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The 16 personality types of the MBTI: What do the four letters say about the character?

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) knows 16 different personality types. When you take an MBTI personality test, the result is a combination of four letters. "Insiders" speak of ESFJ and ISTP like old friends. You only understand train station? Here you can read what the 16 abbreviations mean.

MBTI and the 16 personality types

The Myers-Briggs types are based on the findings of the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. In the 1920s Jung developed his type theory, according to which a person's thinking and feeling, recognizing and perceiving can be outwardly or inwardly oriented. The Americans Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (Katherine's daughter) took Jung's typology and developed their own personality theory with 16 personality types.

The MBTI test is used today by companies and career advisors, but also by dating agencies to assess people - and especially their suitability for certain tasks or "for one another". When thinking about life paths and relationships, with practical considerations as well as with the great search for meaning, the Myers-Briggs type indicator give interesting impulses.

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What is the meaning of the four letters in a personality type?

The four letters of the 16 personality types stand for four character dimensions.

In the first place, Myers-Briggs puts the question of the outside or inside orientation: How do you fill up your batteries? In interaction with others? Or would you prefer to be alone with you? There is an I ("introverted") or an E ("extroverted") for this.

The second letter describes how you form an image of the world. Do you orient yourself to what you can perceive with your five senses? Or do you peek behind the facade, see and analyze connections, find explanations? There’s an S (“sensory”) or an N (“intuitive” - the I is already assigned for “introverted”). The fact that MBTI uses the term “intuitive” for an analytical, questioning perception goes back to Carl Gustav Jung's expression, which differs somewhat from the colloquial use of the word.

In third place is your preferred decision mode. Do you weigh up all the information you can? Or are you less interested in the facts than your gut feeling? Myers-Briggs describes these two poles with T ("thinking" - thinking) and F ("feeling" - feeling).

The fourth letter relates to your need for structure. Fixed plan, clear moral compass, rules for every situation in life? Or first feel for it, stay flexible, adapt? According to Myers-Briggs, this is the contrast between J (“judging” - judging) and P (“perceiving” - perceiving).

Which 16 Personality types is there?

Depending on which of the two poles you tend towards in the four personality dimensions, there is a combination of four letters that describe your character.

And because it can get a bit confusing with so many different characters, the 16 personality types are usually divided into groups of four.

NF: The idealistic world-understanders

NFs perceive the world analytically and questioningly and make decisions based on feelings and values. Depending on the characteristics of the other characteristics, the following personalities arise:

INFP - The Dreamer

INFPs are the friendly, idealistic people who understand people among the 16 personality types. They can be alone, think deeply about the world, make emotive decisions, and live spontaneously and flexibly.

INFPs are good listeners, reluctant to share their own thoughtful opinions and deeply empathetic with others. You have a solid moral compass, but you judge in a friendly and understanding manner. INFPs can expect creative ideas and valuable advice - but they're not the type to work out and follow the big master plan. INFPs include writers, designers, musicians, consultants, and many other successful creatives and innovators.

ENFP - The Free Spirit

ENFPs are the activists among the Myers-Briggs guys. You enjoy being in the center of attention, you analyze yourself and the world with a clear mind, but you decide and act emotionally and spontaneously.

Free spirits love life - and let the sparks jump over to others! They are good at dealing with chaos; Rules and conventions are not yours. The firmly established personal value system of one ENFP mostly does not coincide entirely with that of society; They make no secret of their sympathy for underdogs and their rejection of the “wrong life”. Boredom is a red rag, they like to leave the detailed work to others - but that's not a problem either, because they can motivate people! ENFPs include serial founders, initiators of social movements, inspiring speakers ... and many fascinating personalities who cannot be pigeonholed.

INFJ - The Sensei

INFJs are something like the wise visionaries in the MBTI spectrum. They rest in themselves, have a deep understanding of people and relationships, make value- and emotion-based decisions - and strive for orderly structures in their lives and actions.

