I before E

It seems as though most people I know have written the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) at some point in their lives, sometimes more than once. It even shows up in brief form on the Web and via Facebook. It used to be very popular with prospective employers. The one time I took it in full, I think it was through some sort of career placement centre at Radcliffe College. It was quite a long time ago, probably one of those times when I didn't know what I really wanted to do in life.

The MBTI is very popular. Everyone wants their MBTI label so they can say "I'm INTJ" the way they would say "I'm an Aries." I think the MBTI is a wee bit more reliable than astrology, but it does suffer from one thing that all type inventories do: it relies on self-reporting. The full test is set up in a way to try to preventing gaming the test, but it's still more about how we see ourselves than how we might really be and how others might see us. We can answer completely honestly, but it still comes from our own view of ourselves. And especially at certain times of life, we don't always know ourselves as well as we might.

I remember my result from all those decades ago, because of course it was my personal label: "I'm INTP." That stands for "Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving." When I learned that, I didn't balk. I thought it described me pretty well—introverted as opposed to extraverted [sic], intuitive as opposed to sensing, thinking as opposed to feeling, and perceiving as opposed to judging. If you Google Myers-Briggs, you can find more than you ever wanted to know about what each of those categories means. "Introverted" in Myers-Briggs land doesn't mean shy and withdrawn. It's about how you recharge your batteries. An introverted person regains energy by being alone, whereas an extraverted person regains energy by being with others.

Since type inventories are about our basic temperaments, they're not supposed to change. But since they're self-reported, and thus about how we see ourselves, then perhaps if we see ourselves differently than we once did, we'll get a different score. As well, maybe we do change somewhat as we, er, mature.

That seems to have happened to me. I haven't done a full MBTI recently, but I've done one of the brief online ones. The result was no longer INTP. It was ENFP.

The F didn't surprise me. I am and have always been a thinker, but I over time I have found more of a balance between thinking and feeling. Thinking no longer always wins out, and I have become more of a consensus seeker, more sensitive to the needs of people and not just concerned with abstract principles.

The E, however, really threw me. Me, recharging by being with other people? The one who telecommutes to work, spends too much free time in front of her computer, and tends to stay home with her sweetie watching DVDs on Friday and Saturday night?

I had a suspicion that might have changed as well. Must of that time spent in front of the computer is interacting with other people via email or chat. I'm a total Facebook addict. I look forward to getting out and getting together with friends, which for me doesn't happen often enough. I love meeting new people.

One thing last week really brought it home to me. I was in the office for the first time in four and a half years. We finally had the travel budget to bring in many of the people who work remotely, on both coasts. We were in to meet people face to face, to do some work that's much easier to do when you're all in the same place, to attend meetings, and to participate in "craftsmanship day," a day of practice and learning for software developers. Having been working in my home office for all this time, often in my jammies all day, I wasn't sure how I'd like being in the office. But I loved it. If I were there on a daily basis I might wish for some time alone and to be able to work in my jammies again, but for the duration anyway I enjoyed being surrounded by people and interacting with them.

The incident that struck me involved an after-work thing. I was giving one of my colleagues a lift back to our hotel. On the way out the door, we ran into another colleague, who said that there was something going on at the pub where people commonly hang out. We had recently lost one of our senior people under somewhat mysterious circumstances (I'm not privy to that kind of inside knowledge). Because it was abrupt, there had been no send-off at work. I had never met him, but I knew his voice from countless meetings, and I liked how he ran things.

My fellow remote colleague remarked that he was beat and wanted to head back to the hotel. I thought about turning around after I dropped him there and heading to the pub, which wasn't that far away, but I decided against it. I should have gone. I realized that even after a long day at work, I could have used the social interaction. I would have met this guy, if only to say goodbye, had a drink and some appies, and hung out with other people from work. Once upon a time, that would have been the last thing I wanted to do, but now I realize that I would have enjoyed it. Now I will never meet this person with whom I once worked, and I regret that.

Not that I was anti-social. Four of us remote folks got together later on for really good Mexican food. I wasn't sorry about that. But I still should have followed my first instinct, an instinct I'm not quite used to yet. That's not only to go for social gatherings. It's also to say yes to opportunities and new experiences.


MgS said...

The Meyers-Briggs isn't expected to be a fixed outcome for most individuals. (The exceptions seem to be those with extremely high scores along one vector or another - of which I am one)

However, it is interesting that it can change over time, and perhaps one might one to consider the impact of major life changing events on our psychological spaces.

Aerin said...

My dad did a lot of work refining and developing a similar "typing" system based on the work of Maruyama (not sure about spelling, my head hurts.) Anyway, if you'd like an alternate viewpoint, let me know and I can send it along.