Archive for the ‘Myers-Briggs Typology’ Category

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Simmer Starters – May 15, 2015

May 15, 2015

Oh my goodness, SO many good and interesting links came my way this past week!  So there are some great Simmer Starters today.  Lots of variety here.

You Are God’s Workmanship (Jon Bloom at DesiringGod) – Ahhh, I love almost everything from Jon Bloom on this site, and this article I especially adore.  “When Paul says that you are God’s ‘workmanship,’ don’t think of your clunky seventh grade shop class project. Think of The Odyssey, Beowulf, The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, or The Faerie Queen — great works of epic poetry.  The Greek word Paul chose for this sentence is ‘poiema,’ and what he had in mind is a work of masterful creativity.”

20 Six-Word Stories That Are Absolutely Heartbreaking (Tickld) – Amazing examples of how much impact just a few words can have.

How to Target an Audience (And Avoid Book Launch Flop) (Kimberley Grabas) – A great how-to post on finding your target audience!  Really good advice here.  Another good one from the same site: 101 Quick Actions You Can Take Today to Build the Writer Platform of Your Dreams.

The Definition of Hell for Each Myers-Briggs Type (Heidi Priebe at Thought Catalog) – Just some amusing (or grating) Myers-Briggs fun.

Two Sisters, Two Views on Gay Marriage (Elizabeth Corey and Mary Campbell at The Atlantic) – A fantastic example of what tolerance really means…loving one another despite differences.  “Mary and I live in a pluralist age when people of goodwill often hold radically different views. This calls, I think, for tolerance of the old-fashioned kind, not persecution of those who differ.”

Charles Spurgeon, Susanna, and the Pilgrim’s Progress (Ray Rhodes Jr.) – Just a sweet story about how Spurgeon sent his future bride a copy of a novel to encourage her.  Godly fiction can inspire and open minds to truths from Scripture we may not have looked at so creatively before!

How to Flesh Out a Character (Nathan Bransford) – Good advice here.  I like the tip about following your character through a typical day.

WritingTip – Be Excited (David Farland) – “The single greatest thing that you can do to motivate yourself to write is to cultivate an attitude of excitement, one that energizes you and drives you to work hard, to spend every spare moment productively. So, how can you get excited about a story? Here are just a few steps to building excitement.”  They’re good steps!

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For Writers: Pros and Cons of Using Myers-Briggs

March 25, 2015

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I’m a fan of Myers-Briggs typology, and enjoy applying the theory to my characters and writing.  But lately I’ve also noticed some downsides to writing with MBTI in mind, so I wanted to share my thoughts on what makes it a useful – or not so useful – tool for writers.

Why do writers need to familiarize themselves with Myers-Briggs typology?

Answer: you don’t.

Writers have been creating and sharing amazing characters for all history, long before this theory appeared on the scene.  To write great characters, all you need is a realistic understanding of human nature and the ability to portray fictional human beings in a way that makes them come alive.

You don’t need Myers-Briggs to do that.  MBTI can be very helpful – or, it can be a hindrance, depending on your understanding of the theory and how you use it.

Silhouettes of Business People VectorFirst, what is Myers-Briggs?

As a quick explanation, Myers-Briggs theory is the theory that people can be sorted into 16 basic types based on how they see the world and make decisions because of their psychological preferences.  The “type” of each person becomes a starting point from which to understand them better.

But you can learn about MBTI basics elsewhere!  (Check out this article I wrote which explains the theory simply.)  This post is about the pros and cons of knowing and using the theory in our writing.

First, some positives of using MBTI to type your characters…

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Myers-Briggs helps you understand how different characters see the world and make decisions.

One of the most useful things MBTI does is make you aware of how people think, and how the logic we use and the way we interact with the world can be radically different from even the people closest to us.  We focus, prioritize, and react differently to things depending on our temperaments – or in MBTI lingo, our “preferences.”  As an author I’ve found it very helpful to understand my characters’ cognitive processes, because I am prone to assuming all my characters will see the world and react to it similarly to the way I do!  And that just isn’t so.

It helps you develop a cast of unique characters.

