Why You Can’t Change from Being One Type to Another in the MBTI

Why You Can’t Change from Being One Type to Another in the MBTI

Hi everyone. Today I’m addressing one of the big areas of misunderstanding in much of the MBTI community, that of developing from one type to another. That is, you can’t. Read on to get the main reasons why.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that you can changes types because they don’t read up on the 8 cognitive functions. For an introduction to those, see my article How to Better Understand the 8 MBTI Cognitive Functions.

Truth is that even if you’ve already read about the functions it can still be difficult to understand why they make it unlikely (I wouldn’t say impossible) to go from one type to another.

The best way to explain why this is so is in my opinion through real-life examples plus visualizations. Therefore, lets learn about why you can’t shift between being different types through my personal story with the MBTI.

When I first learned about MBTI about 2 years ago I thought I was an INFP. I’d taken many tests that would all confirm this.

I was proud: INFP’s are the true saints and heroes of our world.

Other people, however (who didn’t know about MBTI), would keep telling me that I weren’t in touch with my feelings.

‘That is strange’ I thought. To my understanding, INFP’s relied  heavily on feelings, and I certainly experienced a lot of feelings myself. Was there something I wasn’t seeing in myself?

Lets get one thing straight here before we go on: Thinkers are not cold and calculated and feelers are not all lovey-dovey and fuzzy about everything…not necessarily.

We all have feelings and we all make rational decisions. Both are essential to being a human being.

If you over-dramatize F vs T you might end up doing more harm than good by applying MBTI to your life.

Now, then I was interpreting the many feelings I harbored (I had a depression) as signs of me being an INFP. My state of being, however, was influencing the way I answered questions on the MBTI test.

I’m not a huge fan of tests, you see. They are necessary, but when it comes to your type, you’ll have a much easier time figuring out what you are through interaction with other people than through tests.

So I went out and met a bunch of INFP’s. And I absolutely loved them! But I certainly weren’t one of them, I could see quite quickly.

After many, many deliberations I “settled” on being an INTP. When I think about how I function on a daily basis and when confronted with big decisions in life, this is the logical conclusion.

Could I have changed from being an INFP to an INTP through self-development? After all, the two types are quite close to each other?

Its just, they aren’t…at all! Let me put their cognitive functions up against each other so that we may get a better understanding of this:

INTP Ti Ne Si Fe Te Ni Se Fi

INFP Fi Ne Si Te Fe Ni Se Ti

The INTP’s most developed function is TI (introverted thinking) and their least developed function is FI (introverted feeling). That is to say, the INTP is very good at abstract inner-focused thought but very bad at abstract feeling.

The INFP has it the other way around. They are very good at abstract inner-focused feeling but very bad at abstract thought. The two are worlds apart.

So its impossible to go from being an INTP to an INFP (or vise versa). It would take extreme live-changing circumstances to develop your least developed function in such a way that it would become your most developed one.

INFP’s and INTP’s are still fairly similar, though, which is what makes this very confusing.

After Fi (INFP) and Ti (INTP) they both share the same two subsequent functions: Ne and Si. So the way that they gather information about the world (abstract intuition) and the way that they sense the world (disconnected from the external environment) are the same.

This mumble jumble mean that both INFP’s and INTP’s are likely to be physically awkward and clumsy people with an interest in creative or bookish environments and not in say sport, dancing and so on.

Also, both of their primary functions are introverted which means that both INFP’s and INTP’s tend to spend a lot of time inside of themselves and not engaged in the external environment.

So no wonder why many people have a hard time figuring out whether they are INFP or INTP!

But if you ask yourself whether the most important things in the world to you have to do with either compassion on one side or knowledge on the other, you might have an easier time figuring out what type you are.

So I hope this cleared up a few things. I could go through these ruminations with all the types (and I will, at some point) but you get the jest of it, hopefully.

And now, a list of all the MBTI personality types and of their respective functions:

As you can see, its all a very complicated “mess”, and for one I don’t understand everything about it just yet. (Scroll down to see my conclusion of the post).

ESTP Se Ti Fe Ni Si Te Fi Ne

ESFP Se Fi Te Ni  Si Fe Ti Ne

ISTJ    Si Te Fi Ne Se Ti Fe Ni

ISFJ    SI Fe Ti Ne Se Fi Te Ni

ENTP Ne Ti Fe Si Ni Te Fi Se

ENFP Ne Fi Te Si Ni Fe Ti Se

INTJ Ni Te Fi Se Ne Ti Fe Si

INFJ NI Fe Ti Se Ne Fi Te Si

ESTJ Te Si Ne Fi Ti Se Ni Fe

ENTJ Te Ni Se Fi TI Ne Si Fe

ISTP Ti Se Ni Fe Te Si Ne Fi

INTP TI Ne Si Fe TE Ni Se Fi

ESFJ Fe Si Ne Ti Fi Se Ni Te

ENFJ Fe Ni Se Ti Fi Ne Si Te

ISFP Fi Se Ni Te Fe Si Ne Ti

INFP Fi Ne Si Te Fe Ni Se Ti

So if you got this far, thank you!

