June 28, 2011

Meg's Quick Take on the 4 Preferences of the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator

According to the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) there are 4 main preferences that are common to people across the world irregardless of race, religion, or favorite means of consuming chocolate. These four preferences are amoral; they describe variations in behavior without any moral "right" or "wrong" attached to them. And though the system appears rather binary (You either have a preference for one or the other value.), that doesn't mean that the behavior of individuals is similarly binary. In other words, if you prefer one side of the preference, that doesn't mean that you won't occasionally operate in the exact opposite side on occasion. (In fact, when a person is operating in their inferior mode, they are behaving very opposite to their usual preferences.)

The following is a brief description of the four preferences found in the MBTI. This post is essentially an exercise in synthesizing data, so I'm writing off the top of my head based on various readings and discussions that I've engaged in. Feel free to add to, or dispute, what I have described here.

The 4 Preferences

Extravert vs. Introvert (E/I): This preference is also called the attitudes and refers to the flow of energy.

For the longest time I thought this preference was all about enjoying being with people or wanting to be on your own. But it really has more to do with interactions with the outside world (the world around us that we can see, touch, etc.) and interactions with the inner world (imagination, thought, dreams... all that stuff that goes on inside us). An extravert is someone who draws energy from interacting with the outside world. That might involve lots of interaction with people, but it could also involve spending time outdoors, traveling, going to concerts... anything that involves interaction with something outside of the body. An introvert is someone who expends energy when interacting outside the body. The introvert needs time alone spent in reflection and thought. Whereas the extravert gains energy by interacting with physical things, the introvert restores energy by interacting with mental things -- concepts and ideas. An introvert who spends too much time dealing with the physical world will probably end up feeling drained. An extravert who spends too much time alone or in the world of the mind will probably end up feeling depressed. 

Sensing vs. iNtuition (S/N): This preference is also called the perceiving functions and refers to the way information is consumed.

Have you ever had an experience where you and another person both saw the exact same event and yet you came away with completely different takes on what happened? You both experienced the same inputs, but somehow you both gathered very different information from the experience. In other words, your perceptions of the experience were different. The perceiving functions in the MBTI are all about how people gather and interpret information. Some people will look at a bunch of trees and see a forest. These people are intuitive, seeing the bigger picture based on a set (or subset) of data. Others will look at a bunch of trees and see a bunch of trees. These people are sensing, seeing the individual pieces of data as they are perceived by the senses. Intuitives tend to see patterns in data. From these patterns they are able to make predictions about the future. In general, intuitives are big picture people who often think to the future. Those with a sensing preference are often considered to be detail people. (Not that iNtuitives don't see details, but they're more likely to gloss over details, and once they get enough details to jump to an overarching view of the situation, or a metaphor or system that organizes the data, they'll leave the details and pursue the bigger picture that those details present.) In addition to being able to focus on the details, those with the sensing preference tend to appreciate anything that they can interact with using their five senses. How things look or taste or feel might be very important to them. The words sensing and intuitive can be a bit confusing, but I try to think of it this way. S's take in information through their senses. N's might take in some of that information, however their focus isn't on the things they sense, but upon what they can intuit from those things. 

Feeling vs. Thinking (F/T): This preference is also called the judging functions and refers to the way decisions are made.

The words used to describe this function can also be confusing. For the longest time I thought those that used thinking made decisions based on logic and those that used feeling made decisions based on how they felt about things. But that's only half right. A better way to look at feeling is to think of decision making in light of seeking a harmonious solution (even if it's not the most logical solution). For those that use feeling, decisions are made based on relationships with others. Those using thinking base their decisions on data and may give little or not regard to how it affects people. Because of this, T's are often thought of as cold or uncaring, when that might not at all be the case. Someone can use thinking in making a decision with every intention of doing the kind or loving thing, but that won't be their criterion in resolving their decision, the logic of the situation being more relevant in their mind. It's also important to note that T's may use logic to come to a conclusion, but it might very well be a loopy form of logic that wouldn't hold up in my old geometry teacher's class. In the same vein, F's might make a decision based on how it will affect other people, but it might not be a decision intended to bring harmony at all, but discord. T's and F's can both be remarkably brilliant or excruciatingly dimwitted. How you make your decisions doesn't determine how "smart" you are. T's often look down on F's because their decisions seem illogical (and may very well be illogical), but that doesn't mean that they're not still brilliant decisions that are just what the situation called for. And F's sometimes look down on T's because they seem so unfeeling and detached, but likewise, that can also be just the kind of decision that a situation called for. Both means of making a decisions have value. 

