WHEN PROFILING BECOMES UNHELPFUL
Nothing like a bunch of writing class students to show you no matter what age, no matter what life you come from, core projects move you regardless of your personality.
“I am a DC, how about you?”
“Hmm, I don’t remember but I seem to be SC?”
People in the know will immediately understand that the conversation is all about the DISC personality profiling test. Simply, you take a test and see how high your levels are of the following: D is for dominance, I for influence, S for steadiness and C for conscientiousness. I took this test years ago for college and I really can’t remember my results today.
This used to be the most popular profiling method however a few years ago, our whole church got into a totally new way of assessing personalities. We used Gallup’s “Strengths Finder,” which is profiling based on a study of 34 themes that pretty much sums up ways that our neurons fire together and determines the way we usually respond or think.
Now these frameworks always come with the claims of improving teamwork. I think they are especially effective when people are aware that their personality results are also two-sided – that they can be both be an advantage or disadvantage, positive or negative, depending on the situation. (Ex. introverts can be most proper at meetings, but not so when they have ideas worth asserting and fail to do so)
However on the opposite side of the coin, some of us become determined or boxed by results we receive in these tests. Introverts tend to stay introverts and extroverts stay as extroverts, and we pride ourselves in being solely the personality we were told to be. I’ve actually observed three ways by which these profiling methods have become misused, and more limiting instead of liberating.
First is when it creates CLICKS.
It is natural, when we find people with similar interests we gravitate toward them. Even more so with those of the same personalities; introverts praise other introverts and I know this because I am one. I can talk about my introversion endlessly with another introvert and I find that if I do not stop myself I will end up limiting my network to a bunch of people who can be most satisfied about not getting out of their rooms at all. Well what do you know, even introverts have clicks, right?
And clicks naturally lead to COMPARISON.
We usually gravitate to people who are much like us because of self-love. Our narcissistic nature wants to praise something in others that reflects much of who we are because this deflects what is truly meant to reaffirm our own worth. And as if this is not enough, we also compare ourselves with those who are very different from us and use this information to prove not only that we are of a good kind, but also, that we are the better kind.
Worst of all, it breeds COMPLACENCY.
I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen someone use “introversion” as an excuse. So many people refuse to attend social gatherings and be self-confessed anti-social geeks because this is what a certain personality test says about them. I know this because again, I am guilty of it, too. I don’t know how many times I’ve played the “I’m just not wired that way” card in my life, especially when I am faced with situations that take me out of my comfort zone. Now to tell you the truth, I regret it. And here’s why:
Because I realized that instead of clicks, we should be pursuing COMPLEMENTS. Once someone my husband and me that “Different does not mean wrong.” 5 + 5 = 10, but so is 6 + 4. I’m an introvert, and my husband is an extrovert. I am a dreamer, my husband is an executor. A lot of my thoughts come to life because my husband is someone who wants to see the actual thing play outside of my head. A lot of my dreams come to pass precisely because my husband is not exactly like me. There are many ways to be compatible, through similarities, yes, but also through differences. Let’s thank God for complements and avoid going for unhelpful clicks.
Also, there is much to be done in this world and it would take all kinds to accomplish a task as great as this – both thinkers and doers, both introverts and extroverts alike. So what we need isn’t comparison but COMPANY. No on is ever able to change the world alone. Even discoverers would not have changed much of who we are if teachers didn’t profess their ideas in schools. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3); “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
Lastly, self-knowledge that leads to complacency is a sad affair because that means to know thyself so well but fail to grow further. Evidence of life is in the aging, the moving, the CHANGING. Fullness of our existence cannot be attained if we get stuck on these personality tests saying who we are today and extend them to forever. That would be a terrible mistake. I will never know the beauty of a rose if she stays as a bud for the rest of her life.
To try to close this entry I’d like to quote Professor Brian Little, a psychologist who specializes in the personality department, and who spoke at the TED Talks recently. This is pretty lengthy but I promise you, this is worth your time. Spare a few minutes and read what he said.
Now is this something that we should be heedful of? Of course. It’s important that we know this. Is that all we are? Are we just a bunch of traits? No, we’re not. Remember, you’re like some other people and like no other person. How about that idiosyncratic you? As Elizabeth or as George, you may share your extroversion or your neuroticism. But are there some distinctively Elizabethan features of your behavior, or Georgian of yours, that make us understand you better than just a bunch of traits? That make us love you? Not just because you’re a certain type of person.
I’m uncomfortable putting people in pigeonholes. I don’t even think pigeons belong in pigeonholes. So what is it that makes us different? It’s the doings that we have in our life — the personal projects. You have a personal project right now, but nobody may know it here. It relates to your kid — you’ve been back three times to the hospital, and they still don’t know what’s wrong. Or it could be your mom. And you’d been acting out of character. These are free traits. You’re very agreeable, but you act disagreeably in order to break down those barriers of administrative torpor in the hospital, to get something for your mom or your child.
What are these free traits? They’re where we enact a script in order to advance a core project in our lives. And they are what matters. Don’t ask people what type you are; ask them, “What are your core projects in your life?” And we enact those free traits. I’m an introvert, but I have a core project, which is to profess. I’m a professor. And I adore my students, and I adore my field. And I can’t wait to tell them about what’s new, what’s exciting, what I can’t wait to tell them about. And so I act in an extroverted way, because at eight in the morning, the students need a little bit of humor, a little bit of engagement to keep them going in arduous days of study. (You may watch the whole video at the very bottom of this page. Just scroll down.)
I am an introvert, believe it or not. For all my life as a celebrity I hated to say hello and kiss strangers because I am a very private person. But because it was my profession and I wanted to serve people with my talents, I showed up at every shoot as though I am everyone’s friend, kissing them on their cheeks, giving remarks here and there and sharing my whole heart with all if that is what it takes to fulfill my core project.
Moreover, as a Christian whose corest of all core projects is to honor God, I choose to be moved by His help, His might, His grace, His mercy. Whenever people ask me what my top strengths are, I tell them this and that but above all, that I have the Holy Spirit. That is, in Him I can do all things, I can be all things, be the person that God is calling me to be, even when my profile results say otherwise.
How about you, do you mind telling me the core project of your life, which moves you beyond the traits you’ve been branded from those personality tests?