I have recently understood that if you want to have success in blogging, you’ve got to find yourself a niche and it has to be a niche that you truly care about.

I have many interests and will continue to write on a variety of of them. But if you ask an expert, most of those posts are going to be a waste of time on my behalf. Some might even scare my core audience away.

Who cares if I write a post on John Mayer? If my blog was solely devoted to John Mayer’s life and career then some people would care – the people who care about him would.

But if you write one post on this and one post on that, no one will stay for the long run. You won’t be useful enough for them to do so.

So I’ve decided that my niche(s) are going to be (surprise, surprise) MBTI and philosophy (Taoist philosophy to be specific).

MBTI is a very powerful tool that can be used in many areas of life: in love, in dating, in business, in marketing and so on.

Philosophy is a tool that can mainly be used for one thing: finding happiness within yourself.

So I’d say that both can be powerful contributors to living a happy life and to having good and healthy relationships with those close to you.

So if you enjoyed this post please stay tuned for more. And as always, please hit me up with a like, comment or share if you really enjoyed it. Thanks!

Jakob Scheel

Jakob Scheel

Adventurer at The Measured Life
Hi, my name is Jakob, when I'm not managing digital projects in Copenhagen, Denmark I travel, climb & photograph things and do self experimentation. I also write on The Measured Life as The Gonzo Anthropologist.
Jakob Scheel

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5 Replies to “Why You Can’t Change from Being One Type to Another in the MBTI”

  1. This was an amazing post. I loved it. I love anything to do with MBTI, though, so that’s not hard. I find this fascinating because I think I have an opposite viewpoint. I’m intrigued by your viewpoint, though, and fully accept that you may be right and I might be wrong about this – hence why I’m so fascinated.
    If you’re interested, I wrote a post about how MBTI helped me and how I could override my ISTJ nature to become an ISFJ. I’m still 90% ISTJ and believe I always will be, but I can come out as an ISFJ ever since I worked on developing my feeling side. So in my experience, I can see types change through the functions being developed.
    And I actually believe that’s one of the most useful things about MBTI – once you know the functions, you can use your metacognition to work at them. I’m not sure if underlying preferences will ever change or can change, but I do think our behaviour can change and become habit.
    And I definitely know of people who have moved from extrovert to introvert and vice versa as they’ve grown older.
    Anyway, here’s my post if you wanted to see a different viewpoint: http://forfreepsychology.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/bti-and-personality-enlightenment/

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write such a concise comment! It means a lot to me, especially because I find it hard to get my point across in English. I would say that there is still a lot of research to be done in the area of how our brain works, but if you are to believe recent research in neuroplasticity then you are very right that changing your behavior might override older patterns, especially considering your very good point about using knowledge about functions to do so. My main problem, however, is with people who take typing lightly. Getting things right is very difficult and even with my knowledge of the cognitive functions I am not 100 % sure about my own type yet. I took a quick look at your blog and will definitely read the post and follow!

      1. No worries at all. I could talk about MBTI all day!
        I’ve read and heard a bit about neuroplasticity and find it so fascinating as well. The brain really is amazing and there’s so much to learn about it.
        I’m not sure but I would say the fact that you are N and P has something to do with you not being 100% sure of your type. As I say in the post I mentioned, I’ve got all the “hard” traits that are pretty definite, black and white so to speak. So when I read m profile, it was a huge shock because it was me on a page – no doubting it. Whereas I find my NP friends are much harder to type. They’re very much more context based and can change, more flowing types. Just something I’ve observed.
        Have you ever ranked all the types from most accurate to least accurate based on their profiles? I’ve only looked at my nearest types but my ranking has ISTJ so far at the top it isn’t funny, but ISFJ comes in very closest. Then ISTP and INTJ are pretty much way off so I’m definitely highly S.
        Anyway, the article I wrote isn’t actually on my personal blog, but a psychology blog I’m a contributor for, along with others. We love understanding the mind and how people work. Love it!

  2. hahaha you are right! My N and P are REALLY strong so I don’t easily make decisions about anything. Though knowing of MBTI has definitely improved my decision making skills. It is generally easier for me to type Ns (sensors leave me clueless) but I think you are right that Ns are more context based and therefore more difficult to type. In general I think it is more difficult to type introverts since our first function is introverted and therefore not necessarily seen by others. Its been a long time since I tried ranking all the types since it is difficult for me to take an unbiased test (I constantly analyze and am aware of the questions during a test). By now I think I “could” be an ENTP or perhaps INFP or ENFP if I had to mention two other types. SJs usually “scare” me, by the way, so its quite interesting (to me) that the person to open my eyes to the possibility of connecting with people online would be an SJ. Your blog and the Psychology blog both looks really interesting. As the compulsive obsesive INTP I am I might even go through some of your older posts as well.

  3. To elaborate on why SJs scare me, its because you guys are very concrete and decisive (black and white as you say) while I am very abstract and all over the place confused about everything.

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