Enneagram, Myers Briggs

Finding Your Personality Type is Hard When Your Colors are Different

Finding both one’s Myers Briggs an Enneagram Types can be so bloody hard sometimes going by through the generic profiles and ambiguously worded online tests. My observation is that most of the descriptions of types are narratives of the behaviors (and sometimes thought patterns or values) that occur with the highest frequency in people of that type vs. people of other types. While this makes for resonance with people who have traits that commonly co-occur with the type, it isn’t describing the underlying principles of the type. This leaves quite a lot of people out who may then end up erroneously rejecting that type for themselves.

An example to illustrate this: Let’s say you’re at an international sporting event like the current Winter Olympics. A significant number of Brazilian spectators are wearing yellow, green and blue. Not all of them, but there are vastly more Brazilians are wearing those colors than people of other nationalities, or Brazilians not wearing those colors. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t Brazilian if you aren’t wearing yellow, green and blue, or that you must be Brazilian if you’re wearing them. The colors of one’s clothing is a co-occurring trait, not a fundamental definition of one’s nationality.

I see many people, myself included at times, treat type profiles as if every detail must be true of them in order to be that type. Similarly, if there are things about us that aren’t described by that profile, it leaves room for doubt about being that type. Type profiles are a useful way to initiate some concrete pictures of the “average” person of a particular type, creating resonance for a lot of people and helping them on that path to self-discovery. Describing actual behaviors in a way similar to how you’d describe a friend to someone who’d never met them is much more straightforward than describing Cognitive Functions of the MB system or Fears/Passions/Virtues of the Enneagram system, or whatever the underlying principles of any given typology system are. It is easier to resonate with a narrative than an abstract element in a system that is defined by a lot of ambiguous jargon.

But how do we identify Brazilians who don’t show up to the event wearing yellow, green and blue? Maybe a Brazilian happened to be wearing red and white, and was assumed to be a Canadian! Ok the metaphor breaks down a little here since said Brazilian national probably knows they were born there and aren’t searching for their nation of origin. But no scenario came to mind that better parallels the typology situation where we are trying to find where someone fits by comparing them to others in a group, or averages thereof, so please go with me here.

To figure out where people really are from we have to actually talk to them, find out more about them. This all comes into play in typology, particularly when one has an Enneagram type unusual for their MB type, and vice versa. It can make finding one’s self in either system very tricky, or lead them to question whether they are the type they think in one system or the other.  Of course, MB and Enneagram are not directly cross-correlated but there are some significant trends. For example, Enneagram 5 is made up largely of Thinking type MB individuals, and E4 is made up largely of Feeling type MB individuals. We then find that narrative descriptions of E5 people in general, including traits that simply co-occur but aren’t necessarily direct emergents of the principles that absolutely define that type, resonates more with MB T types than it does with the stray E5 Feelers. The E5 Feelers are the Brazilians that didn’t show up in yellow, green and blue, and happened to be wearing red and white like the Canadians (and maybe they love their maple syrup too, for good measure!). Brazilians might question that person’s Brazilian-ness too (how can they call themselves Brazilian if they don’t care about wearing the colors?!), yet these individuals don’t actually feel at home with the Canadians.

These narrative descriptions are kind of a necessary evil, because it takes months, even years of study and training to really deeply break down the MB cognitive functions and enneagram fixations etc. A lot of the literature involves terms that aren’t defined the way one would think, and are extremely hard to sum up in brief, thus requiring long term, consistent, calibrated pattern recognition to understand them, and even more to recognize them in actual people. A real person’s brain is never going to be just like the books describe the functions.

Even after self-studying for 5 years and feeling solid about my type the whole time, I found out I was wrong. No, I’m not an INTP E5 with an unusually high EQ (emotional intelligence quotient). I’m an INFJ E5. This made a lot of the things about both INTP and E5 that didn’t seem to fit before suddenly make sense. E5 descriptions aren’t written to resonate with Feelers, they’re written to resonate with Thinkers, which accounts for most of the E5s. INFJ descriptions aren’t written to resonate with E5 “Observer/Scientist” types. They are generally written in a way that appeals more to E4s, the “Individualist/Romantic”. I’m a pretty unusual INFJ in being an E5, and a pretty unusual E5 that looks a lot like a 4 or 9 in some ways. We are all unusual for our types in some ways, because a type profile can’t describe millions of people to a T. Yet we all have best fit types. The types aren’t meant to describe every facet of our being, but knowing our best fit type gives us a lot of things we can leverage to manage our time, energy, communication, needs, and personal development paths more effectively.

If you get one thing out of this article, let it be this: If you encounter parts of type descriptions that make you scratch your head and question your conclusions about yourself, ask whether the description is detailing behaviors and thoughts of an average person of that type, or whether it is describing the fundamentals that define the type its self. Have you read type descriptions that challenged your confidence in your self-awareness? Please share your story in the comments, let’s make this a dynamic conversation!

Feel free to not read past this paragraph if you’re 1000% solid on your type and leveraging that awareness effectively in your personal goals. I’m going to talk about the benefits of a Type Discovery Consultation, but I’m not trying to use articles as hard sell tactics. I do these articles because I love exchanging thoughts about Personality Typology. I do the Consultations to send more self-aware and calibrated typology nerds out into the world, choosing their personal development paths with as much perspective as possible.

People who come to me for a Consultation who I’ve helped get closure on their type questions are generally not the ones who easily can find what resonates with them in generic type descriptions or results of text-based tests. It is usually the people not wearing their home country’s colors, so to speak.  They don’t fit in in the section they were sorted to based on such superficial and ambiguous indicators. They are the ones who are frustrated with the questions themselves in the online tests, knowing that there is so much room for alternate interpretation in these forced choice questions that futilely hope to encapsulate a whole person’s psyche in a handful of statements. Running through their head as they check the boxes are thoughts like “I value both…”, “It depends on the context…” “How would the test preparers define justice vs. compassion and is that different than how I would define them?”. This is how a conversational Type Discovery Consultation can help. Together we are able to explore the context you’re coming from and flesh out nuances in how we each define concepts as we discuss them. In addition to parsing the content of answers to open-ended questions, I’m also able to apply carefully calibrated pattern recognition as I observe everything from word choice, to posture, to micro-expressions in response to certain words, which all can reflect unconscious mental wiring that I can verify thorough questions specific to you. No single thing in its self indicates one type or another, it is the constellation of all these things coming together that will reveal a person’s type. If you’re ready to discover your Myers Briggs type in a way that accounts for your unique context, don’t hesitate. Think of the peace of mind and empowered sense of direction confidence in knowing your MB type could yield. Book Now.



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