I’ll be honest. I’m quite the fan of personality typologies.
I know, I know, there are a lot of mixed opinions in the world of personality psychology regarding the validity of typology models. Since personality traits are seen to exist on a spectrum, psychologists find discrete categories of personality types to be misleading at best. And among typology fans, there are even more questions. Do typologies reflect something real, something tangible, in our brains? Or do they merely describe observed behavior? What is the ultimate benefit of learning your personality type? Is it worth our time exploring typology models when there is so much disagreement among personality psychologists about the best way to measure or define our traits?
I think so!
Let’s look at why personality typologies might be beneficial:
They give you a starting place to understand yourself.
How can you even begin to describe what’s going on in your behavior if you don’t know yourself? What is going on when you find yourself reacting the way you do in life? Why does that particular thing or event trigger you the way it does? Why don’t you get along with that one coworker or your mother in law? Why do you feel most enthused when you’re engaging in your passions and drained or tired when doing something someone else considers fun?
Typologies can help you analyze facets of your behavior and break apart the whys from the whats. They tell you what those facets are so you can start to understand your habits.
They give you a way to speak to others about your cognitive processes.
Not only do you get a structure to understand your own behavior, you can now begin to relate this to others with ease. “That drains me because I’m introverted.” “I like dealing with facts and things I already know because I prefer sensing.” “It’s important to me to have a lot of free time for self reflection.” Now that you understand what’s going on in your behavior, isn’t it easier to share your observations with those who have to put up with you?
They give us a shared set of definitions and terms to use when speaking about behavior.
When we use a typology model, we are using a shared language to communicate with others about our personalities. Different traits are valued, or emphasized, differently in each typology, but studying the core of our behavior shows us a common theme among them. Where we get our energy, what we like to focus on, and how we like to accomplish tasks can be described any number of ways. Typologies help us narrow it down a little by giving us a shared language to describe what we are observing.
They give us a point of reference for others’ behavior.
Isn’t it so much easier to deal with a situation when you know what’s behind it? Before you started studying personality, your sister’s behavior seemed strange and unintelligible to you. But now that you know her personality type is very different from yours, you can begin to see how her behavior makes sense. In fact, the more you know about individual traits and how each typology model weighs them, the more you can understand where someone else is coming from when they act differently than you.
They facilitate conversation when differences arise.
When you’re not getting along with someone, you might feel like digging in your heels and defending your stance. But dig into personality theory instead and understand the other’s point of view from their side. You may not agree, but understanding goes a long way in healing communication breakdowns.
They help us maximize our strengths and become our best selves.
Knowing the strengths of our personality type helps us to see ourselves in our best light. If we’re not in our best light, typologies can help us to consider alternatives. Are we getting what we need? Are we in the best job for our temperament? Are our relationships healing or harming us? Knowing what shapes our personality makes it possible for us to navigate life in a way that respects our individual needs.
They help us see our weak points.
We may not be at our best all the time. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a manual to know why? Each type (or trait preference) comes with its own unique challenges. Instead of feeling bad about who we are, wouldn’t it be more useful to get at the underlying motivations and try to change the behavior from there? Typologies help us do that.
These are just some of the benefits to learning your type, whether your typology of choice is MBTI, Socionics, the Enneagram, or whatever. As you can see, exploring typology models gives us a lot of insight into personality itself. Even if psychologists disagree about the best model of personality description, we can still get a lot out of exploring it on our own. And chances are, you’ve been referring to personality traits your whole life without even thinking about it. “She’s such an extrovert.” “He’s really quiet and doesn’t seem to like people.” Why not do a little research into what that really means?