Surviving Change in Stressful Times with Personality Type

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Of the many uses of personality type—team building, leadership development, conflict management, and more–the ability to use understanding of personality type to help us manage stress may be more critical now than ever. 

It’s incredible to think how much the pandemic has affected our lives. While sitting in a Starbucks in Washington D.C. on March 5, 2020, I noticed the recycle bins were covered in plastic and a couple of people wearing masks and thought to myself that this virus is perhaps more significant than anything we’ve experienced.

Little did I know what was in store for us. My evening meal was the last time I would eat inside a restaurant for over 15 months. Since then, the world has become very different, with many experiencing illnesses, death–including two of my relatives–and job loss. While I feel grateful to have my job, at times, I and many others feel guilty about all we have been spared as we continue to fulfill the careers we’ve aspired to while keeping a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food on our tables. 

So, what can we do? Donate to your local food bank, buy from small and local businesses, volunteer to assist with vaccine centers, tip extra to those in any service industry, thank our front-line healthcare workers, and so much more. Yet, even as we work to make a positive difference, many of us will still feel burdened by the stress associated with guilt, uncertainty, and the other pressures of our times. 

This impacts all levels of work, ranging from the individual level to the organization’s performance. Heavy stress loads make us less effective in our careers, and stressed-out workforces make for less effective organizations. In this environment, it’s critical for employees and leaders alike to use every effective tool at our disposal to manage stress better.  

Understanding personality type is perhaps one of the most powerful tools that I have encountered for helping us best deal with all this stress. How do we allow ourselves to navigate these times of immense change so we can give the best of ourselves in our jobs and families? Based on self-ratings data presented in the MBTI® (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®) Manual*, here are a few ideas for you to consider when dealing with the stress of change according to your personality type.

ESTP, ESFP (extraverted Sensing favorite process) – about 12 percent of our population (MBTI® Manual*, p. 228)

Breathe in, breathe out, and repeat. Take at the moment as best you can to nourish your extraverted Sensing favorite process. Effective dealing strategies include focusing on short-term effects and the step-by-step process of implementing change.

ISTJ, ISFJ (introverted Sensing favorite process)—around 24 percent of our population (MBTI® Manual*, p. 228)

Remember and rely on what worked and didn’t work for you the last time you were stressed about a change in your life. Practical dealing strategies include being organized and involved in planning, scheduling, and setting deadlines while responding to the details and facts dependably.

ENTP, ENFP (extraverted Intuition favorite process)—almost 13 percent of our population (MBTI® Manual*, p. 228)

Brainstorm solutions out loud and stay open to any options to keep bringing in new ideas to deal with the change. Good coping strategies include finding opportunities to provide enthusiasm around creativity and presenting innovative strategies to help you and others think outside the box. 

INTJ, INFJ (introverted Intuition favorite process)—about 5 percent of our population (MBTI® Manual*, p. 228)

Don’t just think outside the box–throw away the box and spend some solo time envisioning any change in the future. Getting some time away from everyone will help you do this. Effective dealing strategies include applying energy around identifying possibilities and patterns and getting to be a visionary on how the change strategy could work.

ESTJ, ENTJ (extraverted Thinking favorite process)—almost 11 percent of our population (MBTI® Manual*, p. 228)

Providing an organizational structure focused on what results could be achieved may be very beneficial when dealing with change. Optimal dealing strategies include being logical and reasoning and asking “why” along the way to try to keep things as objective as possible. 

ISTP, INTP (introverted Thinking favorite process)—almost 8 percent of our population (MBTI® Manual*, p. 228)

Be sure to spend solo time exploring the pros and cons of changing strategies that are being considered. Effective dealing strategies include providing carefully thought out or even written information and feedback to determine the change situation’s cause-and-effect aspects.

ESFJ, ENFJ (extraverted Feeling favorite process)—almost 8 percent of our population (MBTI® Manual*, p. 228)

Find ways to understand and accommodate the change’s impact on you and others. Successful coping strategies include being relationship-focused, concerned about the needs of others, and maybe even smoothing over any conflicts involved in the change. Note: Be careful to also take care of yourself during this process. 

ISFP, INFP (introverted Feeling favorite process)—almost 13 percent of our population (MBTI® Manual*, p. 228)

Honor and apply your internal values to the decisions being made regarding any change. Useful dealing strategies include communicating with others about the views/values associated with the transition while giving individual recognition, appreciation, support, and positive feedback.

I hope this gives you a few ideas to consider as you move through this stressful time. One overall strategy is to look at the above examples to see how you might incorporate them into your coping world instead of just focusing on your preferences. Whether you are looking to manage your stress better, or improve conditions for a stressed-out team, understanding the role of personality type in stress management starts with learning your personality type. 

I’d recommend starting by taking the official MBTI instrument. Follow that up with a robust and honest exploration of your strengths and blind spots and how they may be impacted by stress, particularly how stress reactions may differ according to individual personality preferences.

Preferably, this will be led by someone certified to train in the MBTI assessment. Above all else, create an environment where you and others feel comfortable discussing your unique stressors and stress reactions. This open dialogue will allow you to better identify and deal with the tremendous stress we are all feeling! 

*MBTI® Manual for the Global Step I and Step II Assessments, p. 228, Table 9.19


Michael Segovia is the principal consultant for CPP, Inc.’s MBTI Certification Programs.


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Michael Segovia is the principal consultant for The Myers-Briggs Company's MBTI certification programs. In his quarter-century career at The Myers-Briggs Company, Segovia has conducted hundreds of certification courses in the MBTI. He speaks and writes regularly on the subjects of personality type, leadership, and development. He recently presented a TED talk reflecting on how type theory has informed his understanding of his own life’s story.