INFJs can analyze situations comprehensively and thus anticipate future developments with often astonishing accuracy. Advice and ideas one INFJ have hands and feet - even if they are often surprising. The quiet idealists like to take life paths that meet their structural needs. This can be a position in an organization with whose values ​​you identify (judge, teacher, consultant in important functions) - or a solitary lookout where you can build your thoughts undisturbed.

ENFJ - The Charismatic Leader

ENFJs combine the analytical, idealistic and structure-loving traits of one INFJ with the need for fellowship with others. That makes them born leaders - unlike the equally charismatic ENFP, for whom the matter quickly becomes too boring, remains a ENFJ tirelessly with the bar and can motivate his fellow men in the long term.

ENFJs develop big, well-thought-out ideas and enjoy being at the forefront of a movement or organization. They are smart, empathetic superiors who take a real interest in the development of their employees - but of course insist on performance. You can not only speak impressively and inspire others, but you can also grab hold of it. Whether in the executive suite or with the boy scouts - ENFJs almost always act as influential and popular leaders.

NT: The cool heads

NTs combine an analytical, questioning perception of the world with a rational mode of decision-making. That means that they are not guided in their decisions by emotions, values ​​or striving for harmony - but by rational weighing in the service of the cause. Depending on the characteristics of the other characteristics, the following personalities arise:

INTJ - The Scientist

The INTJ thinks analytically and without prejudice, makes strictly rational decisions, acts in a planned and structured manner - and prefers to be alone with his thoughts. This makes the thoughtful tidiness lover the ideal mastermind behind the scenes.

The analyzes of a INTJ are precise, his plans worked out down to the last detail. If it serves the bigger picture, someone or something can fall by the wayside when making decisions ... Their in-depth knowledge and their often astonishing skills predestine the perfectionists INTJs for careers as scientists, political consultants, management consultants or far-sighted specialists in various other areas.

ENTJ - The Commander

ENTJs are free of prejudice in their thinking and in their decisions, are logical and rational, in their actions well-planned and structured - and they are great types of community. What they lack in charisma they make up for in natural authority. When all is done, they can prove to be surprisingly personable anecdote-tellers with a penchant for casual sociability.

Born leaders confidently take responsibility and love to set the tone. Many other personality types willingly submit to them - their competence and the value of their contributions are simply undeniable. ENTJs are therefore often found in prominent positions (and in the history books): as CEOs, strategists and extraordinary politicians, as emperors and generals.

INTP - the brooder

Not a very easy guy that INTP: In the quiet little room he likes to brood obsessively about the big picture. He wants to understand - and in doing so goes unusual, but often unusually fruitful ways. He tends to make little sense of banalities such as tidying up, earning a living and irrational figures (= other personality types) - but if you don't hold off his harsh comments and don't let the chaos around him put you off, you can learn a lot from him.

Not everyone INTP is an Einstein - but in the ranks of brooding loners there are scientists, philosophers and gifted programmers as well as numerous bizarre characters.

ENTP - The Debater

What the INTP makes up for himself, brings the ENTP on the big stage: in the competition of ideas and worldviews are ENTPs right at the forefront - and enjoy taking apart their fellow debaters using every trick in the book. The merciless analysts like to hear themselves talk and love attention; their openness and sharp mind impress, but not only make them friends.

The easily distracted nerds lack the staying power for long-term projects, but they are brilliant initiators. With the right other guys on board, ENTP's dream team members are: They never miss an inconsistency in the project description, and one of the ideas they freely scatter is often a diamond in the rough.

SJ: The guards

Guardians combine practical reason and common sense with patiently structured action. Among the 16 personality types, they are the defenders of order - they have firmly internalized the values ​​and norms of society. Depending on whether SJs orientate themselves inwards or outwards and whether they make decisions rationally or based on feelings and values, the following personalities arise:

ISTJ - The Duty Fellow

There are few personality types who are so often and gladly entrusted with important tasks as this ISTJ. Rather sparing with words ISTJs People in action, willing and able to perform, guardians and disseminators of important factual and expert knowledge, recognized specialists - and 100% reliable.

