Why some People are so Obsessed with the Myers-Briggs

I think one of the most baffling behaviors for people uninterested in mbti is just how persistent their pro-mbti friends are about the whole affair. It’s probably super-embarrassing like having a friend who claims everything is the fault of the Illuminati/ex-girlfriend. Or maybe to them it’s like a football game except there doesn’t seem to be any sane way to keep score. As I write this, I’m visualizing the faces of my non-mbti-friends when my husband unabashedly refers to someone as “J” in public. The question is plain: Why are you so obsessed with classifying people? It also leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths. Isn’t it rude to judge people?

Unlike most things I’ve learned, I was actually in class when my soon to be obsession was introduced. We had just taken the MBTI metric as a class, and my graduate school professor was putting our different Sensing and Intuitive percentages on the board by student.

It wasn’t a big class, but casual observation would reveal a little over half of the class was on what is called the Sensing side of the spectrum. The other 40% was in the Intuitive side of the spectrum, but mostly at a preference score of less than 50%. Way out there all alone on the board was my name under 100% intuitive.

Now I believe there’s considerable margin of error and vast inadequacies with MBTI, but I couldn’t help noticing that in my already unusual population selection (graduate school) that I was even more unusual. This was…. surprising, unsettling, and curiosity-inducing.

Here’s a good/slightly overly-romantic overview of Sensing vs Intuiting (they call it Observing vs Intuiting): Sensing vs Intuitive

These traits determine communication style as well – Intuitive individuals talk about ideas and have no difficulties with allusions or reading between the lines, while Observant types focus on clarity, facts and practical matters. This is why Intuitive types are likely to find it quite challenging to understand someone with the Observant trait, and vice versa. The former may even think that the latter is materialistic, unimaginative and simplistic, and the latter may see their Intuitive conversation partner as impractical, naïve and absent-minded. Both sets of assumptions can be quite damaging and it takes a mature person to get past them – but statements like these are fairly common.

Discovering the Sensing vs Intuitive paradigm was simultaneously wondrous and devastating. I imagine finding the cure for a disease  you didn’t know you had is somewhere in this emotion-ballpark. The Intuitive stuff was old news, obviously, as I had such a strong preference for it. But reading about the Sensors, oh man. So much made sense all of sudden! This is why people are positively nuts for the question “what did you do that day?” (pet peeve) instead of the question “what did you think about today?” This is why people struggle so so so hard with a story that even slightly deviates from sequential order. This this this.

And well. Devastating things too right? This is why my friends/society are/is nicer to me when:

  1. I weigh less.
  2. Have better clothes/makeup.
  3. Visually document my travel.
  4. Visually document my social time.
  5. Visually document my work-out habits and participates in group rituals glorifying them. (I find this slightly inane.)
  6. Visually document how much my nuclear family unit loves me.
  7. Talk about how well I’m doing at work.
  8. Have a monogamous partner.
  9. Talk about the sequential order of the task I performed that day.

In short. Somewhat boring things…. since they would be imminently predictable based upon maybe 4 points of data about my place on this planet. (Here) When someone asks you how your trip to the Philippines was, the S-world doesn’t want you to respond with a rambling diatribe about tropical’s climates lack of food preservation probably leaves them ill-equipped for industrialization (THINK ABOUT IT). They want you to say it was:

“So beautiful. Just amazing. The water is SOOOO blue. The best blue. The fish was so fresh. Everyone I met is wonderful. The people there are so nice. Just really relaxed. They are so much happier even if they don’t have electricity.Scuba diving is so cool.”

So yes. The MBTI taught me the proper response to social-questions, which was a skill in dire need for me. It taught me, more importantly, that many people value very different things than I do. I was 23 when I discovered that probably a majority of my interaction hitherto produced a somewhat negative view of me. And well. That sucked.

I do a pretty good job at passing through S-world these days.( Population Stats) I visited one of my oldest and S-est friends this past weekend, and I enjoy her attention to crafting a sumptuous present condition, the focus of her attention, and the general steadfastness of her energy.

That being said. Here is a hilarious example of what it’s like being me in some S-conversation: I’m Plucky the Duck

I think of this video almost everyday.



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