Myths, Misinformation, and the Myers-Briggs
On February 18, 2014, Adam Grant, Wharton professor, wrote an article published on LinkedIn entitled “5 Myths about Introverts and Extraverts at Work.” As a Type® practitioner, the title itself piqued my interest, but I’m also a fan of Grant himself. He’s brilliant, witty, and writes on various provocative subjects, all centered on the theme of success through “giving and taking” (His book, “Give and Take”, is a bestseller).
Grant does not seem to be a fan of the Myers-Briggs – a minor detail that I will try not to hold against him. In reading this latest piece, however, I’m struck by all the misinformation that even scholars have about the assessment. This leads me to believe that Grant either 1.) never completed the Myers-Briggs with a trained administrator, or 2.) had a bad experience with the Myers-Briggs, perhaps by an untrained administrator, or 3.) naturally questions and debates every topic which he comes across.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t know everything there is to know about the Myers-Briggs. In fact, I’m constantly reminded of how much I don’t know. But I was one of the first 50 practitioners worldwide to receive Master Practitioner certification. I’ve been conducting both individual and group interpretations for close to 15 years, and I can’t recall a time that I ever received a bad review – even from those “hard-to-please” NT’s!
I wrote a brief but thoughtful response to Grant’s article in an attempt to clarify some points about the Myers-Briggs. It took me all of 20 minutes to write, but I’ve received such an overwhelming (for me, at least) number of “Likes”, requests to connect, and personal messages thanking me that I’ve decided to include my response in a blog post. Admittedly, I’m boosting my own ego here, but I’m also doing my small part to educate the public about this often misunderstood personality assessment.
No instrument (or preferences!) can explain all human complexity. Everyone is an “ambient.” This means that whatever one’s “Type”, we ALL use both sides (E and I, in this case). Therefore, rather than saying, “I’m an Extravert”, a more accurate phrase is “I have a ‘preference for’ Extraversion”, thus sounding less arbitrary and limiting.
Similarly, “Extreme Extravert” or “Extreme Introvert” implies that the person is either a chatty cathy or a hermit. This is one of the biggest errors that even experienced Type practitioners make. A preference clarity of 30 (on a scale of 1-30) for Introversion does NOT mean that the respondent is “more Introverted” than someone with a preference clarity of 10. It means that when FORCED TO CHOOSE, the respondent is more CLEAR about his/her preference for Introversion. The “clarity” of the preference is attributed to a number of factors, including one’s environment, family of origin, age, and individual life experiences. Clarity can and does change over time (Type Development). Type theory predicts that, for example, a younger person is going to have less clarity and consistency in responses than a mature person, thereby reducing reliability in samples of younger people and leading to incorrect conclusions, not only concerning the instrument’s reliability, but in an individual’s clarity of preference.
Back to E vs I: it is indeed about energy source. However, what the article failed to specify is that it is ALSO about HOW we prefer to use that energy (or HOW that energy is manifested). The Myers-Briggs Step II displays the facets in more detail, but briefly, The “facets” associated with Extraversion and Introversion are Initiating vs Receiving; Expressive vs Contained; Gregarious vs Intimate; Active vs Reflective; Enthusiastic vs Quiet. A true “ambient” would be “mid-zone” on all 5 of these facets. Rarely does that occur. However, what Type Practitioners do often see are individuals with a preference for —, and 1 or more facets that are “out of preference” or “midzone.”
Finally, with so much misinformation about the MBTI out there in cyberspace, please know that the purpose of taking the MBTI is to facilitate a discussion between the interpreter and the respondent, where the respondent can determine his/her best way of functioning (“Best Fit Type”). (Sources for these words of wisdom are the MBTI Manuel, 3rd edition, and the MBTI Step II Users Guide, both published by CPP).