Often the very first question people ask after completing our personality test is “What do these letters mean?” We are of course referring to those mysterious acronyms like INTJ-A, ENFP-T, or ESTJ-A. As you may have already learned from the Type Descriptions or articles on the website, the five letters of these acronyms each refer to a specific trait, with certain trait combinations forming various types and type groups. But before we discuss those traits in depth, let’s explore their historical foundations.
The Historical Detour
Since the dawn of time, humans have drawn up schematics to describe and categorize our personalities. From the four temperaments of the ancient civilizations to the latest advances in psychology, we have been driven to fit the variables and complexities of human personality into well-defined models. Although we are still some time away from being able to do that, the current models account for our most important personality traits and can predict our behavior with a high degree of accuracy.
Personality is just one of many factors that guide our behavior, however. Our actions are also influenced by our environment, our experiences, and our individual goals. On our website, we describe how people belonging to a specific personality type are likely to behave. We outline indicators and tendencies, however, not definitive guidelines or answers. Significant differences can exist even among people who share a personality type. The information on this website is meant to inspire personal growth and an improved understanding of yourself and your relationships – not to be taken as gospel.
Our approach has its roots in two different philosophies. One dates back to early 20th century and was the brainchild of Carl Gustav Jung, the father of analytical psychology. Jung’s theory of psychological types is perhaps the most influential creation in personality typology, and it has inspired a number of different theories. One of Jung’s key contributions was the development of the concept of Introversion and Extraversion – he theorized that each of us falls into one of these two categories, either focusing on the internal world (Introvert) or the outside world (Extravert). Besides Introversion and Extraversion, Jung coined the concept of so-called cognitive functions, separated into Judging or Perceiving categories. According to Jung, each person prefers one of these cognitive functions and may most naturally rely on it in everyday situations.
In the 1920s, Jung’s theory was noticed by Katharine Cook Briggs, who later co-authored a personality indicator still used today, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®). Briggs was a teacher with an avid interest in personality typing, having developed her own type theory before learning of Jung’s writings. Together with her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, they developed a convenient way to describe the order of each person’s Jungian preferences – this is how four-letter acronyms were born.
Of course, this is just a very simplified description of the Myers-Briggs theory. Readers interested in learning more should read Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers. As we define personality traits and types differently in our model, we will not go deeper into Jungian concepts or related theories in this article.
Due to its simplicity and ease of use, the four-letter naming model has been embraced by a number of diverse theories and approaches over the last few decades, including frameworks such as Socionics, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, Linda Berens’ Interaction Styles, and many others. While the acronyms used by these theories may be identical or very similar, however, their meanings do not always overlap. One of the reasons behind such a lengthy introduction is that we want to make it clear that there is no single definition assigned to these type acronyms – each theory defines them in their own way and it is entirely possible that if you meet five people who all say “I am an INFJ”, their definitions of what INFJ means are going to differ.
Types vs. Traits
Regardless of its structure, any type-based theory will struggle to describe or characterize people whose scores lie near the dividing line. A different way to look at personalities is through the lens of a trait-based rather than a type-based model. What do we mean by that? Instead of creating an arbitrary number of categories and attempting to fit people within them, a trait-based model simply studies the degree to which people exhibit certain traits.
You may have heard the term Ambivert, which is a perfect example in this case. Ambiversion means that someone falls in the middle of the Introversion-Extraversion scale, being neither too outgoing nor too withdrawn. Trait-based theories would simply say that an Ambivert is moderately Extraverted or moderately Introverted and leave it at that, without assigning a personality type.
A trait-based approach makes it easier to reliably measure correlations between personality traits and other characteristics – for example, political attitudes. This is why trait-based approaches dominate psychometric research, but that’s more or less the only area where these approaches are dominant. Because they don’t offer types or categorizations, trait-based theories don’t translate as well as type-based theories into specific recommendations and takeaways. Assigned categories such as Extravert or Introvert may be limiting, but they allow us to conceptualize human personality and create theories about why we do what we do – something that a more scientifically reliable but colorless statement, such as you are 37% Extraverted, simply cannot do.
