When Personality Tests Hinder

personalitiesThere are lots of personality tests and personality evaluations out there. There is the Myers-Briggs, DISC, PAI, Enneagram, and more. Taking a personality test can be fun and informative, but are they any good?

I actually don’t believe any of the tests are bad in themselves. It all hinges on how you treat the test results. One type of response to personality tests actually make them a hindrance, which is to use the tests results to focus on your weaknesses and on what you can’t do.

I’ve seen many people say things like, “Oh I can’t do that, I’m an introvert,” or “this personality test I took said I needed to be involved in at least 10 different things or I will get bored.” When you use the test to box yourself in, that’s when the personality test hinders and diminishes you.

Here are some misconceptions many people have about personality tests and the real truth:

Misconception 1: Personality Tests Are Always Accurate and True

We think that if some people did the right research, then it must be true that there are, for example, only 4 personality types in the world. But if you think about it, how can this really be true? If and there are, for example, only 4 personality types, why are there other tests that give 9 personality types or 16?

The truth is that the tests present a model of personalities. The model highlights certain aspects and is almost certainly not the whole picture. You can’t accurately boil down 7 billion unique people into 16 types. There’s always way more going on in a person than what the model can represent.

It’s also true that if you take the same test multiple times, you’ll often get different results – especially at different stages in life.

So, don’t take the personality evaluation as gospel.

Misconception 2: Personality Doesn’t Change

Experts tell us that personality is fixed and doesn’t change. It’s just who we are. So when we take these tests, we believe the results describe some of our unchangeable attributes.

The truth, however, is that what many of these tests check is changeable. I grew up being told I was an introvert. According to them I would never be great socially. I’ve since discovered that I can be pretty good socially and even enjoy it. I still recharge by being alone, but that doesn’t mean I can do quite well in public.

People are pretty malleable. We can grow and change. Even the Mythbusters discovered that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks. People can take on and learn new qualities – even things that might appear to be part of personality. We can increase in boldness, extroversion, authenticity, compassion, integrity, responsibility, and more.

Misconception 3: Roles and Jobs Require Certain Types of People

“I can’t speak in public. That’s not me.” I hear phrases like this a lot. This is assuming that you have to be a certain type of person to speak in public. A lot of public speakers look like they’re cut from the same cloth, but it’s not true of everyone, and it doesn’t have to look a certain way for you.

Can you tell stories? Can you explain things using drawings and diagrams? Can you create art and talk about how your art mimics real life? Can you act out a scene or tell jokes? Can you play-act with kids toys to tell a story or make a point? Can you share your experiences? Can you answer people’s questions? If you can do any of the above, there’s probably a great way to do that in a public speaking setting that is awesome.

The truth is that you can shape just about any job or role to fit your strengths and personality. You don’t have to be a certain kind of person to do it.

Are Then Personality Inventories Any Good?

Personality inventories can be helpful when you focus on opening up possibilities rather than limiting them. Instead of asking, “Can I do ___?,” ask, “How can I do ___?”

I like the Strengths Finder inventory. It focuses more on shaping the way you do things to fit your strengths rather than on what you can or can’t do. It is possible to use many of the other personality evaluations with this same mindset.

Most personality models work great when they’re used for their intended purpose. For example, some help us communicate better, but aren’t as great at predicting success in specific roles.

Keep in mind that you may change as a person. And there’s a lot more going on in you as a person than a personality evaluation can determine.

You aren’t limited by our personality.

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