Their manner is dry, but not devoid of humor, they are loyal friends, partners and neighbors and are some of the best types of employees you can imagine. They act fairly, cautiously and efficiently in leading positions that they achieve through their abilities, but never through the use of their elbows.

ESTJ - The Headmaster

The extroverted "twin" of the ISTJ feels an obligation to other people or to society: to find your life's purpose ESTJs often in managerial positions, where they make sure that things run smoothly and that nobody is left by the wayside. As pragmatists, they cannot capture much with lofty ideas (favorite saying: “If you have visions, you should go to the doctor”) - and are thus a stabilizing counterweight to all NF world improvers.

The job may not always be grateful, but one ESTJ pulls him through. The self-confident conservative insists on adherence to the rules and applies strict standards to others, which are even stricter to himself. His praise is a special honor for many, but rebels and dreamers will have a hard time with him.

ISFJ - The Protector

Whom a ISFJ once gave his heart, he has a friend for life. ISFJs do not play themselves in the foreground, judge the world mostly practically, have internalized social norms, judge based on feelings and values ​​and feel best when everyone is satisfied and things are in their harmonic order.

Come in the family and in close circle of colleagues or friends ISFJs out of yourself - and can then be really perky. No birthday goes by without a reminder, no unlucky person is left uncomfortable. Social professions are the preferred profession of the ISFJs, but their friendly, steady presence, their reliability and empathy are an asset to any team.

ESFJ - The popular figure

Open-minded and sociable, with a firmly established, mostly conservative worldview and lots of common sense, feeling and experience-oriented in their decisions and with a well-ordered inner and outer life. Like in the sitcom of everyday life ESFJs sometimes be the target of good-natured jokes, aiming at their perhaps not-so-sparkling remarks and their stubborn insistence on adherence to the norms. The born sympathizers don't really care - because they are often the ones with the attractive partner, the good-looking children and the chicest house on the street.

ESFJs are the best neighbors and colleagues, unwaveringly warm and helpful. Even more than the ISFJ, she is drawn to the social professions - ESFJs are for example great teachers, but also good lawyers.

SP: The adventurers

Knowledge of books and marked paths are anathema to them: the adventurers combine a pronounced preference for sensual impressions and personal experience with flexibility and openness to new things.

Depending on whether SPs orientate themselves inwards or outwards and whether they make decisions based on the head or the stomach, the following personalities arise:

ISFP - the connoisseur

The inside focus of a ISFP, paired with sensory world perception, emotionalism and openness make this guy a real connoisseur: No other personality type can appreciate the great and small joys of the world so deeply. ISFPs cannot get enough of new experiences and new soul mates. The destruction of the environment, ugly surroundings and obvious suffering cause them much more trouble than many other types, so you will find a relatively large number of eco-activists (but without a megaphone) and dropouts among the connoisseurs.

Often have ISFPs an artistic streak - they love to create beautiful things, dress emphatically unconventional and generally attach great importance to aesthetics. Lots ISFPs work with their hands in one way or another, office jobs are not for them at all.

ESFP - The Entertainer

Among the 16 personality types, the entertainer is the one whose extrovertedness stands out most clearly. Here is someone who was really born for the spotlight. Spontaneous, carefree, full of energy, with a fine antenna for others - the ESFP needs and loves his audience, and the audience needs and loves him.

The excitement of one ESFP is relatively easy to wake up, and his joy is infectious. ESFPs can use the ability to inspire and convince others in many professions and professions. Whether showmaster or activist, seller of luxury cars or organic vegetables on the market - as long as it is fun for the ESFP, it will shine in many positions.

ISTP - the engineer

The introverted engineer has little sense of speculation and makes head-based judgments and decisions. In his opinion, he abhores pointless rules. The natural spontaneity and sensuality of ISTPs is kept in check by their head preference when making decisions: While the gut feeling (F) types among the adventurers are easily enthusiastic about all sorts of airy goals, the engineer likes to turn to more tangible things.

ISTPs are great craftsmen - and, for example, also very solid musicians. Any profession that can be characterized as “craft” in the broader sense can be ISTPs potentially fill in perfectly. If the mentally chosen career does not quite correspond to your emotional preferences, a manual hobby or a challenging solo sport can create the important balance.

