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Challenging Your Assumptions about Personality Type

Challenging Your Assumptions about Personality Type

By Donna Dunning

When surfing the net I am sometimes disappointed by what I read about personality type. I don’t like to be an elitist or snob, but it sometimes irks me when I see people discussing personality type inappropriately.

Here are three assumptions that I believe are key to using personality type models in an ethical, respectful, and useful way.

There are no good or bad personality type preferences or type combinations

Type bashing is one of my pet peeves. Blaming, depreciating, labeling, and stereotyping all fit into this category. There are lots of examples of people dissing others or discussing how one preference or type is better or worse than another.

We all have gifts. We all have challenges. Personality type models describe 16 natural, useful ways to approach situations. No approach is better than any other approach. We can all learn to develop our awareness and adapt our approach as necessary. Diversity is natural. Diversity is good.

Personality type describes healthy people

Personality type models are based on normality, not pathology. Personality type descriptions are designed for, and research has studied, healthy populations. Healthy, well-adjusted, people are usually trying their best to get along and make a contribution to the world. (My humanistic bias is showing here).

I’ve been working with personality type long enough to have been exposed to numerous people in each of the 16 personality type approaches. I have met delightful, fully functioning individuals in every category of type preferences.

Yes, there are people who are jerks. There are people who are unhealthy. Please don’t include them in your idea of certain personality type preference combinations. Many rants I see describe a person very negatively and then assign him or her with a personality type code, as if this “explains” their pathology.

I don’t deny that the approaches other people use may create friction and irritate you.

Generally, healthy people are not intending to aggravate others. They are simply approaching the situation using their natural preferences and likely assume others approach situations the same way they do. Personality type advocates strive to help people understand and learn more about different approaches as a way to build bridges between people so they can interact more effectively.

You can interact effectively with people of all types

Reading about “compatible” types makes me nervous. There is so much potential for misuse of personality type concepts when we start looking for the “ideal type” to connect with.

Certainly, some commonalities and some differences can be comfortable or stimulating, however, people are a lot more than their personality type preferences. To assume that a person is a “bad” match or “incompatible” on the basis of this model seems stereotypic and limiting.

With energy and intent, anyone can learn to understand, appreciate, accommodate, and have a relationship with, other people, no matter what their preferences may be.

You may want to read my previous posts on this topic.

My Preference is Better than Yours

Misuses of Personality Type

No Type Bashing Please

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 at 8:32 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “Challenging Your Assumptions about Personality Type”

  1. Charity says:

    People are definitely more than the type preferences through which they naturally view the world, however it is always interesting to see who misunderstands whom/understands whom in life, and interesting to note that those do seem to fall into type catagories… for instance, as an enfp there are 2 individuals in my life who do consistently misunderstand and get upset with me, they type as isfj and isfp. The people who understand me most naturally and are “on the same page” so to speak, turn out to be intj, infj, infp, entj, entp, esfj, and enfj. This seems true to type “stereotype”… However, some of my dearest friends are isfj’s, but those relationships took diligent work to form, and were not a natural occurence. What do you think?

  2. Vicki says:

    I wonder if this article could help my sister. I recently referred to her (as I have in the past) as an extravert and her response was negative and defensive. She swore up and down that she is NOT an Extravert (also NOT and Introvert. She’s “just a person who does stuff”.) From the rest of the conversation, I got the strong impression that she views the term “extravert” as a negative, possibly pathological, thing. In a culture that tends to value the extravert type, I was shocked by the vehemence of her response.

    How often do you see those assumptions turned inward, i.e. “I can’t have this personality type! I don’t and I won’t!”?

  3. Donna Dunning says:

    Hi Charity, I agree, some relationships flow easily and others take more work to establish. I’m just saying I try to be careful not to make any broad brush strokes about type and relationships. I have seen lots of happy couples and friendships who would not make the list of “compatible” types. You make a good point, that sometimes it takes work to build worthwhile relationships. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Donna Dunning says:

    Hi Vicki, I can’t really comment on your sister’s view, as I don’t know her or her situation. I do know that people can resist being “boxed” into a personality type, especially if they have been exposed to stereotypes and “type bashing”. When learning about type people often comment that they are not one or the other… and that they dislike having to choose. If the personality type model is explained well, they realize that everyone spends time introverting and extraverting. They are not being forced to choose one or the other. My post Mistyping: is your natural preference Introversion or Extraversion provides more information on these ideas.

  5. Amy says:

    I agree with the sentiments about type bashing. It’s especially bad on a lot of online forums.

    Truth be told, it isn’t the people whose preferences are opposed to mine that I have the most friction with but the people who are typologically similar. Sure, when people have opposing preferences sometimes it can be hard for them to see eye to eye but just as often they can help coax one another to a middle ground. For example, in a T/F relationship (be it romantic, collegial or a friendship) the T can encourage more objectivity in the F and the F can help the T tap into their values a bit more. On the other hand, with two Fs, there may be very different values or very different ways to demonstrate compassion and empathy which can ironically lead to conflict.

    Also, while type may describe normal behavior, it also describes human behavior with all the everyday shortcomings that can entail. Sometimes, when a person shares our type, we see aspects of ourselves from the outside–which may not always be flattering. I think if one is too bothered by a given type, it’s a big red flag to stop, re-evaluate ourselves and ask ourselves whether those qualities exist within us. It may be the case that we’re actually seeing someone of the same type.

  6. Donna Dunning says:

    Good points Amy. I know I can certainly project things I don’t like about myself onto others. Carl Jung said “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

  7. las artes says:

    True personality type is hidden Because of the influence of “trait” psychology on how we think about personality, it is easy for the type practitioner to lose sight of the fact that Jung’s theory of types is not based on observable traits or behavior.

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