Let me just start by saying that I really dislike posting anything negative. Especially in response to a negative. I like encouraging, inspiring, optimistic stuff because that’s how I’m naturally wired. And that’s what I like to put out there for people. So I put off writing this article for a long time.
But its time has come.
Every once in a while, I run across someone who dislikes the Myers-Briggs. Like, *really* dislikes it. Or downright hates it. Or suddenly feels unsure about it. Or once loved it but whose confidence in it has been shaken by a misguided blogger. They’ll either contact me directly or I’ll get tagged in a post. Usually this person has run across some article or another, found on the All-Knowing Internet, whose author has spent way too much time and energy tearing apart the [insert valuable aspect of the MBTI here] of the MBTI.
Angry Myers-Briggs bloggers. All of a sudden this has become a Thing on the internet.
A little background. I was professionally trained and certified on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (the... um... *actual* one) back in the summer of 1999, which means I’ve been working with the instrument for roughly 18 years. That’s almost half my lifetime. And in that time, I’ve seen countless tears and countless lives and relationships changed for the better because of the insight this tool provides. No, it won’t tell you everything about EVERYTHING about you — no assessment can do that. But yes, when executed correctly, it does provide a good snapshot of how you’re wired with an accuracy that many folks find almost creepy. It's not the be-all and end-all of your identity, but it is a very useful tool among many useful tools. And it can help you feel understood, perhaps for the first time in your life.
This has been the case with many of my clients -- feeling understood for the first time in their lives -- and it's always a beautiful thing to see.
And yet, in the past few years, the Myers-Briggs has become trendy, and bloggers have enjoyed turning it into a matchmaking tool, a party trick, or a way for you to predict which direction you’ll hang your toilet paper. And then there are the angry, offended bloggers who have ripped it to shreds, dismissing it with names like "stupid astrology" or "BS" or "somewhere between a horoscope and a heart monitor," (really, people?!), often in reaction to some unhealed wound.
Ironically, these wounds are often created by the unprofessional mishandling of the Myers-Briggs.
Take, for instance, those free online “Meyers-Briggs tests." [Note: If you see Myers spelled "Meyers" or the word "test" instead of assessment, you are most definitely in unprofessional territory.] In my experience, these rarely give you a reliable result, and even if your letters do come out accurate, the description of your type is usually way off (at best) or deeply damaging (at worst). One ENTP friend of mine really struggled after being labelled by a free "Myers-Briggs" site as "argumentative." It shocks me how negative labels like these are tossed around on amateur sites like confetti. These are identity words, folks. Are you sure you want to tattoo someone with the label of "argumentative" or "naive" or "manipulative" for life?
No wonder some people have grown to hate the Myers-Briggs. Or rather, some adulterated version of it.
Most people who believe they've taken the Myers-Briggs actually haven't. They've taken a free online knockoff. Which is fine (no judgement), but let's call it what it is. Some of these are fairly okay; others are a boiling hot sticky mess. But most peeps don't even realize there's a real one out there.
But more importantly, people should be having a live conversation with a trained type professional if they want to learn their personality type because, let’s face it, we’re talking about deep lifelong identity issues here, and this stuff needs to be handled with care and professionalism. I've talked to extraverts who had tested as introverts and introverts who had tested as extraverts. Sensors who come out intuitive and vice versa. And then there are the ones who had all four letters come out wrong! The "Law of First Mention" is real, and if those initial results were flawed, they can be hard to shake. Obviously, I've had some messes to delicately clean up over the years and lots of clients who've had some unlearning to do about themselves.
In fact, about half of my time is now spent cleaning up internet messes created by free online tests, bogus sites, and flawed articles. I call this process "identity tattoo removal." And I gotta say, it's pretty neat to watch someone kick off an old pair of shoes that never really fit and slide on a new pair that fits like a glove and feels like home. (Yes, I know I'm mixing my metaphors. 😉)
I rarely had to do this until a few years ago. For most of my professional career, people treated the MBTI with tremendous respect, knowing its 70+ year track record of helping people understand themselves and those around them. The instrument (and my career) were taken seriously, as seriously as any trained therapist, career counselor, or life coach. Information about personality type used to be found only in professional journals and published books.
Not so much anymore.
The problem of course is the flattening effect of the internet. Suddenly, everyone has a "platform" and everyone has an opinion. Expert voices are no louder than the voices of hobbyists or haters. And so, in just a few years, I’ve had to suddenly start defending and explaining my profession in a way that I never had to before.
I used to spend a lot of my time interacting with these skeptics, trying to help them see that it is, in fact, a well-researched, reliability- and validity-tested, professional psychological instrument that has simply been hijacked by much of the blogging community and more or less demoted into a party game. Some of these folks were genuinely convinced and became believers... promoters even... and others were determined to hold their skeptical ground.
But I don’t do that anymore. Mostly because it’s a waste of my time and mental energy. I don't mind when folks come with genuine questions, but there's a big difference between someone searching for solid, accurate answers and someone who just wants to argue.
To be fair, there are some really good blogs out there, too. Folks who've done their homework and know their stuff. I've read a good number of spot on articles and they always warm my heart. But these voices don't seem to get as much airtime and sharetime as the ones who seem to enjoy spreading confusion and misinformation, thereby making a mockery of the most reliable personality assessment available in the world today.
These days, I give my time to people who genuinely want to learn from it, grow from it, and use it to enhance their daily lives and relationships. People who have a genuine interest in developing greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence. People who are open and teachable. Those are my kinda peeps.
Isabel and Katharine's goal in developing the MBTI was, after all, world peace through mutual understanding.
I tell people it's kind of like that scripture verse that says, “If you receive a prophet as a prophet, you will receive a prophet’s reward.” The fact is, if you receive the MBTI as a helpful professional tool, then you will receive the reward of its impact on your life. If you can't receive it as such, then there is no reward. I’ve seen this dynamic play out over and over again.
But the choice is always ours to make.
Okay, now that I've finally gotten all that out ... back to the fun stuff. 😊
© 2017 Michele Kus, M.A.