When you're asked to describe your personality, you might think of descriptors like outgoing or quiet or party animal, but when I’m asked that question, I think of the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). Years ago, when I worked in Leadership Development, I took a week-long course in Fairfax, VA to become certified in administering the MBTI. We routinely administered the inventory—never called a test—to our Management Associates and teams at the bank. Then we shared the results and took the group through a half-day training program on the characteristics of the sixteen personality types.
Knowing your personality type can help you understand why you process information in certain ways or why you work the room at a cocktail party while your partner may speak with a small group of only two or three people. I’m an ISTJ, an Introvert-Sensor-Thinker-Judger. People think of introverts as being very shy, and some are. I recall a woman in my class in Virginia who was almost in tears at having to stand up in front of us to speak. The signature trait of introverts, however, is that we get our energy from quiet activities on our own, unlike extroverts who are energized by being around groups of people and lots of talking.
I can work a room and enjoy a party or do a week-long training session, on stage the whole time, but when it’s all over, I have to rejuvenate with quiet time. After a week of facilitating a four-day leadership course of 12-hour days, all I wanted to do when I got home was crawl into bed with the mail and a good book. An extrovert would have been out on the town that Friday night or at least out with a group, no matter how physically tired she may have been.
The description for ISTJs reads, “The Duty Fulfiller: Serious and quiet, interested in security and peaceful living. Extremely thorough, responsible, and dependable. Well-developed powers of concentration. Usually interested in supporting and promoting traditions and establishments. Well-organized and hard-working, they work steadily towards identified goals. They can usually accomplish any task once they have set their mind to it.”
If you enjoy this kind of thing, check out this website to take a survey yourself. I recently got fired up about this topic again when SarahAnne, the college-age daughter of a girlfriend, told me she was an ENFJ. That means she is “Popular and sensitive, with outstanding people skills. Externally focused, with real concern for how others think and feel. Usually dislike being alone. They see everything from the human angle, and dislike impersonal analysis. Very effective at managing people issues, and leading group discussions. Interested in serving others, and probably place the needs of others over their own needs.”
Colleges offer these and other inventories to provide young people insights into their likes, dislikes, and strengths, though I don’t recall Georgia State University offering any of this back when I was in school. SarahAnne is interested in the topic as much as I am, so we’ve been exchanging emails, and I sent her Gifts Differing, by Isabel Briggs Myers, one of the co-creators of the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory. Looking for some links for this blog led me to another book I just had to order for myself, Personality Type.
My copy of Gifts Differing is yellowed and dog-eared, so I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my latest Amazon package. You may not want to dig as deeply into this topic as I do, but I'm betting you'll enjoy some of the brief write-ups...depending, of course, on your personality type!