January 4, 2012 § 9 Comments

Understanding what makes you tick is a key to understanding how you can be more effective as a lawyer, spouse or parent, and in every other role you undertake. A major element of what makes you tick is your personality. The way in which your personality operates defines you as a unique individual.

Carl Jung posited that personality consists of a combination of three components formed from three dichotomies: extraversion or introversion; sensing or intuition; and thinking or feeling. He saw extraversion or introversion as an attitude, and sensing, intuition, thinking and feeling as ways of functioning. According to Jung, every personality is a combination of one of each dichotomy. For example, an extraverted, sensing, feeling person has one type of personality and an introverted, intuitive, thinking person has an entirely different one. Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs-Meyers, added a fourth dichotomy based on lifestyle: judging and perceiving (judging = organized and on schedule; perceiving = disorganized and not punctual). Under their methodology, the personality consists of a combination of one each of the four dichotomies, resulting in 16 different personality types.

Briggs and Meyers came up with a personality inventory that sorts you into one of the 16 personality types. You can read more about the Meyers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) here. For convenience, the dichotomies are assigned letters: E for extraversion; I for introversion; S for sensing; N for intuition; T for thinking; F for feeling; J for judging; and P for perceiving. The 16 personality types, then, are: INTP, INTJ, INFJ, INFP, ISTP, ISTJ, ISFJ, ISFP, ESTP, ESTJ, ESFJ, ESFP, ENTP, ENTJ, ENFJ, ENFP. Each has its own unique characteristics and ways of functioning.

Each of the 16 types represents the synthesis of preferences that the personality operates under, or the default settings if you will. Each of us can “turn off” those settings or reset them as the need arises. A strongly feeling person, for instance, can tune down the feeling function in order to operate more rationally in the court room. A more introverted person has to set aside that preference in order to get the full benefit of the Kiwanis Club membership. A judging person has to put away the schedules, personal planner apps, internet and cell phone while on vacation.

So which are you? You can take a brief questionnaire based on the Jungian/Meyers-Briggs typology here. The site will score it for you and give you a synopsis of the characteristics of your personality type, and you can read there more about your and other types. The questionnaire is similar to the MBTI and, in my experience, will produce similar results. For that matter, you can Google Meyers-Briggs and come up with plenty of other sites with much more info and other questionnaires. Some even offer in-depth analyses by “qualified” professionals — for a fee, of course.

A great book that explains personality typology in greater detail is Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. It includes the MBTI, which you can take and score yourself, as well as explanations of the various types and how they operate in various settings.

Is the MBTI accurate? Some professionals accept it, others question it, and some pan it. I like it because it’s a gateway to getting you to consider just how you function in this world. Realizing how you learn and process information, how you make decisions, how you work effectively and what is ineffective for you, can help you in almost every area of your life.

Most judges are strongly ST. All I’ll tell you about me is that I am not, so I process information and make decisions differently than some others. The rest you’ll have to puzzle out for yourself.

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§ 9 Responses to LAWYER, KNOW THYSELF

  • Stephen says:

    Susan Daicoff has written two books that delve deeply into attorney self-awareness and transformational or comprehensive law – “Lawyer Know Thyself” and “Comprehensive Law Practice.” It was great for someone to launch a discussion on the value of self-awareness for holistic health and to improve the practice of law. However, this noble lifelong challenge involves much more than MBTI analysis. Real personal and professional transformation, especially in the legal profession, will require all attorneys, judges, and law students to move out of our comfort zones to critically exam ourselves, our profession, and our relationships. I am optimisitic, but positive transformation of the legal profession will also require critical analysis of our demonstrated values our vision, and our commitment to positive value-based and ethical transformation.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks for the reference to Daicoff’s books. I did not know about her work until after I wrote — and titled — this post.

      MBTI is nothing more than a starting point or another tool along the way. Genuine, critical self-awareness and motivation to change for the better are crucial qualities for successful lawyers, in my opinion.

      I appreciate your comments.

  • Anderson says:

    Sounds like a gargantuan challenge.

    Or Pantagruelian. Anyway, now you see why I’m a lawyer instead.

  • Aimeea says:

    I know what your type is, but don’t worry, I won’t tell! I think it’s interesting that mine has changed as I’ve gotten older. I’m now a J where I used to be a P. I think these are very useful in learning about ways to interact with others. Sometimes I need to be reminded that not everyone thinks the way I do!

  • Anderson says:

    I hadn’t realized that Meyers-Briggs was so Jungian. Never a Jung fan myself, even when studying Freud towards my grand theory of literature (an unfinished, and in fact uncommenced, masterpiece).

    Concur that as you describe, M-B can be a useful instigator of self-awareness, like the monthly Cosmo quiz.

    • Larry says:

      “Cosmo quiz” indeed. If that’s what it takes to launch into self-awareness, so be it.

      “Grand theory of literature” hmmm. Synthesizing Elmore Leonard, Verne, Chekhov, Danielle Steele, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Patchett, Ferlinghetti and L. Ron Hubbard, maybe? Sounds like a gargantuan challenge.

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