The Master List: How to Figure Out Your Personality Type

As a professional personality type coach, it can be disappointing to see people relying on free online personality tests to figure out their personality type. I've taken many of those tests myself and have also reviewed many different sets of these test results with my clients. The results just aren't that good.

While some of the free personality tests offer unique insights, many of the tests are poorly worded and very inaccurate. To a working professional in the area of personality type, a test is a very small piece of the personality puzzle. Test-takers can also risk actual psychological damage (e.g. extreme stress or exhaustion) by trying to be "on type" with the wrong personality type result.

Tests are considered "self-report"--they can only summarize what you tell them, and sometimes people mislead themselves about their true personality. Still other types of people need more nuanced explanations than the test publisher offers. In cases like these the test results will usually reflect the wrong personality type.

Your "core" personality type does not change from moment to moment, but test results often will.

I personally suggest that you try a variety of different methods to identify your core type, and cross types out as you rule them out.

Here are a variety of methods that I've seen work well. Some of them are self-report, and others require asking friends for help.

Which Temperament Matches Your Personality?

Developed by David Keirsey and recently modernized by Linda Berens, Temperaments are an easy way to start narrowing things down to four types instead of sixteen. Which temperament seems like a good match?

  • Improviser - Performing skillfully, with a drive to act now, be hands-on, and be as independent as possible. ISTP, ESTP, ISFP, ESFP.
  • Catalyst - Drawing on intuition to build a unique identity and life-meaning; cooperating, valuing authenticity and pursuing an ideal. ENFP, INFP, ENFJ, INFJ.
  • Theorist - Driving toward mastery of concepts, knowledge, and competence; understanding and developing theories. INTJ, ENTJ, INTP, ENTP.
  • Stabilizer - Being responsible, being a part of a group, drawing on tradition, and building on a sense of security and community. ISTJ, ESTJ, ISFJ, ESFJ.

Which Interaction Style Are You?

Next, ask yourself which Interaction Style fits you. Developed by Linda Berens and similar to other models like DISC, Interaction Style describes how you do things:

  • In Charge: Pushing for completion, making quick decisions. More likely to initiate than respond. (Extraverted)
  • Get Things Going: Pushing for involvement, preferring enthusiastic decisions. More likely to initiate than respond. (Extraverted)
  • Chart the Course: Pushing for a plan of action, keeping the group on track. More likely to respond than initiate. (Introverted)
  • Behind the Scenes: Pushing for the best result, preferring consultative decisions. More likely to respond than initiate. (Introverted)

Combine Temperaments and Interaction Styles to Narrow it Down

Combining the two methods above, here are the four-letter results:

  • In Charge Improviser: ESTP
  • In Charge Catalyst: ENFJ
  • In Charge Theorist: ENTJ
  • In Charge Stabilizer: ESTJ
  • Get Things Going Improviser: ESFP
  • Get Things Going Catalyst: ENFP
  • Get Things Going Theorist: ENTP
  • Get Things Going Stabilizer: ESFJ
  • Chart The Course Improviser: ISTP
  • Chart The Course Catalyst: INFJ
  • Chart The Course Theorist: INTJ
  • Chart The Course Stabilizer: ISTJ
  • Behind The Scenes Improviser: ISFP
  • Behind The Scenes Catalyst: INFP
  • Behind The Scenes Theorist: INTP
  • Behind The Scenes Stabilizer: ISFJ

Explore the Eight Cognitive Processes for More Depth

Cognitive Processes ask, "what is your thinking style"? We all draw from eight main cognitive processes or cognitive functions, with a preference for some over others. You can rate these by how likely you are to give attention to each process.

Pick three or four of the following processes that seem most like you, and order them. Then pick out several that seem to trip you up.

  • Recalling: Memorizing, reviewing, remembering, providing historical context (through tradition, etc.), being precise
  • Experiencing: Being hands-on, alert, noticing standout details, desiring to make an impact in the current situation, desiring to put your skills on display for others
  • Valuing: Developing internal ethics, being introspective, being sincere, asking "who am I really," personal focus
  • Harmonizing: Appropriate communication, empathy, showing appreciation, group focus, helping, encouraging
  • Analyzing: Organizing one's own thoughts, reasoning, considering logic, developing and perfecting a process, independent thinking
  • Systematizing: Structuring, critiquing, prioritizing, measuring progress, and organizing information, tools, or materials needed.
  • Visioning: Visualizing the way events will probably play out, predicting, conceptualizing new ideas, following hunches or flashes of intuitive insight, picturing "the most probable" solution or outcome
  • Brainstorming: Visualzing potential and possibilities, exploring new inventions, developing ideas and theories, connecting ideas, being optimistic

Now compare your most-preferred processes with the personality types below:

Types that give most attention to Recall:

  • Recalling, Harmonizing, Valuing, Analyzing, Brainstorming; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Visioning, Systematization, or Experiencing: ISFJ
  • Recalling, Systematizing, Analyzing, Valuing, Brainstorming; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Visioning, Valuing, or Experiencing: ISTJ

Types that give most attention to Experiencing:

  • Experiencing, Valuing, Harmonizing, Systematizing, Visioning; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Recalling, Analyzing, or Brainstorming: ESFP
  • Experiencing, Analyzing, Systematizing, Harmonizing, Visioining; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Recalling, Valuing, or Brainstorming: ESTP

