So, I will admit it. I am a personality nerd. I think that understanding MBTI typing makes us better parents, too.

Typing people into 4-12 kinds has been going on since Aristotle, and Kiersey (the one who named and described each of Myers-Briggs’ 16 types) makes a compelling argument that the ancient systems (like choleric, melancholic, etc) are observations of the same sort as those made by Isabel Briggs Myers. If you want to know the best personality test, I think it’s actually reading the descriptions until you land on the one that nails you.

I have found personality type information to be super helpful in working alongside people, in parenting my children, in teaching, and in understanding myself.

I have found this typing information to be super helpful in working alongside people, in parenting my children, in teaching, and in understanding myself. Here’s Isabel Myers on the topic:

Many destructive conflicts arise simply because two people are using opposite kinds of perception and judgment. When the origin of such a conflict is recognized, it becomes less annoying and easier to handle.

The letters and combinations may seem confusing, but it is a system (which is why I love it) to describe the different ways people perceive reality and then come to conclusions about it. That is really the jist of MBTI right there. Understanding MBTI means understanding how different people see information and make decisions. In justifying her typing system, Myers writes:

Briefly, the theory is that much seemingly chance variation in human behavior is not due to chance; it is in fact the logical result of a few basic, observable differences in mental functioning.

Listen to this post!

SC014: Personality Typing

Understanding MBTI to understand others

Later, she clarifies that the system is built upon different types of healthy and necessary-to-the-world mental functioning, not dysfunctional ones. The title of her book is Gifts Differing, referencing Romans 12:

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

Her goal is to help different people’s views of the world mesh together into a collaborative whole and be valued by all, rather than judged or ignored. Understanding MBTI means understanding that no one person’s perception or set of criteria is complete. It’s not that there are many right answers, but that every person is finite.

She goes on:

Together, perception and judgment, which make up a large portion of people’s total mental activity, govern much of their outer behavior, because perception – by definition – determines what people see in a situation, and their judgment determines what they decide to do about it. Thus, it is reasonable that basic differences in perception or judgment should result in corresponding differences in behavior.

To understand MBTI, you have to understand the letter combinations. The MBTI assigns four letters to each type, and each letter “slot” has 2 options:

  • I/E – Introvert/Extrovert :: where your best self is, what direction your energy flows
  • S/N – Sensing/iNtuition :: (perception) what kind of information you prefer to take in
  • T/F – Thinking/Feeling :: (judgment) how you prefer to make decisions
  • J/P – Judging/Perceiving :: whether you prefer to use your perception or your judgment in the outer world (which foot you put forward, your S/N or your T/F)

Isabel Myers writes:

Whichever process they prefer, whether sensing or intuition, they will use more, paying closer attention to its stream of impressions and fashioning their idea of the world from what the process reveals. The other kind of perception will be background, a little out of focus. With the advantage of constant practice, the preferred process grows more controlled and more trustworthy.

So, personality is something that develops in childhood naturally and over time. Later in the book, Myers says that personality distinctives may diminish with age because often older people have had enough life experience to have to exercised all of the functions to such an extent that they are able to choose the most appropriate option over their preferred option.

Understanding MBTI letters

Here is the shorthand explanations I’ve worked out for each of these 8 options (this is based on my extensive and long-reaching reading and note-taking. My top 5 books are at the end of the post), trying to evade clichés and stereotypes.

  • Introvert: pays more attention to his inner world than the outer world, prefer to keep his emotions internally rather than expressed, prefers to think before acting or speaking (making him appear or be reserved).
  • Extrovert: pays more attention to the outer world than his inner world, enjoys expressing himself, spends himself freely in commitments and activities.
  • Sensing: pays more attention to sense-details in the here-and-now than to ideas and connections, matter-of-fact, can’t stop himself from observing and being aware of what’s around him, prefers living in the present.
  • Intuitive: pays more attention to ideas and connections, seeks inspiration, can be independent of and even unaware of surroundings, can’t stop himself from thinking, prefers achievement and innovation.
  • Thinking: makes decisions based on impersonal and dispassionate reasoning, values consistency, doesn’t get feelings hurt because it’s about the point not about people.
  • Feeling: makes decisions based on personal and relational reasoning, values harmony, gets emotionally involved because everything is about people.
  • Judging: prefers to make decisions, close open loops, and come to conclusions; the perception preference feeds the inner self, while the judging option is the public face.
  • Perceiving: prefers to keep options open and learn more, loves to continually take in new observations; the judging preference feeds the inner life, while the perception option is the public face.

