by Josh Cowen | March 7, 2018

How well do you know yourself? Do you know why you choose to avoid certain situations? Do you know why you love the spotlight or why you shy away from large parties? How about why you fold clothes a certain way (or just throw them on the floor)? What about knowing why certain things really trigger your anger or frustration?

When it comes to relationships, whether with our loved ones, with co-workers, or clients, it’s important to understand ourselves and others. Knowing how we and others are wired is a great way to improve communication. And way back when, I discovered the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which helped me really understand the people around me.

I took the MBTI back when I worked at a job where we took some kind of assessment test yearly, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. I do remember it helped me understand a little better why I do the things I do, but that’s basically where my interest stopped. It wasn’t until years later when I found myself in the dating pool again that the benefits of knowing my Myers Briggs Type came to my mind again. I know what you’re thinking: “Did he just say dating pool and Myers Briggs?” Yep, I did.

A few years ago, I started seeing this gal whom I had known for many years. And I thought I knew her pretty well. But as we started dating, it was evident that either I had no clue what I was doing (it had been a decade and a half since I had dated anyone) or I really didn’t know her as well as I thought I had. There were times that it seemed like we were on two totally different pages. We would be having a really great time, and all of a sudden I’d say something and she’d totally shoot me down. It made no sense to me, and it happened enough that I wanted to investigate. So I turned to the MBTI and decided to dig into what was going on with our communication.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator has 4 sets of traits: Extrovert or Introvert (E or I), iNtuitive or Sensing (N or S), Thinking or Feeling (T or F) and Judging or Perceiving (J or P). There are 16 ways to combine these traits, which gives you your Type. And sometimes you can be a different trait in different situations. For instance, the third set of traits is how we make decisions. For this set, I flip between Thinking and Feeling. At work, I am more of a “T,” which means I base my decisions on data and logic. But at home, I am more of an “F,” which means I base my decisions on how others will feel about it.

So I took the MBTI again, and I asked my girlfriend to take it as well. Our communication has grown leaps and bounds from where it was when we first started dating each other. And now we’re married–thank you very much! Through the MBTI I have learned how my wife processes, thinks, and reacts to situations. That helps me understand her, and therefore helps us communicate better.

Picture it this way: sometimes when you are making hot chocolate and you throw the cocoa powder in the cup of milk, it all just sits there. It doesn’t really mix. And then sometimes you mix it up, but not enough and it’s all clumpy. I think our relationships can be that way sometimes. We think we know people and we can communicate well enough, but we don’t fully understand where they are coming from (and they don’t understand us either). This is where I think personality tests like the MBTI come in handy. They help us see how we are wired, which then helps inform our decision making when it comes to communication. And communication is key in any relationship, is it not?

The MBTI can easily be applied to your relationships with co-workers and clients as well. Knowing how co-workers and clients think and communicate can help avoid conflict and improve those working relationships. I actually have a running list of my family members’, friends’, and co-workers’ types—I know, OCD much?

If you want to start drinking the MBTI elixir (careful, it can be addictive!), you can visit 16personalities.com. There you can take a free MBTI test and read great write-ups on each of the 16 personalities. The more you get into the MBTI, the more you will get out of it, in my opinion. 😉