Living Beyond First Person: How to Really Benefit from Personality Inventories

We were the fun department:  Human Resources. We all had cute accessories and big hair. (Hey, it was the 80’s.)  After the whole department took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, we gathered after work to discuss the results. Our facilitator began by dividing us into two seemingly random groups tasked with the answer to this question:  “What do you do with time?” What we did not know was that she had divided us on the cusp of the final pair of the MBTI’s psychological preferences, the Judging vs. the Perceiving types.  When we came back together to report, we were stunned by the difference, for while the J’s used words like “invest” and “schedule,” the P’s happily listed activities like “watch my soaps” or “do my nails.”

That ten minute exercise opened my eyes to the importance of Reading People well — of understanding what makes me and the important people in my life tick, because we are different in so many different ways.  As a “J,” it would be easy for me to imagine that everyone thinks of time as a vanishing natural resource that must be rationed, apportioned, maximized, guarded, and measured.  In her most helpful book, Anne Bogel reminds me that I would be incorrect.

Using personality inventories to understand her own unique take on the world changed Anne Bogel’s life, so she has shared her five favorite — not in a manner that shouts “Classroom!” or “Laboratory!” but in a tone that says, “Hey, friend, here’s something that has helped me a lot.  Let me fill you in.”  She shares her own story with the goal of making her readers’ experience of self-discovery go more smoothly than her own.

Defining “Personality”

When we look at people through the lens of personality, we’re looking at a person’s foundational character which includes “patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make that person unique.  We’re all inclined to think, feel, and act in particular ways.  Our personalities capture what we’re likely to find relaxing or exciting or pleasurable or tough.”  (LOC 117) While character is malleable and arises out of core beliefs, personality is fairly fixed.  Given this, the five frameworks presented in Reading People are comparable to a good map, for, as we learn the lay of the land, we can begin to live more confidently in a world that goes beyond first person.

The Five Personality Frameworks

  1.  The Five Love Languages

The BEST gift I ever received was a load of bark mulch from my four boys.  They bought it, delivered it, and spread it on all my flower beds.  Can you detect from this that my love language is acts of service?  It turns out that not everyone would be as over-the-moon at the memory of that (perfect) gift, because “we all have a vehicle that needs a certain kind of fuel.” (LOC 979) For others, that fuel is love expressed in quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, or by gifts given and received.  The point of knowing someone’s love language is to bridge the communication gap so that we are expressing love in a way that our favorite people can actually receive.

2.  Keirsey’s Temperaments

In the 1950’s, clinical psychologist David Keirsey developed an outline of four basic temperaments.  Some of us still remember Tim LaHaye’s treatment of this concept from the 70’s (sanguine, melancholy, phlegmatic, and choleric).  Under Keirsey’s framework, our temperament is determined and described in terms of how we use words and how we use tools.  The identification of Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, and Rationals puts on glorious display the truth of C.S. Lewis’s famous quote:

“There are no ordinary people.”

We honor one another’s differences by appreciating and attempting to understand each other — without trying to shoehorn others into our favorite cookie cutter image.

3.  The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Some mother/daughter teams write books together, make quilts, or start family businesses.  Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed a personality inventory together.  Based on the work of Carl Jung, and overlapping in fascinating ways with Keirsey’s temperaments, the MBTI assessment is based on eight psychological preferences that come in pairs:

Introversion (I)/Extroversion (E)
Intuition (N)/Sensing (S)
Thinking (T)/Feeling (F)
Judging (J)/Perceiving (P)

Because the focus is on personal growth, this is a favorite test for colleges and in the workplace. Online assessments are available, and may be a good place to begin,  but looking in further detail at cognitive functions associated with Myers Briggs added depth to my understanding and can also be helpful in clarifying one’s type.

4.  The Clifton StrengthsFinder

In 1998, a group of scientists led by Donald Clifton developed a personality framework based on human strengths.  The tool is available in a book that was published in 2007 (StrenthsFinder 2.0).  Assuming that we are NOT well-rounded, the StrengthsFinder is built around thirty-four “talent themes” which are broken down into four categories:  executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking.  Once we find our strengths, the crucially formative question is:  Are we using them?