If most my characters think and react like I would to everything, I’m going to have a very boring, monotone cast!  Understanding MBTI and applying it to my characters helps me make each of them come alive in a unique way.  While I may have some commonalities with both an ISTP character and an ENFJ character, those two personalities are radically different from each other and it may be better to accentuate their differences rather than their similarities.  (Conflict – it’s what makes a story good!)

It helps you discover and express your character’s strengths and weaknesses.

Maybe you’ve never considered how your thoughtful and insightful character might also be forgetful and absent-minded.  Or that your decisive and fast-acting leader character may have difficulty understanding people’s feelings or may come across as abrasive.  For most human beings, our greatest strength has a correlating weakness, and vice versa.  MBTI can be a great way of exploring these things, if you’re researching in the right places.

Now, the downside…

Misinformation abounds!

Not everything you read on the internet is true, and this is also the case for MBTI.  Newbies beware!

We’ve all seen those big tables of fictional characters that say, “Which character are you?” based on MB type.  Most of them are really inaccurate.  (Hermione, an INTP?  Not likely!)  Furthermore, the internet is full of blog posts claiming certain characters are certain types, and typing them completely wrong – or even “slightly” wrong, which is really just as bad.  (An INFJ is quite different from an INFP, and an ESTJ is very different from an ESFJ…one letter can change a lot.)

Actually, a lot of fictional characters are inconsistent and don’t even fit to a particular type, or there is huge controversy about what type they are.  And most shows and books don’t have one character for every type, which leads to the desperate stretching of those character tables to find a person for each box.

Overgeneralization is a danger.

MBTI is a starting point, not the end-all-be-all to understanding someone.  When you find out your character’s type, that gives you nothing except a basic blueprint of their psychology.  It doesn’t tell you their quirks.  It doesn’t tell you what makes them unique as a person.  Basing everything off their MB type is a great way to end up with a stereotype instead of a full-fledged, human character.

My WIP’s main character is a male ENTJ – and I’m not sure if I know any male ENTJs in person.  So when a friend recommended a TV show that had an ENTJ male character in it, I started comparing and contrasting him with my protagonist…and I think I actually have to stop watching that show for awhile because my perception of that character is invading my perception of my own character!  Characters should be unique people.  No real people fit neatly in solid “boxes,” so if your character fits in a neat box, what you have is a weak character, not a strong representation of their Myers-Briggs type.

God didn’t make you with a cookie cutter, so you should be wary of making your characters that way.

Stress over “doing it right.”

I’ve had writer’s block for several weeks running now, and I realized last night that part of it is due to pegging my main character’s type.  Now, instead of writing his actions and reactions however they come to me, I stop writing every few minutes and run to the internet to ask Google about “ENTJs after stress,” or whatever it might be.  I’ve been so worried about portraying him accurately that I was pigeonholing him and destroying my own creative process as I went!  Relying on MBTI can kill the muse fast.

In summary…

Myers-Briggs experts will be quick to point out that most of the negatives I list are examples of amateurs applying the theory badly.  This is true!  However, most writers are not experts in MBTI.  So if we’re going to use the theory, we’d better be aware of some of the pitfalls we could fall into if we’re not careful.

Be warned.  If you only have a tertiary understanding of the theory, it may actually do more harm than good with your writing.  It can easily short-circuit your creativity and cramp your characters into stiff, predictable stereotypes.

Whether you use it or not, MBTI should not have the ultimate say over your story and characters.  It’s a useful tool, when used properly.  But it’s a theory, not a law, and there are exceptions to every “rule,” just like in real life.

MBTI can’t tell you what the core of your character is, either.  I am a middle-class, firstborn, white, American female – and those things color and affect all I do and how I see the world, just like my being an INFJ does.  But you could know all that and much more about me, and still never know who I really am as a person.  A MB type doesn’t “define” a person or character; it’s only an aspect of their being that gives them some things in common with other similar individuals.

MBTI can do many useful things for you as you tell your stories.  But ultimately you still have to do the most important thing all on your own, the thing that will make your reader fall in love with your character and give them life beyond the page – you have to give your character a soul.

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Did you ever have a new theory or system that ended up messing with your creative process?  How did you fix it?  Did you ditch the system, or modify how you used it?

