Personality type models can be used to explore differences between people and to help us understand others and ourselves, a powerful tool for building our personal brand.


Unfortunately, not everyone uses personality type models correctly. When type concepts are used in one of the following inappropriate ways, the meaning and value of the theory are distorted.

After each of the examples of misuse I refer to a letter, or letters, in a personality type code. If you are not familiar with this letter code and would like to learn more about personality type, visit my Introducing Type page.

Do Not Use Personality Type to:

  • Make excuses (I’m an ISTJ, I can’t brainstorm). Everyone can learn to do what he or she needs to do to be successful.
  • Avoid a task or personal development (I’m ENFP, I’m not interested in making a business plan). We can’t always work in our preferred mode. We need to use and develop the non-preferred parts of our personality.
  • Push tasks on others (You prefer S, so you can take notes). It is inappropriate to use type for selecting people for jobs or teams.
  • Justify problems (I’m an F, I can’t help it if I take things too personally). Everyone can learn to work around his or her challenges.
  • Stereotype (She prefers Thinking so she won’t consider people in her decision). This might be the most dangerous misconception of all. It assumes that people are not able to access or develop skills outside of their preferences.
  • Put others down (Intuitive types are impractical dreamers). You have all heard these kinds of statements. They use negative rather than positive language. Personality type theory is designed to describe alternative, positive approaches.
  • Predict (You must be a Sensing type since you are so focused on the details). This assumes that only S types can attend to details – not true. Other examples, such as “She’s late because she’s a P. He’s uptight because he’s a J.” imply causation; a certain preference causes a certain behavior, something that is not true for personality type preferences.
  • Explain everything. Some people use personality type to try to explain or solve any issue, conflict, or action. People are complex and their personality type is only one part of who they are and how they interact.

Know yourself, respect differences, learn and grow

You may have your own examples of inappropriate uses of personality type. Thinking about how you currently apply type concepts will help you use them effectively for building your brand.


Donna Dunning, PhD, is a psychologist, certified teacher, member of the MBTI ® International Training Faculty, and director of Dunning Consulting Inc. She is the author of more than a dozen publications, including her two newest books, 10 Career Essentials and What’s Your Type of Career? 2nd edition. Donna’s guiding principle is: Know yourself, respect differences, learn and grow. Follow Donna on Twitter and Facebook and visit