An introvert’s best energy is spent in (and recharges itself with) a quiet, private, reflective life. An extrovert’s best energy is spent in (and recharges itself with) a public, expansive, interactive life.

A sensing type loves concrete data, observations, and hard-and-fast categories. An intuitive type loves ideas, unexpected connections, and big picture visions.

A feeling-oriented person is friendly, seeks harmony, and always takes the personal and relational side into account when making decisions. A thinking-oriented person is analytical, seeks consistency, and rarely gets personally involved when making decisions.

A judger uses his T/F preference when dealing with the world and life. This means that he will want decisions made, prefers to commit one way or another rather than “wait and see,” and will move into action once a decision is made (but not before). A perceiver uses his S/N preference when dealing with the world and life. This means that he will want to keep his options open, gather as much information as possible before making a decision (“wait and see”), and move forward and “try the waters” before committing.

Introversion and extroversion, so popular and misunderstood today, plays a bit-part in MBTI. That is not the key distinction between types or what separates people. The key to the MBTI is the Perceiving and Judging pair. The first and last letters are really modifications on the core S/N and T/F pair.

Under the theory presented here, personality is structured by four preferences concerning the use of perception and judgment. Each of these preferences is a fork in the road of human development and determines which of two contrasting forms of excellence a person will pursue.

MBTI does not predict how much excellence different types reach or aspire to, but what sort of excellence attracts them.

Here is Isabel Myer’s type chart of the 16 options:


The TJs are in the corners taking the brunt of it, the Fs are in the middle where they can hold everyone together, the Ts are at the sides giving structure, the Is are northern (cool and independent) and the Es are southern (warm and inviting). The very structure of her chart helps you remember the characteristics of the letters and their combinations.

Understanding MBTI helps us see our own weaknesses as well as the strengths of others we’d never otherwise notice.

So, do you know what type you are? Can you guess based on my explanations?

If you want to take a test, I recommend the one at Their type descriptors are also really good. Another good way to figure it out is to read the brief descriptions given at Personality Page, narrow it down to two or three most likely, then read the full descriptions and find the one that resonates most.

But remember that each of the four places is a spectrum between the two options. Everyone uses all 8 functions, but most people have a preference for each. The stronger the preferences, the more extreme the personality type (and the easier, therefore, to type). Generally, being toward the middle is a sign of maturity – the ability to switch up what you use based on what’s needed – but it can leave you straddling a line between two types or feeling “personality-less.”

If you think this sounds like a lot of bunk and you don’t care, then you’re an ISTJ.

You’re welcome.

Mystie’s essential understanding MBTI library:

So, what type are you?

I am an INTJ, the one always cast as the evil genius in every type chart out there.



  1. Okay, you already pegged me as an ISTJ yesterday. So your last line got me laughing — if you think this is a lot of bunk and you don’t care, then you’re an ISTJ. Amen!!! That’s why I can never ever remember what my personality type is! :) Plus, this really rang true for the T category: “Thinking: makes decisions based on impersonal and dispassionate reasoning, values consistency, doesn’t get feelings hurt because it’s about the point not about people.” How many times has my husband reminded me: I’m a person! You’re not talking to a robot here. I have feelings; please act like it!”
    Okay, that all makes sense now. So I’ll file this all away and promptly forget it next week. Hah!

  2. Really looking forward to this series, Mystie! As a fellow MBTI junkie (and INTJ), the only thing I would argue with in this is the difference between S and I as far as surroundings. Maybe it’s just where I am on the scale between S and I, but I’m always taking in information about my surroundings and analyzing it.

    That could just be my own special brand of INTJ, though.

    1. You could be lower on the scale of N, or it could also be what you’re taking in about the surroundings. Are you taking in ideas about what could be improved and how things could work better (focus is on conceptual) or do you see every single concrete little thing?

      I am INTJ & my husband is ISTJ, and when we look at a room, I see it matched up against the Ideal Form of the room in my head (and it and I always fall very short, but I’m used to it), whereas my husband sees simply what’s actually there without connecting the facts to a bigger idea or ideal. His seeing is more detached than mine.

