Introvert, Extrovert, emotional, thinker, quiet, loud, soulful, clever…. the list is endless, and it seems that humanity loves to find ways of pigeon holing each of us into a tidy box. So what box have you found yourself put into? Have you ever taken a personality test and resonated with the findings? Or bristled that the findings amplified qualities about your personality that you are not fond of?
Recently i was listening to a podcast from the NPR series “Hidden Brain” titled “The Sorting Hat” and found myself pulled into the conversation about how we try to analyze and categorize each other with some unexpected misuses of the resulting data. Click on the “Hidden Brain” picture to go to the podcast if you would like to listen yourself.
Ever since childhood there was always a fascination with those quizzes, and tests that could tell me more about myself.. I don’t believe I am alone in my quest to know myself better, or find others of like mine (my tribe). Some of the qualities that these personality tests pick up are evident and very obvious. But others are not always readily apparent. So tell me more… bring on the details. I have always thought of tests like the Myers Briggs as a tool to improve my way of functioning in the world by better understanding myself, and those around me. Then i listened to this podcast which now has be curious about human nature to control and manipulate people. I almost turned it off because i am not a Harry Potter fan… If you are not, hang in there… its worth the wait.
In the podcast several different scenarios were given, some productive and helpful, others destructive and clearly a misuse of the tools for some alternative motivation. And then the thought that these tests might be yet another form of discrimination and bias was introduced. I don’t know how i feel now about these tests now. I have always viewed them as a tool to know more about myself, and how i fit into the world. Hearing this podcast has caused me to step back and realize that even the best intentioned things can be turned to bad when put into hands of people that will misuse the knowledge.
At the heart of the matter it seems that knowledge gained by personality tests is good. But we live in an age where exposing deeper knowledge of ourselves must be done so with guarded trepidation. We do long to find our tribe. We want to understand people from a frame of reference.
Meyers Briggs came into my life during a grad school seminar on organizational behavior. It was the first time that i took the test, and worked through some of the nuances of the results. And it began to explain some of the things i was observing in others that i could not reconcile. And it helped me to understand how i fit into the organization in a more effective manner. I was always puzzled by the woman i worked with that sat three cubicles away yet hated with a passion when someone popped up in her cubicle to ask a question, or provide updates. She preferred email, or instant messaging. She did not like that instant communication. I learned that her personality type liked to ruminate on thoughts, and when she replied it was her “final word”, not one of many revised drafts of her thought. She needed to think through things quietly, circumspectly without the involvement of others. I on the other hand tend to give you many drafts of my thought, and value the team building work of involving others in the conversation. So here is the meyers briggs chart, and a very brief summary of the categories:
Interesting stuff. In case you are wondering, I am an ENTJ – which is a very odd result in my mind.