Perceiving vs. Judging (P/J): This preference doesn't have a name of its own as far as I know, but it has to do with a person's lifestyle and refers to the way a person relates to the outside world (or how they behave when they're extraverting).

If you glance back up at the S/N section, you'll notice that those were the perceiving functions. And if you glance at the F/T section, you'll notice that those were the judging functions. And now here we are looking at perceiving and judging. If you are a perceiving person, then when you extrovert (or when you relate to the outside world), you interact with your perceiving function (whether S or N). And if you are a judging person, then you relate to the outside world with your judging function (whether F or T). More on this in my next post on personality types. P's and J's tend to also have characteristics of their own, that I don't think are related to S/N or F/T. J's like closure. They feel a little uncomfortable when something is left hanging, unfinished or undecided. They're willing to forego additional information gathering in order to "just get this thing over with". P's, on the other hand, are much more willing to continue to gather information until they're quite sure they've gotten all the bases covered before they final settle down to make a decision. In fact, sometimes P's aren't comfortable making that final decision because they're not quite sure they've finished gathering information. Deadlines can help a P finally bring closure to a project. P's tend to be more spontaneous than J's who like everything scheduled or orderly. 

This is just a cursory overview of the 4 preferences in the MBTI. You may look at a preference and say, "Well, this part fits me, but I'm not like that other part at all." Not everyone uses one preference all of the time. My mom is a strong S, but when she cooks, her iNtuition shines. She strays from strictly following recipes in a way that would make most S's cringe. But most of the time, she uses Sensing, so that's considered her preference. It's also helpful to think of these traits in terms of yourself left to your own devices. At work, or when trapped in family dynamics, or in certain social functions, we may feel that we have to behave in a certain way because that's what's expected of us. And we might be very good at behaving that way, but being good at something doesn't make it a personality type preference. The behaviors you would naturally gravitate toward when on vacation or during free time are often a better yardstick to use when trying to figure where you fit in. 

And remember, these are amoral characteristics. None of this is about being right or wrong. When you figure out your personality type, it should be a wonderful means of self discovery and self affirmation. It's also a great way to see those niggling little things in others and realize that it's a result of their own personality type. Realizations like that help us to accept others more as they are and to stop trying to force them into a mold that fits us better than it does them. 

June 26, 2011

Functions and Attitudes in Type (another Personality Type sort of post)

I've been reading Naomi Quenk's book, Beside Ourselves. My original goal was to find out more about the inferior function, but having read most of my way through the book, I think I've finally gotten the hang of functions and attitudes in general. I don't feel particularly fluent in it, yet, but I think I could hold a reasonable conversation about it (if you give me time to stop and think here and there).

So I thought I'd take a stab at explaining it here. You know you've learned something when you're able to turn around and explain it coherently to another person. For anyone that's new to the Myers Briggs Personality Type, this might be foreign territory and it might help to read my post on the basics first. And if this is old hat for you, I'd love to have you tell me where I've got it wrong. 

Determining Your Dominant Function

I'm not sure who first came up with the dominant, auxiliary, tertiary and inferior function idea, but I think it was Carl Jung (who came up with a lot of the foundational ideas that the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is based off of). The basic premise is that there's one mode of operation that we're best at and that we use most often. (We're probably best at it precisely because we use it most often.) This is our dominant function. We tend to feel most comfortable and certain of ourselves when we our using our dominant function. There are times, however, when a different tactic is called for, and when that happens, we often revert to using our auxiliary function. The auxiliary can also be used to support the dominant function. (So rather than being an "instead of" mode of operating, it becomes more of an "I will approach the task using the auxiliary so that I can better user my dominant function with the results of my use of the auxiliary. ... Of course, we don't think out our actions in these terms, but it still describes the method that we often use to function, even if we don't realize that's what we're doing. Remember, the MBTI is a tool that was developed to describe how things already are, not to force us into some new means of interaction.) 

