You may have, at one time or another, referred to yourself as an introvert or an extravert.
You may not know what it means to be an introvert or an extravert.
You may have taken an online personality test and come back with some series of four letters that supposedly identifies you as some personality type. Some people call it the Meyer’s-Briggs Type Indicator. Some refer to it as Keirsey temperaments. Some people call it that fun quiz on Facebook.
The question for me is, What does your personality say about you?
I’ve taken the test. Several times over the last 10 years. My general results are the same, but I’ve had a few changes occur. For example, over the course of time, I’ve gone from E to I. That is, I’ve gone from Extravert (getting my energy from being around people) to Introvert (getting my energy from being alone or with a few people). Also, I’ve transition from P to J, or Perception (laid back, go with the flow) to Judging (organized, scheduled, etc).
Overall, I now test as an ISFJ – Introverted, Sensing, Feeling, Judging. I am a Guardian type and my personality is called the Protector. So why is it important or useful to know this information about myself? Well, the Meyers & Briggs Foundation states several reasons for why this knowledge is useful: Relationships, determining careers, and educational preferences, to name a few. My husband, who likes reading up on all of this stuff for fun, says its a way to determine your decision making process. I say that it’s good to know yourself, but not let that determine your decisions or your actions.
According to my MBTI, ideal careers for me would be nursing, social work, administrative assistant, shop keeper, book keeper and home economics. Well, guess what? I’m a social worker by training, and have interests in three others in that list. People with the same personality type as I are 1) extremely interested and in tune with how other people are feeling and 2) they enjoy creating structure and order, and are extremely good at it. In an ideal world, the ISFJ will chose a career in which they can use their exceptional people-observation skills to determine what people want or need, and then use their excellent organizational abilities to create a structured plan or environment for achieving what people want.
At this point, I’m lucky if you’re still reading. You’re probably waiting for me to get to the point.
My point is this: At what point is too much “self analysis” just too much?
As I said above, my husband said that it clarifies a decision making process. However, I believe that, while it is good to know how your personality traits affect your life decisions, you always have a choice. I think that with the MBTI/Kiersey/Meyers-Briggs Jung/etc., people can create the out they may be looking for. Something people want to hide behind as a “Well, my personality is this, so it’s okay for me to be a jerk because that’s what my personality type makes me look like anyway.” Or, “I can ignore people in this situation, because my personality says I am going to be more focused on this alternate population anyway.”
However, it’s all about the choices you make. I may not gain energy from being in a large group of people, but I may miss out on some cool opportunities or events if I choose to stay with a small group. Or the reverse – you may be enjoying time spent with a large group, and missing out on the smaller things in your every day life. Being aware that you are a “P” may make you feel like you have the freedom to shirk responsibilities, or that you can plan things without worrying about responsibilities such as having time to find a babysitter. Being aware that you are a “J” can make you seem over-structured if you don’t find a balance.
I also am of the believe (opposing that of my husband in this regard), that your results can shift as a result of life experiences. If you experience trauma at the hands of someone, it may cause you to no longer seek attention of other people to be at peace. If you become a parent, it may cause you to be less free form and spur of the moment, and have to develop those “J” aspects of organization. I don’t believe that your entire personality type can change – I don’t ever foresee my life causing me to be a “Thinker” rather than a “Feeler.” But I think it is important to be open to the idea that some of our letters can indeed change over time.
Personality profiling can be a double-edged sword. But, it doesn’t have to be. It all depends on how you intend to use it. This type of testing can help identify people’s tendencies but it doesn’t provide the absolute end all be all truth about people and what they can ultimately do and accomplish. It’s not designed to test peoples skills or character. It is merely designed to allow people to discover and work around the “quirks” we all have. If you and an opposing personality type have to work on a project together, or live in the same family, your differences can be irritating to one another. This is when knowing about personality type can help. You can accept his way as valid, and he can accept yours.
We perform the Kiersey testing at my work, with the intent of encouraging people to find what they are interested in doing, as well as how they may handle themselves in certain ways. Keirsey looks at Temperament; personality traits, such as habits of communication, patterns of action, and sets of characteristic attitudes, values, and talents. It also encompasses personal needs, the kinds of contributions that individuals make in the workplace, and the roles they play in society. Each temperament has its own unique qualities and shortcomings, strengths and challenges. There is more information about difference between the MBTI and the Keirsey available online, but the long and short of it is that they have different definitions for the functions.
Keirsey says that:
Perceiving=probing (keeping eye out for emerging opportunities)
While Myers-Briggs say that:
Introversion= drawn to the inner world of concepts and ideas
Extraversion= drawn to the outer world of people and things
Sensation= perceiving the actualities
Intuition= perceiving the possibilities
Thinking= impersonal finding by a logical process
Feeling= bestowing on things a personal subjective value
Judging= coming to conclusions readily
Perceiving= collecting infomation, the shutting off of judgement
So, where am I going with this? Take from it what you will. Just remember, as interesting as the results may be, they have a place and a reason. They are not designed to serve as a mask for your choices, but rather, a way to help you understand why you prefer the things you do.