Personality test/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The personality test: is it really what it seems?

One part of applying for Warwick accommodation many of you may not remember is the quiz taken at the beginning of the process. Questions like “do you prefer to go out, or stay in?” were asked, and the task of aligning ourselves with a description of a type of person was given. Ring any bells? That’s because this was a personality test that Warwick uses to assign flatmates to one another who are more likely to get along. If the majority of your kitchen were party-goers who like to sleep in late, now you know why. As someone who has an interest in the personality typing composed by Myers-Briggs, I found that the results of Warwick’s test were eerily accurate and true to the work by Myers-Briggs. The test accounted for two of a person’s characteristics – whether they were introverted or extroverted, and their “perceiving” (disorganised) vs “judging” (organised) index. While this type of categorisation of a person can be helpful for preventing arguments, it can turn insidious all too quickly.

Your standard Buzzfeed ‘Which Disney Princess am I?’ quiz no longer seemed to cut it

When I was 17, my friend sent me a link for an MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) quiz, wondering if we were similar. The results of my test came out as ENFJ – extroverted, intuitive, feeling and judging, with the rest of my friendship group being either INFJ (the introverted version) or ENFJ, like me. As there are 16 possible personality types in this model, I was intrigued by how accurate the test seemed to be. Your standard Buzzfeed ‘Which Disney Princess am I?’ quiz no longer seemed to cut it, as I had found something that really began to explain why I got along with the people in my inner circle so well.

I quickly became obsessed, getting everyone I knew to take the test so I could ascertain our relationship and attempt to understand them. This even extended to when I moved to university, where everyone in my kitchen held both the letters “E” (extroverted) and  “J” (judging/organised). As my relationship with my boyfriend was beginning, I even took a quiz to see what the personality type of my ideal spouse would be, and was thrilled to discover it was his type, ESTJ. As I stared at the screen and wholeheartedly trusted its authority, it seemed like fate, which is precisely the problem with classifying people as “types”.

People are more than a collection of four letters

While personality typing can be helpful for understanding why people do things, it can lead to a twisted sense of determinism, and seeing things that aren’t there. For me, this meant that if someone in my kitchen had left a mess, I would be quick to assume it was a perceiving (disorganised) member of the household, when very often it was just someone who doesn’t normally act like this, but had simply had a bad day. This is central to the problem with personality types, as they assume that what everyone does is part of a pre-programmed plan that we cannot divert from. When, in actuality, most of our actions are not linked to a greater trend, but based on our mood, time constraints, stress levels and how well we have been sleeping. People are more than a collection of four letters. They are a complex interplay of history and experiences that have moulded them into the person you may, or may not, know and love.

My knowledge of personality types has enhanced my ability to communicate with people I do not naturally get along with

Saying this, personality typing can be used for good. Obviously, there is the benefit of conflict avoidance, but it can also lead you to appreciate your differences with others. Instead of being frustrated by someone, understanding that you simply address life and problems differently, and that neither approach is wrong, is a great tool for being content in your relationships. I have found that my knowledge of personality types has enhanced my ability to communicate with people I do not naturally get along with, and has taught me to appreciate the qualities that they possess, and I lack. Focusing on one aspect of a person’s personality helps no one, and you don’t need four letters to tell you that. It’s a reminder to consider all aspects of who someone is, and not the things that you differ on.

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