How I Use the MBTI to Understand Our Family

 

How I Use the MBTI to Understand Our Family // jessconnell.com

I just took another Myers-Briggs assessment. Every time I do it, I feel fear that my letters will change, but no… They haven’t changed since college. :)

The numbers strongly confirmed: by this measure, I’m still an ENTP.

  • E= Extroverted (“extraverted” to the MBTI purist)
  • N= Intuition
  • T= Thinking
  • P= Perceiving

Here’s one description:

Prophet: You are agile, smart, vigilant, straightforward and good at motivating other people. You can mobilize all resources to solve new challenging problems. You know how to find abstract possibilities and analyze them through strategic thinking. You have a strong ability to read people. You are not satisfied with a normal life. You seldom do the same thing repetitively. You always move from one interest to another, quickly.

Not sure that description is absolutely accurate for me, but the letters generally are accurate. One of the things that sets the MBTI apart from other personality inventories is that the results are only seen as accurate if you agree and confirm them. This is not some super-imposed thing like an IQ test that implies, “This is what you are, whether or not you like it or agree.”

Sidenote: even though I consistently come out at about 60% extraversion, the longer I’m a mom of many, and the older they get, the more I feel like and act like an introvert.

WHY I LIKE THE MBTI

I personally really like the MBTI as a baseline measure of understanding people. Of course, we’re all more than “one of 16 categories”– God has made us each unique!– but the MBTI is valuable for a few reasons.

  • It’s big & diverse enough to allow us to understand some real and significant differences between people. For example, the Sanguine/Choleric/Melancholy/Phlegmatic breakdown, popular when I was a teen, is (for me) far too simplistic. It forces people into too few boxes that often don’t fit.
  • Yet, the MBTI is small & constrained enough to be usable. If humans were to be categorized into 48, or 100, or 256 various personality types, these would be too large a set of options to actually be useful to us. The 16 categories, based on 4 basic, memorable, easily understandable measurements, are simple enough to grasp after only a little bit of familiarity with the system.
  • It helps us understand ourselves better.
  • It helps us understand others better.
  • It helps us understand that our way is not the only “right” way, nor the only “godly” way. There are godly people who see time differently from one another (in Central Asia, for example, time is a very relative thing and “being on time” is not highly valued; that is not because they are wicked, but because they see time differently from a military man in the US). There are godly people who seemingly can’t get enough of being around people, and godly people who need to purposefully retank their energy after being around people.

How I Use the MBTI // jessconnell.comIt’s not an absolute Bible-truth that 100% pegs each individual, but I find the MBTI to be a helpful construct that enables us to analyze and understand other people… what their perspective may be, what’s important to them, and (some of) why they like what they like and do what they do.

Here’s a basic rundown, for the uninitiated:

The MBTI is an assessment based on 4 sliding scales between a pair of letters. Each person can fall at any place along the scale from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Those 4 sliding scales are:

  • Extrovert (sometimes written extravert)/ Introvert
  • Sensing/Intuitive
  • Thinking/Feeling
  • Judging/Perceiving

The E/I scale measures where an individual gets energy from– In this indicator, Extraversion means a person gets energized from things/ideas/people outside themselves, while Introversion means that a person is energized from things/ideas/people inside self (ideas/emotions/impressions).

The S/N pair (typically, this is the hardest one of the four to discern) is about how a person gathers and processes data. The Sensing individual uses his/her senses, relying on details, and verifiable input. Attention is given to the details before the big picture. The INtuitive person uses meta-data, intuition, and hunches to gather overarching themes. This person gathers impressions, reads between the lines, and may seek to understand theoretical ideas and themes before giving attention to the nitty-gritty details.

The T/F letter pair (Thinking/Feeling) concerns how we make decisions. A “T” most naturally leans toward basing his/her decisions on logical data, facts, and objective reasons/consequences. An F highly values feelings, values, emotions, and the importance of relationships involved, as he/she makes decisions.

{RABBIT TRAIL: Something interesting about this letter distinction is that it is the only pairing that is directly related to gender. Every other pairing is pretty much evenly split between men and women, but this letter pair is not. Depending on what book or resource you read, anywhere from 66-80% of women are feelers, and 66%-80% of men are thinkers. This gives interesting insights into male-female interactions and the marriage relationship (even if you fall into the minority for your gender, there is something to be learned from these gender norms).}

The J/P scale is how one naturally carries out decisions in the world. The Judging individual prefers organization, lists, plans, and appreciates when things are decisive, firm, routinized, dependable, and predictable. The Perceiving individual likes to leave things open, flexible, malleable, spontaneous, available for changes or additional input as more information is gathered.

