#BaptistSnippets: The Problem with Myers-Briggs

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I have a love-hate relationship with Myers-Briggs personality profiling. (Or any personality profiling, really). Used in moderation, it’s a useful tool, but over-dependence leads to reductive characterization.

This excerpt from A Year with the Baptists depicts various responses to Myers-Briggs personality profiling. It is a work of fiction and the characters and conversations are products of my imagination. Any resemblance to real people and situations is entirely coincidental. Also, this excerpt is from an early draft, and may or may not make it into the final draft.

***

“So, Jake, do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type?” Charlotte asked.

“Here we go,” Emma muttered.

Jake swallowed a mouthful of mashed potatoes and nodded. “I do.”

“He does,” Charlotte said pointedly.

Emma ignored her.

“Well,” Charlotte said. “What is it?”

“ENFJ,” Jake answered.

“Ah, the Giver,” Charlotte said. “Not a natural match for Emma, then.”

Jake raised his eyebrows. “No? We seem to do all right.”

Charlotte shook her head insistently. “She’s an ISFJ.”

Emma wondered if Charlotte expected them to break up over this.

“Really?” Jake asked.

“She’s never actually taken the test,” Daniel said.

“I don’t get it,” Jake said. “How do you know Emma’s type if she’s never taken the test?”

Charlotte shrugged. “Took it for her.”

Jake looked from Charlotte to Daniel.

“It’s true,” Daniel said.

“So you input her responses to the questions, then?” Jake asked.

“One would think,” Daniel muttered.

“Oh, no,” Charlotte said brightly. “I imagined myself as Emma and answered the questions accordingly.”

Jake gaped.

“She’s not kidding,” Emma informed him.

“I just don’t see it,” Jake said.

“All due respect, Jake,” Charlotte replied, “but I’ve known Emma a lot longer than you have.”

Emma resisted an urge to rub Charlotte’s face in her plate of food.

“I think I can safely say that of all of us, I’ve known Emma the longest,” Daniel said.

“Are you familiar with the Myers-Briggs personalities, Daniel?” Jake asked.

Daniel shrugged. “I’ve dabbled.”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t think she’s an ISFJ.”

Emma wanted to cheer.

“Well, I’ve more than dabbled,” Charlotte said.

“Same here,” Jake replied.

Charlotte huffed.

“You know,” Jake said, stealing a glance at Emma, “there’s really only one way to solve this.”

Daniel shook his head. “Already been tried, man.”

“Aw, come on, Emma,” Jake said. “Why not?”

“I think way too many people use their personality types as excuses not to grow,” Emma answered.

“I don’t know,” Jake said. “Types can be a valuable tool for learning how to love and serve people more effectively.”

“Exactly,” Charlotte said. “Plus, you can discover what makes people tick, and how to get them to work for you.”

“That’s pretty much the opposite of what Jake just said,” Emma informed her.

Jake squeezed her arm. “So what’s your type, Charlotte?”

“ESTJ.”

“The know-it-all,” Emma muttered.

“Guardian, actually,” Charlotte said.

“How could I have missed that?” Emma retorted.

Jake planted a kiss on her cheek. “I’d love to know your type, just for fun.”

“She’s an ISFJ,” Charlotte insisted.

Emma pushed her chair back from the table. “Okay, you know what? I’ll do it.”

Daniel raised his eyebrows. “I think you broke her.”

“I’ll set up my laptop after dinner,” Charlotte said, clapping her hands.

Emma shook her head. “This is something Jake and I are going to do together. Alone.”

Charlotte pouted. “No fair.”

“You can’t win ’em all, Charlotte.”

~~~

“I already know my type,” Emma confessed later when she and Jake were alone.

“But Daniel said”-

“No, I know,” Emma said. “And as far as most people know, I haven’t taken the test.” 

Jake frowned. “I don’t get it.”

“This is Charlotte’s thing,” Emma explained. “I actually know a lot about personality profiling. I study it for my stories. But Charlotte wants to be the expert, so I let her.”

Jake gazed into her eyes. “I have so much respect for you right now.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Emma mumbled, tearing her eyes away. “I also enjoy knowing she’s wrong, and that I can have this part of me that she’s not in on.”

“Fuzzy moment gone,” Jake said. “You going to let me in on your type?”

Emma grinned. “Oh, come on, Jake. You already know this.”

Jake smiled back. “We’re natural matches after all.”

“See?” Emma said, leaning in and kissing him. “Charlotte may have known me longer, but you know me better.”

***

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