The study of personality types is an incredibly useful tool to grow as a person, understand others more, and just make life better in general. But like any tool, there are good ways to use it and bad ways. Over time, I’ve picked up what are some good habits and what are some bad ones when it comes to typing, whether it’s the Enneagram or Myers-Briggs or the 5 Love Languages. Here are some things you shouldn’t do when learning about personality types.
Don’t assume that you will fit perfectly into one personality type
Personality types are just very broad frameworks. There are 7 billion people on the earth but only 16 Myers-Briggs types and 9 Enneagram types. No two people are exactly alike, meaning that the 16 different types can look really different. Just because something doesn’t describe you perfectly, or because you don’t fit the exact mold, doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Personality types are just tools to get you started in knowing yourself and learning about other people, and they only tell you a handful of specific things about you.
Don’t use unreliable sources
Tumblr should be taken with a grain of salt, my friends. There are a lot of people out there who are incredibly passionate about and have put a lot of time into personality types… but they’re still not experts. Be careful who you get your information from. Try to find sources of people who have formal training, who cite resources, and in general have a balanced view. If all your knowledge of your Myers-Briggs type comes from Pinterest, then you’ll probably have some pretty funny memes, but you won’t have learned how to actually grow as a person.
One of the challenges that I’ve run into as an INTP is that much of the information about INTPs on Pinterest is disparaging, whether that’s toward INTPs or the rest of the world. If I took everything Pinterest said to be true about myself, I would assume that I am a heartless robot with poor fashion sense that can’t get anything done but reads a lot. Obviously, many of the jokes are exaggerations. But if you’re absorbing too much of it, it’s certainly not helpful.
Don’t listen to people who take their own experience and say it’s true for everyone of that type
This goes hand in hand with the above point. I’ve found some insightful information from Quora, but I have to be really careful about taking it with a grain of salt. There are a lot of people who answer questions about personality types and imply that just because something is such a way for them, it will be for everyone of the same type. For example, INTPs are supposed to have really bad fashion sense. While being well-dressed isn’t my delight and joy in life, it’s also not uncommon for me to be complimented for my style. Does that mean I’m not an INTP? Certainly not. It just means that just because that’s true for many people with a similar personality, doesn’t mean it has to be true for me. If someone says, “ALL INTPs suck at getting dressed,” that’s a good indication they’re not a good source of information.
Don’t use your personality type as an excuse
The point of studying your personality type and knowing yourself better is so that you can grow as a person. If you’re not doing that, but just using it as an excuse for why you are the way you are, you’re failing in your study. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you’re using your introversion as an excuse to bail on your friends all the time, you’re not growing as a person. If your love language is quality time and you’re using that as an excuse not to buy a gift for your gift-loving spouse, then you’re not using the tool like you should be. While it can be useful to explain yourself to someone, it should never be an excuse to keep hurting others, whether intentionally or not.
Don’t use it as a weapon against other people
This can be common for family members and friends who are first learning about the types. They’ll say stuff like, “Well you’re just an Enneagram 3, so obviously you’re just being overly ambitious.” Some people even do this in dating relationships. This is not at all helpful, and will probably not score you another date. Personality types are great tools for understanding people better with the intention to love and serve them better, not just beat them over the head.
Don’t over-explain other people’s personalities to them
By all means, if they appear interested, keep telling them what you’ve learned about them. But the worst thing you can do to your friends is go on and on and on about why they made this decision, or they’re like this, or they keep doing this thing. I promise you, you haven’t totally figured them out. Instead of explaining someone else to themselves, try asking them about themselves instead. Saying something like, “I read this about your type, do you think that seems accurate?” Use personalities as a conversation starter and don’t take the position of expert. Unless, of course, you are actually the expert and they’re asking for your help.
Don’t refuse to be friends with someone because of their type
There is lots out there about which Myers-Briggs personalities get along best, which clash, and which ones make for the best and worst romantic partners. I’m sure there are pros and cons to meshing every personality type together, but avoiding someone just because of their type is really narrow-minded. We’re all vibrant, beautiful, unique, and adaptable humans who can learn a lot of empathy and compassion for each other. Personality type alone should never be your reason for avoiding someone.
Don’t talk about your own personality type too much
Unless you have a very interested party, you’ll have to be very careful not to drive the people in your life up the wall with your new obsession. For me, learning about my MBTI was incredibly freeing and it’s alllll I wanted to talk about. But I quickly bored people with the subject. My best advice? Find the people who are interested. Read more information from experts. Listen to some podcasts. If all else fails, talk it through with your journal.
Don’t equate personality types to morality
This one goes hand in hand with generalizing the types. Oftentimes, people will say things like:
“INTPs are always lazy”
“INTJs are all evil masterminds”
“Enneagram 3s have the best work ethic”
Your type does not define your morality, for good or bad, and neither does anyone else’s. If someone is a jerk, it’s not because they’re an Enneagram 1. It’s because they’re just a jerk. If someone’s love language is receiving gifts, it doesn’t mean they’re greedy. Certain types do have certain predilections, but it’s not their type that determines whether they make good choices or bad choices.
Don’t wrap your identity in your personality type
It can be easy to be proud of or ashamed of your personality type. Just remember that your identity is more than your type. We’re all so unique, and personality types are only one very small piece of the puzzle that is you. By all means, use the tools. Just remember that you’re more than the tools.
I’d love to hear your feedback. Do you see people frequently making these mistakes? Would you add anything to the list of things not to do when learning about personality types?