With our model, we’ve combined the best of both worlds. We use the acronym format introduced by Myers-Briggs for its simplicity and convenience, with an extra letter to accommodate five rather than four scales. However, unlike Myers-Briggs or other theories based on the Jungian model, we have not incorporated Jungian concepts such as cognitive functions, or their prioritization. Jungian concepts are very difficult to measure and validate scientifically, so we’ve instead chosen to rework and rebalance the dimensions of personality called the Big Five personality traits, a model that dominates modern psychological and social research.
Let us now go through our five personality aspects one by one, and then move on to the type groups.
Five Personality Aspects
This section will describe five personality aspects that, when combined, define the personality type: Mind, Energy, Nature, Tactics and Identity. Each of these aspects should be seen as a two-sided continuum, with the “neutral” option placed in the middle. The percentages you would have seen after completing the test are meant to show which categories you fall under, and how strong your preferences are.
Let us now go through the personality aspects one by one:
This aspect shows how we interact with our surroundings:
Introverted individuals prefer solitary activities and get exhausted by social interaction. They tend to be quite sensitive to external stimulation (e.g. sound, sight or smell) in general.
Extraverted individuals prefer group activities and get energized by social interaction. They tend to be more enthusiastic and more easily excited than Introverts.
The second aspect determines how we see the world and process information:
Observant individuals are highly practical, pragmatic and down-to-earth. They tend to have strong habits and focus on what is happening or has already happened.
Intuitive individuals are very imaginative, open-minded and curious. They prefer novelty over stability and focus on hidden meanings and future possibilities.
This aspect determines how we make decisions and cope with emotions:
Thinking individuals focus on objectivity and rationality, prioritizing logic over emotions. They tend to hide their feelings and see efficiency as more important than cooperation.
Feeling individuals are sensitive and emotionally expressive. They are more empathic and less competitive than Thinking types, and focus on social harmony and cooperation.
This aspect reflects our approach to work, planning and decision-making:
Judging individuals are decisive, thorough and highly organized. They value clarity, predictability and closure, preferring structure and planning to spontaneity.
Prospecting individuals are very good at improvising and spotting opportunities. They tend to be flexible, relaxed nonconformists who prefer keeping their options open.
Finally, the Identity aspect underpins all others, showing how confident we are in our abilities and decisions:
Assertive (-A) individuals are self-assured, even-tempered and resistant to stress. They refuse to worry too much and do not push themselves too hard when it comes to achieving goals.
Turbulent (-T) individuals are self-conscious and sensitive to stress. They are likely to experience a wide range of emotions and to be success-driven, perfectionistic and eager to improve.
Now you know what each type consists of. But how do they fit together?
Our system has two layers: the first (inner) one defines our Roles, the second (outer) one – our Strategies.
The Role layer determines our goals, interests, and preferred activities. There are four roles:
Analysts (Intuitive and Thinking [ _NT_ ] types, both Assertive and Turbulent variants)
These personality types embrace rationality and impartiality, excelling in intellectual debates and scientific or technological fields. They are fiercely independent, open-minded, strong-willed and imaginative, approaching many things from a utilitarian perspective and being far more interested in what works than what satisfies everybody. These traits make Analysts excellent strategic thinkers, but also cause difficulties when it comes to social or romantic pursuits.
Diplomats (Intuitive and Feeling [ _NF_ ] types, both Assertive and Turbulent variants)
Diplomats focus on empathy and cooperation, shining in diplomacy and counselling. People belonging to this type group are cooperative and imaginative, often playing the role of harmonizers in their workplace or social circles. These traits make Diplomats warm, empathic and influential individuals, but also cause issues when there is a need to rely exclusively on cold rationality or make difficult decisions.
