It is fairly easy these days to get on the Internet and take a 'personality test.' These inventories are designed to give you insight into who you are and how you function in society. As mentioned previously, the way you see yourself can be greatly influenced by those around you. Using one of the personality inventories to gain insight into aspects of yourself that are fundamentally you is important when engaging with community. It is difficult to enter into a new situation that may have transformative qualities without first understanding where you started.
Personality and Perception
According to Dictionary.com, the word "personality" has nine definitions, including
"the visible aspect of one's character as it impresses others" and "a person as an
embodiment of a collection of qualities." Even as many people think of one's personality
as a singular entity, even the definition shows the multiplicity of dynamics that
One interesting aspect of personality is that usually if you have not done a personality test, your perceptions of your personality are based on how others respond and those are based on your external behaviors. These judgments, however, are also based on the other person's personality and how they perceive the world. This is not a useful way to understand your personality characteristics as your information is coming to you through a clouded lens.
Why take a Personality Trait Inventory?
There are several benefits of taking such an inventory. One major benefit is that you don't have to rely on the cues of others to understand who you are. Also, you can find ways to use the results to develop better relationships with people, whether it is for personal or professional reasons. Many of the results will give you the following information: how your personality type exhibits itself in relationships, at work, in leadership, and even when you may be having an off day.
By doing these tests you are also able to learn about other personality types and ways to identify certain characteristics in others. Granted, your assessment of their personality is influenced by how you see the world, but you will at least have some kind of benchmark to measure their behavior patterns against. You will also be able to figure out how your personality is affecting your interactions. Remember that many of these personality questionnaires give you advice on how to better your communication based on your personality type and other types as well.
Knowing how to communicate with others is important when working with one other person,
a group, or with an organization. Your role in your community engagement is one of
respectful collaboration (See Module 3).
If you know how a person or an organization functions, you are able to use that insight to help inform your collaborative conversations. For example, if you are a person who likes information to come to you in a succinct form (think bullet points), but you work with someone who prefers to tell stories (information you could get, for example, from completing the True Colors Test [see below right]), it will be important for you to acknowledge this and find a way to work together to find a communication pattern that works best for the partners involved.
Limitation of Personality Tests
Personality tests are great for getting a rough idea about your personality, however, all of these tests have limitations. These limitations come from the over-simplification of personality traits. People are most often not found at any of the extremes, but rather hover somewhere in the middle. Another limitation of these tests is that people may tend to change over time. A person who starts out with a personality test result at 20 may have a different personality profile at 40 (or even 30). Personality tests/inventories should simply be used to get a rough sketch of how a person may approach different life situations, but should not be used as a definitive aspect of a person.