Wednesday, July 01, 2009


As we move towards a holiday weekend (here in the US), we'll shift to a couple of days of less hefty topics to help you start relaxing. Blogs are pretty narcissistic by nature, but this post is as self-centered as they come. Skip it right now if you are concerned.

I thought it would be fun to take a Myers-Briggs personality test. It has been many years since I did so, and I forgot what I am like, so I asked one of our HR people to set it up for me.

The results are back and are presented above. I appear to be an ENFP, which stands for extraversion, intuition, feeling, and perceiving. But, the third category was a close call, and I might actually be an ENTP, i.e., extraversion, intuition, thinking, and perceiving.

The characteristics associated with ENFP people are: "Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative; see life as full of possibilities; make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see; want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support; spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency."

In slight contrast, the characteristics associated with ENTP people are: "Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken; resourceful in solving new and challenging problems; adept at generating conceptual possibilities and then analyzing them strategically; good at reading people; bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another."

I fear that the instrument is flawed. That it reached no conclusions about my suitability for being a CEO is fine. After all, I'd rather not know. But, the diagnosis made no reference at all to my soccer coaching ability. That is an inexcusable omission.


Anonymous said...

So how do you FEEL about testing stronger in "feeling" than "thinking"? (:
This test can also be used as a weapon. Several years ago in my hospital system, an incoming system CEO made all the existing upper management take the test. It appeared that the results biased decisions on who stayed and who was replaced. I thought that was kind of low, rather than looking at performance.

nonlocal MD

Paul Levy said...

Dunno, I'll think about that . . .


Incredibly low of him to do that (assuming it was a "him"), especially in that the test results are designed to be confidential. In any event, I can't think of a stupider way to decide such things.

Lily Kim said...

I wonder how closely this matched your type when you took the test years ago. Do changes in type over time say more about the test, or more about how you might have changed?

Sandy Davis said...

There's another dimension of your type called your Temperament. It's basically looking at the combination of two letters and the meanings associated with the combination. There's much more to it then I'll say here, but I wanted to mention it because it often helps people clarify their "type" when they are wavering between types, for example, your ENTP vs. ENFP situation.
In a nutshell:
NF (as in ENFP): The most important thing for NF is to help others/contribute to others. NF's value harmony and smooth relationships above anything else. Their Achilles' heel is disharmony.

NT (as in ENTP): The most important thing for NT is competence. NTs tend to be visionary by nature. Since they value competence above anything else, their Achilles' heel that they don't do well with, and have very little patience for, is incompetence. They also have no problem with conflict/disharmony/strong disagreement…they often see it as a healthy debate and rather "enjoy it" where a strong NF would be uncomfortable and want immediate harmony and resolution.

Also, when you have a "slight" preference, as you do with your F, it often means that it may be easy and natural for you to demonstrate behaviors/traits on both sides, F AND T. Hope that helps!

Greg Silverman said...

Sandy is right on the money. Also, her long, complex sentences with several modifiers indicate that she is quite the "N" herself. (N's are always looking at and trying to communicate the big picture. Thus they prefer big, colorful words that capture context and they speak in long sentences. In fact, they think semi-colons, parentheses and hyphens are gifts from the Almighty. You get the idea. Hey, we N's are only about 30% of the population so from one N to another, so, "Hello Sandy!" ;)

Never one to pass up a good chat on personality type and temperament, however, I thought I'd weigh in with a couple more thoughts and clarifications.

A core dimension of the "Feeling" preference suggests one who has a natural preference to make their decisions based on how it will affect others. They certainly can "Think" logically e.g., I know a few feelers who are math professors. Granted, one of them left academia to go work at a junior college where he could assist adults going back to school who needed math to further their next career.

"Thinkers" as you might imagine then, are people who are more inclined to make their decisions looking dispassionately and objectively at facts. They have an easier time placing less emphasis on how the decision affects others.

To develop a working hypothesis on NT or NF Temperament, I direct people to look at what "pops" more strongly- an air of confidence (NT) or an air of compassion and idealism(NF).

Here's the rub. Certainly some T's can come across as very F. Think Bill Clinton and Katie Couric, who are likely ENTP but easily project warmth like many Feelers. (This has to do with TP combo.)

About MBTI:

My colleagues and I teach people to develop a working hypothesis on personality type based on observable clues. We have noticed that up to a third of our classes find that their MBTI profiles are off by at least one letter. Humility is the name of the game when you're exploring type- for yourself and others.

A final word about skills vs. preference:
I concur that Type can be be applied in egregious and stupid ways. Type suggests preferences not skills. Moreover, I could go on and on about the value of type diversity within a group but I'll sign off here.

Book recommendation:
Was That Really Me? by Naomi Quenk

Katie said...

I read that ENTPs make excellent teachers so coaching soccer would be right up your alley. I was a teacher for a bit and was told several times that I was "born to teach."

How do you think your personality fared you as a physician?

I came across this site while preparing for medical school interviews. I also feel that I was born to be a doctor (due to my insatiable curiosity particularly for medical science combined with the qualities that make someone a great teacher)but I thought I'd search around and see what other people had to say about physicians with my personality type. Also, advice would be more thank welcome!

Paul Levy said...

Hi Katie,

I'm not a physician, so I can't answer that one.

The best physicians I have known, though, are the ones who are good teachers because the best teachers (and doctors) are empathic.