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What Do Personality Tests Really Say About Us?

What do personality tests really say about us? From the ever popular Enneagram, to Meyers-Briggs, to Strengths Finder, the possibilities for self actualization and discovery seem endless. Chris and Tim present personality tests as a tool to use in all relationships for better understanding and empathy, while still leaving room for personal growth and development.

Speaker 1:    Welcome to another Art of Relationships Podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.

Chris Grace:    Well, so good to be here, Tim, for another podcast with you. Good to have you.

Tim Muehlhoff:    It's always great to do with you Chris.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, and it's really fun because Tim, we get to talk about all things relationship on this podcast and you and I have been having a conversation recently about a new topic related to relationships. And I get questions like this. Students come in, couples come in, or a person comes in and asks me, "Hey, I've taken this personality test and I'm really excited about it. I'm a number seven." Or "I'm a number three." I go, okay, you taken-

Tim Muehlhoff:    I'm an Enneagram five.

Chris Grace:    You've taken an Enneagram haven't you? Or they come in, "I am an INFTP. Or whatever, the Myers Briggs and Tim, what's so fascinating to me is these tests are so popular out there. Why are they so popular and why do people love them so much?

Tim Muehlhoff:    Well, let me say two things. One. So I've done the Enneagram, my wife's done Enneagram and here's why I think it's popular. I can read that Chris. And it is helpful to read a couple things and think, oh boy, that is exactly me that that was a good description of me. I'm an Enneagram five which means I have a very small gas tank in social situations. So I get tired pretty quickly. For Noreen to know that, that when we go to a party it's, she laughs at me all the time. Because the first question I ask is, "Hey, when are we going to leave?" Because then I can measure up my gas tank. But there's other parts of it that I read and I go, "Boy that is just absolutely not me, I just wouldn't say I'm a five, I might be like a five and a six or something." And the Enneagram allows that.

Tim Muehlhoff:    So one of the reasons I think it's popular, I think people see some truth in it. I think they look at it and say, "Wow, that was really helpful. I don't know if I buy all of it, but that was pretty helpful." So we're going to take a balanced approach to these tests, but we think there's something there. You can get some good insight. Why do you think they're so popular?

Chris Grace:    Well, I think because they help people be able to categorize themselves and people love knowing about who they are. I love wanting to figure out.. So you and I, we probably learned in taking these tests or just in life in general, that we're both slightly more introverted than extroverted. Right?

Tim Muehlhoff:    Which would probably surprised people listening to our show.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. Students are always surprised because they see us in a different role and they think you're extroverted. And when I tell them no, I mean, you're going to find me at a party in the corner, usually.

Tim Muehlhoff:    In the fetal position.

Chris Grace:    In the fetal position. And so I think they're interesting because they give insights into people like you just shared. That can be helpful as they navigate things and figure out, wow, this is what I'm like. And that could be really good to know maybe what kind of job I should have or what kind of career I should go into. And I think used in that way for self-reflection, these personality tests could be really interesting and really intriguing.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And if you're thinking about getting married, we advocate these things can be helpful again to serve as the categories and to give a conversation. Starting points with couples who are about to get married. I think they can serve as some nice things. What's the one that you love to take couples through?

Chris Grace:    Yeah. Prepare and Enrich is something that provides couples with similar kinds of measures and scales, but they get to see not only where they are strong or maybe some opportunities they have for growth, they could see where the person they are with a scores high or low. And then compatibility based upon that opens up good conversations. Right.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And that's the key, Chris. It opens up good conversations. That's what I like about other... Because you could say to a couple, "Okay sit down on your own, at Starbucks and just describe your personality trait to another person. Describe your tendencies to another person." I bet you would get some pretty short conversations and not very diverse. But so I like it as a tool to sit down and say, "Okay, in these ten categories, how do you rank on these ten categories?" That gives people language by which they can frame a good conversation. To me that's nice. I like that. I like having terminology that we both can use to talk about family backgrounds or personality traits.

Chris Grace:    Okay, so then let's dive into this just a little bit and here's the context Tim, I think would be great for this podcast and it's this. Personality inventories, let's say we've already mentioned a couple of these. Prepare and Enrich has some good material. The Enneagram is clearly a very popular one these days. Myers Briggs is probably the single most adopted personality inventory used today.

Tim Muehlhoff:    How long's that been around? I remember hearing about that in college.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, I would say it's probably 30 years at least, and so everybody knows that if they are an ENFP or an ISFJ or whatever.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Or an S-T-U-P-I-D.

Chris Grace:    That too, I guess. So there's these 16 categories. Now. Tim, let's throw... And then the idea that I want to talk about with you today is the use of these in appropriate good ways and the inappropriate use of these. What people should not do because there are some cautions that you and I would give people if they are going to use, and let's just cut right to the chase. My biggest concern would be as a psychologist and as a research psychologist that people are using tests like these to make very important life decisions such as who to marry or if to get engaged to somebody based upon the results of one of these test scores and frankly that concerns most psychologists out there.

Chris Grace:    Any licensed clinical psychologist would say, "Hold on here, you cannot use something like the Myers Briggs or the Enneagram to help you decide very important decisions, such as marrying or how, even some would say, not even using it, how to hire somebody." There's too many problems with this, so let's dive into it.

Tim Muehlhoff:    But you would say it's good to use reflectively. It's good to be aware of, but not solely based on the Myers Briggs am I going to make a huge decision?

Chris Grace:    I think that's right Tim. I think it's wise to get any kind of data and information about yourself, your tendencies. Do you really want to be with somebody who scores pretty high on neuroticism, or pretty low on conscientiousness. When you are really driven that way. So people have always asked, "He's such an extrovert and I'm such an introvert, is this really going to be a problem?" I'm like, "Well I think you might want to go off of more than just a score on a personality test."

Tim Muehlhoff:    So there's a communication scholar, his name's G.A. Quattrone and he came up with this three step process we always use when judging a person, right? The first thing we do is we put them in categories and then those categories are filled with characterizations. But the last one is correction. So I don't mind the Myers Brigg or the Enneagram doing the first two. Putting me in a category with characteristics. So long as I get a chance with that person to add the correction stage. So for me to say, "Yeah, with the Enneagram, I'm this or that, but I'm really not that." I like that. So and allow a person to be robust when talking about how they're different from what these tests would have. I think that then I think that's good. Then we're back to that common language and I think it could be really helpful.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, I think that is helpful. Tim, I love those categories and I love that opportunity. I think if I had to just maybe summarize my view on these tests, it would be this. They're interesting. They're self-reflective. They can be entertaining, right? They can reveal some things. I would say take them with a grain of salt. You don't make big decisions based upon this. If you asked me what would be the most important variable in making a decision about being with somebody, you and I would say, "Well, are they kind? Do they love God? Are they the kind of person you have fun with?" There are variables and characteristics that all people should have, right? Yeah. I would say the variable that's more important to me than any score on one of these personality tests is patterns of behavior, right?

Chris Grace:    Not potential, right? Someone says, "Well, but I think this person I'm with could be really good or could be fun. They show all these maybe patterns of behavior that aren't really healthy now, but they'll change." And we want to say, "Listen, you better select somebody if you're in a serious relationship based upon how they've behaved, their patterns." Because that is more predictive of how they're going to behave in the future,, then any personality tests, personality test isn't going to be as predictive as is their past behavior. Right. It's patterns, not potential, not personality types that are really important here. What do you think?

Tim Muehlhoff:    But isn't that what the Enneagram is supposed to get? Not, the reason I'm focusing on that is, Noreen's very much into this. I have a really dear friend who I absolutely trust his walk with the Lord. He's an academic, has a PhD. He loves the Enneagram and knows exactly how to use it. He's taken classes. He's been to conferences on this. So I think that's what the Enneagram is trying to do is to say patterns. But now the Enneagram is maybe a little bit different than Myers Briggs, but I want to ask you about the Myers Briggs to say maybe it's in the same category. So some people are really opposed to the Enneagram because of its origin. It comes from a mystic background. It comes from the Desert Fathers, have greatly added to this. So some people have stepped up and said, "Yeah, I don't want to do that. We're not going to use it because of its maybe dubious background."

Tim Muehlhoff:    But I would say this, we, we've always had to wrestle with that as the church. Remember there's an old phrase, what does Jerusalem have to do with Athens? What does God's people have to do with the world of philosophers? And yet we borrow from Plato. We borrow from Socrates, we borrow from a bunch of different philosophers, non-Christians. You have to learn to sift the good with the bad. And so I wouldn't throw out the Enneagram per se, just because it comes from maybe mystic backgrounds. I would use it discerningly. But let me ask this about Myers Briggs. Okay, so these are non-Christian psychologists coming up with this, right?

Chris Grace:    Yeah, I believe that would be correct. And they're not psychologists. They are not academicians. They're not researchers. They are just two people.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Myers Briggs?

Chris Grace:    Oh no.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Oh, I didn't know this.

Chris Grace:    No, they used Carl Jung's topology. They are not considered scientists or academicians or researchers. In fact, all academic personality psychologists would frown upon the use of anything like an Enneagram or Myers-Briggs because they're not scientifically validated. Now, that comes with some caveats. There are people who've done research on these things and they would push back and say, "No, we've done a lot of research on the Myers Briggs." But they were not designed or created by people who are psychometrically trained. Nobody with a PhD in personality would use these tests, so that's very important. They would use another test. There is one personality inventory out there. That's what's called an objective multi... Like the MMPI. Okay.

Chris Grace:    The MMPI, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory is used by personality psychologist, is used by schools is very valid because it has a great scientific-

Tim Muehlhoff:    I've never even heard of that.

Chris Grace:    Oh yeah. The MMPI is probably the most, in fact, many of our schools still use it today, Talbot School of Theology and [Rosemead 00:12:09] have all used the MMPI. Schools use that and I believe in a very appropriate way, but you have to be trained, you have to know what you're doing, and you have to have some psychometric graduate school training. You do not need a single psychometric class or background in Myers-Briggs or Enneagram, because they are not scientifically valid, that or researched out.

Tim Muehlhoff:    My goal is for the rest of the day is to use psychometric at least five times today. I'm simply going to say that.

Chris Grace:    Okay.

Tim Muehlhoff:    I love that phrase. Psychometric. We didn't have that in theater. Hey, so listen, let me go back. Here's my point I want to try to make, is the Myers Briggs, like the Enneagram isn't coming from a Christian origin.

Chris Grace:    No.

Tim Muehlhoff:    It's not coming from that Christian world view.

Chris Grace:    That's correct.

Tim Muehlhoff:    So we would, even if we thought the Myers Briggs was useful, you still as a Christian have to be discerning to say if this doesn't square with scripture...

Chris Grace:    Sure.

Tim Muehlhoff:    The Enneagram, the Myers Brigg, whatever.

Chris Grace:    That's right.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Then we're going to get rid of that. So we don't throw the baby out with the bath water. We rather say as a Christian we have to be discerning, integrate when possible. But there could be aspects of it that you simply can't integrate. You're like, "Okay then, I'm not going to..." So, I'm fearful of just throwing the whole thing out. And the Enneagram is what I'm talking about. Because that's the one that's been gone after a little bit by theologians. I'd be careful just to throw things out because you start to throw things out. Then we're a closed Christian community only using what Christians come up with. And then we're going to vet those Christians to say where you are conservative Christian, where you an evangelical Christian? That to me is a little bit of a rabbit hole that I don't necessarily want to go, I don't want to go down.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. Well and I agree Tim. Because there's so much out there that we can use for good, right? There are things that are happening, the are just important. Hey, let's do this. Tim, let's take a break cause we have a couple of questions that we now have to talk about when it comes to how do and what should we use to guide us in making important decisions.

Tim Muehlhoff:    That sounds great.

Chris Grace:    Let's take a break.

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Chris Grace:    So Tim, as we started this conversation about personality types and the use of this, really what we're getting at is a bigger picture. What is helpful in deciding whether or not you're in a healthy relationship or not? An Enneagram, a Myers Briggs, the Prepare and Enrich such valuable tools to give you, as someone who's an expert in relationships, you have a PhD in communication. You talk to people all the time, all over the world who say, "I want to know, am I right for this person? Are they right for me? Am I healthy? Are they healthy? Should I make a decision based on these things?" And you are saying, man, use these tests to help you understand a little bit more about yourself. And a little bit about the you're the person you're with, but they're just tools. One tool in a big tool bag.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah. I first have to check the psychometric verification of that particular tool. So let's get a little controversial. Here's one that I think is helpful, but it concerns me the way it was packaged. So if you've not read the Five Love Languages by Doctor Gary Chapman, okay, you got to read it. It's like a staple, I would say to a young couple. It's really good to know what your love language is. And I have found it helpful. So, what are the five? It's gift-giving, acts of service, words of affirmation... Gift-giving, words...

Chris Grace:    Let's see.

Tim Muehlhoff:    We'll just ask our producer. Does it...

Chris Grace:    Pause.

Tim Muehlhoff:    What's that? Quality time, look our producer got quality time. See that's awesome. Noreen is acts of service. Not that she doesn't appreciate words of affirmation. Of course she does, but that's not her primary love language. Mine without a doubt is words of affirmation. So sometimes we can be missing each other. Right. I can be saying affirming things to Noreen but not necessarily doing things. And Noreen speaks, does her love language. Right. Which is doing things for me but not necessarily her first inclination is to give me a compliment. Make sense? Listen, that's incredibly valuable information. I think that's awesome. So what's my one little concern? I don't think we needed to Christianize that right. I don't think we need to say as I look at the Bible, I see these five love languages. Right. Because if we did that Chris, I bet you we have ten love languages.

Chris Grace:    Well Tim, yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And this isn't being disparaging.

Chris Grace:    No.

Tim Muehlhoff:    I have recommended Doctor Chapman's book multiple times.

Chris Grace:    Sure.

Tim Muehlhoff:    I think it's super, super helpful. It just concerns me that we felt the need to say as I look at the scriptures, this is what's coming up. That to me can get us into some problem areas that I'd rather just avoid.

Chris Grace:    Tim, I appreciate you bringing this one up because something like this is really important for people to understand, but he would admit this as well. This isn't anything that Gary would say any differently. He didn't invent the five love languages. These had been around forever and ever. There's no such thing as only five love languages. There's hundreds potentially and because human beings are amazingly, wonderfully designed by God. Unique, created, individually different and we all hear and we all love somebody to serve us. We want all of those love languages. At some degree. He just simply landed on something that's pretty helpful and pretty interesting because he... But he didn't invent them and there's potentially way more that are interesting. So I think like you, I love the fact that he was able to grab something and use these and help people understand what they feel loved by. That's really helpful for me to know. It's helpful for me to know that my wife loves for me to spend time with her, for example, or whatever the case may be.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And married men across the country are now screaming at... that are listening to this, saying, "Physical touch! You forgot physical touch!" How could you forget?

Chris Grace:    We were saving the best for last.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah, we're saving the best for last.

Chris Grace:    We wanted you to sit there and come up with, wait, what was that one? And so Tim...

Tim Muehlhoff:    We're breaking stereotypes. We didn't want to say that was number one. So we purposely... Guys, this is all planned out. I don't know if you know this, but this is an elaborate podcast. No physical touch is a huge one. A lot of guys would identify with that. And again, please hear us when we're saying even at the CMR, at our events, we've sold the Love Languages book. It's a staple. See if God's common grace is real. If there's general revelation and specific revelation, specific revelation are the scriptures. But God is equally giving us general revelation. So general revelation means that we can learn from psychology, from communication theory, and we don't necessarily have to Christianize it. Now if something from psychology or something from comm theory directly goes against the scriptures, well then guess what? Who the tiebreaker is God's the tiebreaker. Scriptures determine what we can sift from comm theory or from psych.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, no, that's good. So now we're at a place where Tim, it might be helpful for listeners to say, "Okay, using such tools can be very helpful for me to understand a little bit more about myself. It can help in conversations, it can help in the beginning stages of a relationship and it could help solidify or make a marriage even stronger. If I can recognize the fact that one way I can serve my spouse better is through this particular love language. Or understanding a personality type that's there." There is a number of things are important when it comes to more formal personality testing. And so Tim, just from the field of psychology, what's really important is doing personality tests and inventories. You get people who spend an entire graduate program learning how to assess someone's personality, and they would take years just to study something.

