The overlooked MBTI Identity…

It seems most people are familiar with the main Myers Briggs (MBTI) components of Introvert/Extrovert, Sensing/Intuiting, Thinking/Feeling, Perceiving/Judging. Though the often overlooked, though equally important, is the identity. Whereas the main four letters let you know how a person thinks, the identity is what lets you know how they behave. It’s the underlying current that impacts all of their letters.


If you’ve taken the Myers Briggs test, you’ve probably noticed a ‘-T’ or ‘-A’ at the end of your letters. They seem to get passed over though are very important indicators for human behavior. Much as the norm, I started my analysis and understanding of MBTI focused exclusively on the first four letters, though what I found was very fascinating. People would vary greatly within a certain type, at first I would question the accuracy of their type – especially since the types are based on a self-assessment and only as accurate as one is self-aware.

What I found was, yes, in some cases, people had completely misclassified themselves. Though in other cases, as I dug in deeper, what I found was the identity variance. So take for instance one of the more common female types – the Extraverted Feeler (E-F) – which makes up roughly 40% of women. Extraversion tells us that they are external based, meaning they get their energy from external sources, they get their self-validation from external sources, etc. Feeling tells us that they base their decision making primarily off their emotions, what feels right, their gut, etc.

On the surface this E-F combination could go many ways. They could be the bubbly life of the party making sure everyone is having a good time. They could be charismatic and self-confident, not really taking things personally, despite being externally focused. Or they could be struggling with insecurities and portraying the mask of confidence while quietly worrying about what everyone else is thinking. So what differentiates the two and how can they both be E-F’s but respond very differently?

The answer could be in the identity field. The identity has two primary components, the “A” for “Assertive” and the “T” for “Turbulent”. Generally speaking the Assertive types tend to be self-assured, even-tempered, and able to handle stress. They work hard, but they don’t push themselves to the limits. They rarely worry about past choices and aren’t easily impacted by other’s opinions. The Turbulent types tend to be more self-conscious and prone to stress.  They are driven by success and push themselves to perfection.

I’m sure we’ve all met people of both types, they are pretty easy to tell apart. The person that can never be wrong and any time they are, creates an excuse for how on earth could they have known that – T’s. The person that seems to have no regrets in life and is okay going against the grain – A’s. It’s funny because the main stream ‘Type A personality’ is very much the Identity-T.  The person the yoga teacher is referring to when she repeatedly tells the class ‘you don’t need to compete’. These people are driven to be the best at everything.  Which to an A is like crazy – who competes at yoga, really? Though it’s all a matter of how we’re wired and this wiring impacts our overall type.

So going back to the example of the Extraverted Feeler and now looking at it in the lens of the identity attribute. The Turbulent ones are restless, perfectionists, who have high highs and low lows.  They push themselves hard and are sensitive to other’s opinions (or perceived opinions). They value their social status. The Assertive ones are the genuinely confident ones, they have good communication skills, they know how to read people well and don’t take things too personally. They aren’t as concerned with being the best (perceived or real).

So if we look at the party situation, the Turbulent type would be highly motivated to be the most exciting or attractive or polished or [fill in the blank] person in the room, they’ll probably be observing how people are looking at them, maybe even feeling a bit self-conscious, and likely offended if anyone threatens their social standing. Add a “J” to that and this person might be overly sensitive, thinking every action was personal (Why didn’t they comment on my haircut? Why didn’t any guys ask me out? Etc.).

Let’s take that same make-up and pair it with an Assertive. This person is probably too lost in the fun to feel too self-conscious, they aren’t driven to being the center of attention or the coolest or hottest person in the room, they are energized to be at the party and in-tune to other’s emotions. Depending on the crowd, they may not be the most popular one in the room, but they’ll probably be close, comfortable in the party situation. Add a “P” to that, and this person is probably super easy to be around, might even appear ditzy because of their free spirit (regardless if they are or not).

I recognize I’ve just dissected only one of the combinations, though there’s a total of four combinations (Extraverted and Turbulent, Extraverted and Assertive, Introverted and Turbulent, Introversive and Assertive). As I’ve reflected back on the people in my life, the females tend to be more T’s and the males tend to be more A’s. Not sure if that’s common from a gender standpoint or just what is attracted to me. I’ve also thought back to my relationships, and with the exception of my last guy, the prior ones were largely A’s. Being an Introverted-Assertive myself, it makes me wonder if others have seen similar correlations in their circles?

So if I look at my last relationship, which was with a male Extraverted-Turbulent, it was by far the most uncomfortable relationship of my life. A roller coaster with emotionally charged outbursts usually resulting from some self-conscious judgement he had made. All of which I was ill-equipped to navigate, my MBTI 80%-Thinking didn’t leave much room for soothing egos or catering to insecurities, paired with my A-Assertive left me clueless to how any of it could be bothersome. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good pairing. Though I do wonder if he’d been paired with another Extraverted Turbulent if it would have balanced out, something to ponder. I do know that when I’ve paired with another Assertive it tends to be a rather harmonious combination.



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