Each letter in your “Type” can affect how the other letters show up, but this is a basic listing of each scale. Now that you have a basic intro, if you want to take a test, go here: SimilarMinds is a great resource for Jung/MBTI tests (note: Jung/MBTI refer to the same basic set of 4 sliding-scale measurements to create a 4-letter “Type”).

(Here’s an easy-to-use list of all 16 type descriptions.)


If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve found these books helpful in growing in my understanding of the MBTI personality types (click each book to learn more):

personality & famliy // jessconnell.com

Understand personalities, bless your family // jessconnell.com

Learn about MBTI to understand your children better // jessconnell.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO USE PERSONALITY TYPES?

Not only is it helpful to be able to analyze why you and others around you (like your husband and kids) do the things you each do, but also, I find that understanding these types helps me understand how to better engage with the people I’m regularly around. For example, in a work or small group setting, or in your extended family circle, it may be helpful to know some of the basic “types” around you as a way of beginning to comprehend where others are coming from and why they approach life the way they do.

ISN’T IT A BIT NAIVE TO THINK THAT EVERYONE IN THE WORLD FALLS INTO 16 CATEGORIES?
Well, there are fence-riders… there are those who fall very close to the middle on one or more scales. But most people do find that their “type” description fits them quite well.

I think it’s important to say outright– The MBTI is merely a tool, not a box we’re trying to cram people into. It can help us understand, but it’s not the authoritative “word” that defines who someone is or ever will be.

MBTI IN OUR MARRIAGE

In our family, remembering that Doug & I are both “Ps” helps me better understand why and how our house (and especially our bedroom) is often messy. We are both rather lax about our physical environment. We both put things in random places. We get sidetracked by ideas and new possibilities and relationships, which causes duty and routines fall the back burner. We like to change things up (and have moved 14 times, besides!), and so household “routines (i.e., always putting one’s wallet/purse in the same place, taking off our shoes in the exact same way and place every time) are very loose and non-routinized for us both.

We also are lax about plans, which means we tend to not make firm arrangements until the last minute (which can sometimes frustrate us or people around us), but it also means that we’re up for more spontaneous plans and relational opportunities that come our way. These things aren’t (in and of themselves) sinful, but could be sinful if they led to neglect or a lack of care for one another, or an inability to carry out our commitments.

Another example: Knowing that my husband is an Introvert helps me to care for him mid-day, or at the end of a day, on Sunday, when (as a Pastor) he’s been talking and interacting and listening and giving out all day in ways that are joyful, and yet, more taxing, for him than they might be for an extrovert. Knowing that I am an extrovert helped him when he was approached by a group of ladies who wanted to take me  out for my birthday. He knew that I would truly enjoy it, and it would not be draining for me, so he secretly made the plans and sent me out the door with a smile on my face to spend a couple hours with friends.

Knowing our basic MBTI types helps us to give grace to one another, and to better care for each other’s needs.

MBTI IN MY MOTHERING

Learning our kids' personalities // jessconnell.com

With 7 children, I’m pretty sure…

[let me go through and be certain… right now my best guesses are: ENFJ, ISTP, ISFP, ESFJ, ENFP, IS?J, ????– he’s only 8 months old…:) ]

yup… I have some of each letter. 

In my mothering, the most significant way that MBTI has been useful for me has been in understanding the different needs of Introverts & Extroverts.

It is very easy for an introverted 2-year-old to get “maxed out” by people and feel overwhelmed much more quickly than would happen with an extroverted child. It is very easy, in contrast, for an extroverted child to feel utterly downcast at the thought of leaving people they love (say, while at a friend’s house). Understanding this difference helps me understand when and how to be on the lookout for outbursts, particularly with young children who are still learning self-control.

My Introverted 1, 2, and 3-year-olds LINGER in nap time. Much more so than my extroverts, they *like* to spend extra time in the crib, talking to themselves, enjoying the quiet, staying for sometimes an hour or more (singing, happily talking, and rearranging stuffed animals around them) before calling to me to get them. They actually struggle when I get them too soon, as it forces them back into constant interaction with people too quickly after a leisurely nap. This extra bit of time for quiet is a way I’ve learned that I can actually *bless* my little introverts in a household full of people.

Another example: My (judging) children like to know the PLAN for the day. They’ll ask, “what will we do after church? And what about after that?” Etc., etc., etc. While I do not believe I answer to my children or owe them lengthy explanations of every plan on the agenda, because I know that they appreciate knowing what’s coming, it helps me understand why they are interested in that information. Understanding this helps me to be more proactive (especially since I am a P) to give them a framework of the general plan through which they can anticipate their next few days/weeks.

