In both my personal and professional life (and the ever blending hybrid of the two), I have found that exploring different personality models is both highly interesting and has effective practical application. Earlier in my life, they were primarily helpful in understanding my own unique and often challenging personality. However, as I have matured, I primarily focus on how my personality type can best understand and interact with others, as well as how to amplify my strengths to mitigate my weaknesses (I could write a whole blog post about this, as my weaknesses are plentiful!) In this post, I cover a very basic overview of 4 personality models as well as discuss what my results are. I have listed some questions for the reader at the end that I would love your insight on, either by commenting directly on this blog post or on my LinkedIn post.
These are the main models I have explored in-depth, as well as my personal results:
Myers-Briggs’ 16 Personality Types. This is by far my favorite theory as it has proven to be most useful to me. It helped me realize that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with me at an early age, and that part of why I felt so out-of-place among my peers was due to females sharing my type comprising only 0.8% of the population. I have taken various versions of this test dozens of times, and almost always identify as an INTJ. The following is an extremely basic and simplified breakdown of what this means:
- I-Introversion. How one replenishes one’s energy. The traditional view of introverts is that they do not like to participate in social interaction. That’s not accurate at all. I very much enjoy social interaction in limited amounts, and particularly when I am with people who I know well and respect. Being introverted simply means that I need time by myself to recharge. For example, I am often outgoing and social at work during the week, but during evenings and weekends, I spend most of my time quietly at home, recharging for the next encounter. Shyness is also different from introversion and is more likely due to social anxiety. I used to suffer from this earlier in my life -I could hardly make a phone call- but with practice and patience it is usually no longer a challenge for me.
- N-Intuition. How one interacts with and perceives the world and information. I rely heavily on my intuition to guide me toward deeper investigation, especially early in a project when I am trying to filter out the noise. The opposite approach is that of Sensing, where one responds only to what they primarily can perceive with the five senses. The best example I can think of for the intuitive approach is how I came to know that God exists. Sensors would struggle with my use of the word ‘know’ – how can I be so certain of the existence of God when I cannot directly experience Him? That I do not know, but I started with my intuitive premise (that I have had since childhood) that He exists. Then I investigated the evidence, and found that to me, it confirmed my suspicions. My ‘N’ is very strong – so strong that I have to often keep it from overriding my next attribute…
- T-Thinking. This one is a bit more obvious – how one processes the information they have. I am your typical engineer – analytical, data-driven, and precise. This is diametrically different from a Feeler, who would rely more primarily on emotions to drive their thought processes. However, if I am feeling tired and/or unmotivated, I sometimes skip the Thinking and go straight into the dangerous territory of…
- J-Judging. What we do with the information we have processed – do we make a decision followed by execution, or do we continue endlessly exploring, processing, exploring – with no determinate end to the cycle? That is generally how Perceivers work. Now, I get along well with most Perceiving types, especially if they are INTP’s, INFP’s, ENTP’s, or ENFP’s (I struggle with the S types, but that is another post for another time). Some of the world’s most best scientists and thinkers were Perceivers – famous for their relentless pursuit and exploration of knowledge. Now, being Judging is very different from being judgmental. I am generally very open-minded and unlikely to judge people with absolutes – I truly am in no place as a person to do so. But my judging is both a strength and a weakness. It has helped tremendously in my personal and professional successes so far, but I have to be very careful to avoid judging without making sure I gain all the necessary input from others. Otherwise, I will very often make a judgement on incomplete and/or inaccurate information – dangerous, indeed, and I have paid for it. I’m actively working on this, which is also another post for another time!
DiSC – Dominance, Influence, Stability, and Conscientiousness. I used to test as a CD, but a recent assessment showed me to be so strong of a C that I was an outlier among our group of 50 people. I believe this is because I have made peace with my nature. I am reserved, analytical, generally cautious, and reliable, and place the highest value on Accuracy (or, as I describe it, a relentless pursuit of truth). However, when the situation calls for it, I can be outgoing, driving, and have even been described as inspiring at times. Which brings up an important point – we can take on primary attributes of the other roles when needed. The categories are fluid and dynamic.
Belbin’s team roles. When I was more focused on individual contribution earlier in my career, I identified as a Completer / Finisher. Others could and did rely on me to complete my work well. However, I now belong to the Executive / Analyst group. I believe this is due to my transition to the role of a team facilitator / leader. This was motivated by sheer need – it was neither efficient nor effective for me to try to accomplish everything myself. So while the Analyst is consistent with the results from above, at work I will often function as an Executive when others would benefit from my doing so. My husband might say I do that at home sometimes as well – perhaps more than needed!
Recently a friend introduced me to the “Four Elements (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Air) approach. Although it is somewhat less specific and structured than other established methods, its broadness affords it some adaptability. Additionally, it is rich in history and practice.
The test I took today indicated that my best match is Earth/Fire, or ‘Lava’ (granted, this is an unverified internet test, so take it for what it’s worth. The results did make sense to me). Most people are a combination of 2 or more types, which when you only have four, this is probably out of necessity! Per the description – highlighted emphasis is mine.
“The Volcanic element combines the will-power, courage, and brilliant vision of Fire with the diligence, stability, and common sense of earth. That is an excellent recipe for success. Lava combines the abstract, big-picture vision of Fire and the detailed precision of Earth to get things done. Lava enjoys setting bold, daring, nearly impossible goals, then slowly but surely making it happen – all perfectly according to plan. Everything in Lava’s life goes to serve The Plan: an extremely complex life-long plan for success that incorporates every foreseeable variable and contingency. Often, Lava begins making The Plan while still a small child and continues to refine it and re-work it across his or her life. Their ability to predict the future is mysterious and can be either inspiring or terrifying depending on whether Lava is a friend or enemy. In some, this predictive power is based on a deep, abstract understanding of the universe and its patterns and meanings. In others, it is due to a keen memory, concrete reasoning, and an ability to predict the future by analyzing past behavior. Lava is also family oriented; it uses its tremendous energy and consistent devotion to serve and love friends and family. Beneath the fierce, stubborn exterior is a real, genuine, human warmth and a loyal love that will never die. Those lucky enough to be in Lava’s inner circle are blessed indeed. They are fiercely protective of those they love and would do absolutely anything for them. Respect, honor, integrity, and courage matter a great deal to Lava. Such respect is earned, never given.”
In summary, I find the personality tests to be useful but neither absolute or incomplete. I recently made the mistake of assuming my ENFP (the type I naturally gravitate toward – so much different from me, yet our shared N gives us a basis for connection) friend and coworker wasn’t detail-oriented. I was completely wrong. The lesson learned was this: Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT apply a generalization to every individual. That’s a judgement I have regretted and resolved to be much more careful to avoid in the future. Use the personality types carefully, and always rely on observations and data to verify and deepen your understanding of yourself and others.
Questions for you:
Is there validity to these tests, when used appropriately?
What are your test results?
Do you find one test to be more accurate than others?
Are there other approaches you would recommend that others explore?