Best-Fit Type Self Discovery With or Without Using An Assessment such as the MBTI® instrument

In my eighteen years of introducing individuals, teams, leaders and organizations to the rich theory of personality type, I have explored using the Interstrength Self-Discovery process both with the MBTI® assessment tool and without.

Overall I have found that using the Self-Discovery process without an assessment works better for me for the following reasons:

  1. It can be too easy to use the "test and tell" approach, relying extensively on the instrument rather than linking this knowledge to Jung's underlying principles.  When time is limited, or you are working with a large group it is easy to neglect the self exploration process.
  2. When individuals try to assess their innate preferences, there can be a tendency for them to give a written "test" more credence than their individual qualitative assessment.
  3. As a trainer and coach, using the self-discovery process without a written assessment, forces me to focus on recognizing individual behaviors that might indicate the use of specific function-attitudes.
  4. I find the self-exploration process in a group to be more rich as individuals use the multiple lenses of type to review temperament, Interaction Style and function-attitudes without being limited to the "four-letter"code.
  5. Using this self-discovery process seems to overcome the objection of being "put in a box" and instead replaces it with a more fluid discussion of innate versus learned behaviors.
  6. I have learnt a lot about questioning techniques that can be used to help individuals navigate this process.

 So that works for me - what are your thoughts?


Both Susan's and the two commenters are on the money. I gave up using the MBTI as the 25-30% change of at least one function has been common in my 34 years of career counseling and OD practice. I have developed a "conversational" approach to determine type and temperament online using cartoon scenarios and which bring to life the conversational life I have used over the years to get to the true type of the client. Should any of you be interested in reviewing this method, please let me know. It is housed at and is being readied for commercial usage in the USA and China.

Hi Susan,

I agree with much of what you say about leaving the instrument in the drawer (in the "cloud"?).  However, If I use an instrument, I have never shared the assessment with clients until after a process of self discovery, and thus I have never encountered some of the problems you cite, particualrly the test & tell issues.  I tell the participants that the instrument is simply another data point, and that guided self assessment is the most accurate way to determine type .  Further, if I can't help them clarify between two or more whole types, I give them suggested reading and ask that they be conscience of their behaviors and thoughts as they go about their lives in the near future.  I suggest that they ask others who are on the same journey for their insights as to their type.  Finally, I tell everyone that the most important thing is to be aware of differences, not to seek a defining lable.  With those and other efforts on my part, I have not encountered anyone feeling boxed in, or wedded to the indicated type.

There are two situations that I feel the use of an instrument is helpful (but always with results withheld until the end of the self assessment process):

  1. In planning for exercises with a group, it can be helpful to put individuals with similar indicated preferences togerther, unaware of my conscious sorting, and see the light bulbs go off when other groups have such different reactions to the exercise.  Of course, I give permission for anyone who finds themselves at odds with the group they are in to shift to another group.
  2. When working with teens, I find that the curiosity about what they indicated keeps them more focused on the self assessment process.  There's something about the anticipation of comparing their self assessment with the indicator that keeps them engaged.  I've done it with and without an assessment in groups of teens and, while my sample has been small, the difference in the level of engagement has been dramatic.  Of course, I have to be very careful to emphasize all the points I made earlier to make sure that their school experience does not prime them for bowing to the all-mighty assessment results.

Having said all the above, I am very comfortable doing without an instrument given my training in muliple models as a recent Interstrength Method graduate!

I agree. I have been teaching type and temperament for 23 years at the University of Nations, the education are for Youth With A Mission (YWAM). The students are from all over the world (the class usually averages about 12-14 different nations in the class) and most have no previous experience with type. I do give an assessment at the begining of the five day workshop but make it clear to the students the results on the assessment is only a starting place. We've used the MBTI and a variety of other assessments and the result is the same. There may be as many as 25 to 30 % of the students who end up changing letters in their type by the end of the week.

I believe  any practioner who introduces their clients to type must leave them with the feeling that this new information has opened up many new possibilities, not box them in. Anything less that that is harmful to the promotion of understanding yourself and others through the insights that  type, temperament or interaction theory brings to the table.