Recently, our Commerce faculty dinner featured two speakers who were both outstanding. One of them described himself by his Myers-Briggs Type and wondered how many Commerce students were the same type (it was INTJ for those wondering).
Some of my colleagues really hate the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), but as a facilitator of the Indicator for almost 20 years, I think it is very useful for giving us a language to speak about ourselves. Whenever I have used it for groups or individuals, I explain that I do not believe that the MBTI can ever work out the complex amalgam that we are as humans. Our complexities are created by our diverse ways of being in the world and are influenced by our parents and other adults that taught us how to be, our places of origin, our socioeconomic status, our religious upbringing, even our birth order. The ‘real you’ is ineffable and so complex and ever-changing that finding language to speak about yourself is challenging. However, finding some language that can describe yourself is necessary. You can’t go into a job interview and when the panel asks the inevitable question, ‘What do you bring to our company that is unique?’, and you reply, ‘I am far too complex to answer that question!’ you won’t get the job. Language to speak about ourselves and what we bring to the world is necessary and must be learned.
That is where I have found the MBTI useful. I am not a religious devotee of the MBTI; I don’t own shares in any MBTI-related company; I don’t think it is THE BEST personality test. However, in my line of work, I have found it very helpful, especially to young people who are only just learning to speak professional language about themselves.
There are many free online tools to help you determine your MBTI. My favourite one is here. Like I have said, I don’t believe that any personality tool on the internet is going to give you 100% accurate description of you now and always. However, if you use it as it is designed, as a tool, it can deliver you key words to describe yourself in ways that will hold true in a job interview, or even in relationships. Without some useful language, it is very difficult to express to another how you imagine yourself as different than them. With the MBTI, I not only learn a lot of insights into myself, but also that my ways of being are not necessarily embraced by others who have other ways of being.
One of my favourite examples of how different one person can be from another is when I asked a student team, ‘Describe the ocean.’ One student wrote down things like, ‘the ocean is a body of water that covers ¾ of the earth’s surface….’ He went on to name the particular chemistry in an ocean, particular fish in Australia, and detailed descriptors of coral. Another student wrote, ‘I remember walking near the ocean with my grandfather when I was a little girl, hand in hand. My grandfather’s hand….’and she went on to describe the relationship she had with her grandfather. The first student burst out, ‘Hey! We were supposed to describe the ocean!’ All the students laughed. They also understood how differently our brains work that comes out in personality. We are not the same. We are complex, different humans who use language differently. Still, we need to understand something about ourselves, and also understand others. While you may not like the MBTI, try some of the myriad of personality tests on the internet, and get talking to your friends about difference.
St Hilda's College is a living community and residential college on campus at the University of Melbourne.
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