Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Type-Testing for Better Relationships?

From Myers-Briggs to Enneagrams, whether it’s a ‘typology indicator’, a personality profile, or an assessment of temperament, we love to use methodologies to categorize people! Used by many career counselors, psychologists, teachers, and employers, they seem to be increasingly popular on the Web, providing entertainment and amusement and at times even helpful information both for understanding oneself and others.
All too often, however – at least in my experience – they end up doing more harm than good. I am aware that this statement may push some buttons, but what the heck, my experience is my experience, and I feel compelled to share it only because I continue to witness the misuse of these ‘assessments’. Because such tests imply quick-and-easy insights into colleagues, peers, partners, and even children, they lead us to believe they will magically make our relationships/ management abilities/collaboration or even parenting much easier and so are too tempting to resist! Unfortunately they are too frequently used to judge or label, forming images of limits to what people must be capable of, restrictions in our ideas about their potential, and often an increase in rigidity around our expectations. The truth of the matter is that we are all much more complicated than such assessments allow, as are our relationships. Aside from the fact that these tests have no convincing validating data to support them, I have never witnessed a relationship that has been improved by them in any significant way.

In fact, you are much more likely to succeed in building a better relationship or helping someone to grow by the simple act of noticing and appreciating the positive qualities you observe in the other person. Rather than reading up on types, taking or giving personality tests, take a moment, on your own, to observe each person, each employee, each colleague, each peer, each child, and ‘play’ a lone game called “Spot The Good Stuff”. Once you have identified good attributes, actions and potential in each person, find a way to share and celebrate all the goodies you identify, celebrate the successes, celebrate the contributions, celebrate all you appreciate. In my humble opinion, “Spot The Good Stuff” is one of the best-kept secrets to successful leadership, parenting and indeed any relationship!

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