A participant asked this question during a team workshop I facilitated recently. I explained in an earlier post that your MBTI(r) questionnaire result depends in large part on your state of mind, expectation, and cultural preferences at the time of answering the questions. A different result can have another explanation as well. Your four-letter Type is more than the sum of its parts. Whole Type describes a pattern of behavior and preferences that describes the person of that Type. Not every person of the same Type is the same person, as I'm sure you know. The facets from the Step II instrument help us differentiate and explain the different nuances of each Type in greater detail, but even they don't get the complete picture. Humans are just too complex to be 100 % explained inside a Type code, and while I love Type, I'll never pretend to be able to predict how someone is going to behave based on their Type. Assumptions are sometimes fun to make, but it's always with the understanding that everybody remains the expert in what their Type is.
The theory of Type Dynamics and Type Development offer another perspective. Whether you receive a different result than from a previous questionnaire you took, or you disagree with the Type description of the result you receive, here are two more things to consider: Your personality Type is a dynamic construct. The preferences for energy flow, information, decision-making, and approach to life and work interact with each other, and your focus on them changes over time.
Jung based his theory around the two function pairs, Sensing vs. Intuition, and Thinking vs. Feeling. These functions or cognitive actions make up most of our brain activity: we either take in information (Perceiving) from our surroundings using Sensing or iNtuition, or make decisions (Judging) on the information we took in using Thinking or Feeling. S & N and T & F are the central piece to Type theory. Jung's 8 Function model explains that we use these four functions in one of two attitudes, externally (Extraversion) or internally (Introversion). Myers-Briggs added another attitude, that of Judging and Perceiving to explain with function we use in the outside world. A combination of these eight letters give you your four-letter Type code from the questionnaire, for example INFP or ESTJ. This differentiation allows us to define the hierarchy of the functions as well.
Every Type has one function it uses dominantly, with greatest ease, least energy expenditure, most comfort, highest reliability, and best ability. Your dominant function will be one of the middle two letters of your Type. You'll use it most consciously of the four, and in the same energy orientation as your E or I preference. To balance this function, the other letter of your middle two is your auxiliary function, and it will be in the opposite energy orientation. The auxiliary function allows the dominant to work freely, supporting it and making sure it's not too one-sided.
The tertiary or third function is described by the opposite letter of the auxiliary, and there is still some debate as to the energy orientation. The tertiary function will be mainly unconscious and requires effort to apply. It usually represents your leading edge or the stretch goal, the area for coaching that may bring significant progress. The inferior or fourth function is the opposite letter of your dominant and in the opposite energy orientation. This is the one that often rears its ugly head when you get stressed.
For example, if you extravert your dominant Thinking preference, you will introvert your auxiliary Sensing preference, as is the case for people with a preference for ESTJ. In third place for this Type is iNtuition, followed by introverted Feeling as the inferior function.
It was Jung's belief that man strives for completion and balance. He called this process Individuation, or the development of an individual's personality type into a complete whole that is distinct from the collective whole. During the first half of our lives, we tend to spend time and energy perfecting our dominant and auxiliary function. The second half of our lives will be spent trying to evolve and become more proficient using our tertiary and inferior (fourth) function.
According to the theory, it is not strictly true to say someone's Type has changed. Remember, the MBTI(r) instrument helps us pinpoint the starting point of our Type preferences. The starting point by definition always stays the same. It is true and inevitable, however, that we make experiences as we live life and expand our knowledge and behavioral repertoire. For many of us this means we become more comfortable and proficient flexing into the opposite side of our natural preferences. But just because an ESTJ gets better at consciously introverting her Feeling function, this does not mean she has changed her personality. Her natural preference is still for extraverted Thinking.
If you have taken the MBTI(r) questionnaire some time ago and you find now you prefer something else entirely, this may be due to your drive towards individuation and development of a whole personality. Consider all the people you know who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s - do you have an example of someone going through what could be described as a midlife crisis? Someone behaving completely different from what they used to do? This can be attributed to individuation. A person with dominant F preferences would spend a lot of energy on maintaining harmony and pleasing others, but once they reach midlife, setting boundaries becomes much easier. This doesn't mean they have changed their personality, but conserving energy and looking after one's own health and happiness becomes the more logic thing to do. This comes naturally to a dominant T Type, but takes some preference the others.
Thanks to Graur Codrin for the free pic!