The 16 personalities of MBTI: What do the four letters say about character?

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The 16 personalities of MBTI: What do the four letters say about character?

The Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI) recognizes 16 different personality types. When you take an MBTI personality test, the result is a combination of four letters. "Insiders" talk about ESFJ and ISTP like old friends. Don't know what they're talking about? Here you will find out what the 16 abbreviations mean.

MBTI and the 16 personalities

The Myers-Briggs types are based on findings of the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. In the 1920s Jung developed his theory of types, according to which a person's thinking and feeling, cognition and perception can be oriented outwardly or inwardly. The Americans Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (Katherine's daughter) took up Jung's typology and developed their own personality theory with 16 personality types.

Companies and career advisors currently use the MBTI 16 personalities test. Dating agencies also use it to assess people, especially their suitability for specific tasks or if they are "right for one another". The Myers-Briggs type indicator offers interesting impulses when considering pathways and relationships, with practical considerations and the search for meaning in life.

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What is the meaning of the four letters in a personality type?

The four letters of the 16 personalities stand for four character dimensions.

In the first place, Myers-Briggs puts the question of outside or inside orientation: How do you prefer to recharge your batteries? In interaction with others? Or do you prefer to be alone? There is an I ("introverted") or an E ("extroverted") for this.

The second letter describes how you form an image of the world. Do you orient yourself to what you can perceive with your five senses? Or do you peek behind the facade, see and analyze connections, find explanations? There's an S ("sensory") or an N ("intuitive" - the I is already assigned for "introverted"). The fact that MBTI uses the term "intuitive" for an analytical, questioning perception harks back to Carl Gustav Jung's expression, which differs somewhat from the colloquial use of the word.

In third place is your preferred decision-making mode. Do you weigh up all the information before making a carefully considered decision? Or are you less interested in the facts than your gut feeling? Myers-Briggs describes these two poles with T ("thinking" - thinking) and F ("feeling" - feeling).

The fourth letter relates to your need for structure. Do you need to have a fixed plan, a clear moral compass, and rules for every situation in life? Or do you prefer to rely on intuition, staying flexible, and adapting well to change? According to Myers-Briggs, this is the contrast between J ("judging") and P ("perceiving").

sixteen personalities types from myers briggs

Which 16 personality types are there?

Depending on which of the two poles you tend towards in the four personality dimensions, there is a combination of four letters that describe your character.

Because it can get confusing with so many different characters, the 16 personalities are usually divided into groups of four.

NF: The idealistic world-understanders

NFs perceive the world analytically and questioningly and make decisions based on feelings and values. Depending on the expression of the other characteristics, the following personalities emerge:

INFP - The dreamer

INFPs are the friendly, idealistic people-understanders among the 16 personalities. They are good at being alone, think deeply about the world, make emotion-based decisions, and live spontaneously and flexibly.

INFPs are good listeners, self-effacing with their own well-reasoned opinions and deeply empathetic with those around them. They have a firm moral compass, but judge kindly and with understanding. INFPs can be expected to come up with creative ideas and valuable advice - but they are not the type to devise and follow the grand master plan. INFPs include writers, designers, musicians, consultants, and many other successful creatives and innovators.

16 personalities INFP The Dreamer

ENFP - The free spirit

ENFPs are the activists among the Myers-Briggs types. They enjoy being the center of attention, analyze themselves and the world with a clear mind, but decide and act emotionally and spontaneously.

Free spirits love life - and let the spark jump over to others! They are good with chaos; rules and conventions are not their thing. The firmly established personal value system of an ENFP is usually not completely in line with that of society; they make no secret of their sympathy for underdogs and their rejection of the "wrong life". Boredom is a red rag, they like to leave the detail work to others - but that's not a problem either, because they can motivate people! ENFPs include serial founders, social movement initiators, inspirational speakers ... and many fascinating personalities who don't fit into any pigeonhole.

INFJ - The Sensei

INFJs are something like the wise visionaries in the MBTI spectrum. They rest within themselves, have a deep understanding of people and contexts, make value- and feeling-based decisions - and strive for orderly structures in their lives and actions.

