Getting the Complete Picture: The Benefits of Combining the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Multi-Rater Personality Inventory (MRPI)
I am often asked by clients and fellow practitioners to compare the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Multi-Rater Personality Inventory (MRPI). More often than not, I find that the MRPI has a broader usage and the ability to make predictions is very useful. That being said, the MBTI has been around for much longer and is a widely used tool. Why not use both! In this article I examine what each assessment measures and how they can be used together.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Based on Jung’s personality theory, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) examines the personality by examining four trait dichotomies:
- Extraversion-Introversion (how we express energy)
- Sensing-Intuition (how we perceive the world)
- Thinking-Feeling (how we make judgements)
- Judging-Perceiving (how we deal with the outside world)
We are able to demonstrate all these traits, however we have a preference to use one over the other. Understanding which we prefer helps us understand our underlying motivations, work styles, and means of communication. The final stage of the MBTI asks participants to confirm that their four-letter type accurately describes them. If it does not, it is advised they examine the opposing trait and to use it if it provides a better match. To help in this, each trait has been further broken down into 5 facets:
Once again, each of these facets is a dichotomy but unlike before they are on a 10-point range, allowing for more detailed analysis. Within each trait dichotomy, there can be up to 2 facets that have scores pointing towards the “recessive” trait. For example, I might use intuition in perceiving information, yet have high scores on the concrete facet. On the positive, this may mean I can shift between present reality and the big picture, but could also lead to developing theories with insufficient data or disagreements about which data is relevant. This aids in better understanding each of the main traits and can help in identifying specific facets we can work on if we want to become more in tune with our less preferred traits.
It is important to remember two important points about the MBTI. First, there is no faking scale. The questions asked on the MBTI are easy to understand, especially if you have any knowledge of personality tests, making it very easy for an individual to skew results. Second, the MBTI does not have predictive validity. In other words, the results cannot be used to predict how someone will act or whether they will be good for a position in the company. As seen in the example above, no absolutes were used but rather “may” and “could”.
Multi-Rater Personality Inventory
Developed through extensive behavioral analysis, the Multi-Rater Personality Inventory (MRPI) breaks personality into 3 ego states which are further classified into 6 styles:
- Critical Parent
- Nurturing Parent
- Spontaneous Child
- Withdrawn Child
- Angry Child
Each of these states is measured on a scale with an ideal range. When we are within this range, each ego state contributes a positive competency to our behavior as follows:
If our ego states score higher or lower than ideal, they will either overpower or detract from any of the 20 competencies. For example, having a supporting score on Spontaneous Child means that you are able to be mobile while actively taking part in initiatives and starting projects, as shown by the Initiating competency. Having a higher than ideal score, however, results in an over sensitivity to failure and an unhealthy need for approval. A low score has a negative impact on the Initiating competency, as it can lead to a lack of confidence in suggesting new projects, and be introspective and serious resulting in low self-esteem.
Using indirect questions rated on a Likert scale and avoiding using ego state or competency names in the survey, the MRPI is nearly impossible to fake. By understanding the scores, we can identify which ego states need to be turned up or down for a more effective impact on others. The 360 element of 4 evaluators completing the MRPI on our behalf allows us to know how we are perceived adding to our understanding of our personality. Our behaviors are learned through past experiences, allowing us to not only identify why we act the way we do in a situation, but also predict how we will respond to future interactions and change our behavior if necessary.
Correlations Between the MBTI and MRPI
Combined, the MBTI and MRPI are powerful tools for improving your communication and work styles, as well as for mentoring and coaching others. The MBTI provides us with our underlying preferences and suggests where they may be in conflict with our daily interactions while the MRPI shows us the behavioral consequence of some of these conflicts and provides specific behaviors that we can modify to improve our communication and work style. Taking that one step further, the 360 component identifies how our preferences and styles are being perceived by those around us. Not surprisingly, there are many similarities between the two assessments.
Research presented by Psychometrics, the distributor of the MBTI, found the following significant correlations between the ego states and personality traits:
These results are exactly what you would expect. For example, if you prefer to be extroverted and perceive the world through your sense, you are likely to want to explore and experience the environment around you. This would include noticing those around you who need help or coaching and subsequently you would want to help them succeed, which is a competency of Nurturing Parent.
Just by looking over the competencies and facets in the charts above it is easy to see the overlap between the two. In fact, you could follow a preference through to the resulting behavior quite easily. Let’s take two quick examples to demonstrate this.
Initiating is a facet of the Extraversion trait, but is also a competency of Spontaneous Child. When in-preference ie. the preferred trait is Extraverted, it suggests you would likely be the individual who arranges events and brings like minded people together. Depending on your experiences, this preference to develop ideas and bring people together could lead to a supporting or overpowering Spontaneous Child, that will affect the Initiating competency. At an appropriate level, you will be behaving as per your preferred trait, initiating projects and conversations. If your ideas are brushed aside, you could have developed a need for approval and will be offering up ideas frequently, which will be reflected in a high Spontaneous Child.
One facet of Sensing is Experimental, which in-preference suggests that you prefer to be hands on and rely on experience to guide you. As a result, pleasure is often derived from applying your experience which can include sharing experience with others (especially if you are also extraverted). This preference of wanting to use your experience may lead, given the right opportunities to develop your Nurturing Parent into a coaching or mentoring competency.
Obviously it is very difficult to isolate a single trait, facet, ego state, or competency as these all work together to provide the bigger picture of how we behave, communicate, and approach situations. Using these tools together, we can get a deep understanding of where we can improve.