5.  The Enneagram

Based on the name for a nine-sided polygon, the Enneagram has been around for centuries and focuses on motivations.  I found that focusing on negative qualities of each of the nine types helped me to identify myself, so brace yourself for a personality framework that is neither warm nor fuzzy.  In fact, a good indication that you’ve nailed your Enneagram type is if you feel vaguely exposed and uncomfortable about it.  There are a number of online assessments, and these will get you started on the basics, but there are wings and arrows and subtypes and enough other details to keep the devoted Ennegram seeker engaged and analyzing for a long time.  However, even a rudimentary understanding of our type can help us in becoming a better version of ourselves.

Making the Most of Your Investigation

One of the main strengths of Reading People is Anne’s practical application of self-knowledge.  We don’t take personality assessments simply for raw data about ourselves, and there are a number of very helpful thoughts about the use of assessments that bubbled to the surface as I read Anne’s thoughts on personality:

  1.  Be honest.  “Aspirational answers won’t do you any good; only true ones will.”  So when taking a personality assessment, don’t waste time giving the response that you “know is right” or that you wish you were.  Report on who you are today.
  2. There is no “best type.”  Remember that we are hard-wired for personality.  Therefore, by God’s design there are delightful qualities to introverts who think deeply and respond to beauty as well as to extroverts who get the party going and are the last to leave. Those who feel loved when they receive gifts are no less worthy of love than those who prefer acts of service or meaningful words.
  3. Your temperament or type is not the boss of you.  Identification of one’s type is not an excuse for living cramped and small.  It does not come with a free pass to say, “This is just how I am. You’ll have to put up with me.”  Instead, self-knowledge is an invitation to develop what Ann calls “an arsenal of coping strategies” (Loc 560) for dealing with situations outside your comfort zone.
  4. Understanding your personality and the tendencies of your loved ones will not eliminate conflict.  However, it will grease the skids in traveling through conflict and make the inevitable friction that comes with life together more manageable and less damaging.

In these days of middle age (on the home front) and angry, opinionated words (in the news), I am drawn to the beautiful humility that comes as a fringe benefit with self-knowledge.  Every day, it is my privilege to choose between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.” (LOC 2666)  I can keep plowing my rut deeper and lonelier, or I can beat my plowshare back into a sword of Truth and use it as a pointer toward forgiveness and integral living.

Knowing that God has spoken words of blessing over all the types and temperaments is an invitation to declare a truce in the war against myself and to receive with open hands the gift that is me, and then to turn that gratitude outward in thanksgiving for and acceptance of all the different expressions of God’s creativity.

//

This book was provided by Baker Books in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

And . . .

. . . come back Thursday to take a look at the reading schedule for Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. We’ll begin the discussion here on the following Thursday — September 7.  I’ll be sharing my insights on Chapters 1-3 and will be looking forward to hearing YOUR voice.  If you choose to blog about the book at any time, be sure to share a link in the comments so we can all profit from your detailed analysis of the content.

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I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

77 thoughts on “Living Beyond First Person: How to Really Benefit from Personality Inventories”

  1. This looks really interesting Michele. I’ve always been fascinated by why people tick the way they do. My love language is acts of service as well. If I were a gardener, I would have been thrilled with the mulch. I’d like to read this.

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    1. Anne did a great job sharing a whole lot of information — some of it quite technical — and keeping it readable and engaging. So good to hear from you here, Abby! I found your cookie post and smiled over the story again.

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  2. I love your thorough review! I also appreciate your acknowledgement that all personalities and strengths are ordained by God. Too often those who are more outgoing and “the life of the party” are seen as the ideal while those who take time to evaluate and observe are considered slow and less interesting. That may have been just me but I struggle to balance these characteristics in myself. Wonderful review!

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    1. I have the same issues, and since I happen to be one of those introverts, I struggle to see the positive aspects of that tendency. Knowing ourselves should be a gateway to self-acceptance and gratitude, so I’m trusting God with my “assignment.”