Sentinels (Observant and Judging [ _S_J ] types, both Assertive and Turbulent variants)
Sentinels are cooperative and highly practical, embracing and creating order, security and stability wherever they go. People belonging to one of these types tend to be hard working, meticulous and traditional, and excel in logistical or administrative fields, especially those that rely on clear hierarchies and rules. These personality types stick to their plans and do not shy away from difficult tasks – however, they can also be very inflexible and reluctant to accept different points of view.
Explorers (Observant and Prospecting [ _S_P ] types, both Assertive and Turbulent variants)
These types are the most spontaneous of all and they also share the ability to connect with their surroundings in a way that is beyond reach of other types. Explorers are utilitarian and practical, shining in situations that require quick reaction and ability to think on your feet. They are masters of tools and techniques, using them in many different ways – ranging from mastering physical tools to convincing other people. Unsurprisingly, these personality types are irreplaceable in crises, crafts and sales – however, their traits can also push them towards undertaking risky endeavors or focusing solely on sensual pleasures.
The Strategy layer shows our preferred ways of doing things and achieving goals. There are four strategies:
Confident Individualism (Introverted and Assertive [ I___-A ] types)
Confident Individualists prefer doing things alone, choosing to rely on their own skills and instincts as opposed to seeking contact with other people. They know what they are good at and have high self-confidence. These personality types firmly believe that personal responsibility and trust in yourself are very important values. Confident Individualists do not pay much attention to other people’s opinions and prefer to rely on themselves.
People Mastery (Extraverted and Assertive [ E___-A ] types)
People Masters seek social contact and tend to have very good communication skills, feeling at ease in social events or in situations where they need to rely on or direct other people. These types are confident in their abilities and do not hesitate to express their opinions. Playing an active role in the society and knowing what makes other people tick mean a lot for People Masters; however, they are not too concerned about what other people think about them.
Constant Improvement (Introverted and Turbulent [ I___-T ] types)
Constant Improvers are quiet, individualistic people. They tend to be perfectionistic and success-driven, often spending a lot of time and effort making sure that the result of their work is the best it can be. As their name says, Constant Improvers are high achieving individuals dedicated to their craft – however, they also tend to worry too much about their performance.
Social Engagement (Extraverted and Turbulent [ E___-T ] types)
The last strategy is adopted by sociable, energetic and success-driven types. Social Engagers tend to be restless, perfectionistic individuals, prone to experiencing both very positive and very negative emotions. Their curiosity and willingness to work hard also mean that they are usually high-achieving, even if quite sensitive people. Types favoring this strategy also tend to place a lot of importance on other people’s opinions; they value their social status and are eager to succeed in everything they do.
This table shows all possible types along with their roles and strategies:
|Analysts||Confident Individualism||Architect (Assertive), Logician (Assertive)|
|People Mastery||Commander (Assertive), Debater (Assertive)|
|Constant Improvement||Architect (Turbulent), Logician (Turbulent)|
|Social Engagement||Commander (Turbulent), Debater (Turbulent)|
|Diplomats||Confident Individualism||Advocate (Assertive), Mediator (Assertive)|
|People Mastery||Protagonist (Assertive), Campaigner (Assertive)|
|Constant Improvement||Advocate (Turbulent), Mediator (Turbulent)|
|Social Engagement||Protagonist (Turbulent), Campaigner (Turbulent)|
|Sentinels||Confident Individualism||Logistician (Assertive), Defender (Assertive)|
|People Mastery||Executive (Assertive), Consul (Assertive)|
|Constant Improvement||Logistician (Turbulent), Defender (Turbulent)|
|Social Engagement||Executive (Turbulent), Consul (Turbulent)|
|Explorers||Confident Individualism||Virtuoso (Assertive), Adventurer (Assertive)|
|People Mastery||Entrepreneur (Assertive), Entertainer (Assertive)|
|Constant Improvement||Virtuoso (Turbulent), Adventurer (Turbulent)|
|Social Engagement||Entrepreneur (Turbulent), Entertainer (Turbulent)|