Why Take Personality Tests?
Are they worth your time?
Katerina (not her real name)
A young writer from Canada
Why Take Personality Tests?
According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), I am an INFP. That is, the four words used to describe my thought process and approach to life are Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, and Prospecting. Well, now everyone who reads this knows who I am, right?
I have never been the biggest fan of Myers-Briggs, or any personality type test for that matter, even back to when everybody was testing for their Hogwarts house in my fourth-grade class. Myers-Briggs is a particularly fascinating one, because it describes four aspects of the test-taker instead of one, and it is meant to be founded in Jungian theory. Perhaps this perception of accuracy is what makes it one of the most popular tests out there: it seems that almost everyone around me knows of it, and many can rattle off their type without much hesitation.
Yet it took me a while to remember my own four letters and even longer to understand what they meant. "INFP" never resonated with me because I don't fit a couple of the extremes required by Myers-Briggs. The 16Personalities.com test plots each trait as a percentage on a spectrum, and mine suggests that I am only "Prospecting" over "Judging" by a couple of points. The same goes for "Thinking" versus "Feeling:" I am 60% Feeling and 40% Thinking, which is hardly a meaningful difference. The MBTI does not cater to those who straddle the line with certain traits, which I imagine is not an insignificant percentage of the population.
Several days ago, I discovered the Enneagram type test. If it must be compared to the Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram test might be said to focus more on key motivators and desires, while the MBTI deals in perceptions and decision-making. After consulting a few diagrams of the Enneagram types, I found and took an online test, more out of idle curiosity than any genuine interest. And for the first time, I found a personality type test result that seemed to speak to me perfectly. This simple quiz had taken a handful of answers and assembled them into a painfully accurate assessment of who I am—or rather, who I think I am—and I didn't know whether to be amazed or alarmed.
If I could only explain through cold rationale, I appreciate how the Enneagram model acknowledges that the types can overlap. But the main attraction was really how it snapped into place for me.
My first instinct was to share what I had uncovered. I had only a few seconds with my results before I felt an overwhelming urge to chat up a friend and recount the whole event. It suddenly had more significance than I had meant to give it. Yet it wasn't that the Enneagram type had given me new information. That part about personality typing had always mystified me, given that I'm a very introspective person: surely anyone who can thoughtfully respond to those tests knows their strengths and weaknesses, as well as any website can tell them. So why take them? Finally, I understood it anew.
Personality type tests are as much about communication as they are about anything else. They give us an effortless, tidy package to express aspects of ourselves that we might otherwise only express through rather personal anecdotes and "oversharing." Because it's hard to get to know someone, to really know someone, but we can't avoid it if we want a society built on empathy. What better way than a language specially designed for understanding people?
I am done laughing at Myers-Briggs types on social media pages or dating profiles. Maybe no test is 100% accurate for the simple reason that we're too complex to fit any box, no matter how large or small. It is also good to note that none of them are adequately substantiated by scientific research. As long as we keep both of those points in mind, a Myers-Briggs or Enneagram type is a fantastic icebreaker, a way to possibly find a community of like-minded people and even a way to improve established relationships. So bring them on.
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