If the headline of this post doesn't make any sense to you, that's OK. Hopefully it will shortly.
If you're like me, you love personality quizzes. I remember taking them in Teen and Seventeen back in high school--"what fall makeup look is for you?" "What Drew Barrymore heroine are you?" (Yes, that was a real quiz). And I've always loved them. I've taken the "What Jane Austen Heroine?" quiz are you many times, bouncing between Marianne and Elinor until I've finally, consistently, landed on Elizabeth Bennet. As much as I originally wanted to be in Gryffindor, many Sorting Hat Quizzes have led me to Hufflepuff, where I have finally become a Proud Badger.
But why do we do this? Is it just for fun--or do we take these quizzes to learn something about ourselves, to try to figure ourselves out? Anne Bogel thinks that it's the latter. In her new book Reading People, she walks the reader through several major personality typing systems, and doesn't just give us the information on them--she shows us how knowing ourselves, through the lenses of these systems, can help us live better lives.
Anne discusses some of the main personality tests/divisions, starting with whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert (but you're never 100% one--everyone has qualities of both), or a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP--I'm not, at all). From there, she discusses other major personality systems and theories. While Anne writes about all of these in an accessible, conversational style, I thought I'd walk you through the systems and types she discusses and share insights I gained from reading:
- As I said above, I'm an ESTJ. I am an extrovert (E),which means I seek out stimulation, and I'm focused on the world around me, as opposed to being focused mostly inside my head. I, and all extroverts, actually think faster than introverts, because the neurological pathways in my brain are shorter. So if you hang around me long enough you'll probably hear me say, "No, we've moved on" or "keep up" (and this also relates to something else I discovered as I read Anne's book, but that we'll talk about in a second). Anne gives an example of a friend wanting to discuss an evening out after it's happened, and that is so me. I love to talk about movies, theater, etc. right after the event is over, and it probably explains why I'm so wired after a performance. I need to talk about it! It's a lot more than just preferring quite over noise, and I'm not a pure extrovert (because no one is a purse intro/extrovert)--in church, I find it excruciating, and highly irritating, when we have to "meet and greet" at the beginning of some Masses. I hate that stuff!
- Highly Sensitive People. I am not a highly sensitive person. Sensitive, in this case, meaning sensitive to noises, emotions, tactile feelings, violence in television/movies/books, etc. (It's not that I don't have feelings!) One thing I found interesting here is that HSP are very affected by caffeine, which I am not; I can have a cup of coffee and then go right to bed. I don't mind loud noises, I can watch the news without freaking out about all the evil in the world (although I will get annoyed at the levels of stupidity I see), and I am definitely not very sensitive to pain. (I couldn't be, with the life I've had. I'd be a bawling, incoherent mess!)
- Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages: There are five love languages: Quality Time, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Service, and Physical Touch. You can take a quiz (link at the bottom oft he post) to determine how you rank. My top two are Quality Time (9) and Gifts (6). If you're around me, you'll notice I get annoyed when people text or look at their phones if I'm trying to talk to them: because this violates the rule of Quality Time. Now, that doesn't mean that if we're in a room together, I will FREAK OUT if you check a score on your phone, but if I'm having one-on-one time with someone, I want the person to be engaged with us, or it's not Quality Time. It's just time in the same space together, and then, why aren't I reading? :-P This is also why, since my hearing loss, I prefer smaller gatherings of people to large, big ones. It's not that I don't love all my friends--I do! But I can't follow the conversation as easily when it's multiple people, so I just get all annoyed.
"Gifts" does not mean what you think it means. It doesn't mean that I want actual pricey gifts all the time or I don't believe you love me! Dad made me really happy when, during our last vacation, he brought me back some shells from the beach that he'd gathered during his walk. That was a fabulous gift. My mom sends me a real birthday card in the mail every year, which is big for me. I love receiving that card. (My sister, on the other hand, doesn't rank gifts very highly at all--which is hard for me, because I like to get people gifts for their birthdays!)
- Keirsey's Temperaments: This is very similar, and connected, to the Meyers-Briggs Personality type, but it's less specific. Keirsey is focused on what we say, and what we do: how we use words, and how we use tools, a tool being anything that "can be used to affect action." There are four types, in his system: Artist, Guardian, Idealist, Rational. I'm a Guardian, which is the largest segment of the population. I am "sensible and judicious...reliable, dependable, and consistent." I love my routines and habits, and when I don't have routines, I tend to get flustered and unproductive. Nearly half the US Presidents have been guardians. If you've seen Mary Poppins you might remember Mr. Banks' song, "The Life I Lead": "My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due/ at six-oh-two/ consistent is the life I lead!"
- Meyers-Briggs: I'm an ESTJ, which we'll talk about in a second.
- Clifton StrengthsFinder: You have to pay for this test, so I haven't taken it, but the link is at the bottom of the post, anyway. From Anne's descriptions, it sounds really interesting. The idea is that you are only good at certain things: focus on what you do best, and do things that play to your strengths.
- And finally, the enneagram, which Anne calls the "negative system": this is the one that will most likely show you the dark sides of your personality, the things you mess up.
But the two sections I found the most useful were the ones on the Meyers-Briggs types and cognitive stacks. MIND CHANGING!
I'm an ESTJ, which means I'm Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging. What does that mean in English?
