If you’ve ever attended a work retreat or met with a career counselor in high school, chances are you already know your MBTI personality (I’m an ENFJ). Myers-Briggs questionnaires may be typically associated with team-building retreats and online questionnaires to fill out with your friends and family when you’re bored, but the personality types have been cropping up in another unexpected place: dating apps. It goes a little something like this: “Mike, 35, Lawyer, INFJ, Loves Pizza.” But is that actually an indication of your potential affinity?
Perhaps much more indicative of true compatibility than zodiac signs, Myers-Briggs personalities are rooted in a scientific theory by psychoanalyst Carl Jung that aims to identify a person’s personality based on 16 set types. Beyond being helpful in the workplace (an estimated 80% of Fortune 500 companies use the test), knowing your loved ones’ personality type may be helpful in navigating conflicts in relationships or understanding others better.
To shed light on how to measure compatibility based on people’s MBTI personalities, we tapped Rachel Cubas-Wilkinson, MBTI Expert & Sr. Consultant at CPP—The Myers-Briggs Company. “The main thing people should know that will help them in relationships is which preferences they have in common with their partner and which they don’t, and where that might cause issues,” she explains. She points out that the differences between thinking (T) and feeling (F), may be the biggest indication of compatibility. Curious to see what other factors might impact your compatibility? Cubas-Wilkinson explains, in her own words, everything you need to know about Myers-Briggs and relationship types.
Thinking or Feeling
Thinking (T): People who have this preference tend to make decisions based on pros and cons, and weighing logical consequences from an objective point of view.
Feeling (F): The letter F indicates someone who has a preference for feeling. People with a preference for feeling tend to make decisions based on values and look to how decisions align with those values as well as how they might affect other people involved.
Compatibility: Having the same third letter (T or F for how you make decisions) is likely the preference that will have the biggest effect on compatibility because decisions are made the same way. Making decisions as a couple may be easier if two people have the same preference for thinking or feeling. However, there are also blind spots that can be missed with two people having the same preference. Two people with different preferences for T and F may come into conflict more because they make decisions based on different criteria and processes, but, as a couple, they’ll also have fewer blind spots. This may not feel as important when people just begin dating, but as the relationship gets more serious and making decisions together becomes more important, the thinking and feeling preferences play a very large role in two people understanding each other.
Sensing or Intuition
Sensing (S): People who have the letter S in your MBTI type tend to process things in a step-by-step linear sequence and observe and remember specific information. They also tend to focus on the facts and what can be observed via their five senses.
Intuition (I): People who have a preference for intuition generally learn by seeing the big picture and themes and thinking about how specific information is connected.
Compatibility: The second letters, sensing and intuition (S or N), potentially have the second largest effect on compatibility because it’s how you take in information. People with a preference for intuition can offer valuable fresh perspectives in relationships with people with sensing preferences, just as those with a preference for sensing can offer those with intuitive preferences valuable input, but the challenges to sharing their viewpoints can strain your bond.
Those in mixed sensing/intuition relationships have an opportunity to tune in their type awareness skills and enrich each other’s worlds, but it isn’t easy. It can be very hard, particularly in social contexts where the perspective offered by one preference is dominant.
The all-too-common danger that couples can fall into is that problems are created where they don’t really exist. Instead of thinking (or feeling) “this is a different way of approaching the problem,” one of the people in the relationship loses patience and resorts to a “this-is-wrong” attitude (or worse, a “you-are-wrong” attitude). By introducing wrong or blame into a situation, not only does the other person often become defensive, but it excludes valuable new ideas and perspectives.
Extraversion or Intraversion
Introversion (I): People with this personality preference are energized by their inner world. In contrast to people with preferences for extraversion, those with a preference for introversion use their energy interacting with people and things and gain energy by spending time alone and in their heads. They usually prefer to go through all their ideas and then share them out loud.
Compatibility: Any one person is not completely extraverted or completely introverted, you actually use both preferences throughout your day. One just comes more naturally to you—just like you naturally cross your arms one way and the other way feels a little awkward (but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it). With regards to extraversion and introversion (E or I) differences, you should be aware of how each person may require different ways of using and replenishing their energy.
Judging and Perceiving
Judging (J): People who have a preference for judging tend to approach life in a more structured way. They may be the list-makers and planners. They prefer to have a plan and schedule their time and will generally space out projects so they get work done a bit at a time.
Perceiving (P): People with this preference are the ones who want flexibility in their lives and in how their time is managed. They would rather be open to new opportunities for events and like making decisions on the fly and can sometimes enjoy working on things at the last minute or on their own schedule.
Compatibility: The last letters, judging and perceiving (J or P) are similar to E/I in that they can bring balance to the relationship. Alternatively, they can also cause strife as partners approach life very differently. Ultimately, self-awareness first is key to compatibility in a relationship. Next, recognizing differences and appreciating differences can help couples learn how to maximize the strengths of their partnership as well as be aware of blind spots.
People are more than their four MBTI type preferences and personality is extremely complex, but having a common language to understand differences and being able to communicate about those differences is ultimately an indispensable contributor to a long relationship.