  3. Haha! Personality-less is exactly how I’ve been feeling when I take one of these tests as I straddle too many fences. Now I know I’m “mature”. Did you have your mother in mind when you wrote that? You’re too kind. :)

  4. I’m an INFJ (although the F and T lines are starting to blur a bit for me now) and my husband is an ISTP, which makes for an interesting combination. I have been reading Nurture by Nature and cannot believe how helpful typing my kids has been, especially my ESFP daughter- I feel like I can finally start to relate to and parent her better.

    Looking forward to your series!

  5. I am excited too. I really enjoy these things. I am not super perceptive of others, and personality type helped me a lot in my very late teens to figure out why different people were…different. It has taken me a while to find my exact type. I am very IN, but I thought I was a T. I was mostly just raised by an INTJ who told me that was the right way! And I was throw off by Keirsey and the fact that all of his examples were boomer “radicals” so since I didn’t identify with women’s liberation, I didn’t identify with my inner rebel. I am definitely INF, after reading gifts differing I am way confused about the P and J thing. Deep down I am totally P which is why I identify as INFJ, but then why is my husband, ISTJ, seem like a J inside and out? Is it because I never see his outer “show” actions anymore?
    Oh, and I just read a book, Godly Personalities which is one of my new favorites. I am really looking forward to your thoughts on helping household dynamics with personality.

  6. I found out a several years ago that I am an INTJ. It is very solidly INTJ too-not just on that side of the middle. I know that it is not that common of a personality type, especially for women. I always struggled with feeling a bit strange compared to everyone I grew up with- like nobody really understood me. I was raised by an extremely extroverted mother and we were like oil and water. (Now we get along just fine.) Taking the test and reading the description for the first time, I finally felt understood. I finally knew I was not “broken” or strange and that there are other people very similar to me. Now I am very secure in who I am and how I am made. My poor husband does describe me as “prickly” though… Knowing how I am and having been so different from my mother, it has made me much more sensitive to trying to meet the needs of my children. I have a super extroverted son and make a very concerted effort to get him plenty of social interaction, even if I don’t feel like it at all… My oldest, a teen girl, tested INFJ. She is very similar to me. My middle, is the super extrovert, but I haven’t figured out his exact profile and if I have to guess, littlest (5yo girl) will be INTJ too. She is exactly like me as a small child. I try and giver her the space I never got as a child. I would say that learning the meet the needs of my children better than mine were met is the greatest gift I have gotten from learning about the personality types.

    1. Yes, “prickly!” As an INTJ too, I have often thought that of myself. I was raised by a strong feeling mother though, so that has helped me to think about people and their feelings a little more than I think I would have otherwise.

  7. I’m an INTJ. when I finally started looking into MBTI, the world became so much easier to navigate. I also realized that I’m really bad at using the S,F, and P. my percents we’re in the high 80s and 90s for my own attributes. My husband is an ESFP, so some of the misunderstanding we have had are starting to be less tension- filled!

  8. Yahoooooo! Mystie’s talking MBTI!!! :)

    ENFP, but I only know that because you toId me so. I think I need to mature a bit so I’m harder to type. ;)

    Over-commit? Talk too much? Jump in to decisions and feel very open-ended about them? Yes, of course, but it’s all about people, so it’s fine, really. :P

    I had Allison pegged as an ISTJ after talking to her for 5 minutes on the phone, lol.

    1. My oldest son is an ENFP, and I’m always delighted to meet ENFP adults and discover that they made it past childhood, LOL!! But I still don’t know that I’ve met or even know of any male ENFPs!

      1. Heidi, you already know that my younger son is an ENFP, too. They say Dr. Dobson is an ENFP, actually! So proof that they can grow up to be responsible, I guess. Also, Robin Williams, Will Smith, and Walt Disney… so a little crazy, but also entertaining. Basically, what they are already like. ;)

        1. Robin Williams is the only one I can believe out of that group. :) But maybe they aren’t as far over on the sliding scale? I’ve heard that Walt Disney wasn’t exactly a sensitive people person. Idea person, yes. For my son in particular, he is not driven by anything but his imagination and relationships. He has a ton of ideas, but he is so open-ended and the present is all there is that he can’t work toward a goal of any sort. So fascinating!

