What’s it about personality “tests” that some love and others hate?

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“But I don’t wanna be put in a box!”, he exclaimed. “He” could have been a colleague, a client, a guy I’m dating … I’ve heard it from all of them. But yet these same people want to be understood, they want to be loved and respected for their unique attributes, they want to relate well with others. And personality instruments like Myers-Briggs, DISC and others help us understand each other and provide a safe language for speaking with each other about our differences.

Yes, I love this stuff – I’m happily distracted by a personality test any day over many other activities (granted, I also liked taking tests as a kid, so I realize I might be a bit of an anomaly). I just think it is so fascinating to get a glimpse into the way people perceive the world, process information, and make decisions, especially when it is so different than me. To understand that an extravert has to take everything out of his head and pick through it with someone else to figure out what he actually thinks, or that an introvert, when asked a question, must run away for a few days to her little getaway just to come back with a one word answer … that helps people relate. To get that some people need to take information in visually, some auditory, some kinesthetically, that helps people connect. To understand that some people are uncomfortable making final decisions and others will be ancy until the decision is made … that helps people work together. And those are just a few examples.

Every one of these tools is just an instrument to learn more about ourselves and help us relate to others who are different than us. Understanding our natural preferences helps us figure out where we need help and what we need to work on. So why are some people so anti personality tests? Unfortunately these instruments have gotten a bad rap because people get so caught up in the classifications that they attempt to draw very specific conclusions without realizing the nuances. It should be more about the conversation that it gets started. When we talk through our types and say “oh, that’s totally you!” or “that really resonates with me”, we can open up communication in a non-threatening way, acknowledging our differences and advising each other on how we can relate effectively. The week after my office went through one of these facilitations, one of the guys in my office who tested strong “F” (feeling, not thinking) in Myers-Briggs, stopped me mid conversation and said, “Lisa, remember, I’m an “F”, so I’m sensitive when you tell me this stuff!”, which isn’t exactly the meaning of “F” in Myers-Briggs, but it helped us have the conversation we needed to have in a much more effective way. And we got a good laugh out of it.

So I think everyone should stop taking all these tests so seriously and use them for what they are meant – helping us better understand ourselves and others to improve personal and professional relationships!

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