard for many men to accept. In fact, women of this personality type can be quite nurturing and caring. Their femininity isn’t expressed in traditional ways. When their confrontational style surfaces, the most effective way to avoid conflict is to deflect arguments with humor and good will.

The partners of ENTJs will find themselves on their own much of the time. An INFJ shouldn’t expect to take top priority in the partnership. While it may seem possible at first, it won’t last. The INFJ will be expected to fit into the partner’s ambitions. Some of the INFJ’s intimacy needs will have to be met by family and friends. Otherwise, the INFJ is likely to feel emotionally short-changed.

ENTJs tend to see their partners as extensions of themselves–as supportive characters in their life scripts. They expect them to honor their commitments and respect the ENTJ’s need for autonomy. Failure to do so will make the ENTJ angry.

Family Life

ENTJs and INFJs share a love of family life. They invest themselves fully in their children, see that they get a good education, and emphasize responsible behavior. As conscientious parents, they make sure their children do their homework and sign up for extracurricular activities.

Friction can arise between the parents when the ENTJ parent takes charge too much. ENTJs prefer a domestic autocracy, with them at the head. An INFJ entering a long-term relationship with an ENTJ, including plans for marriage and children, should have a strong self-image and be able to set clear boundaries.

An ENTJ’s family can expect to have their playtime and vacations structured. The children won’t be encouraged to lie on the beach doing nothing. ENTJs don’t approve of pursuits that have no goal. In their view, leisure activities should be productive. Not only that, it’s preferable that they be scheduled. INFJ partners are likely to share this view to some extent, but they’re less intense about it.

Work

ENTJs are career-focused and fit well into corporate life. They’re quick to solve problems and have an uncanny sense of where business decisions will lead. They aspire to leadership roles and enjoy competition.

INFJs share the ENTJ’s gifts of highly developed intuition and creativity, but they aren’t interested in the power needed to run things. Because they find conflict unpleasant, it’s hard for them to be forceful. Also, they treasure their private time too much to participate fully in the social aspects of business.

In business settings, the two types complement each other. INFJs make good advisors to ENTJs. INFJs have the social sensitivity needed to help ENTJs avoid problems in the workplace that might result from heavy-handed decisions. They can express their hesitation about the wisdom of an ENTJ’s decision and have their opinions respected. By complementing the ENTJ in this way, the INFJ acts as an effective buffer.

Famous Examples

thatcherroosevelt-3Eleanor Roosevelt, an INFJ and the wife of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was a renowned humanitarian and U.S. Peace Ambassador. Margaret Thatcher, an ENTJ, was the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain.

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