Knowing your personality type has become incredibly popular over the last several years. It’s now common to list it in your social networking profiles, but can a personality test be intentionally or unintentionally misused?
When my daughter brought up taking the MBTI (personality assessment) a few years back, I was not very open to the idea. I didn’t want to be categorized or put in some psychological sorting box. It seemed like I would just become a statistic in the world of personalities. Everything and everyone is categorized, classified, or labeled – religions, colors, social class, intelligence, plants, political preference, mood, race, and on and on it goes.
There’s a label for all of it, and then some, and labels can consume us if we allow them to. They can also provide excuses for unacceptable behavior.
Taking the MBTI Personality Test
I’ve always detested labels, but my daughter is quite good at persuasion, so I eventually took a few personality assessments online that lead me to an official paid MBTI assessment. All gave me the same result – INFJ. At the time, this meant nothing to me, but then I started to research it – a classic INFJ move.
All I can say after taking the assessment is that I was in shock. I mean, it was like some stranger was on the other side of the screen telling me who I was, and they were creepily accurate. Like “on the nose” kind of accurate. How can so many short answers on a test add up to who I am as a person?
The MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) is a complex, science-based tool that calculates a person’s preference for four different pairs of preferences:
- Extraversion/Introversion (E–I): Where you get your energy from.
- Sensing/Intuition (S–N): The type of information you gather.
- Thinking/Feeling (T–F): How you make your decisions.
- Judging/Perceiving (J–P): How you interact with the world.
I know this seems simple, but it both is and isn’t. We aren’t going to get into all of the details of that here. I just wanted to illustrate the basic foundation of the MBTI (assessment).
The most important thing to know about this personality test is that it’s a theory, and not fact, nor does it know every nuance of your personality, as the test is done on a spectrum. For example, you can put 50 INFJs in a room and they will all be different from one another, to varying degrees.
You are so much more than your type.
I may be an INFJ, but I’m also the one making the decisions in my life. I’m not beholden to my personality. I may have preferences, but that’s all they are – preferences.
Can your personality type be manipulated to support bad behavior?
Your personality type can be used as a tool to support negative behavior towards others, intentionally, or even unintentionally, out of habit. You may already do this, unknowingly, or you may recognize this in yourself as you read on.
Your personality test results will shine a light on both your strengths and weaknesses, but when you see your flaws, you may think something along the lines of, “Oh, that’s why I’m like this.” And, by thinking that way, you have just used the test as an excuse, as I did when I first read it.
Phrases like “This is who I am” are also used as an excuse, or when your cite type as “evidence” of who you are, rather than using the information as intended – to improve on oneself.
I’m all for individuality and being yourself, however, when our words and actions are repeatedly hurting others or getting in the way of our own goals, we need to take a step back and reassess our natural behaviors and consider trying to make the necessary changes.
“Likely a balance of self-acceptance with wanting to be a better person is the healthiest mindset.”That’s Just How I Am by William Berry, LMHC., CAP.
Working on ourselves is sometimes viewed as changing for others, but I don’t see it that way. I’m improving my life by improving myself, which directly and positively affects the relationships I have with others. I can’t expect everyone to change for me. The goal is to stretch myself a little and meet them halfway.
A simple example. Half of the personality types are introverted, and introverts are generally not super chatty, except with people we really click with or are close to. We’re not huge fans of talking on the phone, small talk, etc. This can easily be used as an excuse to not call friends and family back and limit interaction, but instead of doing that (which I’ve done in the past), I am starting to reach out to family and friends, usually by text or email. Sometimes I’ll make the dreaded phone call because it’s important to those I love, and I want to maintain those connections, so some days, I go outside of my comfort zone to do so.
And, make no mistake about it, your personality IS your comfort zone, whether introvert or extrovert, thinker or feeler.
I want to be clear. I am not saying that you shouldn’t speak your mind or your truth. I’m saying that there are challenging parts of ourselves that will always need work, and we need to identify those areas, and not shrug them off as just a part of who we are. All of us have the ability to adapt, change, and grow.
You might have a habit of lashing out at others when other things are going on. Maybe you lack empathy or sensitivity towards others. You might be an overly direct person who comes across too harshly. Or, maybe you find that you sometimes disregard or invalidate other people’s feelings. How are your listening skills?
There are usually many areas for improvement, so when you hear yourself using excuses like “I can’t help it” or “this is just who I am”, I hope you cringe and rethink your position.
Words of Caution Before Taking a Personality Test
First, if you’re serious about taking the test, I would suggest taking the paid version of the actual MBTI test because many of the free online personality tests just aren’t very consistent or accurate.
Second, for the personality test to be useful to you, you must take it honestly. There are some that may try to manipulate the test to lean towards a specific personality type they want to be, and there are others who take the test based on how others see them versus who they really are and how they truly feel and interact with the world around them.
Having inaccurate test results does you no good, so ignore any outside influences when you take it. That way, you’ll have a much better experience and outcome you can work with.
The idea behind taking a personality test is to learn more about yourself and develop a strong sense of self awareness, so you can make positive changes.
Personality tests can give you a really good excuse to help yourself or a really poor excuse NOT to.