    2. So Sarah, what you’re really saying is that I’m not mature in ANY area of my life or personality, because I was so easily pegged. Well, thank goodness I still love you, even after such a public insult! Hah! :)

  9. Oh, how I love MBTI. :) It has been a huge help in navigating relationships in my house. I am an introvert who grew up in an introverted household with all girls (except for my dad, who was a quiet, sensitive guy). I did not have the relationship skills to deal with a polar opposite husband (I’m an ISFJ; he’s an ENTP) and an extreme first born (ENFP, all the way over on the sliding scale for each of those functions) and three more extroverted children. MBTI really helps me understand them better. They aren’t trying to be difficult. :D

  10. Also, I haven’t studied the dominant process for each type, and I think that is an interesting aspect of the MBTI. My dominant process is Sensing. I find that I take in so much with my senses that I have sensory-overload by mid-day. It doesn’t help that I’m in a daily environment that doesn’t provide much sensory relief!

    My husband and son are very similar (ENTP and ENFP), and their dominant process should be the same (N), but most days it seems as if my son leads with his F (which means that he and my husband CLASH a lot).

    1. Heidi,
      I am RIGHT there with you! I feel like a 5 year-old sometimes, wanting to wave my arms around and shout I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE! This is precisely why we have a mandatory 2-hour quiet time every day, otherwise my ISTJ nerves would never recover.

  11. I bought Nuture By Nature after Brandy’s post about it and I really appreciated being able to type my kids. It has definitely helped me in thinking about how to parent them better. I wish the book had more suggestions about how to deal with some of the foibles of certain types… my middle son in particular! There’s a sentence in his type that says something like, “he likes to do something to stir up everyone, then sit back and watch the chaos that results” which fits him to a T (and is so incredibly frustrating and maddening!!) but there’s not much there about what to do about that. Other than recognize that’s what he’s doing and trying to keep everyone falling for it… but that takes a lot of maturity – more than my kids (and me, sometimes!) have.

    Anyway, looking forward to this series!

    (And as one INTJ evil genius to another, I just have to say “Bwah, ha ha!”)

  12. INFJ here, and my favorite people are usually INTJs (which is what I heard you were somewhere, Mystie?) Anyway, I’ve always thought we were kindred spirits: planners and organizers who like their systems. :)

    1. I’m an INFJ too … and I married an INTJ (which, can I say is a great combo?!) INTJs help me by explaining why my intuitive feelings about different things (books, ideas, etc) make sense. I do love them :)

  13. You can add me to the list of INTJs ? I can’t remember how I came across the MBTI now, (wait! I think it was a post of Brandy’s from the Ambleside Online Forum) but I can vividly remember taking the test for the first time about 2 years ago. When I got my results and read the description, I had such a feeling of relief to finally know that I am not an alien from some distant, non-emotional, robot planet! Lol! I had previously felt like such an oddball, sure that there was something wrong with me because I have such a difficult time finding common ground with other women in my life. How excited I was to find out that there are other ladies out there just like me (albeit, only 1/2% of the general population), and I’m not inherently flawed!
    I’m looking forward to the rest of this series, Mystie. I’d also like to get my hands on a copy of Nurture By Nature, so I can learn about being a better Mama to my kiddos. Keep up the good work, Mystie!

      1. Yes, I’ve noticed that myself, too!
        I have to share this with you: I took the test from 16personalities yesterday, and it typed my as INFJ! I was completely shocked, as I’ve never gotten that before… Differences in J/P, yes, but the INT was always firm. I wonder if it’s because I’m pregnant and my emotions have more influence over me right now?
        P.S. I want to clarify that I didn’t intend to call all INTJ’s non-emotional robots; I just meant that relative to many SF’s I’m around, it makes me feel that way by contrast. I’m actually a perfectly caring and empathetic person, as I’m sure many INTJ mamas must be. Just don’t expect me to break down in tears easily. ?

      2. and INFJs, which I understand are pretty unusual as a type. I think it’s because we get the social interaction on our own terms without the outlay of energy by being on the internet. And we can type things out and not talk … it’s the editing that appeals ;)

  14. That’s weird — my comment and your reply disappeared. I read the ISFJ article and it does seem like me in a way. I’d like to email you about this, if you don’t mind — I’d love to have someone to talk to who know a lot about it!

  15. This is all so fascinating, and I have totally been drawn in. But I’m also finding it very confusing. The I and the J are unquestionable. The middle letters are different depending on which test I take. At the link you posted, I’m an ISFJ. This surprised me, because I think of myself as fairly idealistic and thoughtful. I think I may have been an “N” as a child, and moved more towards an “S” as an adult.

