Personality Types

When I was a young(er) man, I was very sceptical about psychometric tests and regarded them as little short of witchcraft – i.e. moulding people into someone else’s pre-conceptions. Incidentally, that’s the reason I always give my astrological sign (not that I personally have one) as Pyrex – I object to other people determining who, what or how I am simply because of the temporal accident of my birth-date.
Ah, where was I? Oh yes, responding to a post at the excellent Introverts Anonymous on the subject of Myers-Briggs personality types. Martyn finds that he is an INFP and recognises himself in some of the reported attributes of INFPs. The Myers-Briggs personality type is based on the work of the great Carl Jung and is far too complex an idea for a simple man like me to describe. Nevertheless, simple assumptions about introversion and extroversion don’t translate readily into the 16 types of the MB matrix; people are complex and how well you feel you match with a description is a highly subjective thing. It’s that old “personal message” thing – people want to believe that a special message has specific meaning for them and will apply any old generalism to their own lives because it’s an affirming and positive thing to do. It also makes you feel a lot less alone in the universe. This, by the way, is the so-called Forer Effect.
I did quite a lot of management training during recent years and learned to use various profiles and test results as tools to understand myself. Not all of them made sense, but good tests, based upon sound psychological theory and research, can be useful tools to understanding.
I’m also an INFP and, when I was diagnosed during a management course, a lot of things about my behaviours suddenly made a lot of sense. The consequence was that I became a bit more empowered in terms of my behaviour; knowing that this was the irrational Pat as opposed to the rational Pat meant that I could move from reacting to responding – being aware of how I was likely to react meant that I could choose how to respond, making me more effective in inter-personal situations.
I should say that, by “irrational” I mean unreasoning, not unreasonable!
The description that Martyn posts on his site about INFPs is interesting – I’ve not seen this one before, but there are parts of it that correspond to some particular issues for me at the moment. The challenge is to identify alternative behaviour-sets or models that can move you on beyond the particular obstacle and achieve the objectives you need to.
Personally, I would advise considerable caution about using any web-based MB test. The reliable tests take some time and have to be carefully interpreted by a trained person. Even then, use any psychological test with care and discretion; you, and you alone, actively and consciously choose your behaviours – never excuse them on something you found out about yourself by whatever means.

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