Types that give most attention to Valuing:

  • Valuing, Experiencing, Recalling, Visioning, Systematizing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Harmonizing, Brainstorming, or Analyzing: ISFP
  • Valuing, Brainstorming, Visioning, Recalling, Systematizing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Harmonizing, Experiencing, or Analyzing: INFP

Types that give most attention to Harmonizing:

  • Harmonizing, Visioning, Brainstorming, Experiencing, Analyzing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Valuing, Recalling, or Systematizing: ENFJ
  • Harmonizing, Recalling, Experiencing, Brainstorming, Analyzing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Valuing, Visioning, or Systematizing: ESFJ

Types that give most attention to Systematizing:

  • Systematizing, Recalling, Experiencing, Brainstorming, Valuing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Analyzing, Visioning, or Valuing: ESTJ
  • Systematizing, Visioning, Brainstorming, Experiencing, Valuing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Analyzing, Recalling, or Harmonizing: ENTJ

Types that give most attention to Analyzing:

  • Analyzing, Experiencing, Recalling, Visioning, Harmonizing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Systematizing, Brainstorming, or Valuing: ISTP
  • Analyzing, Brainstorming, Visioning, Recalling, Harmonizing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Systematizing, Experiencing, or Valuing: INTP

Types that give most attention to Visioning:

  • Visioning, Harmonizing, Valuing, Analyzing, Experiencing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Brainstorming, Systematizing, or Recalling: INFJ
  • Visioning, Systematizing, Analyzing, Valuing, Experiencing; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Brainstorming, Harmonizing, or Recalling: INTJ

Types that give most attention to Brainstorming:

  • Brainstorming, Valuing, Harmonizing, Systematizing, Recalling; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Visioning, Analysis, or Experiencing: ENFP
  • Brainstorming, Analyzing, Systematizing, Harmonizing, Recalling; Usually tripped up by giving less attention to Visioning, Valuing, or Experiencing: ENTP

Look at some Personality Memes

Which of the descriptions in these memes seem to resonate? Note: This is mostly for fun. Emperor Palpatine also might be the least likely to compare himself to Emperor Palpatine.

Watch YouTube Videos about the Types

Sometimes you can find a video or two that are really helpful. Example search: ISFP Type

Ask Some Friends to Type You

If you are confused about two similar personalitiy types, ask friends what they think. It's important to ask more than one friend or family member, if you can. Be careful about asking random strangers online to type you based on what you write about yourself, because your bias and their bias combined can throw you both way off.

Take a Free Internet Test

OK, I said above that these can be really misleading. But feel free to browse the list of free internet tests. And if you're going to take tests, take a variety of tests, not just the four-letter Jungian tests. For example, take the Global 5 and use a comparison chart to get an idea of your equivalent four-letter type.

Take a for-pay Personality Test

Free tests often do not publish their accuracy, reliability, and test-retest statistics. "Restricted instruments" or (usually paid) tests typically offer better results.

If you'd like to take one of these assessments, contact me (my information is in the sidebar) and I can administer the Majors PTi instrument, which is significantly more accurate than the Myers-Briggs. I can also offer my feedback as an experienced and certified Personality Type Coach.

If you are a student, you may also be able to take one of these assessments for free through your counseling or career center.

Ask a Friend to Take a Personality Test as if They are You

This one can be surprisingly accurate! You can use this method to type your friends and your favorite Youtube channel owners, too.

Ask a Professional Personality Type Coach for Their Input

It can be very helpful to talk with a professional about your personality type. Personally, I have met and worked with hundreds of people who have identified their best-fit personality types. Recognizing the patterns inherent to one type or another is also my most preferred cognitive process--it's a gift of mine. Contact me and I'd be happy to share my gifts and see if I can help.

Take a Free Test to Help Differentiate Two Types

Celebrity Types has a bunch of differentiating tests like "INFP or INFJ" which may help you narrow down your approach.

Read More About Types

I can highly recommend all of the following books:

  • A good book like Type Talk or Gifts Differing can offer really helpful general information about the types.
  • If you're in a relationship, you might enjoy Just Your Type, which offers helpful relationship tips for every type pairing.
  • If you have children to raise, you might get a lot of benefit by reading Nurture by Nature, which describes how to effectively type young children and offers lots of useful parenting advice for each personality type.
  • If you want to enjoy a better work experience, give Type Talk at Work a shot. The book contains a huge amount of wisdom on personality type, for example, "any strength, relied upon too much, becomes a liability" (paraphrased).

Learn About Types That Frequently Cannot Decide

If you can't decide your type, that's actually a clue.

In my experience, there are some types that generally have a hard time deciding. Some of the most common "types who can't decide" are INTP, ISTP, INFP, ENFP, ENFJ, and ENTP. If you're on the fence between INTP and INTJ, for example, it's slightly more likely that you are an INTP, because an INTP is more likely to be on the fence!

This phenomenon is so common that it's printed in the user manuals for for-pay tests under "tie-breaker rules".

I hope this Master List has been useful to you!

In I Know My Personality Type: Now What?, I cover different ways in which knowing your type can quickly and dramatically change your life for the better.

Topics: Cognitive ProcessesInteraction StylesMBTIPersonality TestsPersonality TypeTemperaments