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How to find out your personality type?  

Given that this is a website for highly sensitive people, you might be wondering why there would be articles about the MBTI® or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® published here.  Fair question!  There are three main reasons: 

  1. Many highly sensitive people experience problems with a world of work that is not set up with the needs of highly sensitive people in mind.  The MBTI® was originally developed as a tool for matching people with career options that are aligned with their personality type.  As a life and career coach for highly sensitive people, the MBTI® is one of the tools I sometimes use with my HSP clients in career transition.   
  2. Although the MBTI® was originally developed as a career assessment, it actually has a ton of applications beyond the workplace.  And one of those applications happens to be stress reduction.  HSPs have a more reactive nervous system than the general population.  Our stress response and emotions are activated more easily, so many of us struggle with overstimulation and chronic stress.
  3. There’s quite a bit of overlap with high sensitivity and the MBTI®.  So knowing your MBTI® is another way for you to potentially find communities of people who are similar to you.  See more about the HSP-MBTI® overlap here.

If all of this is sparking your interest, then keep reading to find out more about the MBTI® and about finding out your own personality type.

WHAT IS THE MBTI®?

The MBTI® is based on the personality theories of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Jung’s theory was further developed by mother and daughter Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers.

According to the Myers-Briggs personality type theory, there are 16 personality types, each with a four-letter combination.  Each of the four letters stands for a particular preference. 

There are four pairs of preferences:

  • Introversion & Extraversion
  • INtuiting & Sensing
  • Feeling & Thinking
  • Perceiving & Judging

WHAT ARE PREFERENCES?

The MBTI® preferences can be compared to handedness.  When you are using your dominant or preferred hand, it’s easy and effortless.  When you are using your non-dominant hand, it can be pretty awkward and takes more effort.  With practice, you can get better at using your non-dominant hand, but even with a lot of practice, it might never get to be quite as effortless as using your dominant hand.  

The MBTI® preferences work the same way.  Preference tells us what you find most energizing and comfortable.  Personality type does not determine ability or skill.  People can be very skilled at using their non-preferred side.  Just like you can practice and get better at using your non-preferred hand, you can become skilled at using the non-preferred sides of your personality.  Everyone is able to use all eight of the preferences and we all do use all eight of them all the time.

Because we are talking about preferences, you are the best person to decide your own type. Sometimes people take an assessment to help inform their decision, but in the end, it’s your call.  Nobody else can tell you what your preferences are.

Which brings us to…

3 WAYS TO FIND OUT YOUR PERSONALITY TYPE

Let me repeat this one very important point: the best person to decide your personality type is YOU!  Nobody else can tell you what YOUR preferences are.  Although assessments can be used as one tool that informs the typing process, they are not meant to be taken without self reflection.  As a Certified MBTI® Practitioner, it would actually be considered unethical of me to administer the assessment to someone without a follow-up meeting to explain the results and discuss the extent to which they resonate with the client.

With that being said, here are your options for finding out your personality type:

  1. Take the official MBTI® with an interpretation by a certified administrator.  The official MBTI® is backed up by several decades of development and refinement and more than 10,000 research papers.  The other cool thing is that if you go with the Step 2 version, you get a lot more detail than with an assessment (free or official) that only focuses on the four preference pairings. If this is something you are interested in, you can sign up for a zoom-based MBTI Step 2 session here with me.
  2. Take one of the free assessments you can find by googling online.  If you go this route, you might want to look into how the assessment was designed to get a sense of how seriously you should take the results.  And I would also recommend combining the results with a self assessment. Do you agree with the results?
  3. Keep reading this article and find descriptions of the preference pairs.  For some people, that’s all it takes!

READ ABOUT THE PREFERENCE PAIRS TO FIND OUT YOUR PERSONALITY TYPE

INTROVERTING AND EXTRAVERTING

Introversion and extraversion are orientations to life.  What energizes you and where do you like to turn your attention?

Some people prefer to turn inward and pay a lot of attention to their inner world of thoughts and ideas.  People who prefer introversion tend to be more reserved and need more time alone to recharge their batteries.  Introverts usually pause and consider before speaking or taking action.  Introversion is often confused with shyness, but not all introverts are shy.  Introverts simply enjoy and have a need to spend some quiet time by themselves.  When it comes to relationships, most introverts would take a few close friendships over a large number of acquaintances.

Other people prefer to spend more time turning outward to the external world of people and things. The people who prefer extraversion tend to be more outgoing and expressive. They feel energized by being social and active. They usually like to think out loud – talk first, think later – and they like to have a lot of people in their lives to talk to.

We all do both – we all turn inward and outward – but we have a preference for one side or the other. Some sources estimate that half of us prefer extraversion and half introversion.  Among the highly sensitive population, a majority or about two thirds are introverts.  

If you are a highly sensitive person and you have a really hard time deciding whether you are an introvert or an extravert, you could well be a highly sensitive extravert.  Extravert HSPs often need just as much downtime as introvert HSPs.

