Personality types can best be understood by comparing them to being left-handed or right-handed. If you’re right-handed, but have to write with your left hand, while you’ll probably be able to do so, it’ll feel odd and take more effort, not to mention the end result might not even be legible.
“Personality types are the same — we can choose to act differently to our underlying preference, but it may not always be easy,” says John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, the publisher of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) framework.
“There’s a common misconception that having a preference for introversion means that people are shy, anti-social or awkward, which isn’t true. It’s just the way they prefer to focus their energy. On the flip side, the misconceptions about extroverts are that they’re invasive or dominant. In truth, we can find people with all, some of any of these characters in people who prefer either introversion or extroversion.”
The personality assessment was created in 1943 by Isabel Briggs Myers, and features 93 questions. At the end of answering them, you’re given a four-letter personality profile. The idea is that once you’re aware of your preferences, you can flex them if and when a situation calls for them. For instance, if you know you have a preference for introversion, you’ll know you’ll have to use your extroversion side when leading a meeting.
How Myers-Briggs Personality Test Works
“The MBTI isn’t about labeling people or putting them into boxes — it is about learning more about yourself and creating a self-awareness that can help in areas like communication, conflict resolution, teamwork, career management, stress, showing appreciation and many, many others,” Hackston says.
According to the theory, each one of us prefers E or I, S or N, T or F or J or P, all of which are explained below:
Extroversion–Introversion (E–I): How people focus and direct their energy. Into their inner world of thinking and reflection (Introversion) or into the external world of interaction and conversation (Extroversion);
Sensing–Intuition (S–N): How people take information in. If based on realistic, concrete and practical data, Sensing; when base possibilities, ideas, the big picture, Intuition;
Thinking–Feeling (T–F): How people make decisions. When based on objective logic, Thinking; If considering how it will affect other people, Feeling;
Judging–Perceiving (J–P): The way people approach the world. Those who prefer to live in a planned, structured way, Judding; those who approach things in a spontaneous way leaving situations open, Perceiving.
How to Use Knowledge of Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type at Work
“The more awareness someone can develop about their preferences, the easier it will be to navigate among them and gauge what helps them to perform at their best in all areas of life,” says Hackston.
Rather than choosing to “be” an introvert or extrovert, instead, we can choose to behave in a more introverted or extroverted way as the situation demands, he says. But, to do this successfully, we need to find out who we really are first.
“When people develop a deep understanding of their preferences, they are able to also recognize what works for them while honouring their true selves,” he says. “If you are someone who prefers introversion, and you are aware of this, you probably will want to avoid a noisy workplace full of people or choose a profession that demands a lot of interaction with the public because it will drain your batteries.”
With this awareness, you’ll also be better able to prepare for situations and to create your own coping strategies, he says. Some tactics used by introverts when they’re drained at work are going for a walk, booking a meeting room so they can work by themselves, using headphones to isolate the noise and finding a quiet nook.
Some Tips For Flexing Your Personality Preference
If a situation calls for the extroverted side of someone who prefers introversion, they can do it without having to pretend. Some tips, according to Hackston, are:
Start in smaller groups
At work or at a party, find a smaller group or an individual that you already know to socialize and get introduced to others gradually.
Find things in common
It’s always easier to talk to people when you share common interests; ask questions and try to find things you both enjoy doing; being a good listener can also be of great value while getting to know new people.
Recharge your social batteries
If you are in an environment that requires a lot of interaction, take breaks — for a short walk, to drink some water and to check your messages.
If you’re attending a job interview or other situation that will require you to answer questions and/or talk about yourself, try to be as prepared as possible. Read the job description in advance, prepare talking points and draft your own questions to ask the recruiter. It may help you rehearse asking them out loud. Also, you may need time to reflect on your answers and it is fine to ask for a moment or go back into a topic and add your thoughts.
Meanwhile, for people who lean toward extroversion and need to flex, some tips are:
Those who prefer Extraversion tend to talk more than listen. Start exercising the opposite in work and social situations.
When people are sharing their thoughts with you, give them time and space to explain and even answer questions you may have. Some individuals need to reflect for a moment without being interrupted.
Not everyone finds silence awkward or disturbing; these might be brief moments for reflection. When things get quiet, count until 10 before jumping in.
Take some downtime
For extroverts, energy is about movement, interactions and events. Experiment with brief moments of quietude to reflect on your day or an upcoming project, for example.