Once you've determined which of the 16 possible type combinations you fall under, you can figure out what your dominant function is by first looking at the last letter of your psychological type. Are you judging or perceiving? If you are judging, then look next at that third letter, which indicates the judging function that you prefer. Are you thinking of feeling? Likewise, if you are perceiving, then look at the perceiving functions, which are sensing and intuition. If you are an extravert (look at the first letter in your type) then your dominant function is the judging or perceiving function that you just came up with. And your dominant function is written as one of the following:
Se Ne Te Fe (the little "e" indicates the attitude of your dominant function)

If you are an introvert, then you have one more step. If you ended up with a judging function (T or F), then your dominant function is your perceiving function (either S or N). If you ended up with a perceiving function then your dominant function is your judging function. Your dominant function is written as one of the following:
Si Ni Ti Fi (the little "i" indicates the attitude of your dominant function)

Let me give two specific examples to help make sense of this. (It took me a couple of readings to wrap my head around this. I don't know why it seemed so complicated, but once I figured it out it seems pretty straight forward.) Let's start with an ENFP. Because this type is perceiving, then we want to look at the perceiving function (in this case N) to determine the dominant function. When this person is "in the world" (or extraverting) then this person's dominant function is intuition which is written as Ne (Intuitive with an extraverted attitude.) If we're looking at an introvert, however, there will be an extra step. I'll use myself as an example. I am an INTJ. Because I am judging (That doesn't mean I'm judgmental, though I am at times.) I want to first look to my judging function, which is thinking. But because I'm an introvert, my dominant function isn't what I do when I'm extraverting, but what I use when I'm introverting (which is where I prefer to be most often). So instead of having thinking as my dominant function, I look to my perceiving function, which is intuition. My dominant function is intuition with an introverted attitude, which is written as Ni. 

The Auxiliary Function

The auxiliary function is easy to figure out. If your dominant function is judging (T or F) then your auxiliary function is perceiving (S or N) and vice versa. And if the attitude of your dominant function is extraverted, then your auxiliary is introverted (and vice versa.) So if you are an ENFP and your dominant function is Ne, then your auxiliary function is Fi. If you are an INTJ and your dominant function is Ni, then your auxiliary function is Ti. 

Tertiary Function

The tertiary function is one that you only fall back upon if your dominant and auxiliary aren't working for you. Because you don't use it as often, you're not as good at it. So, for example, if your tertiary function involves intuition, then you'll use intuition, but you won't use it nearly as well as someone who has that as a dominant function. Quenk gives some great examples of strong and weak uses of various functions. I'll just give one quick example here so you get a better sense of what I'm talking about. A dominant thinking person might be very good at giving impersonal criticism. A tertiary (or even more so, an inferior) thinking person will more likely give excessive criticism. 

To figure out your tertiary function, take a gander at your auxiliary function and select it's oppose. So if your auxiliary is Si or Se, your tertiary will be N. (There's apparently debate about whether tertiary functions have attitudes. I don't get any of that bit yet so I'll just shake my head a bit here and move on.) If your auxiliary is Fi or Fe, then your tertiary function is T.

Inferior Function

Here's the part that I had been most interested in when starting Quenk's book.  I had been reading Lynne Baab's book, Personality Type in Congregations, and she mentioned the inferior function somewhere in there. I probably wouldn't have thought much of it, but there was a description that jumped out at me. It was similar to the one I gave above of someone who is strong as a thinker verses someone who is using that function but isn't very skilled at it. But it described my son and much of his recent behavior. I had just the week before been thinking to myself, "Nathan has behaving so differently lately. It's like I don't know my own son. I never would have expected him to think this way or act this way. It's unlike the kid that I've known for over a decade now. Is it just because he's a teen?" Then I saw the description in Baab's book and kathunk, it all slid into place. Nathan has been under a lot of stress lately (not just from friends and school, but because of health issues as well) and he's been reverting to his inferior function, which is exactly the opposite of his usual behavior. 

To determine your inferior function, look at your dominant function and reverse it. So if your dominant function is Ni, then your inferior function is Se. If your dominant is Ti, then your inferior is Fe. And because this is not just something we don't use often, but that is even the exact opposite of what we are really good at, we tend to do it very poorly. In a situation where a person is dominant extraverted feeling (Fe) they will often have a sensitivity to the welfare of others. But if someone has Fe as their inferior function, they will likely have a hypersensitivity to relationships when they are under severe stress. 

