“I Can’t Decide What Type I Am!” – Part 2
The TYPE Reporter, Excerpt from Vol. 5, No. 3
written by Susan Scanlon
OTHER REASONS PEOPLE CAN’T DECIDE ON THEIR TYPE
When people can’t decide on a type for themselves, it’s sometimes because they are young. “With a young group, I always tell them that it’s common for people to be exploring at this time, and not to take the MBTI® results too seriously,” says Naomi Quenk, INFP, psychologist and past president of the Association for Psychological Type.
Or, they may not be young, but still be inexperienced. They may not have had many challenging experiences yet, like a job, or starting their own family, that would bring them face to face with their assets and liabilities. “Many of the people who come out mid-range on most of the scales of the MBTI® and Type Differentiation Indicator,” says Don Johnson, ENFP and organizational consultant with ORA in New Jersey, “are usually being seen because they are searching for a job. They haven’t gotten to first base yet. They don’t know who they are and generally have low self-esteem.”
Another influence that can confuse a person trying to choose a type, is the place or the situation, they are in. If it is not affirming of their type, they may be playing roles to remain there. “You don’t know how much influence your job has had on you,” says Margaret Hartzler, ENFJ and president of Type Resources in Gaithersburg, Maryland. “It’s possible to please people but still stay true to yourself. But it’s also possible to decide that you’d better change. For example, Fs and Ps in business settings are often confused and think they’re really Ts or Js.”
Another influence, and a very strong one, is the people who have mattered the most to you, your parents. “As a child, you live in the land of the giants,” says Mary McCaulley, INFP and president of The Center for Applications of Psychological Type. “They can break your world in two. If they are misreading you, you tend to believe them.”
“Parents can give children three kinds of messages,” says Katherine Myers, INFP, trainer and consultant in psychological type, “to be what you are, to be something you’re not, or mixed messages, where one day you’re OK and the next day you’re not, with the same behavior. Parents who give mixed messages are usually under stress themselves. When they are rested and on top of things, they’re more accepting. Other days it’s like go home and kick the dog.”
“Initially, there are usually some people who can’t decide on one or two dimensions,” says Jean Kummerow, ESTJ, psychologist and co-author of Lifetypes (Warner, 1989). “But after reading more and giving it more time, things fall into place for them. However, about 3 in 100 people can’t decide after a long period of time. When they do seek further help (and it’s mostly the NFs who do that, since they’re usually the most interested in self-knowledge), I’ve noticed a pattern of difficult childhoods, often with chemically dependent family members. As children, they didn’t get consistent messages from their parents. They tried everything to get the approval of their parents, and kept switching, and now they don’t know who they are.”
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a trademark or registered trademark of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust in the United States and other countries.