Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

They tell me I’m an INFP, but I’m still reflecting on how I feel about it, and also how the rest of you might.

In fact, I’ve been hearing about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test for well over a decade now, so when flatmate David announced that he was taking a course in it at his old church, well I realised that it was now or never. Does that make me an S or an N? Hang on, doesn’t asking that very question make my I dominant with my extrovert T as auxiliary? For a course designed to help me understand myself and others, this way surely lies madness...

So here’s how the theory works:

There are 16 different personality types, determined by four opposing dichotomies, namely –

Extroversion (E) vs. Introversion (I)
Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N) (detail vs. big picture)
Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F)
Judgment (J) vs. Perception (P) (planning vs. flexible)

I have a lot of problems just with those 8 words. I mean some of them, like for example Judgment, just don’t seem to be measuring the tendencies that the word implies. I also didn’t much like being put into one of 16 neat little boxes, just so that I could fit into some intellectuals’ narrow-minded worldview.

But here’s where the outlook tripped me up – central to the MBTI perspective, is the idea that everyone is capable of being every aspect of the chart. What MBTI indicates is simply which one of their 16 types that you choose to be the most.

In other words, the computer’s projection from the 100-odd questions that I had to answer before starting wasn’t conclusive, apart from anything else because I was allowed to flatly disagree with it.

In other other words, I could come up with another system containing, oh I don't know, say 33 different generalisations, and then ask questions to calculate which one of my 33 types you behaved in line with the most often. I don’t say this to belittle the MBTI though, for I found tons in here to help me better understand both myself, and others.

(Not to mention how I’d be proving the computer right by expressing my N tendencies, although I suppose the computer was actually proving me right here…)

My own self-evaluation came up with ISFJ, but it was clear that my real stumbling block here was my own ambiguity. No, wait, my love of diversity.

For some time now I have been attempting to get better at all things. For example, I know that in many areas I’m not very well organised, so I’m always trying to become better organised. This blog might currently be four months behind again (badly organised), but I’m typing the first draft of this post just a few hours following my final Myers-Briggs lesson (well-organised). So which am I???

When I was younger I used to be very extroverted, but I’ve been hurt so many times, by so many people, that against my will I’ve slowly become very introverted. (hence composing this in written form, to share from behind a blog, at 2:20 in the morning) It’s no good telling me that I’ve naturally become introverted – in my mind I still picture my ideal self as an extrovert.

I get tons of energy from being with my friends, but ask me to phone any of them and I find it a major uphill task.

I don’t choose introversion, I just reluctantly find it safer.

I asked my friend Phil at cell group one Thursday about it, as he’s qualified in MBTI. He asked me about each of the four pairs. When we got to the last one – about whether I prefer a day to be planned or spontaneous - I protested that I see the value in both, and don’t want to lose either. At this, Phil looked over at Brett. “He is such a P!”

So I asked him “Why? Why did you just say ‘He is such a P’?”

“Because you always keep your options open.”

Well, that settles the last letter then, but does little for nailing down the preceding three.

Ultimately I determined to stop using the formulaic indicators and just read the 16 different personality descriptions on the net. This had its own problems, because I think they all seemed to affirm me in places. Hand on heart though, the one that seemed to contain the fewest errors did indeed turn out to be INFP – the same as the original questionnaire had projected, despite my bewilderment at how to select between so many of the choices.

The thing about reading these write-ups is that they can work the same way as horoscopes. You find something that suits you down to the ground, pick your jaw up off the floor, and gasp incredulously, “Yes! That’s me!

Then of course you just want to ignore all the stuff that misses its target. Admittedly though, in reading up on the INFP profiles, most of it does seem to be on the money.

"With their tendency to enjoy serving others, they may value their mate’s satisfaction above their own."

Yes! That’s me!

"INFPs are ‘natural’ parents."

Crikey – I can’t abide kids. Never have.

Oh well, for the purposes of this course then, mostly INFP?

The remaining two weeks of the course revolved around interacting with others, and interacting with God. The jokey INFP prayer “Lord, help me to finish everything I start,” is just the sort of reason why I will commit to beginning so few projects these days.

Ultimately, I’m very pleased to have taken this course. It’s prompted me to ask some good questions, some of them quite subtle, and I would honestly admit to having found a renewed respect for others with different attitudes in life.

I guess I should also be grateful to have completed it.


4 comment(s):

At 11:30 am, Anonymous Rhett said...

INFJ over here. So how about that? The only difference between us is your P-ness.

At 4:56 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Or your lack of it?

At 1:38 pm, Anonymous Rhett said...


At 2:18 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Heckler! :)


Post a Comment

<< Back to Steve's home page

** Click here for preceding post(s) **

** Click here for following post(s) **