As homeschoolers, I also use this to determine how to drive home a lesson if my kids just aren’t understanding a concept. My oldest son (an N– intuitive) needs to talk through big-picture ideas in order to place detailed math/economics concepts in the right spots. He’s constantly taking in details and relating them to other events in history or culture, as that’s what comes most easily for him. My S (S= Sensing) children are completely the opposite: they need the detail-pegs (names/dates/specific events) to be clear and concrete before they can really comprehend the larger themes and big-picture ideas.

JUST A TOOL, NOT AN ABSOLUTE

This MBTI scale is not by any means an infallible guide, nor is it an excuse for sin (on our parts, or on our kids’ parts). But I’ve found that by understanding these dynamics in our home and relationships, I am better equipped to help care for each member of our family. By putting language to some of the differences in perspective that exist between individuals, the MBTI helps me to be a better lover of my family, teacher of my children, and peacemaker amidst all the relational dynamics that happen between the 9 family members co-existing under our one roof.

This is some of how I use the MBTI to understand our family.

IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:
  • Have you taken the MBTI?
  • Have you ever used it to analyze your kids’ types, or to help them understand one another? If so, how?

 

Subscribe to my newsletter, and I'll send monthly encouragement -- full of truth and grace for moms. SIGN UP, SO WE CAN KEEP IN TOUCH:

Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

You may also like...

12 Responses

  1. Libby says:

    I have done lots of these types of personality tests and my favorites are the MBTI and the Enneagram. Look up that second one if you haven’t. I think the two tests compliment each other nicely. I love being able to get better understanding on where my emotions are coming from or the intricacies of my husband’s thinking. I’m a INFJ and Sean is an INTJ, so we’re similar but also react to things quite differently. Our kids are both young so typing them isn’t quite accurate, but I think my son is E??J and my daughter is I???.

    • Jess Connell says:

      I spent time learning more about the enneagram this summer and found it helpful right up until the website started sending me New Age sounding gobbledygook about the enneagram. I’m not familiar with the connection between the two but it does seem like the enneagram has more roots in & connections to alternative spirituality and that possibility makes me concerned. Have you experienced that?

      I do think examining the driving desires that propel us to action (which is my understanding of the enneagram) was helpful to really understand why I was doing what I was doing.

      Seems like the way it lays out the abusive/healthy attributes of various enneagram types relates more toward sin and heart change than other personality types that just give indication of preferences and natural leanings. To me that makes it more spiritually/morally concerned, which leaves it open to becoming explicitly non-Christian in certain discussions/by certain people. What do you think?

      Again, I’m saying this with only a couple months of exposure to this thing; maybe I’ve got it all wrong?

  2. I’ve taken the test several times in and since college. I always am, and always have been, a strong I and a strong J. My scores on the other tests have varied over the years, never straying too far from the center. The test I just took identified me as an ISTJ, but I usually score as an INTJ, with N and T relatively mild preferences. Personally, I think that explains why I can be so indecisive–I gather data from every conceivable source I can think of, logical or not, and then if my gut and my brain disagree on the best decision, I may never make one. Once I do make a decision, I often second guess it. And I thoroughly plan how to implement it–including several “off-ramps” in case I realize I made a bad decision and need to change it.

    My daughter is too young still for me to say with any certainty what her personality type is. I think she’s introverted, but if so, she’s becoming quite the social introvert, so it’s a little confusing right now. I think she’s leaning toward Sensing and Feeling. When it comes to implementing plans, she’s all over the board between Judging and Perceiving. I’m sure it will become more clear as she gets older.

    So far, the biggest way personality type has influenced my parenting is that I know I need quiet time every day, so I have her rest or play quietly in her room for a while every afternoon. And she does great if we get out and interact with others 1-2 times a week, but more than that results in a tired, fussy girl, so I don’t try to get her out every day. (And I’m so thankful for that; I couldn’t handle being social every day!)

    • Jess Connell says:

      Wonderful! Thanks for sharing… I love the way you laid things out. And yes, it is harder, when you’re an “x” on a particular measure E,I, S/N etc., to discern what you actually need. And what you need can change from time to time. I’m actually pretty close to the line on the E/I divide and P/J divide. So sometimes I act quite like the opposite of my typical “type.”

      I really appreciate what you said about quiet time for you as a mom. That is a critical part of our home as well… and increasingly, critical for me. But I think it’s actually good for all of us & our kids — extroverts and introverts alike — to have the quiet time. We all need the time to recharge, but we also all need to learn to enjoy quiet and not need to fill every moment with words and noise.

      Thanks for sharing so extensively! I loved reading about your experiences.

  3. Katie S says:

    I know I took the test at least once years ago, but don’t remember my results. However, we know my husband is an introvert, our oldest son (4) is an introvert, and our daughter (2) appears to be an extrovert.

    Your comment about the nap-time difference between introvert/extrovert was illuminating to me. Our son played happily in his crib until I came to get him, so that’s just what I thought was normal. I was surprised when my daughter expressed different desires, but I had not connected it to personality type (I’m not sure why?).

