I delivered a session last week on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is based on Jung’s personality type theory.
I just love seeing that moment of understanding when a participant realises that something they have been doing all along and not had the confidence to voice is really grounded in psychological type theory. As an MBTI practitioner, it sometimes feels like I am giving people permission to be themselves. It is powerful and it is liberating. It gives the clients I work with confidence in their strengths and a framework in which to describe what they are good at. Not to mention, the understanding of how and why other people behave in certain ways – perfect for demonstrating teamwork scenarios.
This tool has so many other advantages, one of which is applying it to characters in my stories and books. It helps me to keep characters behaving in a way that is consistent and believable, without the need to even reveal how or why. It just is. And it works, as you have a theory in the sub-text of the work, invisible to the reader, but underpinning the elements that make a believable plot. It helps the reader to suspend disbelief without you having to signpost what you are doing. It is a powerful gift; check it out.
I’ve just returned from the first part of a qualifying course for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). For anyone unfamiliar with MBTI, it is personality type indicator that is used as a self-development tool; very useful in the work that I do as a Careers Consultant. However, it occurred to me that it might also be a very useful framework for developing fictional characters. In fact, as the course progressed, I found myself regularly reflecting on the characters in my current book and how they might behave in certain situations.
The MBTI inventory was developed by mother and daughter, Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers who took the theories of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung around personality and type, then through over 50 years of research and development produced this indicator. Today, it is the most widely used instrument for understanding personality differences.
Naysayers amongst us might argue that it is restrictive and like putting characters in boxes. But as I have discovered, the amount of research underpinning the tool is so massive, I can’t even begin to do it justice here. If you believe in creating rounded characters that interact with each other and behave in a believable way, then you wouldn’t go too far wrong by taking a look at some of the theory behind the tool.
When I got home from the course, I googled MBTI for character development and came up with some interesting web sites:
A bit of fun for Simpsons fans: – the Simpsons MBTI
If you want to undertake the test yourself, I’d highly recommend getting feedback from a qualified professional. This would give you a rich insight into your own natural strengths and potential areas for growth. Enhancing an understanding of yourself and your own motivations will undeniably help you to understand what motivates others. And… as a writer, I am fully aware that an understanding of the rich complexity of human relationships is at the heart of character development.