An ENFJ’s Struggles with Myers Briggs

I admit it, the thought of being defined by 4-letters didn’t sit well with me.  I had been co-facilitating a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment a year ago and hadn’t really come to peace with the results of my personality ‘type’ then.  This past March, I decided to feed my curiosity about this MBTI stuff and enrolled in a practitioners training course.  You can imagine my hesitance sitting in the training session and being given a name tag to wear that had my name printed on it and underneath my name, the four letters that were the result of my online assessment – ENFJ. 

If you’re not familiar with MBTI, the idea behind this theory is that the MBTI instrument was developed by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs as an application of Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types.  This theory suggests that we have opposite ways of gaining energy (Extraversion or Introversion), gathering or becoming aware of information (Sensing or Intuition), deciding or coming to a conclusion about that information (Thinking or Feeling), and dealing with the world around us (Judging or Perceiving).  It is assumed that you use each of these eight parts of your personality but prefer one in each area, just as you have a natural preference for using one hand rather than the other.  No preference is better or more desirable than its opposite. 

During the week-long training, the facilitator guided us through the world of type and preference.  I was concerned when after the first day, it appeared that I had yet to jump aboard the MBTI train with this theory in the way that many of my colleagues had with their expressed admiration and enthusiasm for this tool.  I had even approached the instructor to warn him that I was still yet ‘to drink the Kool-Aid’.  I was amazed at his nonchalant response and somewhat put off by his confidence in the tool when he remarked, “you’ll get there”. 

I lost sleep about this tool.  I phoned family members and friends to get their perspectives on ‘type’ and ‘innate preferences’.  I showed up on Day 2 even more confused and skeptical.  And then Day 3 came along and it all sunk in.  Somewhere between the interviews of our results and discussions about who I am and how I approach life, I realized that I am an ENFJ – and that doesn’t define or limit me.  It somehow, liberated me.  It was a week of delving into myself, swimming upside down a bit and then following the bubbles to the surface.  It was a frustrating, sleep-depriving week of self-discovery that I look forward to walking others through should they allow me the honour of helping them identify their MBTI preference to not only become aware of their own particular style but to also better understand and appreciate the helpful ways that people differ from one another.