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7 Ways Your Characters Might Be Weak (And 11 Ways to Fix Them!)

January 12, 2015

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I’ve been working on my science-fiction trilogy for almost ten years now.  (Whew, it seems like an eternity!)  I started writing it at fourteen years old, and often dreamed of being like Christopher Paolini and becoming a famous published teenager.

Now, looking back, I am so, SO glad I didn’t get published back then!

My story, my writing, and my characters were weak.  Of course they were!  I was a newbie.

Right now I’m working on version 5.3 of the first book, and to my surprise I realized that this is the first time I’ve really found my main character.  MY MAIN CHARACTER!  Some of the side characters were pretty strong.  But my main protagonist was just a little flat, shallow, predictable…weak.  It’s been astounding and exciting to see him grow from a two-dimensional nice guy to a much more driven and engaging protagonist.  No wonder this book is still unfinished.  I had a weak character, and he was the one practically running the show!

If you’re a young or inexperienced novelist (or even a more experienced one!), let’s face it – you probably have at least some characters who are weak.

But that’s okay!  There are many ways to work on this problem, and it’s really exciting when you start seeing your characters better and expressing them more deeply as you learn your craft.  In a minute I’ll talk about some of the ways I’ve learned to find my characters and make them stronger.  First, here are some red flags that should signal to you that your characters are weak…

Your Characters Might Be Weak If…

1.  You don’t really know what they want.

We’ve all heard (I hope) that characters need goals, or should want something really badly.  That’s where plot comes from!  Goal + Opposition = Conflict!  But I used to have a hard time figuring this out.  What did my characters want?  All I could come up with was, “Well, they want to glorify God in everything.”  Soooo perfectly Christian and inspiring!  But incredibly weak.  That’s not a “goal!”  That’s simply the reality of being a child of God indwelled by the Holy Spirit.  And if we’re honest with ourselves, when are any of our motives ever that pure?  Pretty rarely.  If your character’s “goals” are vague, generic, or aimless, your character might be weak.

Don’t let your character be like this…or at least not for the whole book, please!!

2.  You can’t imagine them doing something bad (or good!).

If they’re just too pure to commit evil, if they never get themselves in trouble, always do what’s right, and don’t ever lose their tempers or say something unkind…then your character is too perfect and totally unrealistic.  Conversely, your villain may be weak if you can’t imagine any inkling of good in him or her.  The strongest characters reflect human nature – and human nature is a mixed bag.  Even the best human being (besides Jesus Christ!) is flawed, and even the worst are redeemable (though they may reject that offer of redemption!).

(But they really shouldn’t be in books either!)

3.  They all talk/think/pray the same way.

Sometimes this is hard for us to gauge as writers, but a perceptive reader will usually pick up on it.  Instead of having unique ways of speaking and thinking, maybe your characters are all deeply emotional, or all talk in snarky banter, or all pray the same kinds of prayers following the same format and using the same phrases.  Real people are all different (that’s where a lot of conflict – and therefore plot! – comes from).  Characters should be different too, in more than just their looks and habits.

Snarky is cool.  But characters all need their own "name tags."

Snarky is cool. But characters all need their own “name tags.”

4.  They don’t change, learn new things, or grow.

If there’s no discernible difference in their attitudes between the beginning of the book and the end, you are probably lacking a character arc.  (There are some character arcs where the character changes the world rather than the world changing them, and that’s called a flat arc, but even these characters should be challenged in their viewpoints during the story.)  A story about a hero doing heroic things and then ending the story as a hero is probably…pretty weak.

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5.  They never fight.

Going along with #1 and #2, if a character doesn’t really know what they want and is too perfect to do anything wrong, they will be passive characters.  When you have real people that want things and aren’t perfect – fights happen!  Unkind words are exchanged, and grudges are held.  Even the closest and best relationships in the world will be marred by occasional disagreements…and in a book, complete peace and love between the allies is kinda boring!

avengers

“Doth your mother know you weareth her drapes?”

