October 19, 2017

How Personality Tests Help Us Understand People Better

I believe personality tests have value for us, both as Christians seeking spiritual maturity and as adults seeking stronger and more unified relationships. The key is to remember that our personality results do not define us; only God’s Word can do that. These tests simply get us out of our normal way of looking at things, and share another perspective that we might never consider otherwise.

But we shouldn’t stop at simply knowing our type! Once we have a basic understanding of what those results mean, we ought to spend time reading about the other types — not simply to satisfy curiosity, but to learn how to relate better to other types of personalities. We need to go beyond learning the labels, to understanding how those various types look in different people and different settings.

Every type, temperament, strength, weakness, gift, or love language will look different depending on the person’s maturity level, cultural context, family background, natural preferences, even emotional and physical health.

In the case of personalities, there is no right or wrong. No one personality is any better than another. There are no strengths or gifts that are better than others. There are no weaknesses or challenges that are worse than others (although many cultures do tend to exalt extroversion, as explained in this book [affiliate link]).

We are all made in God’s image. To be sure, we are all imperfect in many ways — and we all fail to reflect the perfection of our Creator in many ways. But whether we are introverts or extroverts, people-focused or task-focused, sanguine or melancholy, we are all image bearers of our divine Creator.

How Personality Tests Help Us Understand People Better

When we start to grasp the uniqueness of each personality type, we begin to understand how to relate to others better. Here are 5 specific ways that plays out:

1. We learn to appreciate diversity in perspectives and abilities among our circles, especially within the church.

Just as a physical body has different types of members with different jobs, so the spiritual body has different types of members with different abilities and jobs (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). If we were all preachers, where would the congregation be? If we all sang in the choir, who would listen and be encouraged by it? If we all had the gift of mercy, where would the gift of administration be? If we all had the gift of giving, where would the gift of discernment be?

2. We increase in compassion as we see things from others’ perspectives.

It’s hard to put yourself in another’s shoes. But as we begin to grasp the differences — say, between thinking and feeling personalities — we start understanding why some woman seems so passionate over little things, or why others seem so stand-off-ish. Granted, every personality can be taken to the extreme; and without spiritual maturity, we all will end up sinning in our weakest areas. But when you start to grasp the different natural tendencies and strengths of each personality, then you start to understand why people do what they do — and you can begin to empathize with them as they struggle or succeed.

3. We increase in patience as we glimpse others’ weaknesses.

This goes right along with the previous point: when we start to grasp why certain people act one way and others don’t, our empathy takes on another layer of patience and forbearance. Our love for them becomes deeper and stronger as we learn to encourage more effectively and pray more specifically. No longer do we have to wonder why “that person” always acts a certain way: we may not truly understand, but we can acknowledge the reason for their differences and seek to support them in their struggles. Our love for them will grow in a more excellent way as we recognize their underlying tendencies or mindsets.

4. We improve our communication with others who are unlike us.

Have you heard about pink and blue conversations? The idea is that women hear with “pink” hearing aids, and men hear with “blue” hearing aids — hence our difficulties in understanding one another. The same is true of various personalities. Extroverts and introverts don’t think alike, talk alike, or hear alike. Different strengths and weaknesses mean different ways of seeing the world. Learning about different personalities won’t eliminate those barriers, but it will help us walk toward each other in our communication — learning to speak so the other person understands, and to hear what they’re truly saying, even if it’s not explained overtly by their words or tone. Compromise becomes a beautiful thing, and we start truly understanding each other, instead of simply co-existing in separate bubbles.

5. We establish stronger unity in our families and churches.

When we begin understanding where others are coming from, we start to appreciate their uniqueness and find ways to learn from it. When we start learning from each other, we start growing together. We discover how to work together better. And just like a physical body, as we work together, we grow stronger as a unit and start working toward the same goals. We still think differently, have different perspectives, and certainly retain our individual uniqueness — just like a hand and foot, or a nose and a spleen, can be completely different yet still working together to serve the body as a whole — so it is within families, churches, and communities.

How Personality Tests Help Us Understand People Better

There’s an old song that proclaims, “Everyone is beautiful in their own way.” While this view can be taken too far (after all, there is an unchanging standard of right and wrong), I think it holds a kernel of truth. Everyone has something good to offer, some strength or perspective that others don’t have. Everyone has been created in God’s own image, and contains, at least in part, some aspect of His divine character.

The more we can understand the vast diversity of personalities, the more we can relate to others — and the better we can work with them, serve them, love them, appreciate them, enjoy them.

Reading People: how seeing the world through the lens of personality changes everything (affiliate link) by Anne Bogel, of the popular Modern Mrs Darcy blog, is a brand new resource for learning about all of this. It’s not only a great overview of the most popular personality frameworks, but also a fascinating account of Anne’s attempts to identify her core personality traits.

Reading People: how seeing the world through the lens of personality changes everything The book covers seven different systems for assessing personality (the ones Anne found most helpful in her own journey):

  • Introverts vs. Extroverts
  • Highly Sensitive People
  • Five Love Languages
  • Keirsey’s Temperaments
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (& Cognitive Functions)
  • Clifton StrengthsFinder
  • Enneagram

Each chapter includes concise yet thorough explanations of one framework, a brief overview of its main types (for instance, Keirsey’s four main temperaments), and helpful tips based on Anne’s experience exploring it. She also shares practical, real-life application of each system for areas such as marriage, parenting, productivity, the workplace, and spiritual life.

At just over 200 pages and written in an informal anecdotal style, it’s an easy read — but if you’re like me, you’ll want to stop after each chapter to identify or explore your personality type further, so it’s not a resource to rush through. I love that Anne provides specific cautions for taking each test (like, answer the questions based on what’s actually true, not what you want to be true), and also that she points out the best websites or books to learn more about each system. There’s nothing like firsthand knowledge to help guide you through these tests! There’s also a lengthy section of helpful resources in the back for further study and exploration.

Whether you’re already familiar with personality tests or completely new to the idea, Reading People would be a helpful resource for better understanding and applying the lens of personality. I already had a decent grasp of most of the frameworks she included, but still found it helpful for increasing my understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. And after reading about the less familiar ones, I’m now motivated to explore them as I have time (in fact, I just ordered a book about the Enneagram and can’t wait to dive in!).

I’m excited to give away a copy of Reading People to one of you! 

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. (If you’re reading this via a feed reader, you may have to click through to the post to see it.) Apologies to my international readers, but due to shipping costs, this giveaway is only open to readers in the USA. Ends Saturday, October 7, at midnight!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for providing an honest review. All opinions expressed herein are completely my own.


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