Tuesday, December 23, 2014

ENFP Problems: In Defense of the MBTI

                I am a ridiculous force of nature. I can be outgoing and bubbly to the point of annoyance one second and introverted and reserved the next. I’m emotionally sensitive to myself and others, to the point where I know why someone is feeling what they feel most of the time. I hate conflict and prefer harmony, even if it’s not the best way to resolve things. I love being open about my experiences, and I love listening to people’s genuine and heartfelt stories.
                I am an ENFP.
                Now, to anyone unfamiliar with the Myers-Briggs type indicator, it’s a matrix of sixteen different personalities with four pairs of differences to differentiate people together; this test, as well as countless others, has been used as a database to profile people for various purposes. Being a business major myself, I’ve used this typing (as well as the Big Five) to adapt myself to the real world in order to find out who would be compatible in a team setting as well as how I can suit the needs of different types. While a lot of people disagree with these things, citing a form of labeling and stereotyping, I feel the need to defend these heuristic methods of getting to know people. Tests like these are not just time-saving methods of personality, they’re arguably vital references in everyday living.
                Let’s delve a little into my letters; specifically, I’m an extraverted intuitive feeling perceiver (and my polar opposite would be an introverted sensing thinking judger). What that means is I like being open, seeing the big picture instead of specific details, being emotional over being rational, and preferring to be open-minded instead of structural. Now, this is just a crude overgeneralization, but that’s what I love about it; it simply gives me a guideline of who I am. Deeper analysis shows the percentages of my preferences (and I’ve researched these things for days; it’s quite amazing), but I would agree that this is me in a nutshell.
The problem, the opposition argues, is that we tend to stereotype people based on personality. Oh, you’re a feeler? Guess you hate logic. You’re introverted? Well, you probably hate public speaking. I don’t agree with the notion that every label is absolute, because that’s how prejudice and racism starts. However, I do agree with accepting who a person is, and usually that means characterizing by interests. I know ENFPs that aren’t great writers, and ENFPs that have no trouble thinking things rationally; just because we have the same typing doesn’t mean we’re the same, but we have common interests to which we can emotionally bond.  I can sympathize with a person who’s always late because I’m usually late as well, and I can just brush it off with, “You can blame my perceiver tendencies.” Essentially, I use MBTI typology in order to gauge how I’m going to interact with a person. My best friends are very logical thinkers and tend to push feelings and emotions to the side if they’re not necessary, and by knowing that, I can adjust my conversation accordingly. By knowing this immediately, I can flow through a transaction or conversation with ease, and this is very important in my field of business, where first impressions are key.
Let’s face it; it’s humanly impossible to get to know everyone intimately. Scientifically speaking, we can only have a handful of deep, intimate connections in any given point of our lives. Being a writer myself, I know the pain of the loads and loads of characters trope, because it’s theoretically impossible to write dozens of well-rounded characters in a scant few pages. However, I can get around this by making flat characters that are relatable; using characterization archetypes combined with subversions, I can still have many characters without sacrificing the main focus: a well-written story. I know I can expand on their backstories, but they can still be enjoyable without being stereotypical.
We still inherently label ourselves; even if I forgo this personality jargon, I can still be grouped by the things I’m interested in or with whom I’m affiliated. I’m a Christian, a gamer, a writer, a Filipino-Canadian, and a lover of Adventure Time, among other things. Each one of these things has shaped my personality, and while there are some things that differ from the “stereotypical person” of each interest (I’m a big fan of music games, I’m a Filipino that speaks fluent English and barely any Tagalog), there are other things of which I share a common interest (I love Jesus and I drink a lot of coffee while writing).
A passage that really opened my eyes to this issue would have to be Luke 8:4-15, in which Jesus talks about the four soils, or four types of people that hear the Gospel. It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t go into any more types, just four distinct groups; there are arguably billions of people that grouped in one of the four types, but they’re all different. However, they share common traits (for example, the people that are “thorny soiled” hear the Good News but are choked by the hardships of life), and can need to be treated similarly in order to fully reach the kingdom. Additionally, Paul talks about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians, but it is notable that he only lists eight in verse 28. There are different talents we have, but these eight main ones are the groups of which God gives us spiritual anointing; we may have different ones in these groups, but they’re similar in the fact that we are based on our different talents.
Sixteen types do not make a definitive list of personalities; neither do five characteristics or even a few different intelligences. However, they are great guidelines in understanding and responding to the human psyche, a gateway into starting to understand a person. Once we know and communicate with people, they will give us deviations from the common stereotypes the types denote. I’m an ENFP; you might be one too, or maybe an ISTJ. We’re different, but we can be the same as well. Confused? Well, that’s my way of explaining things; it’s an ENFP problem I suppose.