INFJs can analyse situations comprehensively and thus foresee future developments with often astonishing accuracy. Advice and ideas from an INFJ have a hand and a foot - even if they are often surprising. Quiet idealists like to take life paths that accommodate their need for structure. This may be a position in an organization whose values they identify with (judge, teacher, advisor in important functions) - or a solitary lookout where they can build their edifices of thought undisturbed.

ENFJ - The charismatic leader

ENFJs combine the analytical, idealistic, and structure-loving traits of an INFJ with a need for community with others. This makes them born leaders - unlike the equally charismatic ENFP, who quickly grows bored with the task at hand, an ENFJ tirelessly keeps at it and is thus also able to motivate his peers in the long term.

ENFJs develop big, thoughtful ideas and enjoy being at the forefront of a movement or organization. They are smart, empathetic leaders who take a genuine interest in the development of their people - but naturally insist on performance. Not only can they speak impressively and engage others, but they can also be hands-on. Whether in the executive suite or in the Boy Scouts, ENFJs almost always act as influential and popular leaders.

ENFJ - The charismatic leader personality test types

NT: The cool heads

NTs combine an analytical, questioning perception of the world with a rational decision-making mode. This means that they are not guided in their decisions by emotions, values or striving for harmony - but by rational weighing in the service of the cause. Depending on the expression of the other characteristics, the following personalities result:

INTJ - The Scientist

The INTJ thinks analytically and without prejudice, makes strictly rational decisions, acts in a planned and structured manner - and prefers to be alone with his thoughts. This makes the thoughtful order lover the ideal mastermind behind the scenes.

An INTJ's analyses are spot-on, his plans worked out to the last detail. If it serves the greater good, his decisions can sometimes leave someone or something by the wayside.... Their in-depth knowledge and often astonishing skills predestine perfectionist INTJs for careers as scientists, political advisors, business consultants, or wide-eyed specialists in various other fields.

ENTJ - The Commander

ENTJs are unprejudiced, logical and rational in both their thinking and their decision-making, planned and structured in their actions - and they are great community types. What they lack in charisma, they make up for in natural authority. When all is said and done, they can prove to be surprisingly likeable raconteurs with a penchant for casual conviviality.

Born leaders confidently take responsibility and love to set the tone. Many other personality types willingly defer to them - their competence and the value of their contributions are simply undeniable. ENTJs are therefore often found in positions of prominence (and in the history books): as CEOs, strategists and politicians extraordinaire, as emperors and generals.

INTP - The brooding man

INTP is not the easiest guy to get along with: in the privacy of his own home, he likes to ponder obsessively about the big picture. He wants to understand - and goes unusual, but often also unusually fruitful ways. He tends to have little sense for banalities like tidying up, making a living and irrational figures (= other personality types) - but if you don't resent his harsh comments and don't let the chaos surrounding him scare you off, you can learn a lot from him.

Not every INTP is an Einstein - but the ranks of brooding mavericks include scientists, philosophers, and gifted programmers, as well as numerous bizarre characters.

16 personality types INTP

ENTP - The Debater

What the INTP makes up with himself, the ENTP brings to the big stage: In the contest of ideas and world views ENTPs are right at the forefront - and take their fellow debaters apart with relish by every trick in the book. The merciless analysts love to hear themselves talk and love the attention; their openness and sharp mind impress, but do not only make them friends.

For long-term projects, these quickly distracted nerds lack staying power, but they're brilliant impulse generators. With the right other types on board, ENTPs are dream team members: no inconsistency in the project description escapes them, and among the ideas they liberally scatter is not infrequently a diamond in the rough.

SJ: The Guardians

Guardians combine practical reason and common sense with patient, structured action. Among the 16 personality types, they are the defenders of order - they have firmly internalized society's values and norms. Depending on whether SJs are inward or outward looking, and whether they make decisions rationally or based on feelings and values, the following personalities emerge:

ISTJ - The Duty Filler

There are few personality types who are so often and willingly entrusted with important tasks as the ISTJ. Rather economical with words, ISTJs are people of action, willing and able to perform, custodians and disseminators of important factual and expert knowledge, recognized specialists - and 100 % reliable.