6.  They never surprise you…or, you don’t really know why they do what they do!

Strong characters are consistent – but that doesn’t mean they can’t surprise you!  Sometimes when I really know a character they will do something completely unexpected.  Those times are delightful, because usually I can understand exactly why they did it, even if I didn’t see it coming.  But if I never know what a character is thinking or why they do what they do, that’s a big problem.  If there’s no logic behind your character’s behavior, they might be weak…and on the flip side, if they are rote and predictable, that’s also a red flag.

baby

 7.  They are unnaturally resilient.

Let’s say you have a healthy, happy, well-rounded character who functions well in society…and then it turns out they were abandoned by their parents at six years of age and grew up in terrible foster homes??  That doesn’t compute!  If your character has suffered in the past, they are bound to carry scars that affect other parts of their lives.  My trilogy’s main characters are orphans, and in some earlier drafts they were way too well-adjusted for teens whose parents died in a mysterious car fire during their formative years.  It’s been a little too much fun a learning experience “messing them up” for my revisions. 😉

Odds are your character isn’t half this happy to show off their scars.

Ways to Find Your Characters and Make Them Stronger!

Over the past 10 years, here are some things that have helped my characters really stand up, break out of their boring shells, and come into their own.

1.  Keep getting older and learning.

Yeah, I know…frustrating.  Getting older and gaining life experience isn’t something you can make happen.  It takes time.  I put this here to reassure you that if you feel like your characters are shallow – it will get better!  The older I get, the more I notice and understand human nature, and that experience makes its way into the pages of my books.  In addition to the richness that comes from getting older and wiser, you can also expand your awareness and experience by reading a lot, watching movies and TV with good character development, and just plain ‘ol people watching.  Pay especially close attention to the age group your characters fall into.  If you’re a YA writer, hang out with teens when you can.  Etc.

2.  Find out what they have to lose!

You MUST know what your characters want.  If you are fumbling with vague responses like, “He wants to save the world,” dig deeper.  WHY does he want to save the world?  Because his girlfriend lives in it?  Well, why is she so important to him?  What does she fulfill in his life?  What could your character NOT STAND to lose?  What would they rather die than lose? – or, what would they die to gain?  When human beings feel threatened, when what we cherish most or desire most is at stake, that is when the interesting stuff happens and our true nature flares up.  Passivity will kill your characters!  Give them something to pursue.

“Who’s been digging up my nuts??” (Beatrix Potter reference. Yeahhhhh, I’m a mom of littles.)

3.  Let your characters make mistakes.

Like overprotective parents, we sometimes want our protagonists to always do the right thing, to be a good example to others in everything, and “do us proud.”  Let them loose!  Let them make mistakes.  Let them sin and repent and deal with the mess.  Let them grapple with tough emotions.  They will be stronger for it.

4. Study Myers-Briggs Typology.

If you’re unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs theory, here’s a good place to start.  MBTI has become a valuable part of my writer toolbox!  Don’t just learn the basics of what the letters stand for, though – dig deeper.  Find out about cognitive functions.  Learn the difference between Fe and Fi, Te and Ti, Se and Si, Ne and Ni.  Learn some theories about “shadow functions.”  Practice typing people around you and learn how to use MBTI to understand others better.  It’s a lot of information at first and seems confusing, but when you become familiar with the theory it starts to be a natural part of your thought process.

If your character stubbornly refuses to be typed, odds are you could be writing them inconsistently, you could be pushing them into a personality that’s really not their own, or your own personality could be intruding into theirs and coloring over them (my ENTJ protagonist acted like a semi-INFJ for years because of this).  Again, let them loose and see where they naturally go.

Image from: http://cdn4.sportngin.com/attachments/photo/0851/3230/MBTI_chart_3_large.jpg

5.  Fill out character profiles.

Some writers find extensive profiles annoying or overwhelming.  You don’t have to fill it out all at once.  Consider keeping one around and adding to the categories as ideas come to you, or just keep a simple character document with info you can refer back to.  Focus less on tertiary details like their favorite color, and instead really brainstorm their backstory.  Even if it never comes up in the story, it’s where they came from and should be very important to you as the author.  Here is the character profile I made for myself, which is detailed but streamlined – it’s downloadable!

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6.  Learn about character arcs.

