“I’m the kind of person who…”
Do you ever start sentences this way? What comes after that? And how do you know?
To be honest, I have NEVER liked saying that! It feels confining; like I’m putting a label on myself and making a promise I might not be able to keep. The only kind of person I am is one who doesn’t say, “I’m the kind of person who…”
So I get it when people say they hate personality tests. I really do. My husband feels that personality tests try to trap you in a box—and then people will use that to predict your actions. In his eyes (and many others’), personality tests are prescriptive: they tell you how you should act.
If that’s how you feel, that’s fine! (How very individualistic of you!)
But personality tests can be seen as descriptive—as reflections of who you already are, which can then be used to help you see yourself and others more clearly. Mirrors.
That’s certainly how Anne Bogel sees them in her new book, Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything.
Reading People is a unique deep-dive into several different personality frameworks: Introverts & Extroverts, the Five Love Languages, Keirsey’s Temperaments, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Clifton StrengthsFinder, and the Enneagram. The approach is perfect for newbies who are curious about the personality frameworks and just want to dip their toes in the water. I was already pretty familiar with most of these, so I was nervous that there wouldn’t be much new for me. If that’s you, fear not! I think there’s plenty in here for everyone.
Here were some of my biggest takeaways from the book. *Warning: If you’re not familiar with these personality tests, this may sound like gibberish to you!
We learn about ourselves by paying attention to what doesn’t feel right.
When I first took the Enneagram about a year ago, my results showed that I was a 9. I felt that fit me fairly well. And then I took it again while reading this book, and my results had changed to a 2. At first I thought, “Wow, 2 is way more accurate; I totally mistyped myself last time.” But in Bogel’s book, she urges readers to pay attention to their reactions to each type description:
“The rule of thumb for Enneagram typing is this: when the yucky stuff resonates, you know you’ve nailed your type. If you read a description of your Enneagram type and feel exposed, as though you just got caught doing something really embarrassing, that’s a sign you typed yourself correctly.”
I read that 2s are driven by the need to be needed; they are helpful in order to gain security—and in their worst moments, they can become manipulative. 9s, on the other hand, are driven by their need for inner stability or peace of mind; they go with the flow to avoid conflict. At their best, they are peacemakers, healing wounds. At their worst, 9s stubbornly refuse to engage in anything uncomfortable. They can become passive aggressive and disconnect.
When I think about the worst time in my life, it was when, after years of accommodating and harboring resentment, I suddenly and very stubbornly refused to engage anymore. I just stopped. And my reaction was to shut myself off from the people who I thought might try to argue with me. If that sounds like a 9 to you, you’re right!
Coming to the realization that I am indeed a 9 made me pay attention to my internal warning system. When something makes me uncomfortable or stressed, I need to pay attention so that I can react in a healthy way, rather than shutting down and disconnecting.
You may be more sensitive than you think.
Chapter 4 is about Highly Sensitive People, which I immediately tried to dismiss. I’m not highly sensitive—I’m an easy-going, peace-loving 9!
So wrong. Let’s look at the evidence:
- I can’t stand violence in TV shows and movies. I recently almost walked out of The Shape of Water. I “watch” Game of Thrones, but I have my eyes covered most of the time.
- My heart rate actually raises when I see that things in my house are a mess.
- I hate multitasking.
- If you have music on at the same time as the TV, I will go crazy.
- I am often overwhelmed by other people’s problems.
When I took the online assessment, I scored 23 out of 27. Which unfortunately for me, means my inner warning system is often raising pink or red flags telling me I’m uncomfortable. Because I’m also a 9, my temptation is to ignore those warnings in the interest of keeping the peace. But I need to learn to address them confidently when they arise in order to avoid them piling up underneath the surface.
For the past couple years I’ve been practicing assertion, and right now I am the most assertive I have ever been in my life. Coincidentally (or not?), I’m also the happiest.
The order of our decision-making functions matters.
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), I am an INFJ:
- Introverted – My inner world is what is most real to me. It’s where I feel most myself.
- Intuitive – I have strong hunches and I trust them. Even if I can’t always explain why, I often find that my hunches are correct. I’m good at spotting inconsistencies and boiling things down to their essential points.
- Feeler – I am quick to empathize and good at expressing my own feelings.
- Judger – I don’t like indecision, gray area, or tension. I like to have decisions made and behind me. (That need for inner peace again…)
This is all well and good, and very accurate for me. I was content leaving it at that. And then in Chapter 7, Bogel introduced the idea that we prioritize these attributes in different ways. It adds a whole other layer on top of the four functions above!
I’ll spare you the details if you’re not already really familiar with MBTI, but I learned a lot about myself. I learned why sometimes people mistake me for an extrovert (because I prioritize the Feeling part of my INFJ). I learned why Josh and I connect so well over doing things that are fun and new and exciting (because we both have extroverted Sensing functions). And why on the surface we look like polar opposites (because he’s an extroverted thinker, and I’m an extroverted feeler), but in private both of our primary function is introverted intuition, which explains why we spend so much time talking about our future and making plans and dreaming together.
What I love about all of these personality tests is that each one tells you something different about yourself. It’s not like looking in just one mirror, but looking at yourself in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room—each one shows you a slightly different view and illuminates the others.