Co-authored with Andrea J. Wenger, the original article appeared in the February 2017 Intercom magazine of the Society for Technical Communication and is reprinted with permission.
When I first started to study personality and temperament types, I didn’t realize the differences between the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Even when these systems use the same terminology, the meanings may differ slightly.
For instance, while the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS) and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) measure personality according to the same scales, their approach to personality type is very different. While the MBTI focuses on the internal workings of the mind (“cognitive processes”), the KTS is more interested in observable behavior. The KTS groups the 16 personality types into 4 temperaments, and highlights the similarities between them. The MBTI, by contrast, delves deeply into each of the 16 types and into the layers of cognitive processes that contribute to individual personality.
It’s important to note that although individuals are grouped into the 16 different personality types, the personality types are not distributed evenly across the population, with some types being fairly rare. For example, Andrea is an INFJ while Ben is an INTJ. Although the statistics vary, INFJs comprise only 1.5% of the population, while INTJs comprise 2.1%. In contrast, ESTJs comprise 8.7%, while ESFJs comprise 12%. In the Myers-Briggs’s table, extraverts and introverts are pretty equally divided, while Ss comprise 73.3% and Ns 26.7%. S (Sensing) individuals typically are focused on concrete concepts, while N (iNtuitive) individuals are more interested in abstract concepts.
https://www.myersbriggs.org/_images/estimated_frequency_table.gif. The table is based on MBTI® results from 1972 through 2002, including data banks at the Center for Applications of Psychological Type; CPP, Inc; and Stanford Research Institute (SRI)
If these concepts are new to you, it may be most helpful to start with the basics: the four scales, also called dimensions of personality. This is where the bulk of the benefit lies. For instance, if you understand that extraverts tend to do their best work by discussing ideas with others, while introverts tend to do better by spending time reflecting alone, you can take immediate practical steps in your work life to improve communication and workflow.
If any of the typing systems discussed in this issue resonate with you, you may wish to delve into them further. Upon deeper examination, the differences become more obvious and important. The systems are complementary, each offering unique insights. Use the concepts that you find helpful.
Typing of various kinds is used extensively by many corporations when determining the best fit for prospective or current employees. They provide useful tools for the workplace, but don’t necessarily capture the nuances of an individual employee. We all differ. Typing may help us understand our own and others’ workstyles, but they’re not determinative of an individual’s behavior or performance. Other “typing” tools used in the workplace include DISC® and Emotional Intelligence (from the work of Daniel Goleman).
For further reading:
Briggs-Myers, Isabel & Myers, Peter B. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type (CPP), Reprint Edition, 1995
Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (New York, NY: Crown), 2012.
Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence (Delmar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company), 1998.
_______, Jung Typology Test, www.humanmetrics.com