    I agree that it is very helpful to understand that some things are differences in personality, or the way one intuitively looks at the world. I really need to remember there’s not one “right” answer about many, many things, and then seek to understand and work with my little ones where they are (rather than expecting them to react/have needs like me).

  4. Kendra says:

    I’m fascinated by this subject but haven’t learned much yet. I’m pretty sure I’m an ENFP. Like you feel like I get more introverted with time and kids, as time to think becomes ridiculously rare! I prefer to have a podcast or the radio or something pouring thoughts and information into my mind rather than just think, which feels kind of lame sometimes. I can think, but usually only out loud!

    I always love all of your posts, but sometimes (in my current state) they intimidate me because they’re about a subject that freaks me out (you know, my kids getting older and teaching them all the things they need to know to avoid the minefields around them, all that good stuff) and then I just want to dissociate a little and not think about it. I bet the difference between you and me is that you can think logically and productively about these subjects where I get mired in the feelings and can’t get any mental traction and then just want to hide away. This would explain why our type is similar except for the T and F! Does that make sense?

    • Jess Connell says:

      Makes perfect sense!

      Sometimes I feel that same thing– “I JUST WANT TO RUN AND HIDE FROM ALL THIS & LIVE IN A CAVE AND INVITE SOME OF MY FAVORITE FAMILIES TO COME AND LIVE IN NEARBY CAVES SO NONE OF US HAVE TO DEAL WITH ALL THE MUCK AND MIRE.” Only thing that pulls me back to earth is remembering that the muck and mire is in my heart. And theirs. So the cave option doesn’t really work. But I definitely have your same feelings, often. Being a T probably does help me more naturally pull away from putting stock in those feelings.

  5. Michelle says:

    I had to smile… Your personality is exactly the same as my husband’s, and the opposite of mine. :) I agree, it is so useful to know our families unique personalities and understanding what makes them tick. I have ten children, and oh my, we have quite the variety represented among us! Amazing that we have so many different personalities in children birthed from the same two people. :)

    I only recently discovered your blog, and I love it! You have a lot of wisdom to share.

  6. Heather says:

    Have you read about MBTI history and its creators? How does it compare with a Biblical worldview of man?

    • Jess Connell says:

      Over the years, I’ve read some of the history/etc. I would put this in the same category as… well… anything else I read except for the Bible. As needing discernment. Like any book written by men, it needs to be matched up to Scripture and not taken as gospel-truth.

      Of COURSE these things will have to be filtered through a biblical worldview. We need to be discerning readers in every area.

      Occasionally an article/book about MBTI will act as if these are unchangeable traits and I know (even from my own life) that they are not. There is a great deal of opportunity for each individual to adapt and grow in many of these areas.

      And each trait/area has opportunities for service to others and opportunities for selfishness and sin:

      Introverts can learn to not be selfish about their desire for solitude/recharging (choosing instead, to be a part of gatherings and events when they might prefer otherwise).
      Extroverts can learn to not be selfish about their desire to talk/connect (choosing instead, to listen and prefer others above themselves).

      Those with a “Sensing” preference can choose not to be overly focused on details and learn from those with a big-picture perspective.
      Those with an “Intuitive” preference can choose to slow down and not run roughshod over people who need more details and less philosophy in order to make a decision.

      Those with a Feeling preference can choose not to hold others hostage to their emotions and learn to speak truth to themselves in order to make decisions based not only on feelings but also on truth and logic.
      Those with a Thinking preference can choose not to demean and diminish the importance of feelings, and can learn to see feelings as one “indicator” on the dashboard that can sometimes help us make decisions, rather than solely making all decisions on cold, calculated logic.

      Those with a Judging preference can choose not to require that the entire world live according to their norms/regulations/preferences for schedule, cleanliness, and planning.
      Those with a Perceptive preference can learn how better to plan and be dependable, even if their natural bent is to make last-minute decisions and be spontaneous.

      We can all, no matter what our bent, learn to prefer others above ourselves. But I do believe there is value in understanding basic personality differences and learning to give grace and extend kindness based on internal (non-chosen) traits, rather than the natural state we tend to have (which is that our way is the ‘right’ way of doing/being).

      Thanks for the question.
      ~Jess

  1. November 12, 2015

    […] are privileged to pray for and with our children, “study” them– learning their personality, their strengths & weaknesses, their skills, their interests– and, in so doing, offer […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join my e-mail list & get 30 Quick Fixes (for Tough Mom Days) FREE!

  • Stay connected with your kids, even on the hard days.
  • Get exclusive MOM encouragement
  • Let me help you become the best mom possible!

Enter your name & e-mail address & let's become friends: