Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Personality and Pigeonholes

As a queer individual, I'm a firm believer in all of the colours of the rainbow. I like the concept of life being a colour spectrum; able to blend seamlessly from one to another, while taking into account everything in between. Recently our company underwent a "Colours Seminar" as a way to help define each person's personality and help build constructive communication amongst people. Now, maybe it's because I've spent years of my life surrounded by the rainbow of queer culture, or maybe it's just because I'm a rationale thinker, but I already knew that people are different, so they have different communication styles. Then again, I guess part of the spectrum is that some people are idiots and need to have it explained to them.


Two people will interpret the exact same lecture in very different ways. So I didn't really think that the company needed to spend money on hosting this seminar (which by the way was mandatory for all staff- thus COMPLETELY screwing up the production schedule and putting excess stress on operators already on a tight timeline).

I find it difficult to accept that people can be pigeonholed into one of four distinct personality categories (in this case they were titled by colours- Blue, Green, Gold, and Orange). True, the assesment showed that we're all a blend of all 4, it's just how dominant one or another colour is... but I still find it a little insulting somehow.

The "self assesment" to determine which colour you are was questionable... At one point the Seminar Facilitator (for lack of a better term) said that "Perception is reality. How someone perceives your communication is the reality of who you are to that person," yet then went on at a later point to explain how SOME people will use their secondary (2nd most dominant colour) as a "mask" if they are afraid to show their "true" colour.

Wait a minute- if another person's perception of me is indeed the reality of who I am according to that person, how can I be wearing a mask and "really" be someone else? I thought who I am is based on how other's perceive me. You can't have it both ways.

Isn't it possible that my "self assessment" of myself is really who I wish I was, not who I actually am? Could I be writing down the answers I want to be true, when in fact how I'm perceived is completely different? And when it comes to facilitating harmonious work relationships, isn't how I'm perceived the root of any friction I cause (I'll admit- I'm perceived as a bit of a bitch. Probably because I'm right all of the time and stand up for myself. In the interest of professional advancement I'm working on that... the being perceived as a bitch part at least).

It also got me thinking of how subjective our interpretations of the personality traits are. For example, in a list of words "open-minded/spontaneous," I identify with open-minded, but I am NOT a spontaneous person. How about the phrase "fun loving?" Of course I love to have fun, but how I define fun is very different from how others define it. Fun for me is a good book I can't put down. Board games with my sister. A quiet night watching my spouse play video games. Others would think I'm totally lame, but seriously, I live for the quiet peaceful moments. Or how about "family values?" How do YOU show that you value your family? Showing respect for your elders by doing your duty to care for them in their old age? Working 12-14 hours a day to bring home enough money to provide the best schools, the best toys, and anything else your children could ever buy? Are you into "tough love" or "give them everything I lacked?"


But it got me thinking of all of the other "personality profile assessments" out there. Some are legit... some are questionable. I've taken quite a few in my life (despite my dislike of pigeonholes and labelling), and I almost always felt as though I was the square peg they were trying to force into a round hole. Funny, that literally used to be my job at this company up until I transferred last spring. There's the fully recognized Myers-Briggs assessments, as well as the BSRI to help determine people's gender roles. I'll admit, I've taken the BSRI many times online or out of my Gender Studies text book, and gotten a different answer every time.

So- what's your take on personality assessments?  Are they linked to culture? Gender? Are they Pop-psychology fluff? Do they account for the wonderful myriad of people that make up this crazy world and build understanding, or do they over-simplify and create fissures and fractures?


  1. I think that they are for fun. However, I have done the Myers-Briggs before and from what I can remember, I think it is an accurate representative of who I am. I don't think it accurately represents everyone, as there are a lot of different personalities in the world and it's hard to place everyone into categories. But really, why should you have to place people into certain categories? Why can't we be a little of everything? Plus, I find as I get older, I am changing a little bit. Since becoming a nurse, I am more extroverted than I ever used to be.

  2. I found this particular one interesting as a curiosity, but also found it to be complete bull crap. Yes, it described me, but I found most of the categories did, so how can you say "Oh, they're a green!"