- Helping families make the most of personality differences.

Helping families make the most of personality differences.

What is Personality Type?

A Bit of History

We humans have probably been interested in patterns of individual personality since we began to band together to live communally.

The famous Greek physician Hippocrates described four personalities he incorporated into the medical practice of his time. Fast forward to more modern times when the famous 20th century Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung presented a theory proposing that every person is born with certain mental patterns that influence how they interact with their environment, absorb new information, and make decisions.

The Theory of Personality Type

Psychological type theory proposes that every person is born with a set of mental preferences that represent consistent and enduring patterns. This is a lifelong developmental model that identifies four equal but opposite preferences that work together to form the core of who we are as individuals.

This theory proposes that the seemingly random behavior of people is not random at all, but falls into select patterns that indicate:

  • Where individuals get their energy, in either an Extraverted or Introverted way
  • How they perceive information through the process of either Sensing or Intuition
  • How they make decisions through the process of either Thinking or Feeling
  • How they go about their daily lives through the process of either Perceiving or Judging

The idea of a preference is an important concept in understanding the theory. Saying that we prefer a certain way of making decisions or gathering information is simply recognizing that this way is more natural for us. The preference pairs, first described by Jung and later by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, can be understood as opposite but equal ways of using one's mind, like two halves that make up a whole.


Which Hand?

An often-used analogy to help explain the idea of preferences relates to handedness. Take a few seconds to write your name down on a piece of paper. Now take your non-preferred hand and repeat the exercise. We all use both hands but naturally prefer using one over the other. And most people, when asked, will reply that they are right-handed or left-handed. Their non-preferred hand most often serves in support of a physical effort and may be described as "less skilled" or "more awkward" to use.

Almost everyone has more comfort and dexterity with the hand they naturally prefer, and that is the "go to" hand. The same is true for our psychological type preferences. We lead with the preferences that are most comfortable to use but the non-preferred preferences are always available for us when we need them.

Discovering Your Type

You may have heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) instrument, based on Jung's theory of psychological types. It was created by Isabel Briggs Myers with a vision of making Jung's theory both practical and accessible to those who want to gain insight into the interworking of their own minds but to also learn more about the personalities of the people they care about, or need to better understand.

The Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children® (MMTIC®) assessment (developed by Elizabeth Murphy, Ed.D. and Charles Meisgeier, Ph.D.) also measures psychological type preferences, and it is especially helpful for use with families.

Learning about type provides a positive framework that results in mutual understanding between parents and children. Type awareness presents an unusual opportunity for reducing conflict while at the same time teaching each child to respect, understand, and even appreciate the differences in people.

The Four Preference Pairs

The MMTIC® assessment, like the MBTI® assessment, identifies people as having a preference on four dimensions, all relevant to a whole or four-letter type. Remember, each side of these pairs is used by everyone, but one is usually preferred and better developed.


Your Whole Type

When the four preference pairs are combined, they result in the four-letter code that abbreviates each one of the 16 types-you may have heard people refer to themselves as being an ENFP or ISTJ. Each of the 16 types have their individual "strengths and stretches," and learning about each one goes a long way towards building better interpersonal understanding and respect in families, at school, and at work.

If you have a family of four, the odds are you will find four different personality types within that family. Knowing about your type and your children's type is helpful for fostering understanding between people who may go about living their lives in quite different ways from one another. That's OK!

The Sixteen Types

Learn more by reading the brief 16 whole type descriptions for adults or young people. As you begin to learn more about type, remember the analogy of being right handed or left handed. Both dimensions are functional and equally valuable, but everyone tends to lead with their preferred approach.

Adults can discover their type by taking the MBTI assessment. Young people learn their type by taking the MMTIC assessment.

Type may not explain all aspects of your personality or behaviors. But, as Isabel Myers said in her book Gifts Differing, learning about type helps us make "constructive use of differences."

It really does take all stripes, and all types!