Posted by: Robin | June 13, 2008

Adventures in Self-Awareness; or Something Like It

The latest enthusiasm in our family is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter test. If you are unfamiliar with this type of psychological testing, it uses four indicators–Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I), Intuition (N) vs. Sensation(S), Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F), and Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)–to identify sixteen basic temperaments within four types. Don’t jump to conclusions about the meaning of these terms. Their meanings are very specific and deal with where a person gets their energy, i.e., Extraversion means whether you are more energized by outer interactions, which to some extent are finite, or Introversion, that the energy comes from an internal place from which you interact with people and your environment, which is open-ended. Hence my social-butterfly children all surprisingly were Keirsey introverts. Judging just means a preference for structure and closure, while Perception prefers to keep the options open. David Keirsey and Marilyn Briggs have written a couple readable and inexpensive paperbacks if you want to learn more, or check out their official site: (I am reading them secondhand as Don comes across parts that strike him.)

Its roots trace back to Karl Jung via the work of Isabel Myers and Katheryn Briggs (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). If I have it right the difference between the Myers-Briggs and Keirsey Sorter (both use the above four indicators), is that the former’s questions focus on either/or behaviors vs. Keirsey’s focus on inclination. The real Myers-Briggs can be taken on-line for a fee, and tests based on it for free, but the real Keirsey can be taken on-line free of charge. So that was our choice. I recommend taking it on rather than the official Keirsey site (they are linked) because it is easier to get both your master type and your sub-type without having to pay. (Just be sure to check that you want to be a member, which has no obligations and involves no pertinent personal information. That’s the only way to get the sub-type, though checking getting the newsletter isn’t necessary.)

This all started with my husband’s year-long involvement in a mentoring program for pastors. He’d taken it personally (this was the 2nd time, but this time it was an AHA experience) and then he began to learn how it could be used as a tool in his ministry to better serve his congregation, individually and corporately. In conjunction with some research on the value shift in generations born after 1945 that has caught many of our mainline churches so unprepared, he’s excited about the possibilities these new tools offer. So why not try it out to give us insight into who we are as a family and our relational dynamic? (in other words make us the guinea pigs)

Though we all rolled our eyes a bit, mostly for the principal of the thing, it’s been fun and surprisingly illuminating, at least for us parental units. Our kids (all in their 20s) have a lot of tendencies and inclinations acquired from their parents, for better and worse, so it confused me a little that the sum of the parts came out in such different places in some critical ways. It explained a lot. Intriguingly it also lined up well with their vocational choices and aspirations. I realized this really can be a remarkable tool to understanding ourselves and those we interact with on a regular basis, as long as we don’t use it to pigeon-hole each other.

It’s also been insightful for our marriage. I am a P and my husband is a J. Somehow having a name for the fact that I resist the confines of too much structure and he thrives on it has made that particular source of tension more manageable. There’s a lot of “You’re such a P!” and “If you weren’t such a J!” but usually we’re laughing about it now, and we’re more conscious about meeting each other halfway.

As for me, taking this test is giving me the same laugh it did twelve years ago when I was doing some vocational rethinking and I came out an ENFP, an Idealist Champion (about 2/3 a good fit). Reading the profile as a guide to job possibilities made me guffaw. There is such a demand for go-out-and-change-the-world crusaders. The thing was I took it again a year later and came out a INFP, an Idealist Healer (about 3/4 a good fit), and once I came out an INTP, the Rational Architect. I took Myers-Briggs years ago, and had the same problem. Graphed out, I am always an N & P, but my other two categories were borderline.

 My daughter suggested we try another personality test she and her friends took at Over eight categories a person gets a major one and one next to it that you have leanings toward. Not me. I was too evenly scored across the categories. So I can take that as being an incredibly well-balanced individual, or totally lacking in self-awareness, or my split-personality is showing. Whichever, or all of the above, it explains a few things: why I had a hard time settling down to one career, why I am a generalist rather than a specialist, why I see that raised-eyebrows, bewildered “okay if you say so” expression so often (all my types are in the single-digit percentage of the populace), and why my blog rambles hither and yon so freely. The former insights are two more things than I understood before, and it makes my resident J happy.


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