Personality types and emotional intelligence

If you’ve ever taken a Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI), you may have wondered about the connection between personality types and emotional intelligence. Or maybe you haven’t. Either way, cognitive style is definitely something I cover when I’m teaching EQ.

If you’re a Myers-Briggs junkie, allow me a moment to do a quick review for people who may not be familiar with cognitive style.

The granddaddy of cognitive style assessments is the Myers-Briggs type indicator made popular by the mother-daughter team of Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. Their assessment was inspired by the work of the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, and they started using their assessment in 1943.

Other tools, same measurements

Over the years, other organizations have also developed assessment tools that measure cognitive style, including one by my company, which we call the Cognitive Style Indicator, or CSI. But what’s important is that most of the tools, including the one we created, measure cognitive style in four distinct areas:

1. How we get our mental energy
2. How we perceive information
3. How we process information
4. How we make decisions

Our preferences in these areas are what we call our cognitive style.

The spectra explained:

On the mental energy spectrum, introversion and extraversion are the words used to describe the two sides. Strong extroverts tend to be energized by being with other people. They’re outgoing and talkative. On the other side, strong introverts get re-energized by being alone. They’re more reflective and reserved.

On the perceiving spectrum, the two words we use are sensing and intuition. People scoring strongly in sensing tend to notice what is “here and now” or what their senses tell them. People scoring strongly on the intuitive side tend to perceive future implications, as they notice patterns and possibilities.

On the processing spectrum,* thinking and feeling are the words we use. Those scoring strong on the thinking side process by being objective and fact-based. Those scoring strong on the feeling side take people’s feelings and extenuating circumstances into consideration.

(* Traditional MBTI adherents say this spectrum measures decision-making style. I see why they say that, but I think it’s more accurate to say that this spectrum measure how someone processes information en route to a decision.)

On the decisions spectrum,** the two ends are referred to as judging and perceiving. Like the judge in a courtroom, those scoring strong in judging are looking to make a decision and move on. Those scoring strong in perceiving like to stay flexible and adaptable, perceiving their options.

(** Traditional MBTI adherents describe this spectrum as how people structure their lives. Again, I see why they say that, but I think it’s more accurate to say this spectrum measures how people make decisions, which then, in turn, impacts how their lives get structured.)

All styles can learn EQ

Research about correlations in personality types and emotional intelligence show that any of the 16 types can learn EQ. Granted, some will have an easier time than others, and you might think that people scoring strong on the feeling side of the processing spectrum would be those with the highest EQ. But that’s not the case. Of the 16 combinations, those with the highest EQ were stronger in thinking than in feeling.

And so, I have two things to say when it comes to personality types and emotional intelligence. First, it’s super valuable to learn about the four spectra of cognitive style when learning EQ. And second, it doesn’t really matter which letter combination describes you. Emotional intelligence is learnable, and no matter what your style, you can learn it.

PS. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to take a Cognitive Style Indicator.

PPS. To help you learn EQ, I’d like to offer you a free book, titled 10 Steps for Improving Your Emotional Intelligence. You can download it for free here:

Get your free book on emotional intelligence

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