My childhood best friend's father died recently, unexpectedly. I was caught off guard when I heard, the way you are when someone seems too young to have died or you're suddenly aware of the passage of time. It had been many years since I'd last seen him, at the funeral of his daughter, where I was rendered mute with grief. It had been a number of years since I'd seen him before that as well.
But I should have told him what a simple and profound gift he'd given me back when I was just a teenager, fighting to figure out who I was and what place I held in the world. It was the time of giant, boxy computers, when technology wasn't yet part of the consumer's world. I couldn't Google questions and get a plethora of answers, those I had to muddle through on my own.
I suspect when he offered to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test to my friend and I, that he was trying to make sense of us, what was intrinsic to us and what was sheerly teenage madness. It was one of the tools he used to place candidates in the right positions at Exxon. Surely he'd had success with seeing how personality typing fit into the workplace, why not use that magic power to understand two impetuous, semi-hostile, risk-taking teenagers. Why not?
We each plowed through the computerized test. There were no obviously right or wrong answers, just preferences. If you took it instinctively, going with your gut instead of pondering the answers, supposedly you would gain insight into how you viewed the world, which generally informed how you behaved in the world - the people, the experiences, the careers you'd be drawn to, the risks you were or weren't likely to take.
My friend was an ENFP. Straight up, no ambiguity, and heavy on the feeling side. Sounded right. Then it was my turn, and my friend's father looked excited as he headed toward me, a sheaf of papers in hand. I was an ENXP - a rarity, he said. I'd scored almost exactly the same in the Feeling and Thinking categories (with an extra point, I think, in the direction of feeling). It was a bridge, a natural checks and balances that would allow me to see both sides of an issue, to empathize with two different viewpoints, and more importantly, to find balance within myself.
It may sound a bit simplistic, but knowing my personality type gave me the confidence I needed to trust myself, to know that I wouldn't veer too far off in the wrong direction. But it also gave me the insight to understand how those around me view the world, how to bridge the gap between our perspectives instead of stubbornly insisting on my own viewpoint. Magic, hoodoo, who cares? It's worked for me, and I'll take all the tools I can get in this life.
I use it to relate to my husband, who is almost exactly the opposite of me. I use it when considering how to raise my son, integrating his view of the world and how he relates to it, trying to offer him the perspective that will seem most natural to him. And I've used it in my career, knowing that certain opportunities wouldn't be good choices for my long term, despite the pretty packaging (also known as simply trusting your gut).
At any rate, I share this personal story because I think that personality typing is a great tool, at any age. I Googled Myers-Briggs a few days ago and it's much easier to take now than it used to be (yay, technology). It's about $50 to take the original test, though you will get detailed analysis when you go that route. I did find a couple of other sites that offer similar versions of personality tests. I took both and actually got just about the same score, with a very slight preference for Feeling over Thinking, which almost aligns with my original results (and underscores the fact that personalities don't change much). I've linked to those sites below, along with a few other resources.
I hope you'll see for yourself, because honestly, a little insight can go a really long way. Thank you, Larry, even though I never told you.
Click through links:
Background on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator from Wikipedia
Take the Myers-Briggs test
Take a free, mini test at 16 Personalities (offers a sliding scale for answers, which may be preferable for many people).
Take a free Jung Typology Test at Human Metrics
25 Struggles Only ENFPs will Understand from Thought Catalog (Additional lists for other types are available here as well)
Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child's Personality Type - And Become a Better Parent by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger
It's been a great tool in my life and subsequent testing has been consistent, but not everyone agrees --
A contrary viewpoint, to round things out, from Vox
Does It Pay to Know Your Type? from The Washington Post