Their manner is dry but not without humor, they are loyal friends, partners and neighbors, and are among the best types of employees imaginable. In leading positions, which they reach by their abilities but never by elbowing, they act fair, reserved and efficient.

16 personalities ISTJ The duty filler

ESTJ - The school principal

The extroverted "twin" of the ISTJ feels a duty towards other people or society: ESTJs often find their mission in life in leading positions, where they make sure that the shop runs smoothly and that no one is left behind. As pragmatists, they can catch little with lofty ideas (favorite saying: "Who has visions, should go to the doctor") - and are thus a stabilizing counterweight to all NF do-gooders.

The job may not always be grateful, but an ESTJ follows through. A self-confident conservative, he insists on following the rules and applies strict standards to others, and even stricter ones to himself. His praise is a special distinction for many, but rebels and dreamers will have a hard time with him.

ISFJ - The Protector

Once an ISFJ has given his heart, he has a friend for life. ISFJs do not play to the fore, judge the world mostly practically, have internalized social norms, judge based on feelings and values and feel most comfortable when everyone is happy and things have their harmonious order.

In the family and among close colleagues or friends, ISFJs come out of their shells - and can then really perk up. No birthday goes unremembered, no hard-luck event goes unconsoled. Social professions are the ISFJs' preferred profession, but their friendly, steady presence, reliability and empathy are an asset to any team.

16 personality types ISFJ

ESFJ - The sympathizer

Open-minded and gregarious, with a firmly held, usually conservative worldview and plenty of common sense, emotional and experiential in their decision-making, and with well-ordered inner and outer lives. In the sitcom of everyday life, ESFJs may sometimes be the target of good-natured jokes aimed at their perhaps less-than-sparkling remarks and stubborn insistence on conforming to norms. But that can be pretty much a matter of indifference to the born sympathizers - because they're often the ones with the attractive partner, the good-looking kids, and the fanciest house on the block.

ESFJs are the best neighbors and colleagues, unwaveringly warm and helpful. Even more than the ISFJ, they are drawn to the social professions - ESFJs make great teachers, for example, but also good lawyers.

SP: The Adventurers

Bookish knowledge and marked paths are anathema to them: the adventurers combine a pronounced preference for sensual impressions and personal experience with flexibility and openness to new things.

Depending on whether SPs are inward or outward looking and whether they make decisions head or gut based, the following personalities emerge:

ISFP - The epicure

The inner focus of an ISFP, coupled with sensory perception of the world, emotionality and openness, makes this type a true bon vivant: no other personality type can appreciate the great and small pleasures of the world so deeply. ISFPs can't get enough of new experiences and new soulmates. Environmental degradation, ugly environments, and obvious suffering bother them differently than many other types, so you'll find a relatively large number of eco-activists (but without megaphones) and dropouts among the epicureans.

Often ISFPs have an artistic streak - they love to create beautiful things, dress in a decidedly unconventional way and generally place great value on aesthetics. Many ISFPs work with their hands in one way or another; office jobs are not for them at all.

sixteen personality types

ESFP - The Entertainer

Among the 16 personalities, the entertainer is the one whose extroversion stands out the most. Here is someone who is truly born for the limelight. Spontaneous, light-hearted, full of energy, with a fine antenna for others - the ESFP needs and loves his audience, and the audience needs and loves him.

The enthusiasm of an ESFP is relatively easy to arouse, and his joy is contagious. ESFPs can use their ability to persuade and convince others in many professions and vocations. Whether it's a show host or an activist, selling luxury cars or organic vegetables at the market, as long as the ESFP enjoys it, they will shine in many positions.

ISTP - The Engineer

The introverted engineer has little sense for speculation and makes head-based judgments and decisions. He abhors what he sees as meaningless rules. The natural spontaneity and sensuality of ISTPs is held in check by their head preference when making decisions: While the gut (F) types among the adventurers easily get excited about all sorts of airy goals, the engineer likes to turn to more tangible things.

