Seeing the best in life's challenges

Personality Tests

on January 29, 2012

I’ve always loved personality tests.  They fascinate me.  In case anyone hasn’t picked up on this yet, I love to think about, analyze, research and understand things.  Ok, I’m kind of obsessive about it.

Maybe the most valuable class I took in college was a counseling class, the course you had to take to become a Resident Assistant.  It was a small class, maybe 8 of us with a professor and a teaching assistant.  Among many other exercises and discussions, we had to write out answers to questions about why we had the ideas and beliefs that we had, an exercise that I don’t think most people, especially 19 year olds, go through.  It got me thinking about self-awareness.

One day in class we were talking about first impressions, and how they can be misleading.  Person by person, the group gave their (really honest) first impressions of each of us, then how that impression changed once they got to know you.  Even though this was a “safe” environment, it was still a somewhat uncomfortable process, I think because it is rare for others to be that blunt.  You didn’t know what to expect.

I remember that what they said about me was, that their first impression is that I didn’t stand for anything, that I just always agreed with people.  (If you know me well, I can hear you laughing!)  But, they said once they got to know me, they realized that wasn’t the case.

So, I’m thinking about all this over the weekend, because of a comment made to me recently that I should be more cooperative and less concerned about getting my own way.  I felt misunderstood, but then I started asking myself if I was missing something…

For a while now, I have been looking for the results of the Taylor-Johnson personality test my husband and I did over 20 years ago.  So, I’m cleaning out stuff in the attic on Saturday, and guess what I come across – the red and blue binders with the results!

The pastor of our church at the time, had a PhD in counseling, and he did a marriage enrichment class and gave us the test.  What made it really interesting, is that you filled out the test for yourself, then you filled it out for your spouse.  So, it told you how you see yourself, and how your spouse sees you.  Blunt, honest feedback from the person that probably knows you best.

(Not all couples saw each other the same way.  I can’t remember who it was, but some couples were pretty agitated by this.  Our results were pretty close, or at least trended consistently, so that was a good thing.)

This test took 9 sets of traits and their opposites, and gave you a score between 1 and 100.  Your results were graphed, and the template had a band of “excellent” which was the optimum range for that type of trait, and lighter bands of “Acceptable” and “improvement needed”.

What popped out at me this time when I looked at my profile, was that I scored myself 97% Expressive-Responsive – meaning spontaneous, affectionate, demonstrative.  The opposite trait is Inhibited – restrained, unresponsive, repressed.  With people I know, I love to connect, communicate, express my opinion, give my point of view. I don’t hold back. And I like to be understood, so I can go on too long, repeating what is by now obvious to the other person.

At the same time, I scored in the “Improvement Needed” range as Submissive, as opposed to Dominant.  I suspect that in the last 20 years, I have grown and made improvement in this category – but still, I know it is my basic nature.  (FYI my husband scored me more Submissive than I did.)

So, my classmates had picked up on my Quiet (that’s another one), extremely Tolerant and Submissive personality as a first impression.  As we got to know each other better, and I inevitably started expressing and responding, they saw that there was more there than first met the eye.

But I can see that, if you only saw me Expressing and Responding, it would be easy to assume I am also domineering, and always have to get my way.  And I even think my husband misunderstands this at times.  I just want to be heard and understood, but I don’t always have to get my way.  If anything, I’ve had to learn to not be as submissive as I used to be.

I could go on and on about just that one test.  I’ve taken others.  I always find them fascinating and a good way to self-reflect.  They remind me that, it is very easy to make assumptions about people, even your spouse, but they aren’t always quite right.  If we want to have strong and healthy relationships with others, it is a huge help to first understand yourself, and then work to understand others.

But right now, what I’m thinking is more important, is allowing yourself to be open to how others see you. It’s very easy to get scared or defensive, especially when you feel misunderstood.  But to resist the fear, and instead self-reflect, is a wonderful exercise. You might indeed be misunderstood, or your friend might have a valid point.  Probably the truth lies somewhere in between.  If you are willing, it’s not that hard to figure out.

Getting honest feedback from another is rare, and it is a gift.  Few friends or even spouses will be totally honest with you, especially when it’s something you might not want to hear.  If you allow yourself to listen and consider, then you just might learn something.

What do you think?

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