    1. It’s actually very typical for an ISFJ to get a different result every time, because they often take on the characteristics of those they’re spending time with. Read this description and see if it fits:

      Here’s one of my own personal litmus tests: 1) when you cook, do you measure everything and follow the recipe or do you dump and sprinkle and have a hard time paying attention to the recipe? 2) what do you do for fun or to relieve tension?

      1. I am an ISFJ, and I think this is one of my favorite (flattering :) ) descriptions: “The ISFJ personality type is quite unique, as many of their qualities defy the definition of their individual traits. Though possessing the Feeling (F) trait, ISFJs have excellent analytical abilities; though Introverted (I), they have well-developed people skills and robust social relationships; and though they are a Judging (J) type, ISFJs are often receptive to change and new ideas.” I’d like to think all of that is true, but I’m not very receptive to change or new ideas. Ha! I think the description came from this test:

        I like your litmus tests, Mystie.

      2. Now I’m even more confused…that description was me, except for two complete paragraphs. I am not a person that learns better by doing than from a book, and I loved higher education and have excellent analytical skills. Also, I SO do not have a well-developed sense of space, function, and aesthetic appeal. The reason my house is always messy seems to be because I don’t notice it until someone knocks on the door. And I’ve never even hung pictures on my walls. I don’t NEED positive feedback, though I value it highly, especially from people I care about.

        As for your questions, I always measure exactly when I’m baking because the chemistry matters, but throw things together when I’m cooking. I rarely follow a recipe to the letter. For everyday fun, I like to read or bake something special. For occasional treats, I like doing things with my husband or family…eating out, or nature walks…nothing that involves a lot of people, but things that involve connecting with my people.

        1. Theology and history. Now that you mention it, I’m not usually analytical when it comes to fiction or poetry, unless things beg to be analyzed. Also, when it comes to nonfiction, my analysis tends to include what the implications of ideas are in real life. (This is a big part of why I’m a Charlotte Mason lover…philosophy first, then method.)
          Thanks for helping me work this through. :)

        2. It’s fun for me! :)

          Are you analytical when it comes to people? For example, I can only offer hugs and sympathy after I’ve run a quick analysis of the situation and remind myself, “True, a kiss doesn’t actually make anything better, but it will make them stop crying, and that’s what we want here.” :) An ISFJ would just reach out in sympathy automatically.

        3. Thank you for your diagnosis. I think you’re probably right on that. INFP was the first personality description that I thought “That sounds like me” about as I was browsing through. I do identify more with the ISFJ now that I’ve taken the little test and read a bit more.
          I just picked up Nurture by Nature from the library yesterday. I’m finding this very interesting.

  16. This is great! I have been testing as an INTJ for year, but the website you linked to had the best explanations I’ve seen. It also helped me to understand why I’m not as firmly NTJ as I used to be ten years ago. My I holds firm though. My youngest son is also an INTJ, which explains why I get him so well and am not put off by his insistence of truth at all costs. ;)

    I also loved the bit on parenting. Yep, that is definitely my way to go. I would let my kids climb any tree they wanted as high as they wanted with the understanding that I would not rescue them if they got stuck. They each got stuck once and never again. They then knew their limitations, which for one of them meant climbing 40 feet and for another it was five years before he climbed a tree. I always thought I was a weird sort of mom; now I know that I am.

      1. I love these and have taken others in the past. With very little variation, I am always INFJ. How strongly has been moving towards the middle for several years now, but still always basically the same. Today, I took the test again (because why? I don’t know.) and without really thinking about it, I am ENFJ. What! Weird. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m crazy. (INFJs supposedly often question their sanity.)

        During the test, I sometimes overanalyze the meanings of the questions – I mean ideas ARE real things so the question about prioritizing ideas over real things made no sense to me.

      2. I laughed out loud – INTJs are supposed to be atheists. As an off the chart INTJ, the truth of God and his work on my heart is real to me because I know I would be an atheist if left to myself!

  17. Mystie – I don’t see any links in your type research library. Is it just my wonky computer, or are you going to link some books? I’ve taken several type tests but can never decide just what I am! Part of the problem, as you suggest, is maturity. When I was 30, I was solidly an introvert. Double that, and I love to talk in front of people….still an introvert who loves to recharge after being with people, but much more extrovert than I used to be!

  18. When I first starting reading your blogs, Mystie, I said to myself, “Hello fellow INTJ!”. It wasn’t hard to spot, but thanks for the confirmation!

  19. I love personality tests! I am an INFP, altho as I’ve gotten older I am closer to TJ than I used to be.

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