If you’ve ever had a friend or coworker tell you that you are a “4,” and you became offended that someone would size you up and reduce you to a number like that, and then you found yourself feeling all sorts of emotions around that, then you might just be a 4.
The Enneagram system, which is described as “an ancient body of wisdom that identifies nine core personality types and how each sees and interacts with the world” is just one of several methods that can be used to determine one’s personality type. You can take a free online test here where you agree or disagree with a series of statements such as “I’m very supportive of people who want to improve,” or “I like no-nonsense people who tell it like it is,” and the results will tell you which of nine personality types you are.
Another popular personality test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, which categorizes people into one of 16 personality types made up of four letters. The Myers-Briggs test consists of questions about how you think, decisions you make and how you feel about structure. For example: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided, or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options?
StyleBlueprint’s resident personality test experts Annie Reeves and Martha Davis weighed in on why they love taking these tests and what they do with the information they glean from knowing their personality types.
Annie is our resident 4, while Martha is a 7. That means, according to The Enneagram Institute®, Annie can be a bit expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed and emotional, whereas Martha is spontaneous, versatile, distractible and scattered.
Annie says that learning about her personality traits has not only helped her understand herself better, but also be more empathetic to those around her who are just wired differently. “I’ve had all of my friends and family take this test because I feel like it helps you understand people’s motivations for why they do what they do,” Annie shares. “Some characteristic a person may have is as much a part of them as my quirks are to me, and you can learn to relate to that instead of getting frustrated by it.”
She says her closest friend and roommate is a 7, which is the exact opposite of a 4. That means Annie likes to talk about her emotions. Her roommate, on the other hand, doesn’t care to. “Knowing what I know about our personality types has helped our friendship because I used to think I wasn’t being a good friend when she wasn’t opening up,” Annie says. “But for her, being a good friend means not always pushing her to do that.”
Martha agrees that knowing personality types has helped her be more understanding towards people, but it has also helped her notice unhealthy behaviors in herself. “The Enneagram test gives you a basic understanding of your natural inclination. It doesn’t pigeonhole or stereotype people, but it creates more understanding,” she says. “It helps you learn where things that might irritate you are stemming from, which makes me more compassionate. I have a better understanding of why people behave in certain ways.”
Counselor and therapist Mallie Easterlin says people do tend to fall into categories when it comes to personal, emotional and social traits and behaviors, and that knowing more about yourself and those around you can be beneficial. “The biggest thing about understanding personality types is that it can bring awareness,” Mallie says. “It allows you to know more about yourself and how you might tend to interact with or respond to a person. Personality tests can give you that.”
Both the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs tests are rooted deep in theories and are widely respected for their accuracy, although Mallie is quick to caution that they are not always indicative of a whole person, but part of a bigger picture. She agrees that the tests, for the most part, provide valid information, but that mental health professionals use assessments that require training and aren’t available to the public online. “The personality assessment is one piece of the puzzle, and it can be helpful,” she says.
Annie agrees. She says knowing her personality type has given her a big dose of self-awareness. “For me, if, say a relationship doesn’t work out, I have a tendency to sulk in that and be just devastated. But knowing my personality type – and that this is a natural inclination of a 4 – has helped me move on. The self-awareness has been huge.”
For Martha, she grew up with a mom who is a 9, or a “Peacemaker” who always understood both sides of every situation. “Growing up, my sister and I would fight like cats and dogs, but we both felt like Mom was on our side,” Martha remembers. “She always saw validity in both of our points. But my instinct, as a result of that, was that my opinion was always right because my mom always made me feel understood. I had to learn to navigate that not every opinion I have is valid.”
Mallie agrees that if you gain a little self-awareness from taking a personality test, then that’s great. But, she says, to take these test results with a grain of salt. “You have to know the results are not perfect,” she says. “It’s in no way going to know all things about you, and you aren’t bound to the results.”
Martha and Annie agree and say to take them with an open mind and know that the results could be really insightful or really irrelevant. “Don’t allow yourself to take them too seriously,” Martha says. “You can’t let the internet tell you who to be. That would be a disaster. Maybe it’s not perfect science, but I do think there is some basis of understanding of people’s strengths and weaknesses to be understood. If it’s something that’s helpful, that’s great. Anything that makes us more compassionate in the world is a good thing.”
Here are the four most popular personality assessments with brief descriptions from each website:
The Road Back to You Introductory Enneagram Assessment is the perfect first step toward identifying your Enneagram number. To get your best results, think about the person you’ve been your whole life, and use that as the basis for your response. Don’t overthink your answers. Be honest. Describe the person you are, not the person you’d like to be.
To take the assessment, click here.
The purpose of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory is to make the theory of psychological types described by C.G. Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives. The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.
To find out where you can take the Myers-Briggs, click here.
The DiSC profile, published by Wiley, is a non-judgemental tool used for discussion of people’s behavioral differences. If you participate in a DiSC program, you’ll be asked to complete a series of questions that produce a detailed report about your personality and behavior. You’ll also receive tips related to working with people of other styles.
To learn more about the DiSC ASsessment, click here.
Completing the CliftonStrengths online talent assessment is your way to discover what you naturally do best, learn how to develop your greatest talents and use your customized results to live your best life.
To learn more about the Strengths Finder, click here.
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