Ben Jonson and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

On Monday morning I participated in a professional development seminar; all I could think about was Ben Jonson. Ben Jonson has been on my mind all week. Our study group’s weekly question is about his heroes and passions; I did not expect to find a link between Jonson’s comedies and best practices in corporate America. Ben Jonson is my favorite author so finding links is not surprising. For me, his comedy is the perfect combination of hyperbole and subtlety; his use of humors and types seems quite gentle and insightful after my Monday morning epiphany.

People can get passionate in professional development sessions, especially on Monday mornings. In these kinds of meetings a spot light is suddenly focused on interactions, personal processes, and choices. I learned I am an ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. By the time we stopped for coffee it occurred to me I was acting in one of Jonson’s comedies. Before you start wondering about where I work, let me say our facilitator was excellent and our leadership is superb. My epiphany was about Ben Jonson’s razor-sharp observations and rather sweet treatment of types.

Types were an important part of our professional development session. First we analyzed types of people our customer service team might interact with; for example are they angry, emotional or some other ‘stock’ character. Then we worked out best practices for meeting their needs. Ben Jonson puts types together, presents a problem then moves the drama toward resolution – that sounds like a day in the customer service department to me. While we were working on these issues I felt like Ben Jonson might have while writing one of his comedies. The objectivity allowed me to appreciate the bright, brilliant surfaces he wrote reflecting what happens when types and styles come together.

Personal types and styles were the afternoon topic for our executive staff; the MBTI helped me to understand my own type. Do I prefer to think or respond to feelings and emotion; do I function intuitively or am I fact and data driven? It turns out I am an ENTJ: an extroverted, intuitive, thinker who judges choices; I prefer conceptual thinking to data analysis.  Some key staff members I work with have personal types based on being introverted, are focused on feelings and perceptions, or need analysis and data. We laughed all day on Tuesday because we recognized our ‘types’ interacting as if they were on a stage and we were watching the play. People are who they are; I think Ben Jonson understood this. That is the source of passion in his plays. It is also the source of his humanity and structure.

Structure is important to me and not just as Jonson used it, although that has been an obsession of mine since my first year in the program. As a self-identified ENTJ, I can see why my exam essays have a general content structure rather than a structure sufficiently focused to achieve a 1:1; it is just how I think.  I can change this now that I know it. Jonson also knows that about people. For me, that is the key to Jonson’s relevance, brilliance, compassion and humor. He is my hero.

2 thoughts on “Ben Jonson and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

  1. Hmm. I’m an INTJ, and I always struggled to persuade myself to focus enough on the detail in order to get a 1:1. I’d much rather wave my hands around in airy conceptual terms which are logical and reasoned than have to do all that irritating citation of specifics: I want to know what the data *means* not what it *says*. This might be why I found my International Relations undergrad (specifically the very theoretical units) much, much easier than the History MSc I’m currently doing – history is all about the specifics and not very much at all about the generalities.


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