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  3. Michele,

    Well this was fascinating! I was only familiar with the Five Love Languages which that in itself I always found so interesting. Thanks for opening my eyes to the other personality trait assessments out there and how they are used. I also appreciate your insights outside of any assessment when it comes to people.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad to be able to share this book with friends. I think my favorite of the assessments is MBTI (maybe just because it’s most familiar?), but I am reading about the Enneagram and am fascinated. I read The Road Back to You and just got another book about it published by IVP, so stay tuned . . .

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  4. I am going to add this book to my reading list. I love the way you explained about the personality tests. We were just having a discussion the other day about all of the different ones. I was feeling left out because I haven’t done some of the more current ones. I am going to pin this post so I can come back to it. Thank you.

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  5. This sounds really interesting. I first discovered the Myers Briggs test doing it with the team I worked with and it was so helpful in understanding how other people operate differently as well as learning to accept parts of myself that I just thought were weird! I’ve looked into the Enneagram a bit lately and I agree, it is a bit uncomfortable. I was convinced I was one type and then realised I’m probably another- still not completely sure!

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  6. So very well said and described, Michele! As a retired clinical counselor, I applaud your wisdom and conclusions along with the author’s. MBTI is a fun one for me and often I can guess a person’s type after knowing them for a bit and listening and watching carefully. That is also true for Five Love Languages and some of the others. What I most loved was your comment about a “growth mindset”. Too often when someone looks at the Myers-Briggs, they forget that even if you are dominant on one side of J and P you still have some fraction (perhaps small) on the other side (as with all four letters we can rattle off). Different seasons have allowed me to develop a bit more of the recessive sides and none more than during retirement!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting, a friends 16 year old daughter joined us last minute for a high tea and I thought I was being welcoming to her and she later told her mum she found me intimidating….so I might need to read that book! #GlobalBlogging

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  8. This is so interesting. During my premarital counseling, we had to read similar books about personality and that’s when I realized that Hubster’s personality views my pursuits as frivolous while I viewed his as too work oriented. It was a great eye-opener which I thank for the success of our marriage. Maybe it’s time we read this book for a refresher!

    Thank you for joining us this week, I’m so excited to be a guest host! #GlobalBlogging

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  9. You did such an awesome job with this review! I just posted mine. I have really been wrestling with the whole “there is no best way to be” and learning to be honest about who I really am. Anne’s book has been SO eye opening and helped me figure out my MBTI type.

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    1. I’ll be over on the FB page today looking for your review. It’s good for us to be reading each other’s work. There are so many ways to approach a book, and I’m always fascinated by other’s input.

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  10. Personality tests are great tools to building relationships. We use them in classes that I have taught to help the students understand each other and learn how to accept their differences. Anything we can do to “Understand” is a bridge in building closer and more productive relationships. This sounds like a great book!

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  11. I LOVE the Enneagram! That ones the most fun, in my opinion 🙂 I think more than anything, understanding personality gives me compassion for others, instead of annoyance due to our differences. I’m amazed at the wide and varying gifts God’s given us!

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  12. Yes! –> “As a “J,” it would be easy for me to imagine that everyone thinks of time as a vanishing natural resource that must be rationed, apportioned, maximized, guarded, and measured. ” It’s hard to imagine everyone isn’t like us, Michele. 🙂 But I know my husband and I are different on most of these. Such a great review of this book! I’m dreading writing a review because I don’t know where to begin with this one; it’s so full. I have until Sept 13 though so all is well. ha.

    Jeff and I are about to take a trip to Maine soon. Any suggestions on must-see sites?

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    1. It depends on what part of the state you’re going to hit. If you’re coastal, hit lighthouses and great beaches. Our favorite is Reid State Part (mid-coast region). South of that, Crescent Beach is good and Two Lights State Park is wonderful. North of us is Acadia National Park. Amazing! Are you east? West? Maine has many faces. Our biggest city is Portland — great Old Port section to wander. There are ferries to various islands all along the coast.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I appreciate these suggestions, Michele! We have a loose plan, but mainly will meander. Flying into Portland, then wandering around from there. I’ll keep your suggestions with me. Thanks, friend!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks Michele for this review. I’m sure it’s way beyond time for me to declare a truce on the war with who I am but still trying to get a clear glimpse of who that is! Thank you for your plowshare into sword analogy too!
    As for Jayber, I’m in the duldrums with the audio version… Looking forward to the wind in my sails with group discussion and reading it with my own eyes! I’m at hour 10 of 14….

