How to avoid the personality test trap

There’s Myers-Briggs, DiSC, Hexaco, Enneagram and more – countless personality assessments designed to provide us with a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. Here at Balcom, we find them especially helpful for colleague relationships and improving company culture.

But if you’ve taken one of these assessments, particularly with a group of people such as your coworkers, you may have noticed two traps people can fall into:

  • Pigeon-holing people into their personality types
  • Using personality types to justify behavior

While it’s natural for all of us to fall into these traps as we learn to look at ourselves and others through the lens of the assessment, it can cause us to miss two important truths.

Truth No. 1: People defy categorization

People are complicated. Some personality assessments may describe you to a T, others may seem slightly off. Or maybe no matter what test you take, you straddle multiple personality types, and feel left out because you never fit perfectly into one.

The truth is, we all have traits from all over the map.

As an example, I’ll use True Colors – that’s the personality assessment we use at Balcom, and the one I’m certified to facilitate. It’s rooted in Myers-Briggs, but simplifies the 16 personality types into four, easy-to-remember colors: Blue, Green, Orange and Gold. (Learn about the four types here.)

Most people will test “brighter” in one of these colors, but we all contain all the colors; many of us even “turn up” certain colors in different situations. You may be more green at work, more blue with your spouse, more gold with your kids or more orange with your friends. And that’s healthy – each of the colors is crucial, and sometimes different situations call for different colors or personality traits.

“Each of the colors is crucial, and sometimes different situations call for different colors or personality traits.”

Truth No. 2: Personality assessments are an opportunity for personal growth

These personality assessments exist to not only help us understand our strengths, but also to improve upon our weaknesses. 

Of course, you should learn to leverage your natural traits to their fullest potential. But you should also learn how to tap into the other personality types when the situation demands it. There is incredible value in each of the colors, so if you work to increase your “palest” color, you will do more than just shine in your own areas of expertise; you’ll be able to connect and collaborate with others in amazing new ways.

This is especially helpful during stressful situations, when we all tend to revert back to our brightest colors, which can further stress the people around us. Instead, making a conscious effort to express all of the different personality types during these times can in turn support all the different personality types: Tap into your green to provide as much crucial information as possible, tap into your gold to provide clear steps for moving forward, tap into your orange to make the project fun and exciting, and tap into your blue to show your team they are valued and appreciated.

These are just a few broad examples. Over the next few weeks, we’ll outline more specific tips that will help you tap into each color.

Need to take the True Colors assessment first? We can guide your entire team through a True Colors workshop, virtually or in person. Contact us to learn more.

Tags: Consulting & Training, Culture

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