ESTP - the founder

The founder is the sociable engineer - with him a sober view of the world, analytical judgment, flexibility in action and a certain creative impatience come together with a great need for “bathing in the crowd”.

The ESTP has the idea for a gimmick to make everyday life easier, builds the prototype, founds the company, organizes the production of the sample collection - and then clears away at "Den of the Lions". Hesitation is not his thing, neither are further plans for the future or fundamental considerations. Optimism, technical brilliance, solution orientation and self-confident charm: this doer mentality is as if made for the economy; accordingly, there are many successful ones ESTPs.

Which personality type is the rarest?

Is considered the rarest among the 16 personality types INFJ - this combination can only be found in one to two percent of the population. Here we are dealing with introverted people who think analytically, but make decisions based on feelings and values ​​- and ultimately act in a structured and planned manner. Great altruists like Mahatma Gandhi can be cited as examples; Writers are also common INFJs.

However, there is a small difference between the sexes when it comes to the rarest Myers-Briggs type: In women, is ENTJ even rarer than INFJ: The description "extroverted, analytically thinking, fact-based, decisive and structured" - the cliché of the career woman - only applies to around every hundredth woman in MBTI tests.

What is the most common personality type?

The most common Myers-Briggs type is ISFJ - the introverted, trusting common sense, emotionally-based, decisive friends of fixed structures make up almost 14 percent of the population. And that's a good thing: ISFJs are the proverbial salt of the earth. Without this type, no stable society can exist. ISFJs are the hard-working, reliable employees of the ENTJs - and the audience that decides the success or failure of the blockbuster contenders literally or figuratively based on INFJ scripts.

Are there alternatives to MBTI and its 16 personality types?

Oh yes there are some! The 16 personality types represent a fascinating variety of characters that are wonderful to philosophize about, and many people feel that their Myers-Briggs type describes them precisely. However, the result of the MBTI test can also depend on how well you are on the day ... and the classification of a personality without a test is to a large extent a matter of interpretation and opinion. Whether, for example, Mother Theresa is an INFJ or ISFJ, Steve Jobs an ISTP or ENTJ, leads to lively debates among Myers-Briggs fans again and again.

We are often asked about the differences between DISC and MBTI. If you are still unsure of the benefits of each test, this brief overview will help you better understand the models:

Personality test models in comparison

DISG

focuses on four predominant behavior types
different behavioral traits in different situations
The world's leading tool for optimizing communication and interpersonal relationships
shows the influence of personality on behavior
easy to use and remember in practice

MBTI

assigns a person to one of 16 personality types
rigid results that can hardly be adapted to individual situations
Results of the test provide a description of who you are and why you do things your way
thematizes the experience and thinking inside
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To put it bluntly, a somewhat disarmed alternative to the MBTI is the Enneagram with nine personality types. It is interesting here that the types can appear in "immature", normal and "mature" form - the Enneagram thus provides for the possibility of personal maturation towards a type-related ideal.

A very common personality model is the Big Five model. The Big Five - the five main dimensions of personality - apply here to openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, tolerance and neuroticism. With neuroticism, the Big Five also take into account a potentially unhealthy personality dimension - a striking difference to both the MBTI and the Enneagram.

Clear answers with the DISG

The DISG takes a very practical approach to the question of personality. This test is almost exclusively about how you behave - and nothing else determines success and failure in the world. The four personality aspects determined by the DISG are dominance, initiative, consistency and conscientiousness. Dominance and initiative - two extremely important characteristics in life as in work - are not taken into account by any other personality test.

The picture that your DISC test provides is understandable at first glance. It also shows whether, for example, the potential for more conscientiousness or initiative lies dormant in you. The DISC test is therefore a fruitful introduction for everyone who wants to set out on the path of personal change.

Curious? You can find more information about the DISG here. Or do you want to find out more about yourself right away? Our free personality test reveals your personality type, your weaknesses - and your untapped potential!