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    1. Hmmm. . . I can’t picture listening to this story. One reason is all the glorious useage of words that Berry puts in Jayber’s mouth. They go by too fast on an audio book. (I’m such a word nerd.) I’m starting to get excited about this discussion group. Not sure who else is going to participate (I’ve heard from Bettie, though!) but getting to share this book with others is practically a dream come true.

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  14. YES! Know thyself! This is such an important concept! Thanks for sharing yet another book I think needs to wind up on my shelf! Blessings!

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  15. I’ve always loved studying my own personality and those around me and have done each of the temperament/personality tests you’ve mentioned here, Michele. One thing that’s interesting about the Myers-Briggs test is that I took it years ago and got the J in my analysis but then took it more recently and got the P. So I wonder which one I am or if I’m somewhere toward the middle of these two tendencies! I’ve always said that I have a “split-personality” because I have so many diverging tendencies! ha! Thanks for sharing these intriguing details and all about that great book. Sounds like one I need to grab and read very soon!

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  16. I personally love the 5 love languages! We were given a 3rd hand book on our wedding day, by 2 couples that had passed the book on… By far the best wedding gift ever. I really enjoy delving deeper into the way we think…. Thanks for sharing Michelle! #globalblogging

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  17. Yes, I remember LaHaye’s personality descriptions from those days. My future mother-in-law (I wasn’t even dating her son at the time) taught a class on that at a youth retreat. Hers was the only class I’ve remembered! This is the 2nd review of this book I’ve read so I’ll be ordering it this week. Thanks for another in depth review.

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  18. Michele,
    I know my primary love language is words. I know on one personality test I am a golden retriever. I forget what acronym I am on another. I just try, like the good book says, to look at myself with sober judgment. I am thankful for those who see my attributes and overlook my flaws. I am thankful for a God who loves me in the unique way He knit me together in the womb. Understanding each other and how they tick truly does help, but looking at each other through God’s eyes helps even more, I believe. Sounds like an interesting book…maybe a good tool in a premarital class or for any couple looking for more insight in making a relationship work?!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  19. I took the Myer Briggs test a long time ago and I am sure I need to do it again. And the Five Love Languages I believe I’ve also changed as I’ve grow up. Thanks for sharing another fabulous book!

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  20. This book sounds very interesting. I’ve taken many of these tests and over the years I’ve changed my personality type quite a bit. Hopefully that is due to growth in the Lord, but it causes me to wonder. Thanks for the review Michele.
    Patti

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  21. Before we married my husband and I took the myers-briggs indicator and we actually did this again recently, it really is fascinating and we actually hadn’t changed much in the 15 years. I think the idea of the different love languages is such a brilliant way to agin insight into how different we are in the way we show and receive love. Fantastic post #mg

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  22. Such a interesting blog post – and the book sounds really good too! Personality types really are fascinating – and knowing ourselves is definitely the first step to better interpersonal relationships. Thank you so much for sharing, and for being a part of The Hearth and Soul Link Party, Michele. Hope you will visit again this week.

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    1. I loved writing this post because it reinforced my learning from the book. So good to have a means of understanding the important people in our lives– and to have tools for tackling our own character flaws.

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  23. Very interesting; I had no idea there were so many different types of personality tests. It is so true that no type is right or wrong. I believe that God gave each one of us our personality for the plan he has for our lives. Thank you for sharing at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty.

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  24. I find personality inventories to be fascinating and reassuring (they make me feel less like a total weirdo). I’ve taken most that you mention here plus a few that aren’t mentioned that my former work place liked to use to help employees understand each other. I always found that they DID help us understand rather than make assumptions. I am sharing this in a roundup post to publish on 9-16-17.

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    1. Wow, I’m honored to be included, and will be watching for the post! I’m with you on personality inventories. It’s not only interesting, but enlightening and helpful in broadening our minds to accept that there is more than one “right” way of doing life.

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