Myers-Briggs: What Each Letter Really Means

Are you an INFP, an ENTJ, or something else entirely?

Even when you're aware of what Myers-Briggs type you are, it can be hard to keep the exact meanings of each letter straight. But knowing exactly what your type means can guide you in the right direction in terms of your career path, romantic relationships, and self-perception.

On the other hand, you should always make sure that you're not using your type as an excuse for sh*tty or irresponsible behavior. That said, here's a definitive guide to your ultimate personality acronym, for whatever the person prefers this week, anyway.

I vs. E: Introvert vs. Extrovert

If you're introverted, you'll require alone time, and social interactions tend to tire you out. You spend a lot of time thinking in order to clarify your thoughts, and you prefer working independently. You can be more thoughtful towards others and can come off as mysterious or private. To be clear, being an introvert does not mean that you don't like others, nor does it imply that you can't be successful in social environments. It also (unfortunately) doesn't mean that you can just be openly rude to people, or can suddenly leave parties and/or the country without letting at least one person know.

If you're extroverted, you gain energy from socializing and spending time in groups. You tend to converse in order to externalize your thinking process and figure out your thoughts, and you thrive off collaboration. Extroverts can be outspoken and usually come off as more confident than most, though this isn't always the truth. Being extroverted does not mean that you're insensitive or shallow (which means that if you are those things, you're just a terrible person and can't blame it on being "an extrovert.")

Really, most of us are not entirely one or the other all of the time.

INCORRECT Example: Keanu Reeves is an introvert, while Taylor Swift is an extrovert.

CORRECT Example: Keanu Reeves is a precious cinnamon roll and nice-guy introvert. But he's probably energized by the outpouring of love the Internet rightfully heaps upon him, which is why he's such a damn nice guy to all his fans.

N vs S: Intuitive vs. Sensing

Essentially, sensors take in information through what's right in front of them: their own senses and facts. They like concrete details and statistics. As a sensor, you may prefer to be more objective, especially when it comes to memories. In a given situation, you think about what you see, and as a result, you might miss the opportunity to imagine what could be.

Being a sensor does not mean that you actually are more objective, though; recently, many studies have proposed that human rationality is actually a myth.

On the other hand, intuitives (N) tend to look for patterns, and they think about future possibilities and other influences, rather than what's immediately on hand. They can be more superstitious or willing to follow hunches or guesses. If you're an intuitive, your memory can be subjective and grounded in how you felt at the time. You love thinking about new possibilities but can miss out on the present moment at hand. Intuitives are not necessarily kinder or more moral, though, as those categories themselves are subjective.

Example: Oprah is an intuitive, while Robert Mueller is a sensor.

T vs F: Thinking vs. Feeling

Thinkers (T) tend to make decisions based on facts. They prefer the truth, are driven by logic and tend to be rational. They make decisions based on laws and principles. In essence, thinkers use their heads. But don't fall for misconceptions: Thinkers do not always make correct decisions, and intelligence is not always based on one's ability to pay attention to the facts at hand, especially in a world where facts can change so quickly.

On the other hand, feelers (F) make decisions based on their sense of morality and values. They take things personally, are empathetic, and judge things based on how they feel. They make decisions based on a desire to create harmony among people or to make others feel good. Feelers use their hearts to make choices. Feelers are not necessarily more ethical, though, and they don't always end up making decisions that really benefit everyone, as their choices can be irrational and impulsive.

Example: Javert was a T, while Valjean was an F.

J vs. P: Judging vs. Perceiving

Judgers (J) are planners. They like to have things in place and tend to be organized. They don't like last-minute changes, they like to finish what they start, and they like linear, step-by-step approaches to problems. This doesn't mean that judgers can't also harness bursts of inspiration that involve big-picture ideas, or that they reach the solutions to problems more quickly.

On the other hand, perceivers (P) like to fly by the seat of their pants, preferring to go into things without set plans. They can be more relaxed and sometimes disorganized but also more open to spontaneity. They're more willing to see the world in a non-linear, more chaotic way. This does not mean that perceivers can't finish projects that they start; sometimes, inspiration and passion will take you further than any amount of planning.

Example: Elizabeth Warren is J, while Trump is a P.

In truth, the closer you look, the more insubstantial the categories seem to be. Even if you take them literally, many of us fall somewhere between each option.

All in all, binary divisions tend to fail to do justice to the true complexity of the human experience. Most of us use some judging and some perceiving at different times, and a lot of life requires a functional balance of each one of these categories. Many of the world's greatest geniuses found ways to fuse both categories together, using imagination and rationality in equal parts.

While they can work as interesting ways of learning about oneself, it's important to remember that none of us can be defined by one acronym or archetype.

(Of course, that's also a classic INFP way of thinking.)

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