It means that I like to be around people; that I take in information via observable facts; that my decision making is logical, analytical, consistent, impartial, and task-oriented; and that I prefer to have decisions settled, and I feel better once a decision is made. "Judging" in this case means I prefer to have decision making behind me. I don't take forever to make a decision. This was evident when I was considering whether or not to be listed for a lung transplant. Once I knew that I needed to have it (and that's a key point: once I had come to that conclusion myself) I knew that the logical thing was to start to work on getting listed. Decision made! I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of transplant, because to me, the pros and cons were easy: without it, I'd die. With it, I might not. Easy decision!
I like things to be systemic, and I like them methodical. I do get a sense of joy from crossing things off my list.
I'm Minerva McGonagall: she's an excellent example of an ESTJ. She didn't give Harry and Ron any leeway when they were late for her class on the first day of classes; she has high expectations for her students; but she also has a rarely-seen soft spot for them, like when she offered Harry a biscuit in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or when she tells Harry that it's good to see him before the Battle of Hogwarts.
Now, the thing that was really mind changing for me was the idea of cognitive functions. This is different ways our minds are capable of working, and this really spoke to me. Because as an ESTJ, or a Guardian, one of the things I've always thought was wrong for me was the idea that we're not really warm people. I am quite warm--with people I know. I may be logical, but I'm not Spock or Sheldon Cooper. I have compassion, to an extent. I'm blunt, but only when I absolutely have to be. The rest of the time I'm like my namesake, Auntie Em: "For twenty-three years I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you. And now, being a good Christian woman, I can't say it!" (Or McGonagall's, "Oh, there are several things I would like to say!")
So am I not an ESTJ?
Well, no, I am. But I have other functions too. Anne explains there are four levels in the cognitive stack: The dominant, the auxiliary, the tertiary, and the inferior. The dominant is the way you act, instinctively. The auxiliary can be the way you've learned to act, or requires conscious thought. It's the co-pilot. The tertiary and the inferior come into play, but they can be easily shadowed or not expressed.
So for me, it works like this:
Dominant I think in black and white: there are clearly defined boundaries, clearly defined "good" and "bad" in my world. I like to be in charge. My boundaries are solid. I don't mind confrontation (especially if it has to do with deeply held principles). And what I consider "confrontation" may not be what you consider "confrontation."
A funny story to illustrate this: at one point, my siblings and I were having lunch with my co-workers. At the end of the lunch, one of my co-workers said to me, "Are you guys like that all the time?" Meaning, that...overwhelming, loud, and combative? "Yes," I said. It's no coincidence that my little sister used to declare it was "[her] turn to talk" at the dinner table. The three of us have different personality types, but we are all strong personalities. We sound like we're yelling at each other, when really, we're just talking.
Auxiliary I store data and information about people. I will know your birthday, your anniversary, your kids' names and quite possibly their birthdays, and your pets. (My mom is crazy good in this department. My brother has a crazy ability to remember what year movies came out.) I respect tradition and like things to be organized and structured, even just loosely. When I taught CCD classes the content of the lesson was less scripted than how the lesson would go. First, this. Then, that. (That doesn't mean that my environment is organized--to the untrained eye, it's not. But I know where everything is. My books are highly, highly organized, as are my CDs and my DVDs). I can get nostalgic.
Tertiary I call this my "web thinking" or "Wikipedia diving", or, more quickly, "RABBIT!" Remember "try to keep up"? This is that in action. I synthesize ideas, make quick connections, and will comment on it even if no one else sees it. This also has to do with my reading list. I read Gifts from the Sea on vacation, so now I'm reading the novel The Aviator's Wife, about Anne Lindberg, who wrote Gifts from the Sea. I'm reading Troubling A Star, about a trip to Antartica, so last night I was on wikipedia, looking up stuff about Antartica, and then searching for Antarctic cruises (not that I'd ever take one, but...). I can wikipedia dive for hours, clicking on links in articles that can lead me far away from what my original search term was.
Inferior I actually use this one a lot--I could almost swap my auxiliar and inferior, sometimes. I have a strong sense of right and wrong, which is part of the Dominant, above. I'm creative, I feel things deeply, but I don't always express it--either because I think I can't, or I just don't feel comfortable doing so. It's like when Marianne says to Elinor, "Elinor, where is your heart?" Elinor certainly has a heart, but she's not Marianne. She doesn't feel she's a liberty to share it.
All four of these work together to make my personality what it is. And the thing is--it's great that I know this, because I'm not just "being difficult" when I don't like the meet and greet before Mass, or when it drives me nuts that people say "let's get together on Saturday" and then it's Thursday and no plans have been made for Saturday. But there's the other side, too, because as Anne reminds us, the world isn't always as we want it. So there's coping--knowing that your spouse, or your best friend, also has her personality, and that they really aren't doing things just to annoy you. How can you reconcile your needs with the other person's needs, or actions? It's a fine line.
Anne's book makes what can be a very dry, academic subject interesting and lively, and I'm sure I'll be diving back into it often, since I love this kind of stuff. I highly recommend it! If this sounds like your thing, you can pre-order here. And if you do it by September 19 (next Tuesday!), you get lots of free goodies!
So now that I've shared all my personality things with you, it's your turn. What personality test is your favorite? What's your love language? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Share in the comments!
Every comment will be entered to WIN a copy of Reading People! You can get an additional entry by subscribing to the blog. The contest will run for a week, and I'll announce the winner on September 20!
The Five Love Languages
Enneagram test (one of many you can find online)