Chris Grace:    For example, like a TAT thematic apperception test. You should see a picture or an or something similar to a Rorschach. These subjective projective tests. But people are trained and it takes years to understand them. MMPI, same thing. So the thing is most people do not get formal personality testing done and that's why they rely on these things that are more internet based or easy to take. It takes how long before I could finish the Enneagram or the Meyers-Briggs? 10, 15, 20 minutes. I just give you my results. Well, that's why I think a lot of people would say use it for this capacity, but not another one. Now the personality test, Tim from psychologist that we in this field think is really good, that actually separates all people.

Chris Grace:    People may not know what this personality test is, but it's just as easy to take. But it's based upon 40,, 50 60 years of research. Looking at the five characteristics that separate all people from each other, and it's your score and it's something that is known as, if you want a quick phrase. It's called the OCEAN or the OCEAN Personality Inventory. It's the big five. We call these big five traits.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And what are they? Can you tell us what they are?

Chris Grace:    Well, yeah, sure.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Physical touch. We just want to make sure we get that one in, Chris.

Chris Grace:    That one in first.

Tim Muehlhoff:    No, go ahead, I'm sorry.

Chris Grace:    Yeah. Thanks a lot. So OCEAN, let's go with the O openness. Openness for O means are you open, daring, nonconforming, imaginative? Lot of broad interests. So we vary on our openness. How nonconforming and daring are you? So you could be on one of two sides of this or somewhere in the middle of course. The C in OCEAN is conscientiousness. Are you ethical, dependable, productive, or purposeful? Or are you the kind that says, "Rules are meant for... They're just suggestions. I don't really have to follow these kinds of things." Or so ethical, dependable. That's the C. So, openness, conscientiousness, the E is extroversion. We all know that one. Extroverted, introvert, right? Talkative, sociable, fun loving, whatever. The A is agreeableness. Agreeableness is people could be highly sympathetic, warm, trusting, cooperative, or they're not as agreeable, right? They're not as warm or trusting or... And then the N is neuroticism.

Chris Grace:    You're anxious, maybe a little bit more insecure, a little bit more guilt prone. Self-conscious. Right? So the OCEAN is now... That's known as the big five personality traits.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And people can take that?

Chris Grace:    Yes. In fact, if you go to this website, right, it's really cool. I have all my students go do this. I've taken it myself. I use this when I talk about personality testing. You want to find something that's researched and well done. You find your score on OCEAN, where you land on these five, you will know almost everything you need to know about another person and yourself.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Wow.

Chris Grace:    So you go to a website, it's called of all thing, www.outofservice. One word,

Tim Muehlhoff:    Wow.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, so out of go in there, take it. Now you're in what we would say and you'll see a lot of similarities. Extroversion, introversion, right? Physical touch. You'll see all of these things and so the great acronym is OCEAN. That score is something that I would use with a lot of people to say, "Hey, here you go. Where are you at on this?"

Tim Muehlhoff:    How long would it take?

Chris Grace:    It probably only takes about the same as many of these things. I'd say about 15 to 20 minutes. Plus, you could also take it for somebody else because it's based upon things that you see them do and behave in ways and then you could just take it and see where your score is.

Tim Muehlhoff:    See, I think that's great for all stages of relationships. I think that's great in the beginning to get basic categories.

Chris Grace:    Oh I do too.

Tim Muehlhoff:    But also people change.

Chris Grace:    Yes.

Tim Muehlhoff:    You celebrate your tenth anniversary, why not sit down and just give yourself more vocabulary and don't assume that we all just stay stable. Maybe you won't see fundamental change, but there could be a good conversation starter about how I'm different than when we got married when it comes to this, this or this.