K.M. Weiland’s series is a good resource for this and I’ve found it extremely helpful as I write this (hopefully last!) draft.  Don’t just have a hero doing hero-y things and ending as a hero.  Let him grow from weak to strong.  Show her development.  Challenge him.  Bring him or her to the depths of despair, and pour more despair on top, before letting them rise from the ashes.

Image from: http://www.musik-therapie.at/PederHill/images/Struct1.gif

7.  Find out what creates conflict between people – including friends.

We all know of a protagonist and an antagonist, but it’s also important to bring out the things that rub your protagonist the wrong way with his or her comrades and friends.  Try to figure out what about each character might drive another character nuts…and then let that happen, especially in stressful times!  It’s how the real world works.

Don’t be this writer, gentle soul though you may be!

8.  Get comfy with how they think and talk.

Find one of those questionnaires people pass around the internet, and fill it out using your character’s voice.  Do a stream-of-consciousness style document of their thinking process.  Fill out a journal.  Get comfortable and familiar with the way they think and speak.

Mobile-Phone-Girl

9.  Write short stories to spotlight them.

Especially if you’re working on a weak side character, writing a short story from their point of view can be very enlightening.  Choose an important piece of their past to write about, or something about their story that doesn’t come into the actual book.  Have fun with it, and apply what you learn to the real story too.

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10.  Make sure to give them quirks.

Every character should have some quirks.  That doesn’t mean every character should be weird, but there should be something about them that distinguishes them from other characters.  Imagine that you had to make a minimalist painting of your character (like this one of Hermione Granger), or represent them on a book cover with a single object.  What might that look like?  I confess I’m still working on this for some of my characters!  The point is, don’t make them an average Joe.  Give them some distinguishing features, mannerisms, habits, and possibly also favorite items they hold and/or use frequently (like my character Josh, who has a beloved brass pocket watch).  Make them unique!

11.  Be realistic about their baggage.

Don’t let them be ridiculously resilient!  If they have a sordid past, read up on real people with similar troubled histories.  Find out what it’s truly like to be an orphan, to be abused, to be blind, or deaf, or whatever difficulty your character has faced or is currently facing still.  (That’s one criticism I have of Harry Potter.  Harry grew up under the staircase with cruel relatives beating him down all the time, and yet he’s totally honorable, brave, and selfless in almost every way?  I know it’s youth fiction, and he’s certainly not a flawless person, but it still strikes me as odd that he wasn’t more “messed up.”)

I have a character with an awesome robotic arm – yet it wasn’t until recently that I researched amputees in order to write a short story about her history.  I was stunned at how little I had really thought about her “baggage” before!  There was a lot of it to explore as I wrote that short story.  Before she had the cool prosthetic, she had to go through the trauma of losing a limb, and I’d never really considered before how traumatic it had been!  Sure, scars can make a character look cool.  But don’t just throw them onto your characters like neat stick-on tattoos.  Remember that getting that scar really, really hurt, and probably still hurts to this day…and understand and portray your character accordingly.

An old sketch of my character's metal arm.

An old sketch of my character’s metal arm.

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What are some examples of weak or strong characters?  Have you found any other helpful ways to get to know your own characters?  I’d love to know about them!  (The ways, but the characters too!)

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How Myers-Briggs Typology Became My Worst Nightmare (But I Still Love It)

September 19, 2014

2My worst nightmares are boring, repetitive dreams that seem to last forever.  In them, I’m stuck on a thought and cannot escape it no matter how hard I try.  Often I’m trying to analyze a problem or solve a riddle, and it’s impossible, but my brain is trapped studying the impossible thing over and over again.

Sometimes I even wake up, try to shake it off, and go back to sleep – only to find myself muddling through the same conundrum.  (Anyone else have this kind of nightmare?  It’s awful!)  I sometimes wonder if it’s a manifestation of subconscious frustration at something in my “real life.”

Well, last night – between shushing and nursing a restless, teething baby all night – I had one of those dreams.  In it, I was endlessly barraged by letter patterns.  I could. not. stop. thinking about these infuriating patterns!

NF.  ESP.  SFJ.  NT.  SP.  INF.  EF.  NTP.  ISF.  NTJ.  ES.