INTUITING AND SENSING

We all need a way to perceive the world.  We need a way to take in information, process it, and figure out what’s going on around us.  But we have different preferences for what kind of information we naturally pay attention to and trust.  Some people prefer to perceive by sensing.  Other people prefer to perceive via intuition.

Sensing simply means using your five senses to detect what’s in front of you.  Sensing relates to concrete things.  What do you see, hear, smell, feel, taste?  What is actually happening right now?  People with a sensing preference tend to be more observant of facts and details in their immediate environment – they notice things.  Some would describe them as more down-to-earth and practical as well.

An intuiting mind, on the other hand, will unconsciously take in lots of cues from the environment, put it all together, and produce new insights or ideas.  Unlike sensing, which deals with concrete matters, intuition deals with the abstract – with theories, with ideas, with possibilities, with meanings, with implications.  What could potentially happen? How could things be changed?  People who prefer intuition tend to be more future-oriented and imaginative.  They often have their “head in the clouds” thinking about the big picture and might miss concrete details around them.

Again, we all use both kinds of perceiving, but we prefer one or the other.  It’s estimated that at least two thirds of the population have a sensing preference, with people preferring intuition being in the minority.  With that being said, it’s thought that highly sensitive people are more likely to have a preference for intuiting.  

FEELING AND THINKING

We all need a way to make judgments.  After we have figured out what’s going on (perception), we need a way to make decisions about how to respond or what to do in a given situation.  Some people prefer to make thinking judgments that are logical and objective.  Other people prefer to make feeling judgments that are more subjective.

People who prefer to make decisions using thinking criteria consider logic and consistency first and foremost and tend to do better working with impersonal facts, ideas, and things.  They like to objectively weigh pros and cons.  They are good at being analytical and value truthfulness over tactfulness.

People who prefer making feeling decisions consider impact on people first and foremost and tend to do better with handling people and relationships.  They like to give more weight to their personal values about an issue.  They are naturally sensitive to other people’s feelings and would rather fudge the truth than hurt someone’s feelings.

It’s not uncommon to stereotype all men as thinkers and all women as feelers.  This isn’t entirely misguided as a majority of men are in fact thinkers and a majority of women are in fact feelers.  However, there are plenty of women and men of both types out there. Our society has just put a lot of pressure on thinking women to act more warm and fuzzy and feeling men to be more objective and calculating.

Would you say you are more of a warm and fuzzy feeler interested in people? Do you like to talk about feelings? Or would you say you are a logical and objective thinker interested in facts and things? Does talking about feelings make you uncomfortable?

JUDGING AND PERCEIVING

In the two previous sections, I wrote about ways of perceiving (sensing and intuition) and ways of judging (thinking and feeling). But people also have a preference for perceiving overall versus judging overall.

Some people prefer perceiving – ie. gathering information – over making a judgment about that information. People with this perceiving preference like to wait and see and keep options open. They want to keep perceiving and taking in information for as long as possible. These people tend to be more “go-with-the-flow” and “live-and-let-live”. They are often casual and more fun-loving. Some can be messy and disorganized. Perceivers are also known for having a very flexible attitude toward time. If taken too far, this preference results in procrastination to the point where nothing ever gets done.

Some people prefer making judgments – ie. taking action – over perceiving (gathering more information). People with this judging preference like to make quicker decisions. They want to settle things so they can take action. They are also more likely to take charge and try to control others in their quest to have things settled and done. They like sticking to schedules and being punctual. They may be into formal rules and structures as well. An inflexible control freak would be someone who has taken this preference a bit too far.

The descriptions above apply to extraverts particularly well. If you are an extravert, it’s probably fairly easy for you to pick either perceiving or judging. The only confusion might arise from the fact that our society and most work-places reward judging behavior, so you might have taken on some judger characteristics even though your natural preference is for perceiving.

Figuring this one out is a bit more confusing for introverts, because the P versus J distinction has more to do with how one relates to the outer world. Extravert perceivers (EPs) tend to be the “purest” perceivers, while extravert judgers (EJs) tend to be the “purest” judgers. Introvert perceivers (IPs) and introvert judgers (IJs) usually fall somewhere in the middle between the EP and EJ extremes. Here are a couple more clues about introverts:

  • IPs can be quite organized and even regimented with their personal and with their inner lives, but they don’t typically try to control or manage others or be very comfortable with others controlling them. When they are in an extraverted mode – relating to the outer world – they behave more like perceivers.
  • IJs can seem very opinionated and “take-charge” and structured when they are in an extraverted mode. But in their inner world, they love being in the perceiving or information-gathering mode.

Do you think you lean more toward a perceiving preference or judging preference?

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE MBTI® AND HIGH SENSITIVITY

Now, that you probably have at least some idea of what your personality preferences are, click here to find out more about the overlap between the MBTI® and high sensitivity. Some personality types are more likely to be highly sensitive than others.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Anni! I'm a life and career coach for stressed out highly sensitive people. My mission is to help you discover your true self and create a life you ACTUALLY like.

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