Chris Grace:    Oh, I remember my wife one time. We had that very conversation, been married about 15 years and say, Lisa, we were on a plane and just sitting there, I said, "Lisa, tell me something about you that... Where's your heart? What do you dream about? Where are your goals?" You remember [Gottman 00:25:37] talking about being a dream detector? And I said "Lisa, where are they?" And she says, "Chris, I love adventure. I love just new things and going and trying." So Tim, I remember what I came up with based upon that, I thought oh, okay, that's interesting. So I decided to plan our next vacation and I just surprised her because she likes adventure.

Chris Grace:    I said "Lisa, we and the kids were going for four days, just pack your bags." And she goes, "For what?" I go, "For four days." She goes, "How do I pack?" I said, "Just pack, we're going somewhere." And so we drove, we had an odd number of people in our family. So we drove to the five freeway and we said all right, vote North or South.

Tim Muehlhoff:    No way.

Chris Grace:    So we voted North or South. Then we hit the 91 it was East or West. We voted all right, East or West, and then was we all bought... So wherever we landed... And then we just ended up at someplace. We went and did whatever was nearby. We got a hotel, we did that for like three days. We got back and lisa said, "Chris, please don't ever do that again. I need a little bit more planning than that."

Tim Muehlhoff:    Love the sentiment.

Chris Grace:    Don't do...

Tim Muehlhoff:    Come on, I should have packed a coat.

Chris Grace:    I love adventure.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Come on.

Chris Grace:    So, okay, there's some good and bad maybe practical applications of that. Tim, this has been interesting because what personality inventories and types do is they help us to understand ourselves and who we are, our identity in Christ. And we would say we lead out with that. Right? Who you are as a believer and who I am. My identity in Jesus determines what I'm like. I'm forgiven, I'm loved, I'm valued. I'm thought of in his eyes, I'm forgiven. We could go through all of these amazing things and that's what leads out. Right.

Tim Muehlhoff:    And also don't feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. I mean these are tools. You don't have to reinvent all the tools. For example, we have a marriage mentoring workbook that if you want to mentor couples, you don't have to sit down and you or your spouse and come up with a marriage mentoring workbook. I mean that'd takes a long time when we've done that. And it has certain things that they can... Surveys that can take, tools.

Chris Grace:    Bunch of them.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah. Packed with stuff. So again, we are not anti tool. Just again be wise is a Christian. It cannot contradict scripture of course, and don't base everything on one tool. It'd be interesting to take different tools and then compare contrast. So listen, let's take advantage of research people have done. Creativity, artists, scholars, writers, but be wise. Invite people, stuff like that. So.

Chris Grace:    So Tim, let's end it this way. So you love the Enneagram, or at least you took it. What are you, what's your number and what's the label behind that? Do you know? Do you know your Enneagram score?

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah. So there's always a big disagreement with me. So I'm either a five, which is the investigator. That certainly makes a ton of sense. And I'm also probably a three and achiever. And again, it really does depend on the test that you take. There's an official website that you can go and actually pay money and it's quite a long test, but there's a ton of books.

Tim Muehlhoff:    So I would say I'm always kind of split between those two, but I have found it to be helpful and I read certain things about an achiever and I think, okay, that's just clearly not me. But a lot has resonated.

Chris Grace:    Yeah, yeah. Good.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Do you know yours? Have you ever done it?

Chris Grace:    I have actually. It's been a long time, but I do remember it was somewhere up in the eight, challenger. Seven and nine I can't remember, but they're high numbers, so...

Tim Muehlhoff:    I remember always, whenever you do this any test, always cross reference that with the psychodynamic-

Chris Grace:    Psychometric.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Psychodynamic tool fastener, hyperbole metric.

Chris Grace:    That's exactly, yes. This has been so informative.

Tim Muehlhoff:    I like to brag, sometimes, Chris. I could just do this all day.

Chris Grace:    Hey, this is really helpful. We're really glad to just come together and visit about these kinds of things, and Tim, it's been fun.

Tim Muehlhoff:    Yeah, it's been great.

Chris Grace:    Hope you guys enjoyed it. Bye.

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