1. Study Personality Broadly
Personality is an unsolved puzzle, and Jungian typology is but a tiny piece of that puzzle. It says something about the arrangement of the four functions and their orientations. All sorts of other factors that pertain to the personality are, in effect, irrelevant to the system. Even if you know everything about Jungian typology you will still fail if you don’t know anything about any other aspects of personality. You will suffer from a sort of psychological myopia where you attempt to cram everything you observe into type. But as type is just one piece of the puzzle you will also observe some things that do not pertain to type, and if you don’t know what these other traits are, they will cloud your assessment of type.
See also: 8 Common Typing Mistakes
2. See Errors as an Opportunity to Improve
Nobody in the history of Jungian typology has ever always been right, and no one ever will be. As you can see on our News page, we revise our work and give credit to the people who correct us. Jung also changed his typings over time, as we have documented on this site (for examples see Jung on Nietzsche / Jung on Freud / Jung on Jung). Keirsey has changed his assessments of people’s types numerous times (e.g. Bill Gates from ENTJ to INTJ and Martin Luther King from ENFJ to ENFP). And finally, Peter B. Myers was ostensibly typed incorrectly by the Myers-Briggs family. Everyone makes mistakes, so don’t be afraid to admit yours – it will make you better in the long run!
3. Respect Well-Argued Criticism
There is a serious downside to any debates about type. Even sensible people will get dragged into the alphabet soup so that the whole argument gets reduced to a twist over four little letters. When people see someone typing someone as the same four letters as they themselves have decided that a person is, they get excited and sympathetic, and when other people type one or more of these four letters differently, they get dismissive and arrogant about it.
If such debates are conducted amongst intelligent people, there are usually several true and important points on both sides. In fact, you can often learn more from an intelligent person who disagrees with you than from someone who merely pats your back. Yet what typically happens when people discuss type on the internet is that each party feels that he is completely correct and that the other party doesn’t listen or doesn’t “get it.” People tend to have strong emotional investments in their typings, and actual arguments for and against tend to take a back seat to just tightly clutching those four little letters.
4. Practice Humility
Since you need to respect well-argued criticism, this also means that you need to argue your own points if you want to convince others. Of course, nobody can take away from you what type you think that somebody is, but expecting your judgment to stand on its own in an argument is arrogance. Saying that someone is “obviously” a certain type is really no better saying that you don’t have any actual arguments for why your assessment is the correct one.
Many people seem to subconsciously think that figuring out the type of a given person is all that there is to the job. They then get frustrated when others disagree with their conclusion, and they fall back on ploys like saying that their conclusion will be “obvious” to “anyone who does their research” and who “knows what they are talking about.” Again, these are really not arguments, but more like the verbal equivalent of banging your chest.
As the scientist Mario Bunge has said, you should always aim to subject your assumptions to tough tests rather than to soft ones. When you are satisfied with a certain typing simply because that typing makes sense to you, you are really saying that you are satisfied with a soft test.
5. Give Others Credit
What characterizes a good and inclusive community, where people feel like they want to contribute, is an environment where credit is openly given and openly acknowledged.
As the science popularizer Malcolm Gladwell has noted, there is a difference between inspiration and plagiarism:
- Inspiration is when you use something that was originally intended for a different purpose for a new purpose. For example, somebody writes a piece about how Donald Trump acts in business, and you use that work in your own piece on why you think Donald Trump is ESTP.
- Plagiarism is when you use something for the same purpose that the original author used it for. For example, somebody writes a piece on why they think Donald Trump is ESTP and you use their work in your own piece on why you think Donald Trump is ESTP without giving credit.
You should still give credit to the original author in both cases. But in the second example, the lack of credit is especially dishonorable and only serves to drag you down, as well as dragging down the status of the field as a whole. In this field, it is unfortunately very common for people to pass off other people’s work as their own, with no credit to the original source. But you can easily give credit to others without diminishing your own work.
For example, the article that you are presently reading was inspired by the popular graphic “Rules of a Scientist’s Life” that can be found here. In our articles section we have cited everyone from Jung, to Keirsey, to Myers approvingly, even when we disagree with them on other things. On our News page, we revise our work and give credit to the people who correct us. And when people have corrections and insightful comments for our articles, we revise the articles with credit to the commenter.
But unfortunately, apart from a few pleasant exceptions, we are rather alone in this field when we try to give credit where credit is due. All too often, people will knock everyone else in the field, claiming that they themselves “only learned from Jung,” even as they indulge in antics from Myers and Keirsey that are nowhere to be found in Jung.
There really is no good reason for this culture of non-acknowledgment. Giving credit to others will only make your own contributions stand out more.
6. Don’t Seek a “Master”
Amongst the people who are attracted to Jungian typology there are two camps: There are those who want to use it to complicate our world and add new nuances to it, and then there are those who want to use typology to tidy up our world and make it neat. Both of these pursuits are legitimate uses of Jungian typology. The problem arises when the people in the ‘tidying up’ camp start to want easy answers to everything.
Again, wanting to ‘tidy up’ is perfectly legitimate. We at CelebrityTypes regard ourselves as belonging to the ‘tidying up’ faction, and we don’t use eight function-models, shadow functions, archetypes and the like. But the problem arises with our subject matter: As Einstein said, a thing should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. And the human personality is not so simple.
Still, there will always be followers and leaders; strong personalities will attract fans and con men will attract suckers. Some of the people who dabble in typology do so because they want an intellectual crutch that can help them explain everything in simple, black/white terms. Likewise, there are many young people who have not yet freed themselves from the last reins of parental guidance and are still seeking a strong personality to show them the way.
Within the community, there are or were unfortunately a few charlatans who purport to have found some silver bullet, some shortcut to figure out all the answers. They peddle a Disneyfied version of Jungian typology which, as Einstein would say, tries to make a thing simpler than what is actually possible. Some of the “masters” are out to earn a quick buck. Others simply want the thrill of being the “expert” who knows all the answers. All purport to have some shortcut, but as Jung himself said, there is no shortcut. (And as we say, there is no one in this field who has always been right, and no one ever will be.)
So don’t follow the “gurus” and “masters” out there. If you have to interact with them, beat them down until they, too, follow the points that are outlined in this post and they actually take care to argue their claims. Like the Buddhists say, “if you actually meet the Buddha, kill him!” The “masters” may be entertaining and haughty, but that is not the same as being right.
It may seem ironic that we thus close with an admonition after having just told people not to follow authority, but to our minds, the points that are listed above are not representative of any “master” or “school” – they are simply the steps that we all have to take towards creating a better typing community.