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What is This Strange Language You Speak?

ISTJ is my MBTI® (Myers-BriggsType Indicator).  Everyone has heard of the “Myers-Briggs test; it’s a de-facto standard.  An individual answers 93 questions with only two options for each answer.  Often, the choices do not appear to be opposites, which can cause some discomfort. Neither answer seems to fit.

Some people believe this invalidates the test.  I assume it’s by design.  The architects of this test surely know their stuff. . The purpose of the test is to identify one’s personality (or psychological) type.


After decades of research and building upon the Psychological Types studies of Carl Jung, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katharine Cook Briggs published their first version in 1961.

The fact that most of the research was conducted in the 1940’s and 50’s gives me a little concern since we know a lot more about psychology now than we knew 70 years ago.  The method has a lot of critics in academia.  However, in my limited experience, it is pretty accurate.


Understanding your psychological types is intended to help one appreciate their strengths, gifts and weaknesses and also help one understand the psychological types of others for our mutual benefit.  Then we all play nicely in the same sandbox I suppose.

The strengths and weaknesses part sounds suspiciously like a corporate performance review.  My weaknesses always resulted in various  training classes and mentoring – so I could get those “fixed.”

In Days of Yore

In the early part of the 20th century, I don’t believe the general population gave much thought about personality or psychological types.  But during the course of that century there was a tremendous shift in the workforce.  The percentage of people working in professional, services, clerical and management rose from about 20% to 70%. All these people shifting from farm-related work to offices and factories would naturally cause some issues.

The solutions might come from understanding our different psychological types, a scientific approach. I believe this was perceived as a significant development in the 70’s and 80’s.

If everyone in a work setting took the test and knew their respective MBTI, we could understand why conflicts arose, and we could work through the issues.  For example, Paul (ISFJ) always thought George (ENTP) was a loudmouth jerk.  But, now that Paul understands his personality type as well as George’s, they can work together harmoniously.  That wasn’t my experience; it was more likely that the test results simply confirmed Paul’s belief’s about George, and he now had “science” to prove George was a jerk.

More About Me

As I noted earlier, I’m ISTJ.  This is the first “type” listed when they are in tabular form; so I believe it to be the most superior.  There are four elements to each type, so that yields 16 distinct types.  Let’s review the elements (dichotomies):

  • Introvert vs Extrovert
  • Sensing vs Intuition
  • Thinking vs Feeling
  • Judging vs Perceiving

Translation of my ISTJ: I am Introverted, Sensing, Thinking and Judging. (Oops, now I’m not feeling so great about my classification.)  Expounding on this theme. Quiet serious, dependable, practical, realistic, responsible, logical, orderly, organized, loyal.   (Okay, that doesn’t sound so bad.)  M & B call these preferences.  But that bothers me a little. Quoting from their website: “A preference is what you like.”  Granted, but for me, the word “preference” implies a certain level of conscious choice.  I have a preference for the movie genre of Murder Mystery vs Sappy Love Story.  I’ve watched many examples of both and found one to be a more satisfying investment of two hours of my time.  There is an element of experimenting, gathering the data and making a decision.  (I suppose my “T” trait is being exposed.)  When it comes to being an Introvert vs Extrovert, there is no aspect of conscious choice, zilch!

So What?

I think the descriptors for an ISTJ describe me pretty well – no surprises.  I know that about myself.  So, what is the purpose of taking the test; to confirm what I already know?  Is my self-awareness unusual?  Is the “average” person unable to discern their personality traits?  I give “Joe Average” more credit.

If the purpose of this exercise is to help me avoid jobs that don’t fit my type, then I should avoid jobs that require me to be an Extrovert or require me to trust my Intuition vs Facts, Feelings vs Logic, etc.  Wouldn’t my natural instincts guide me away from those jobs anyway? I hate to say this, but “Duh!”  This may have served a purpose decades ago, but I question the current relevance for most people.

My Tribe vs Yours

Since M & B has been around for decades, are we learning to play nicely in the same sandbox without fighting?

Pick any topic from the headlines and you’ll find people staunchly lining up on opposite sides of the issue.  Can you imagine anyone saying, “This is my belief, but – I could be wrong. So let’s remain friends and agree to disagree”.


Strength Finders

A more recent methodology is Strength Finders.  This approach tends to downplay the weaknesses and focus on maximizing your strengths.  My next post will explore my test results.