Theories of Personality: I don’t know you, but I know I won’t like you

Do you ever wish you could look at a person and just know whether or not the two of you can get along? Think about it. Wouldn’t it be much simpler if people could just tell from the start whether or not they are in the right company? That way, we could avoid people we don’t want to be around, and surround ourselves only with people who we know we’d have no problems with. I know I’m not just speaking for myself when I say these things. Throughout history, mankind has made attempts to predict behavior. A simple Google search with the keywords “theory of personality” brings up a multitude of names, dates, hypotheses, and researches dedicated to understanding how and why people get along with some, and loathe others. One such theory was developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and Catherine Cook Briggs.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator theorizes that people are extraverted or introverted, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. A combination of these traits forms a general picture of how the individual forms pictures and makes decisions regarding the world around them. Interestingly, the MBTI has been absorbed by pop culture to the extent that a decent following of people use it to determine their interaction with other people.

Here are a few examples. I took the MBTI test, and found that I was classified as an INFJ personality; introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. According to supporters of the MBTI, INFJ relationships tend to follow a set of personal standards, and are full of intensity and meaning. INFJs are said to be perfectionists who strive for the “best” relationship. On the other hand, a friend of mine took the test and turned out to be ENFJ; pretty similar to me, except he was considered an extrovert. The personality inventory would have that ENFJ relationships are usually warm, with the occasional tension created by the ENFJ personality’s strict observance of how he believes the relationship should be. The list goes on to cover a vast majority of traits possessed by every human being. People can interpret the results to determine whether people are jealous or not, whether they make good families or not, etc.

I’ll be honest here, though: I sometimes wonder how valid such theories of personality are. I mean yes, they give us some grasp of how people think; and yes, they allow us to make predictions of human behavior. But are human beings really limited by such rigid rules?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not against psychology, and I fully support the quest for understanding human behavior. I understand the importance of needing to understand the thought process and interaction process that happens between each person on this planet. What I don’t understand however, is why single theories of personality are held by some people to be all that people follow.

Here’s what I believe: mankind does follow a set of rules hardwired into our genetic code. We follow rules that guide our personality and tell us who we are. But I really don’t believe mankind is so shallow as to be encompassed by a single theory of how we behave.

I don’t feel strongly for what pop culture has done to theories of personality originally meant to serve as bases on which we ground our understanding of who we are as human beings: turn it into a set of rules that dictate who we make good matchups with, and who we should avoid before we even have a chance to meet the person. Sadly, personality tests have turned into mere compatibility tests.

No, I don’t believe that at all. Nothing beats good old fashioned experience when it comes to meeting new people; getting to know them so you can tell if they’re the ones you should be around. When it comes right down to it, the best compatibility test is called meeting in person.