It felt like I spent the entire night trying to drive away the swarming letters!  Aaaargh.

The source of these letter patterns?  Well, if you’re familiar with it, you probably already guessed:

Myers-Briggs Typology.

Image found at: http://www.potentia.co.th/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/MBTI-16-Types.jpg

What is this complicated madness??

If you’ve never heard of MBTI, the best way to understand the theory in a nutshell is this – we all fall into one of sixteen different “types,” and the four letters in that type’s name describe the way that type interacts with the world and processes information.

At first I disliked the idea.  Only sixteen types of people?  No way!  Every human being is unique!

But that’s a misunderstanding of the theory, because your four letters don’t describe you so much as they describe your main preferences in these four categories:

1.  Your energy source (Introversion or Extroversion).

Do other people energize you (Extrovert)?  Or does social activity drain you and require you to recharge with alone time (Introvert)?  Extroversion/introversion has nothing to do with whether you are shy or like to be with people!  It has to do with whether interacting with those people takes energy from you, or feeds energy to you.  Extroverts also tend to be more action-oriented while introverts are more thought-oriented.

It’s important to note that all of these differences are between extremes on a wide spectrum, not a strict either/or.  Some people are very balanced between the two “sides” on one or more categories.  EDIT: a commenter certified in MBTI pointed out to me that it is a strict either/or in the sense that you will fall on one side or the other; you simply may be unsure where you fall.  However, people do use both sides in any of these categories – they merely have a preference for which side they use most often, and some people’s preferences are not strong ones.

Personally, I fall pretty deep on the introvert side.  Parenting can be tough, with three loud, little people needing my attention all day long.  Sometimes I have to lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes just to regain my sanity! 😉  Meanwhile, my extremely extroverted friend, RJ Conte, occasionally wishes her daughters weren’t napping because she gets lonely and antsy without them!  (I can’t even imagine…)

2.  How you take in information (Sensing or iNtuition).

Do you tend to focus on the basic information you take in with your senses (Sensing), or do you like to interpret and add meaning (using your iNtuition)?  Sensors tend to be grounded in the past and present, very detail-oriented people, while iNtuitives are more concentrated on the future, on the big picture, and on possibilities.  RJ (who also taught me almost everything I know about MBTI) points out to me that sometimes intuition can be confused with introversion, because even extroverted iNtuitives can be very lost in their own thoughts.

I have a moderate iNtuitive preference.  I’m chronically absent-minded, so the here and now is not really my friend (hahaha).  My husband is almost dead in the middle, as a Sensor who also has very well-developed iNtuition, but I’ve noticed that when it comes to information, he wants all the details.  This has caused friction in the past when I had to relay important information to him…and all I gave him was the bare basics!  I’d latched on to what was important and relevant to me in forming the “big picture,” and I mentally dismissed all the details now that I had the big picture in view.  In the future it behooves me to remember that even if the details seem unimportant to me in forming the big picture, my husband wants everything so he can process the information for himself!  I never would have put my finger on this crucial difference between us (or recognized how to fix it) if it wasn’t for my awareness of MBTI.

3.  How you make decisions (Thinking or Feeling).

When making a decision, do you look first at logic and consistency (Thinking) or do you first look at the people involved and any special circumstances (Feeling)?  People commonly misunderstand this category, thinking it’s the difference between using your head and using your heart, or being logical vs. emotional. It’s more about where you place your logic and emotions…do you focus on the rule or do you see all the possible exceptions to the rule?  Also, are you focused on objective facts in a situation (Thinker), or on the people involved (Feeler)?

My preference is Feeling, but I have a very developed Thinking side, so much so that I use both functions almost equally.  However, I know am a Feeler because in any situation my first concern is the effect my words and actions will have on the people around me, and what kind of response I might provoke.  This page has a really good summary of Thinking versus Feeling.

4.  Your sense of structure (Judging or Perceiving).

This is probably one of the most stereotyped categories of the four, and I’m guilty of misusing these “labels” sometimes, too.  Judging doesn’t meant you’re judgmental, and Perceiver doesn’t meant you’re necessarily perceptive.  This category describes whether you like to have everything set and decided (Judging) or whether you prefer to remain open to new information and options (Perceiving – the word refers to taking in information “as you go”).  The J/P category also has more to do with your outward appearance to others than how you are internally, I hear.

