You’ve probably taken at least one personality test for school, a job, or just for fun. Popular personality tests are mainstays of the business world like the Myer’s-Briggs and the DISC Assessment. Others, like the Enneagram, are more spiritual in nature and are gaining new popularity. You can find personality tests for everything from your Hogwarts House to what The Office character you are.
According to the American Psychological Association, personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It’s the unique combination of elements that make you who you are and distinguish you from the guy or girl down the street.
Personality tests, at their best, provide a framework for understanding and empathy. They give us a way to begin to understand a very complicated thing—the human personality which is endlessly complex! At their worst, they give us excuses—“I’m just like this, deal with it”—or worse yet a way to control others. The goal is not to pigeon hole yourself or anyone else. The goal is growth and understanding.
Personality tests are products of the human imagination. They’re not prescribing reality; they’re just an attempt at describing reality. My favorite metaphor for this is that personality tests (and any human construct) is a map, not the territory. A map describes the territory, but it is not the territory itself. Maps help us navigate, but they should never be mistaken for the real thing because maps can always be wrong (that’s right, even you Google).
Here are 3 ways Personality Assessments have helped my relationships.
1. Helps you know yourself.
Knowing yourself is the first step to healthy relationships. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know what makes you angry, anxious, or jealous? How about what makes you feel content, loved, and safe? Understanding yourself gifts the people around you. It shows them how to love you more effectively.
Each of us have a unique combination of personality traits and ways of interacting with the world. Having a framework like a personality assessment helps us conceptualize those unique elements. For example, one of the most common distinctions is extraversion versus introversion. Knowing that you’re more extraverted, rather than introverted can be beneficial in a number of ways. Say you’re not feeling very energized. Knowing you’re extraverted, you can ask yourself, “Am I having enough time with friends?” If you were feeling confused, you can know that your tendency as an extravert is to be high paced and not as reflective, so it may be time to slow down to get in touch with your emotions.
2. Helps you understand other people.
Obviously, understanding other people is a key to healthy relationships. Understanding leads to empathy. Empathy leads to mutual love and trust—the basic building blocks of intimacy. Personality tests give you a framework to understand the people you love, those who confuse you, and the people who you can’t stand. How many times have you thought to yourself, “Why in the world are they like that?” Personality assessments can give you the perspective to grasp why the people around you make the decisions they do.
For example, my Myers-Briggs profile is INTP (introverted-intuitive-thinking-perceiving). The last indicator is perceiving, which has to do with the way I process information. I tend to be less organized, can put off decisions until the last minute, and procrastinate. I’m more geared towards keeping my options open, improving, and letting things come to me rather than imposing them on the world. It was funny as a leader learning that the things that make me feel free create all kinds of stress and anxiety for others! Myers-Briggs gave me insight into my need to become more organized, planned, and deliberate.
3. They help you connect with God.
Jesus famously boiled down the greatest commandments to: love God and love others. Throughout the Bible we see that these two concepts are tied together. To love God is to love the people around us and to love the people around us is to love God. Many assessments have given me insights into how I can love God by loving other people and love God through ways that make sense with my personality.
An example may be helpful. I’m a five—the investigator—in the Enneagram. If you’re not familiar with the Enneagram, the caricature of a five personality type is a male, analytical (think an engineer type), emotionally detached, socially awkward, highly values knowledge, and kind of eccentric. I like to think I’ve grown in some of those things, but that’s what I’m like naturally. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told I don’t show emotion and have a monotonous voice… I’d have less trouble paying Seattle rent! The truth is that relationships have been hard, and I lean towards isolation—God included. I literally spent hours practicing smiling in front of a mirror as a teenager so people wouldn’t think I was mad all the time!
Knowing these things about myself helps me connect with God in a couple of ways. On one hand, I spend time in silence reflecting on God, which comes naturally for me. It works with my personality. On the other hand, I intentionally try to connect and be authentic with Holly, close friends, and mentors because I know I need relationships outside of my books and thoughts. Those relationships in turn teach me about my need for intimacy with God, which I don’t always feel, but know I need.
I encourage you to dig up a personality assessment you’ve taken or do one online for free. It’s a great way to learn about yourself, understand people, and even connect with God on a deeper level! It will help your relationships.
What personality tests have you found helpful? How have they helped your relationships?