I’m Obsessed with Personality Types and These 4 Questions Always Tell Me How People Think


mbti questions
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Personality types are like zodiac signs: mildly controversial but always entertaining. While I do love a good astrology reading, it’s always difficult for me to keep track of whose moon is in which house rising with what sun. (And I probably botched all of that.) On the other hand, I find that personality types are a bit more straightforward, especially pertaining to the Myers-Briggs assessment, which only has four letters. For those new to this pseudo-scientific branch of psychology, those letters stand for: Extrovert/Introvert, Intuitive/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling and Prospecting/Judging. My cocktail party trick is that I can usually guess someone’s personality by asking four questions (give or take a few follow-ups.) Below are the four questions tied to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that I use that tell me how a person thinks—and, controversially, if I think we’ll be friends. Start asking and suddenly, a lot of people in your life might start making sense.

From Myers-Briggs to the Big 5, Here Are 4 Models Used to Determine Personality Type

1. What’s a Hobby or Activity You’ve Always Wanted to Try?

Maybe your coworker has always wanted to join a book club or a softball league. But, the new friend you made at a cocktail party wants to do National Novel Writing Month—and the only reason you’re talking right now is because you were both glued to the wall while everyone else crowded around the bar. This question tells me whether someone is an introvert or extrovert. Extroverts thrive being around people, while introverts usually find the experience draining, even if they’re having fun. (Me.) Expect them to hibernate for a week following the socialization. That doesn’t mean extroverts need a raucous weekend gathering all the time. It simply means they need some form of human contact, even if that means being on the phone with their best friend several hours a day, every day. But essentially, if someone is eager to try a group hobby or team activity then they’re likely an extrovert (your coworker) and if they prefer more solitary pursuits (like that new acquaintance) then they’re an introvert.

2. When I say “Apple”, What Comes to Mind?

What did you think about? The computers, the fruit, a byte or a bite? I use this question to discern whether someone is a N or S (intuition or sensing). The hallmark of an intuitive person is their ease with, and proclivity for, the abstract. When they go to yoga, they’re not meditating on their dinner options. They’re thinking about what would happen if they quit their job to live in Bhutan for six months, or if almost getting hit by a taxi would actually pull them into the arms of a handsome stranger. (Because we all need a meet-cute à la The Wedding Planner, right?) Meanwhile, Sensors like to make decisions and be guided by concrete things in their everyday lives. They are thinking about what’s for dinner, immediate life goals and the cool stranger they actually had a conversation with in a coffee shop that afternoon. In short, if someone answers this question literally (“fruit!” Or “red!”) then they’re Sensing, but if they start talk about computers or temptation, you’re likely dealing with an Intuitive.

3. You’re Planning a Group Project. Do You Start by Taking the Reins or Listen to Everyone’s Input?

The third letter of the Myers-Briggs personality assessment is F/T (feeling/thinking). Rather than how you make decisions, this letter indicates how you interact with others. Feelers usually prioritize group dynamics over the task. Not that the job won’t get done, but people’s relationships come first—so you’ll be incorporating every single suggestion for that group project, regardless of whether or not it makes sense. (Because heaven forbid you make someone feel like their idea wasn’t important.) Feelers need everyone to get along for the project to work, and they dislike tension. On the other hand, Thinkers make a beeline for the task, and they don’t hesitate to give themselves ultimate veto power. Say you and your siblings are planning a surprise party for your mom, and your brother has a lot of opinions (there should be a balloon arch! And a magician! Cupcakes and a cake!). A Feeler would patiently listen to all suggestions and carefully consider them, while a Thinker would cut straight to the chase and cut all ideas that will delay the project (we’re doing a strawberry tart, sorry).

4. You Wake Up and Have a Completely Free Day. What Do You Do?

We all probably have an extreme version of each of these people in our lives. The one who’s chosen to be a digital nomad and is roving from country to country every 90 days (or less). It’s not all so stressful, though. This is the friend who will pull off the side of a country road so that you end up at a winery in Provence, which happened to be painted by Van Gogh. On the other end of the pendulum, there is the planner. Your backpacking trip through Argentina is planned down to the hour. They plan their social agenda at least two weeks in advance, if not a month. These traits are how you differentiate between P/J (Prospective/Judging). Ps are spontaneous and not afraid to just walk out the door and see what happens. Meanwhile Js always have an agenda, and they’ll be consulting it before they brush their teeth. That being said, last minute plans obviously don’t bother Ps. Spontaneous meeting? Booking tickets for a weekend in Paris tomorrow? Sign them up. You can bet, though, that your J colleague will want at least a week’s notice about that meeting…and that they booked their ticket to Paris six months ago.

I enjoy asking these questions because truthfully, I prefer to skip small talk. These MBTI questions are vulnerable without being intimate, allowing me to connect with strangers and learn something about them beyond surface level without prying into their personal lives. But I’ve also found it enormously helpful when asking friends and family. Learning their personality types has demystified plenty of things in my personal relationship, and who knows? Maybe it’ll do the same for yours.

Here’s What You’re Like As a Friend, Based on Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type

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