Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Personality Types

Melissa had a post a few days ago about personality types. More specifically, she shared an interesting tool called the typealyzer which analyzes the writing on a blog and suggests what personality type the author might be. For me, it said I was an INTP - a thinker (also labelled a wizard by other sources). For anyone unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs, they create tests to help people determine things about themselves. The 16 personality types come from the combinations of the four areas which each have two possibilities:
1) Introvert / Extrovert
2) iNtuitive / Sensor
3) Thinker / Feeler
4) Perceiver / Judger

Each set of paired elements represents two different ways people deal with situations, people, data... life. I love these tests, and I find the characterizations of types are sometimes spot on for people, but anyone that scores close to the middle on one area might find himself somewhat poorly described. For example, almost every time I have taken a Myers-Briggs test (two officially, several simplified versions), I tend to score exactly equal (or within a point or two) on introvert and extrovert. As a result, the part of an introverted type that suggests a disconnection with people does not fit me very well. As I said to my wife, I don't look at people as something in my way - I am much more likely to treat a new person as a problem to solve or understand, just like any other part of life. Once I have understood a person, then I can deal with them more appropriately. That's perhaps where my extrovert side kicks in - I love to be in a group of people, sharing stories and anecdotes. Once I warm up, I have a lot of fun with people, and I rarely get so introverted that I get completely distant in a group setting. That's probably why I think the ENTP type fits me better - the Innovator. I find it even a little funny that I make this connection - the type description points out the tendency to see connections in almost anything - but I notice that ENTP would make a great abbreviation for entrepreneur and innovator would be a great description for one. So my personality type might well describe the very thing I hope to research for the rest of my life.

How do I explain the INTP side showing up on my blog? Simple: my writing here is very personal and focused on my interests. Of course it comes off like an introvert, especially since my recent posts are about career pursuits and research I'm reading. I leave a lot of the writing about my family to my wife. That's why her blog shows her extroversion more clearly. She writes about things outside of herself quite often. What type did it say she was? ESFP - the performer. That's definitely something that fits what she writes about, but in reading the ENTP personality type, she and I both agree, it describes her almost to a fault. In short, I don't assume that a test can tell me who I am, at least not entirely. It just might shed some light on my mindset as I approach life and help me consider if I am not considering how another person might see it differently. I know one thing: I look forward to teaching students about the importance of self awareness, which Myers-Briggs does a lot to strengthen.

-- Robert

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