We use our four functions in various settings. Oftentimes, if we try to use our dominant function and that doesn't seem to get us anywhere, we'll revert to our auxiliary function and on down the line until we finally use our inferior function as a sort of "last resort" measure. We might also learn to use our other functions to serve our dominant function. (I don't really fully understand this bit yet. I've got the main idea, but how it plays out is still fuzzy in my mind.) We might not attend to details as much in our dominant function which is thinking or feeling, but if our judging function needs some supporting evidence, then we might use our auxiliary or tertiary function to help gather the details that our dominant function needs to work well. 

As we grow older, we often naturally begin to explore our inferior function more. So someone who has grown up being very logical may explore their feeling side more. (This is something that has come up several times in the books on personality type and spirituality that I've read. We may have grown up feeling much more comfortable in one type of worship over any other type. But as we reach middle age we might check out a congregation with a very different worship style. This exploration often helps us to feel closer to God as we stretch and grow in what was before a very uncomfortable area.) I suspect this is why we have a stereotype that when people hit middle age they begin behaving strangely. What's happening is that people start exploring their inferior function, but since they haven't used it much in their first 3 or 4 decades, they're not really so good at it. So they come across as being bumbling fools hitting a middle aged crisis. That's not all bad. It can be a chance for a person to find new interests and skills that will help them to grow in areas that they'd previously avoided. 

I have about a quarter of Quenk's book left to read. I still feel very uncertain of what each function actually looks like when it's being acted upon. I get that Se means somehow interacting with details in the outer world, but how does that play out? I've picked up a few ideas (an Se will be more open to exploring new tastes or sights or textures) but if you throw a function at me, it would take me awhile to sort out how that looks. (What does it look like to be an Si? You tend to be more interested in stuff inside yourself, but what? Not tastes or sights. Ideas? Thoughts? Facts?) I'd love a list of examples of how each function plays out. That's probably something that I'll explore next. 

June 13, 2011

Minty CousCous Salad

I found this recipe on Epicurious, but I've made a few modifications based on how it came out last night.

6 oz. (ish) dry Israeli (large pearl) couscous
2 cups boiling water
1 bouillon cube
1 cup chopped red bell pepper (I used green, but red, yellow or orange would give you a brighter looking salad.)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, halved
1 cup chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used a citrus vinegar from Trader Joes. White wine vinegar might work well also.)
1 clove finely chopped garlic or 1/2 teaspoon premashed garlic
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
salt and pepper to taste

In a 2-quart (ish) saucepan, sauté couscous in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until couscous is lightly browned (about 5 minutes). (I used Casbah Toasted CousCous. These directions on how to cook the couscous are from them.)

Add one bouillon cube (I used a salted vegetable bouillon but chicken might work well also.) and the boiling water to the couscous and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

Transfer couscous to bowl; fluff with fork and cool slightly.
Stir chopped bell pepper, olives, and mint into couscous. Mix together 2 tablespoons remaining olive oil, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and garlic and pour over mixture. Fold in feta cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Don't make the couscous in advance. It just clumps together.

June 6, 2011

Fruit Bars

I love fruit bars. If I make these and they need a little extra bit of sweet, I drizzle agave nectar over them.

WholeFoods makes a carmel version of this same thing that includes chocolate chips. Someday I hope to try making that as well. Until then, I settle for fruit bars which are still über yummy.

1 cup brown sugar
2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cup rolled oats
1 cup unsalted butter; cut into 1/2-inch pieces, softened to cool room temperature
2 cups fresh or frozen fruit
3/4 cup jam or preserves or conserve (something that will match or compliment your fruit)

Mix brown sugar, flour, soda, salt and oats. Cut in butter until crumbly.

Simmer fruit and jam until fruit is soft and the jam is mixed in well with the fruit.

Press half of oatmeal mixture into bottom of 9x13 pan. Pour fruit mixture on top and cover that with the remaining oatmeal mixture. Bake about 30 or 40 minutes in a 350° oven until slightly browned and bubbly.