Refining the Language of Type Descriptions

Upon completing the MBTI survey, the results revealed what my personality types should be. To check on the validity of these results, I looked through the list of characteristics associated with each of the individual types to assess what I felt the results should be. I wasn’t sure I agreed with the instrument’s results. Many of the traits of the non-indicated types, as well as the indicated types, were characteristics that I thought represented me. How could this be? 


For the past two months I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. I’ve been trying to notice how I react, respond, and prepare for the world around me. Now, I have to admit that my observations have shown that the indicator may have “indicated” correctly. Still, I was trying to wrestle with the idea of being more of one personality type than another. After reading Gordon Lawrence’s article “Refining the Language of Type Descriptions”, I may have settled into an understanding. I needed to distinguish “type” from “trait”.


According to the MBTI instrument, I show a preference for I-N-T-J. My initial confusion with this “diagnosis” was that I also had too many traits from the opposite categories. Lawrence explains “type” as a mental framework from which characteristics, or traits, can be attached. For instance, I may have a preference for introversion, but, especially when teaching, I display many extraverted traits. During these times, I do gain energy from the students in my class, as an extravert would. I focus on the people and the activity, but I reflect on the ideas and impressions of the lesson. This is where I spend a lot of time, and where I continue to get my enthusiasm for doing it better the next day. The extraverted activity, even though I love it, can get exhausting if repeated over and over without the time to think about it by myself.


This thought of having a mental framework works perfectly for me. Since I am a visual thinker, I can see it clearly. I am now more comfortable with the I-N-T-J personality profile.


I also have to admit that I like Lawrence’s handout version of the characteristics valued by a persons of a particular type. It is organized with the extraverts on the left and the introverts on the right. The traits are listed opposite of each other for easy comparison. Lawrence does caution not to consider one side as positive and the other as negative. It is a matter of values of that specific personality type. When reading through my list of valued characteristics I had to “LOL” when I found “INTJs value improving things by finding flaws”. Just ask my family and my students. Oh, that’s me.



3 responses to “Refining the Language of Type Descriptions

  1. Yes! That difference between type and trait is difficult to explain, and Lawrence does it so well. Sounds like the article was just what you needed.

  2. I agree that it’s important to avoid labeling traits as positive or negative. I think sometimes we tend to do this especially when we become frustrated with how a type different from us behaves. We do need all kinds of people! When dealing with a difficult family member my sister and I function very well together as a team. (I’m guessing she is an ESTJ.) We are able to use our different kinds of mental frameworks to complement each other’s way of approaching this situation.

  3. That ability to stay neutral is huge, especially for INFPs, who tend to have difficulty with situations that go against their personal values. You are way ahead of the game as a teacher (and family member) as you take that stance in relationships with others.

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