A Small Discussion with Kristin on MBTI

MBTI is a personality type theory that some believe to be useful and some do not. Since being introduced to this, I have used it primarily for personal growth. Here I am, discussing a few aspects of it with Kristin – link to her YouTube channel

Source: The Myers-Briggs Company

Dear Kristin,

Hope you’re safe and well during this pandemic. Thanks for your time with this Q&A.

Your video, where you talk about why you like MBTI is linked below. So, I don’t think that question will be relevant now.

S: You’ve mentioned that you’re an ESFP. Apart from the many tests you might have taken, what made you sure, that it’s ESFP? Considering the fact that a human being are complex, and stereotypes are just that – stereotypes. I believe that for a person to be a “typical” representation of any type is rare. I think a lot of people can relate to certain aspects of any type and the more they see, sometimes, the more confusing it gets.

K: I completely agree that human beings are far more complex than their type. I think that few people can actually relate to their “stereotype,” which is how it should be, but it’s important to recognise that behind the stereotypical behaviour lies a small truth about each type’s cognitive functions. When you consider the cognitive function stack of each type, it’s easy to see how the stereotypes for each were born. For instance, it’s easy to see how the ESFJ stack, when taken at the face value of Fe (prioritising harmony of the tribe) and Si (presence and order in the tangible world based on internalised systems), produced the stereotype of the typical “mum,” who cares for those around them through immediate acts of service. It’s hard doing comedy sketches about this because when you actually try to convey a more accurate or nuanced representation of each type, you’re not necessarily creating a sketch to which more people of that type are going to relate. This is because the functions indicate cognitive tendencies, not behaviours. So the stereotypes don’t take into account nurture, growth in virtue or deliberate temperance of those more “extreme” behaviours that the top two functions of each type are likely to produce. I think that everything in the realm of MBTI comedy ought to be taken with a pinch of salt, for if we YouTubers attempted to dive into a more “accurate” stereotype, we would open up an infinite number of possibilities. In regards to me typing myself, it wasn’t a relation to the stereotype that convinced me that I was an ESFP; it was understanding the cognitive functions and realising that without a question, I was running with Se and Fi most of the time.

S: You make sketches on YouTube, where you show how the 16 personalities would act, or react, on different occasions. Where do you source the ideas of different types’ actions from? Do you know people of all 16 types personally? That would be interesting!

K: I do actually have at least one friend of each type, and I have spent years observing their tendencies in what judgments they are/aren’t bringing to situations, how rattled they get when things change at the last minute, and various other factors that branch from the prominent use of specific functions. Without even realising it, I have subconsciously noted their behaviour, their facial expressions, their mannerisms etc, and have become capable of replicating what I see (not just in them, but in others of their type). Most of the information that feeds how I act in my sketches has been taken from Se data, meaning that which I have personally observed and physically experienced. In terms of what’s going on in the interior world of each type, I feel significantly less sure. I can only imagine how their brains would be functioning based on my knowledge of the cognitive functions.

S: When I first got to know of this framework, it was exciting, but there were questions as well. However, things made more sense when I learned about the cognitive functions. I believe, simply looking at the 4 letters cannot give someone a full picture, especially considering how people use terms like “ESxP”, and such. What’s your views on cognitive functions? Also, I believe that a person can consciously focus on developing different aspects of her/his personality by developing different functions. But the primary functions will still be “leading”. What are your thoughts on this?

K: The only reason that the system has such validity to me is because of the cognitive functions. I don’t see how a system based on merely the eight letters of E, I, S, N, F, T, J and P could be so accurate that someone could use it with such weight as to shape their entire attitude toward themselves and others. In my opinion, when using MBTI without taking into consideration the cognitive functions, it should only be used lightly and certainly with great caution (I don’t agree, for instance, with workplaces hiring people based on the result that an online test produces, as the accuracy of those online tests is not reliable). The 8 letters lack clear definitions in and of themselves, which makes sense given that the letter S, for instance, can mean either “introverted sensing” or “extraverted sensing;” two cognitive functions that are very different from one another. I think that if people are going to use the system, they should most definitely dive into the cognitive functions before they take it super seriously. In terms of developing lower functions, I agree that there are fruits in doing so, as long as the first two functions are not being ignored. This is because the first two functions are your comfort zone and so you are most happy and “yourself” when using them. So in my opinion, they ought to be filtered through the other functions, rather than left behind to focus on the lower functions. To do the latter would mean frustration, I imagine. Whether we are even capable of leaving behind our first two functions is another question, however (I doubt that I could remove my Se experience from anything). I definitely agree that at the very least, the knowledge that there are certain functions in which you are not as practised as others will help you immensely in self-knowledge and in relationships with others.

