This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. The prompt today is “different.”
I’ll always remember my first encounter with personality theories. I was part of a team of four in a youth work project, and we were struggling to get along. We loved each other and we were all making an effort, but we seemed to be getting increasingly frustrated with one another, resulting in frequent arguments and a general sense of tension.
Fortunately one of the team had the wisdom to recognise the real issue: we were all very different.
She sat us down with Myers Briggs tests and made us complete them and discuss the results. I had never done anything like this and I admit I was sceptical… until I saw the results.
Since then I’ve been a big fan of these kinds of tests and discussions for three reasons:
They can help us understand one another more and work together more effectively. As soon as we looked at the test results in the example above, we could see that the traits that frustrated us in one another were not due to people choosing to be awkward or annoying, but were part of their God-given personalities. It helped us appreciate our differences more, and enabled us to have a healthier, blame-free discussion about how to move forward.
They can help us understand ourselves better. I discovered that I was an INFJ*, and as soon as I read the description, I felt like it all made sense. I read that it was the rarest personality type, which explained the sense I often had of being on a different wavelength to other people. I related to the description of INFJs often knowing things intuitively but being unable to explain why to others, and of being deep, complex, and slow to open up to others. I know that some people dislike personality tests because of the worry that they can pigeon-hole us but, for me, the whole description was so accurate that it was incredibly freeing, helping me understand that the way I am is not a mistake, and giving me insights into how the different aspects of my personality work together.
They can give us the words to articulate that to others. I currently work with someone who has a very different personality type to me, which can be challenging at times (for both of us!) However, understanding personality types has given me the language, and the confidence, to explain some of the differences. For example, on one occasion I was criticised for being too quiet in a meeting. I think my silence had been misinterpreted as disapproval or lack of interest but my understanding of personality types helped me to explain the real reason: I process things inwardly so when I am presented with a lot of new information, I need some time to process it and work out the implications; then I will be ready to talk about it. That one conversation led to a wider discussion among our team about personality types, and it has been so helpful.
We’re all different, and that’s a good thing. We have different skills to offer and we need one another. Understanding personality types is a helpful way to make the most of our differences and to ensure that, rather than dividing us, they enable us to work well together.
What about you? Have you ever done a personality test? Did you find it helpful?
*If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say I’m an INFJ you can find out more about Myers Briggs personality types and take the test here.