When it comes to personality and behavioral tests, I’ve always had a “been there done that” attitude about them. I’ve done Myers Briggs – twice. I’ve even participated in a few facilitated sessions that discuss the significance of my Myers Briggs type and how to effectively work with my colleagues. In general, I’ve found these sessions mildly useful and interesting, but they really haven’t materially changed my work or life.
Recently – my attitude toward behavioral tests changed completely.
Two weeks ago, my team and I took a different kind of personality test: the DISC Assessment. This test was structured much like the Myers Briggs test I’m used to, but the results were much different. The DISC test is based on the presence of four basic behavioral traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. The actual test I took was based on ~36 questions in an online form – it took me about 15 minutes to complete. When I finished the test it stated that I was an “I” – or influencer.
On the surface this made sense to me – I do like to influence people. But then I started digging into the full profile results. The report said that one of the trademark signs of being an “I” is that you are a deeply emotional person and have an emotional reaction to stress. My test results further said that this “emotional” trait was especially pronounced in my profile.
My first reaction to reading this was literally: “this report is crap- I don’t have emotional reactions.” I closed the report and spent the next twenty or so minutes trying to convince myself I don’t get emotional. My ultimate conclusion: The test must be flawed.
I didn’t think about my results again until we discussed our results at work. To start the review session, the facilitator simply went through and read the generic descriptions of each behavioral type (D, I, S and C).
When the facilitator read the description for “I” – I couldn’t believe it. The type matched me incredibly well. When she read the “weaknesses” of the “I” type, it felt like she was reading a list of all of the things that I’m bad at. It was shockingly accurate. In fact, I actually felt personally victimized by the description that she read. I immediately retreated into about 30 minutes of wanting to talk about my feelings and sharing how I felt.
All the sudden, a lightbulb went off in my head. Holy crap – I do have emotional reactions. I’m having one right now! For the next several hours I went back searching in my memory for all the times I’ve had emotional reactions to stress. With this new awareness of my emotions, I was able to find lots of examples. It was a truly enlightening revelation.
Further, I found it fascinating to put all four personality types in context – not everyone responds to stress the way I do. In fact – something that would make me very uncomfortable – say, an abrupt email telling me I’ve done something wrong – would actually be treated as just a normal communication by people that displayed the D behavioral type.
I’ve always considered it a personal superpower to be deeply involved with the way people feel and to pick up on very subtle emotional and personal cues. As it turns out, I’m just one of four behavioral types and my reactions are perfectly natural and explainable.
It was comforting in putting my gut reactions in context and learn about other behavioral types. Although to be honest it did make me feel a little less unique knowing I’m just a textbook “I”.