S: Talking about cognitive functions, have you heard/read about functional axes? As in, for an ESFP, the primary axis would be Se-Ni and the secondary axis would be Fi-Te. I personally prefer to look at things through this perspective. I’d also like to learn about perspectives on the non-primary functions for the different types. What are your thoughts on this?

K: I have not read in depth about the functional axes and how they work, yet I have formed my own opinions based on my observations of individuals who use different axes. The Fi-Te and Fe-Ti axes in particular have helped me in typing people, because from what I’ve observed, a Te user presents very differently from an Fe user, and you couldn’t possibly use both together naturally. There are so many things that make sense about how these axes work together. For instance, use of the Se-Ni axes means that tangible data is being collected in conjunction with creating and refining patterns. In an Se dominant user, this would mean that things need to be experienced first before meaning and value is solidified, whereas for an Ni dominant user, this would generally mean that things need to have meaning and value to the person first before they are experienced. This is such helpful information to know, and it’s really cool how I’ve felt my own Ni emerge over time as I have increased my collection of Se data. In terms of the non-primary functions for each type, if you are referring to what are known as the “shadow functions” in the type community, I do have preliminary thoughts, but have not yet decided where I stand on their role and how they appear in the different types.

S: Do you think the development of cognitive functions are affected by a person’s physical limit? For example, how would Se develop for someone, who has challenges with eyesight or hearing, considering that all the sensory input would not be the same in such a case.

K: This is an interesting question. I cannot speak from experience here, because even though I am short-sighted, I wear contact lenses all of the time. What I can say is that I don’t imagine it would make too much of a difference, given that Se is not reliant on someone’s ability to immerse themselves fully in the senses, but more on the value that they place in physical experiences. An Se user would still naturally absorb and explore the physical world, placing great importance on what they experience in their tangible reality, regardless of what is physically hindering them. It’s a brain function, after all, not a heightened ability to use the 5 senses, so I don’t imagine that it would change just because someone is physically limited. In terms of an inferior Se user, developing that function, again, wouldn’t mean practicing using the 5 senses, but just learning to trust them more, or teaching themselves to place a higher value on them, not necessarily partaking in them more accurately. I’m not sure how this would play out for the other functions, but I imagine that the answer would look similar for all functions.

S: Also, our mental development as human beings is certainly affected by the people and the environment around us. So it is quite possible for the development of cognitive functions to be affected by the same. A person may face a challenge, especially during formative years, when the people close to her/him uses a completely different set of functions. But it can also be an opportunity for growth by leveraging different perspectives and experiences. It then depends on the people involved here to make the most of it. But not many people are sensitive to the idea of “personality”, and I’m not limiting the lack of emphasis on “the idea of personality” to just the MBTI framework here. What are your thoughts on this?

K: There are certainly blurred lines about what contributes to the development of someone’s personality, especially in formative years. My personal family experience involved 6 of us who were running with 4 different dominant functions between us (Te x2, Fe, Ne x2, Se), and I don’t believe that any one of us has ever changed in that sense. There were certain struggles, which I can now look back on and identify as inherent misunderstandings of one another’s different needs based on the particular functions that we were running with, but ultimately, we are still close and have grown into well-rounded individuals. Although it took me a while to understand what I needed as an Se user, and although I occasionally felt misunderstood growing up, it was precisely through our differences that I learned a lot about compassion and understanding towards others. I think it’s valuable to learn how to interact and face conflict with others of all types. I would love to live in a world in which we all understood each other’s needs and were able to give children what they need growing up (and I will always encourage parents to learn about their children’s cognitive processes and what gives them energy), but thankfully, human beings are adaptable and the human spirit is strong, so, no matter what our type, we are all capable of learning about ourselves and reaching incredible levels of potential, no matter how challenging the hardships along the way.

Dear readers, what are your thoughts on this?

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