Thursday, April 25, 2013

How the Myers-Briggs Personality Test Made Me More Confident

For the Myers-Briggs enthusiasts reading this, I'll come right out with it:  I'm an INTJ.

(Image by MBTI Party via Pinterest)

I know some people regard personality tests as akin to horoscopes or "Which Desperate Housewife Character are You?" quizzes, and I can appreciate some healthy skepticism in this regard.  It's important to understand the limitations of this particular path to self-knowledge, but I would argue it still offers valuable personal insight.

Learning my "type" showed me there were things that I already knew about myself, but that I didn't identify them as significant or unique in any way.

Fine-Tuning and Efficiency

If I am performing a repetitive task, I am consciously evaluating the steps to see if there is a more efficient way to complete them:  "If I place the tape dispenser at this angle, it creates a more direct path between the tape dispenser and the envelope." 

I've always known about this tendency, but I assumed that everybody else did it, too.  Seeing that characteristic described under the INTJ personality type helped me realize that not everyone operates that way and that, in fact, it was a particular strength of mine that I could use to help others attain more efficiency in their daily lives.

Systems and Politics

Another characteristic of an INTJ is an obsession with systems, either looking for patterns and systems in the world or creating their own in order to make sense of input.  Again, I assumed that everybody did this.  Beyond that, though, the awareness of this tendency (as a result of the INTJ profile) allowed me to cut myself some slack.

For instance, it is utterly exhausting to engage in dialogue on politics or religious doctrine with a mindset like this.  Why?  Because I am trying to incorporate every credible or valid point into a single cohesive or workable system.  It's as if each piece of information I take in is a puzzle piece, and my brain is constantly trying to get all of the pieces to fit together into the big picture of a completed puzzle.  I get very frustrated when I can't find a way to make a particular piece fit, and I exhaust myself trying to fit square pegs in round holes.  It. Needs. To. Fit.

Perhaps the problem here is obvious:  Not all the pieces fit together.  They just don't.  Two people can make valid points that contradict each other.  I cannot expect these two points to exist harmoniously in a system.  After identifying this INTJ tendency, I can now take a deep breath and acknowledge that they don't need to.  Sure, I should fit them into a system if I can, but then I need to let it go.  That is okay (though it feels like cheating to be honest).

Being More Receptive to "Old" Ideas

It has also helped me improve the way I interact with other people.  Someone once told me "You think you're always right, and you never accept input from other people."  I found this comment curious for a couple reasons, but specifically because I LOVE input.  I am always looking for new information that will refine my methods and perspectives.  Why would this person think I didn't want outside input?

The INTJ personality profile gave me my answer:  because I am constantly accepting and analyzing input, I continually incorporate or disregard each idea based on its perceived merit.  I thrive on input from others, but only if it's an angle or perspective I haven't heard before.  If a person offers me input I have already considered (whether I've incorporated it or rejected it) my inward response is "Thanks, but that's obvious.  Do you really think that hadn't occurred to me already?"  Not the most gracious of mental responses...

Now when people offer me information I already have, I now recognize that they don't assume I'm uninformed.  They just want to help.  I'm working on not dismissing these "been there, done that" ideas and carefully listening for something, anything that I might not have considered before.

These are just a few items I learned about myself from the Myers-Briggs personality test.  This knowledge has given me more confidence in my natural abilities and the specific things I have to offer others.  It has also given me a better idea of how these innate tendencies affect my interactions with others, which gives me more confidence in how I navigate my relationships.

How about you?  Have you taken the Myers-Briggs or another type of personality test?  What did it teach you about yourself?  I'd love to hear about it! 

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