ISTPs are great craftsmen - and very solid musicians, for example. Any profession that can be broadly characterized as a "craft" can potentially be perfectly filled by ISTPs. If the head-based chosen career doesn't quite match their emotional preferences, a craft hobby or a challenging solo sport can provide the important balance.

Myers-Briggs type indicator

ESTP - The founder

The founder is the sociable engineer - with him a sober view of the world, analytical judgment, flexibility in action and a certain creative impatience come together with a great need for the "bath in the crowd".

The ESTP has the idea for a gimmick that makes everyday life easier, builds the prototype, founds the company, organizes the production of the sample collection - and then wins the "Höhle der Löwen" competition. Hesitation is not his thing, nor are far-reaching plans for the future or fundamental considerations. Optimism, technical brilliance, solution-orientation and self-confident charm: this doer mentality is tailor-made for business; accordingly, many successful ESTPs are to be found there.

Which personality type is rarest?

The rarest of the 16 personality types is INFJ - this combination is found in only one to two percent of the population. Here we are dealing with introverts who think analytically but make decisions based on feelings and values - and ultimately act in a structured and planned manner. Great altruists like Mahatma Gandhi can be cited as examples; writers are also often INFJs.

However, there is a slight difference between the sexes in the question of the rarest Myers-Briggs type: Among women, ENTJ is even rarer than INFJ: The description "extroverted, analytical thinker, fact-based decisive and structured acter" - the stereotype of the career woman - applies to only about one in a hundred women in MBTI tests.

What is the most common personality type?

The most common Myers-Briggs type is ISFJ - the introverts who trust common sense and make emotion-based decisions friends of fixed structures make up just under 14 percent of the population. And that's a good thing: ISFJs are the proverbial salt of the earth. No stable society can exist without this type. ISFJs are the hard-working, reliable employees of ENTJs - and the audience that decides the success and failure of blockbuster contenders shot according to INFJ scripts, literally or figuratively.

Are there alternatives to MBTI and its 16 personalities?

Oh yes, there are quite a few! The 16 personality types represent a fascinating variety of characters that are wonderful to philosophize about, and many people feel their Myers-Briggs type accurately describes them. However, the result of the MBTI test can also depend on the mood of the day ... and classifying a personality without a test is quite a bit a matter of interpretation and opinion. Whether, for example, Mother Theresa is an INFJ or ISFJ, Steve Jobs an ISTP or ENTJ, always leads to lively debates among Myers-Briggs fans.

We are often asked about the differences between DISG and MBTI. If you're not yet sure what the benefits of each test are, this brief overview will help you better understand the models:


Personality test models in comparison


focuses on four predominant types of behaviour
different behavioural characteristics in different situations
the world's leading tool for optimizing communication and interpersonal relationships
shows the influence of personality on behaviour
easy to use and remember


assigns a person to one of 16 personality types
rigid results that can hardly be adapted to individual situations
Results of the test provide a description of how you are and why you do things your way
thematizes the experience and thinking within
highly theoretical

A, to put it bluntly, somewhat disarmed alternative to the MBTI is the Enneagram and nine personality types. What is interesting here is that the types can appear in "immature", normal and "mature" form - the Enneagram thus provides for the possibility of personal maturation towards a type-related ideal.

A very common personality model is the Big Five Model. As the Big Five - the five main dimensions of personality - are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. With neuroticism, the Big Five also take into account a potentially unhealthy personality dimension - a striking difference to the MBTI and the Enneagram.

Clear answers with the DISG

The DISG takes a very practical approach to the question of personality. This test is almost exclusively about how you behave - and nothing else determines success and failure in the world. The four personality aspects identified by the DISG are Dominance, Initiative, Continuity and conscientiousness. Dominance and initiative - two enormously important qualities in life as well as in work - are not taken into account by any other personality test.

The picture that your DISG test provides is understandable at first glance. It also shows whether, for example, the potential for more conscientiousness or initiative lies dormant in you. This makes the DISG test a fruitful start for anyone who wants to embark on the path of personal change.

Curious now? You can find more about the DISG here. Or do you want to learn more about yourself right away? Our free personality test tells you your Personality typeyour weaknesses - and your untapped potential!

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