Humans baffle me. They act in illogical ways, often against their own self interest. For instance, it makes no sense than someone would speed and drive erratically, literally risking their life and the lives of others to save a few seconds, but I see it every time I’m on the motorway.
I’ve written about my suspected autism, and I accept there is a lot of nuance I’m probably missing when it comes to other people. My brain works in an atypical way, so to understand the world and how it works, I tend to categorise things. It’s not a perfect system, but it gives me a broader understanding than I’d otherwise have.
A couple years ago, my daughter suggested I look into Myers-Briggs personality typing (MBTI) as it might be a useful tool to help me understand myself and other people a bit better. I took the test and was assigned INTJ, and while I could kind of see how it fit, it didn’t make complete sense. INTJs aren’t the most adaptable type, but I’ve always been adaptable – living in foreign countries, creating my own work for income, and picking up language skills when needed. I can make a success of a meal I’m preparing if I discover quite late in the process that I don’t have an essential ingredient. And I’m good at solving problems in unconventional ways.
A few months later, my daughter and I were watching vintage Top of the Pops and I mentioned my admiration for Elvis Costello for the way he defied Lorne Michaels on Saturday Night Live back in the 70s. It’s the sort of thing I’d have done at that age, and I wondered if Mr Costello and I might share personality type.
I decided to try the test again, but this time made an effort to be truly honest and give answers that reflected who I am and not how I think others perceive me. I kept my adaptability in mind, and reminded myself that am not as organised as I like to think I am. I remembered I’d rather keep my options open than follow a daily routine. This time the result was INTP, and as I studied this type further, I’d no doubt I’d mistyped myself the first time around. Elvis Costello and I are both INTPs.
I’m not an MBTI disciple, and I can see where some people might find it all a bit woo-woo, but as someone who doesn’t understand other humans and the way their thoughts lead them to action, it’s been a god-send. It’s changed the way I relate to other people for the better.
I now know why some people behave impulsively, and why others are more future focused. I understand why my husband seems to have maps in his head while I’d struggle to find my way to the train station we’ve visited 100s of times. I know why some people are always on time while others are perpetually late. And I get why some people come across as warm and friendly while others seem cold and reserved.
I also understand myself a lot better – why I’m reactive, why I spend hours in my own head, why I’ve always rejected authority, why I cook without recipes, why I dislike managing others, and why autonomy is so important to me.
If you’re interested in knowing more about MBTI or want to take the test yourself, I recommend the 16 Personalities website. When taking the test, remember to be as honest as you can, and if you’re unsure how answer a question, ask someone who knows you well to help. And if you’re inclined, please leave your results in the comments section. I’d love to know what you think of your personality type and/or MBTI in general.
4 replies on “Elvis Costello is Definitely My Type”
From 1996 to 2020 I worked (as a software developer) for a company that had an alternative to MBTI. The MBTI model has some well-recognised flaws. Of course we claimed ours was better (and I think we were right). But that doesn’t matter too much. What all of these systems are is a tool for self-reflection – we just tell you what you tell us about yourself (possibly with differing degrees of success), but give you different perspectives on it and the language to discuss it, where you might have known those things about yourself perfectly well internally, but struggled to crystallise them into concepts and words for discussion.
I wish I’d had something of the sort when I graduated and was first looking for work; it would have helped me to express myself better to prospective employers and given me a clearer idea of what I was looking for from them.
(Haven’t name-checked my former employer as there isn’t a free version to try; and you don’t need it anyway if MBTI will do the job for you.)
I can see issues with MBTI, but it works as a rough tool. It’s broad, which I like.
Enneagram is also helpful, but it deals more with how one navigates the world as opposed to personality. It’s interesting to observe people who approach things from a logical standpoint vs someone who looks at things through an emotional lens.
I wonder if I’ve heard of your former employer. I’m always on the lookout for anything I can use to categorise.
Well, since you sort of ask, I don’t mind giving them a plug. It’s these folk: https://www.insights.com/
An international business, based in Dundee. I was employee number 13 and their first in-house developer. They’re a bit bigger than that now!
Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to take a deep dive into their website this evening.
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