Each of the 16 personality types has its strengths, struggles, and unique qualities. However, like with any other label, it has become common for certain stereotypes to come up when discussing different types within the 16-type system. Although these stereotypes may stem from surface-level facts, they can be harmful, limiting, and untrue.
It’s important to remember Isabel Briggs Myers’ system of personality typing is a guideline to understanding yourself and others for the sake of personal growth. Everyone is an individual, and you shouldn’t take stereotypes seriously.
As an example, here are 10 Myers-Briggs stereotypes and why they’re wrong.
1. Thinking types are unfeeling
Thinking types get a bad rap for being emotionally distant. People tend to assume they’re always cold and logical, especially since there’s a major emphasis on Feeling types being the empathetic folks. Because of this, Thinking types are on the receiving end of the opposite assumption—they’re “unfeeling.”
However, like Feeling types, Thinkers can also possess a heart of gold with an enormous soft spot for others and plenty of insight—it just might be a more private facet of themselves they reserve for their inner circle and their loved ones. An excellent example of this is the ENTJ (The Commander), who’s more loving at home, but appears cold and demanding at work.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Thinking or Feeling type—compassion and understanding for others are skills you can learn. While some people have an innate gift for empathy, it’s not impossible to become more or less empathetic with time. Plus, it’s important to keep in mind a person’s demeanor in public isn’t always reflective of them on the whole.
2. Thinking types are the most logical and intelligent types
While Thinking types have excellent logic skills—a trait associated with high intelligence—the stereotype that portrays them as more intelligent and logical than Feeling types is unfair and untrue. Intelligence doesn’t depend on whether you’re a Thinker or a Feeler. Both Thinking and Feeling types have intelligent moguls, scientists, and history-makers among their ranks. For example, psychologist Carl Jung was an INFJ, William Shakespeare an INFP. At the same time, Stephen Hawking (INTJ) and Albert Einstein (INTP) were well-known Thinkers.
Of course, people like Hawking and Einstein have influenced the stereotype that Thinking types are intellectually superior. However, intelligence exists in many forms, and there’s been a more modern movement to start measuring intelligence in more ways than before. For example, emotional understanding as a form of intellect falls both in intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence in Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. This theory also asserts many aspects of intelligence don’t rest on the cognitive functions you’re born with.
Furthermore, since the 16-type system is a spectrum, you may test highly in emotional aspects and logic. So even if you lead with your heart, you aren’t necessarily less logical.
3. All Introverts are shy
Although Extraverted types may have a fuller social calendar than Introverted types, the stereotype of that “shy” wallflower Introvert is overused. Shyness varies from person to person, and being an Introverted type doesn’t make you shy by default. A good example is the INFJ, a type often mistaken for an Extravert because they’re so focused on their relationships with others and enjoy socializing.
The difference between an Introvert and an Extravert has nothing to do with shyness—it’s how you spend and recharge your energy. Extraverts receive energy through social interactions, while Introverts expend energy through social interactions. So while an Extravert doesn’t receive energy through alone time, Introverts do. The differences are all about chemical makeup in the brain, which is fascinating if you’re interested in further research.
4. Feeling types are too moody
Feelings types are in tune with their emotions, and others may perceive their empathetic nature as “moody.” However, Feeling types, like Thinking types, can learn to compartmentalize their emotions, so while they may feel overwhelmed when a new feeling hits them (and take a moment to acknowledge the emotion), “moody” isn’t a fair label. Plenty of Feeling types flourish in jobs that require a cool head under pressure, such as healthcare fields. So although Feeling types lead with their heart, that doesn’t mean their moods are constantly shifting.
Furthermore, you’ll often spot a Feeling type setting aside their feelings to help someone else, while the people around them have no idea how the Feeler is feeling. Feeling types may choose to express their emotions when they’re alone or with a close friend, but public outbursts and swift mood changes are not one of their defining traits.
5. IS types aren’t independent thinkers
Since most Introverted-Sensing types (IS) admire traditional problem-solving methods, some people claim they aren’t independent thinkers. Therefore, the stereotype is that IS types are “Followers.”
However, rather than being “followers,” IS types are thinkers who consider both sides—and ultimately appreciate the value of tradition and structure. These types propel themselves forward by implementing methods that work for them, ultimately making their path the way they prefer. For example, some groundbreaking leaders in the arts were IS types, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Michael Jackson, who were both ISFPs, otherwise called “The Composer.”
6. NF types are always unique
The combination of iNtuitive and Feeling types is almost like a mythical unicorn of the 16 personality types. But, of course, this association is usually with INFJs (the rarest type of the 16). NF types are indeed rare, but one of these, the ENFP “The Champion,” makes up about eight percent of the general population. Some types are rarer than some NFs, such as the ESTP or the ISTP, which make up four and five percent of the general population, respectively.
7. NFPs will always be impractical types
Because of their combination of iNtuitive and Perceiving, people sometimes call NFP types the least practical. While their focus is on feeling and understanding the emotional and analytical side of the spectrum, that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of thinking practically.
INFPs, called the “Thoughtful Idealist” include deep thinkers who weighed in on both practical and more abstract matters, and creators who were both imaginative and creative while being practical when it came to world issues, like Princess Diana, Audrey Hepburn, and Isabel Briggs Myers. The ENFPs list includes the likes of Regis Philbin and Mark Twain.
8. Feeling types are always ready to listen
While specific types are more attuned to the empathetic spectrum and get a sense of fulfillment from helping others, assuming they’re always ready to do so isn’t true. Types like ENFJ, INFJ, and ESFJ may be known for their humanistic nature, but they also have a threshold of energy, and when the Feeling type has no energy left, they have no desire to listen to problems or offer solutions.
Feeling types may feel a need to take care of their loved ones, but they may not be as open with strangers or people who haven’t nourished their direct connection in some time.
An excellent example of this Feeling type “burnout” is when they’re unable to get time for themselves to recoup. Usually, these types will tell others when they’re spent by saying they’ll get back later.
9. Introverts are more passive than Extraverts
There’s the idea that Introverts are more passive personalities. In Western society, people assume activeness in personality is assertiveness and a packed social calendar, so people believe Extraverted types are the more “active” beings. However, Introverts are just as active as their counterparts. The only difference is how this activeness thrives within them.
Extraverts require outside stimuli to bring their energy levels up, while Introverts don’t need those external stimuli to fill their batteries or get projects done. Introverts seek peace and alone time to reconnect, while an Extraverted type needs to socialize to recharge. The idea that active personalities must be social, outgoing, or otherwise leaves many to assume Extraverts have more energy, are more sociable, and get more projects done. In reality, Introverted types are just as productive and assertive when it comes to meeting their goals.
10. Extraverted types are better are maintaining relationships
Leading on from this, since Extraverted types have more friends and a fuller social calendar, the idea is they’re better at maintaining deep connections than Introverts.
Although Introverted types may have fewer friendships than Extraverted types, those on the Introverted spectrum may spend more quality time nourishing these friendships, while Extraverts may be more concerned about quality over quantity. In addition, although connections are all well and good, Extraverts may find it harder to discern who their real friends are when times get tough, while Introverts will know who to go to right away.
Each of the 16 personality types has its stereotypes, often spurred on by their preferences, whether it’s Extraversion or Introversion, or any other preference of dimension. While everyone has strengths and weaknesses, people aren’t two-dimensional, and everyone has different facets of personality that may wax and wane with moods, circumstances, and life experiences.