I admit this is the hardest part of MBTI for me to describe and understand.  I’m still working this one out!  And there are a lot of stereotypes that muddy the water here (like, “Judgers are bossy” and “Perceivers are wishy-washy”…again, these things are very true of some, but not of all).  But as someone with a moderate Judging preference myself, I know that I prefer to be organized, have a plan, and have my mind made up about things.  If you have a Perceiving preference, you may tend to be more spontaneous, wing it, and keep your options open when you can.

Looking at all those categories above, you should be able to piece together the four letters of your type!

I am an Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judger – an INFJ.  (Supposedly we’re a rarity.  We love it that way.  But there are swarms of us in the writing world.) 😛

INFJ’s: Plan for saving humanity, yes. Magical beard ornament, yes. Now, where are my car keys?

Stereotypes and “typism” (as RJ calls it) can abound within MBTI-loving circles.  People sometimes form judgments against others merely over their “type”, when in reality each person is different and one ENTJ can be very different from another ENTJ (or whichever type you have in mind).  Some people are right-brained, some left-brained.  Some are very balanced, others are not.

The trick is to remember that people don’t fit into strict boxes of 16 clear-cut types, but rather each person is somewhere on the scale between Introvert and Extrovert, preferring Sensing or their iNtuition, Thinking or Feeling, and Judging or Perceiving.

If anything, learning about Myers-Briggs helps me see and appreciate the diversity of human personality more, not less!

My Love-Hate Relationship with MBTI

The more I think about MBTI, the more it invades my thoughts at all hours of the day!  Lately I am constantly analyzing every person and personal interaction, running it through the “type system” in my brain.  No wonder I’m having bad dreams about MBTI not leaving me alone!  (RJ says it eventually becomes second-nature, when you’re very familiar with it.)

But despite the annoyance, I love MBTI, because it makes so much sense.  Understanding the many “types” helps me discern that some people simply tick differently than I do, on a very deep level.  Furthermore, it helps me understand how they tick, and how they will tend to naturally communicate, and with that knowledge I can prevent a lot of misunderstandings and frustrations.

For example, do you perhaps have a friend with a not-so-great side?  Say she’s very blunt and brusque.  If you know her well, you have probably learned to lovingly overlook that side of her, because, “That’s just her personality.”  You learn to not take it personally, right?  You start to recognize it as her natural way of speaking, not a sharpness toward you.

Being familiar with MBTI gives me the knowledge to give that same kind of general grace to everyone!  It’s a great asset in my quest to “do unto others,” as Jesus commanded us to do.

Also, knowing my own “type” allows me to put a finger on some of my own behaviors and thought processes that might have been subconscious before.  Knowing why I do some things the way I do often leads me to understand my sin issues better, and equips me to address them head-on.

MBTI is also a great thing to have in my toolbox as a writer, to understand my characters better.  I don’t form my characters based off MB types (some writers do), but after I’ve gotten to know my characters a bit it does help me to “type” them and learn about that type so I can flesh out their personality and depict them more accurately.  (It’s lazy writing – and boring – when all of our characters think and act the same way we do!  But it’s easy to forget that everyone experiences the world and processes things differently.)  It helps me make each character unique, just like each human being in the real world.

Resources for Learning More about Myers-Briggs

I use this online quiz a lot to help me type characters – I just answer all the questions from their point of view.  Then I take the results I get and compare them to the description of that type on this helpful website, which not only talks about the type but also how they relate to others, strengths and weaknesses, and so forth.

Online quizzes are not always accurate (neither are those “type charts” with movie/TV characters, by the way), so if you use a quiz, don’t take the answer at face value.  Do some independent research!

But be warned…research too much, and MBTI could start stalking your brain all day and haunting your dreams at night.

It will be totally worth it, though, I promise!  😀

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Do you know your Myers-Briggs type?  If so, what is it?  If not, can you figure it out based on this article?  (And if you’re an INFJ, check out my newish INFJ Pinterest board!  Chances are, we have some things in common.)