How Green Is Your Grass?

Steph_2 copy (2)This post by Stephanie Stamm

Have you ever taken a personality inventory test? Most of us probably have at some point or other—for school, to understand what kind of career might suit us, as part of a job interview, or maybe just for fun. The Myers-Briggs test is one of the most familiar and groups people into 16 personality types based on four different sets of preferences:

  • Extroversion (E) v. Introversion (I) (Where do you get your energy—from others or from being alone?)
  • Sensing (S) v. Intuition (N) (How do you process information?)
  • Thinking (T) v. Feeling (F) (How do you make decisions—logically or based on your feelings?)
  • Judging (J) v. Perceiving (P) (Do you prefer to have things decided/set or to keep your options open?)

I happen to be an INFP, which means that I get my energy from alone time, I rely more on my intuition than my senses, I make decisions based on gut feelings, and I prefer to keep my options open when possible. If you don’t know your Myers-Briggs personality type and would like to, you can click here to take a free online test.

The Enneagram is a different inventory that divides people into nine types. (Depending on what source you read, those types may be called by different names, but they have the same basic characteristics. The terms I use are from Integrative Enneagram Solutions, because I took their test.)

EnnBasicBlack

  1. Strict Perfectionist
  2. Considerate Helper
  3. Competitive Achiever
  4. Intense Creative
  5. Quiet Specialist
  6. Loyal Skeptic
  7. Enthusiastic Visionary
  8. Active Controller
  9. Adaptive Peacemaker

The Enneagram is quite complex. Each type is impacted by one or both of their adjacent types (called wings) and by those to which they are connected by the lines shown in the diagram. For the purposes of this blog post, I’m mostly concerned with the primary type. I’m a Type 4, the Intense Creative (also called the Romantic, the Individualist, the Designer). Type 4s value originality, creativity, self-expression, authenticity. We’re also moody and have a tendency to think something is missing in our lives while others have it. In other words, the grass is always greener in someone else’s yard or pasture.

The Enneagram allows for growth, and we can work to integrate the traits of the adjacent types and those linked by the arrows. As we grow and integrate, we can strengthen those areas where we are weak.

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Thanks (finally) to the arrival of spring, the real grass in my yard is looking green too—complete with flowers!

In the year or so since I took this test, I’ve done a lot of internal work. In learning to honor my need for authentic self-expression and to draw on the strengths of my wing (Type 3 Competitive Achiever), I’m shifting that “grass is always greener” perspective. Now, those places in my life where I’d felt stuck or stagnant no longer feel that way, some of the circumstances that I’d found frustrating seem to be fine, and my grass is looking pretty green.

In addition to helping us better understand ourselves, the Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram also provide useful tools for writers. By figuring out which personality types best fit our hero or heroine, our antagonist, and our supporting characters, we can learn more about what might motivate them, which can help us guide their actions and reactions in our stories. An unintegrated Type 4 with a strong “grass is greener” perspective, for example, could build up some heavy resentments toward others. How might that make him or her behave?

Do you know your Myers-Briggs and/or Enneagram type? If so, what type(s) are you? Have you ever used a personality inventory to help shape your characters? How green is your grass?

 

Enneagram image from http://www.fitzel.ca.

 

Connect with Stephanie Stamm:

http://www.stephanieastamm.com

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Stephanie Stamm is the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy A Gift of Wings(She is working on the sequel.)

A Gift of Wings Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

She has also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover

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23 Responses to How Green Is Your Grass?

  1. Kathy Waller says:

    Interesting. I took both tests years ago but can’t remember specific results. I’d like to take them again–thanks for the links. I can say without the test, however, that I’m an INFP–to the max.

    Like

    • sstamm625 says:

      Another INFP. Funny, there are at least three of us in this group, yet according to what I’ve read, we are a minority in terms of the larger population. As Kate commented, perhaps many writers are INFPs.

      Like

  2. Mike Staton says:

    Reading a book on POV. The writer advises the reader who is writing a novel to interview your character to draw out personality traits. These personality tests look like another avenue. Maybe interview the new character to more fully form the personality, then take the personality test to do even more refining.

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    • sstamm625 says:

      I’ve done a little bit of interviewing too, Mike, mostly when I get stuck. I also use character detail sheets to capture things about my characters–from physical details to personality traits.

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  3. Wranglers says:

    I am an ENTP. • They use metaphors, stories, images and analogies to make their point.They love theories and often shape their own. They see patterns emerging. Keen improvisers, they are rarely caught off guard, there is always something up their sleeve. The sky is the only limit. LOL Is this me? Like Mike, I have interviewed my characters. Cher’ley

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  4. katewyland says:

    I’m an INFP too. I suspect most writers are. I think I was a 4, don’t really remember.

    I’ve never used Briggs-Meyers to develop a character, but I have used Enneagrams. “Believable Characters, Creating with Enneagrams” by Laurie Schnebly is a great book for doing that. Really helps with motivation, reactions, and fatal flaws.

    Fun post.

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  5. I took personality/career tests when I was younger, and frankly, I think they’re over-rated. As for my grass, it’s green dotted with yellow leaves. Thanks for an interesting post.

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    • sstamm625 says:

      Thanks, Abbie. Any tests can be misused, I think. But sometimes they can provide helpful tools as well. As in all things, some tools work for some of us and others work for others. My grass is now dotted with lots of yellow dandelions. 🙂

      Like

  6. Doris says:

    Fascinating, it has been years since I took any of those tests. I have probably changed considerably since that time (age, experience, etc) so a retest might be a good idea. I also agree it can help when understanding your characters. (Bless their little hearts).

    Enjoyed this a lot. Doris

    Like

    • sstamm625 says:

      Thanks, Doris! We do change over time. I originally tested as an INFJ, but as I grew (and became more myself and less my father), his J settled into my P. I’m also less strongly I now, because I’ve had to learn extroversion because of work. I’m still an I, but it leans more toward the E than it used to.

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  7. Doris says:

    By the way the test had be ISTP this time. Doris

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  8. Nancy Jardine says:

    From a cursory glance at the site I seem to be an ISTP, Stephanie- a bit of a muddle maybe. 😉 I’d not heard of the use is writing, though -good tip, thank you. As a natural ‘pantser’ I’d need to do a bit more planning to try out the ‘character’ plotting but it sounds very interesting.

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    • sstamm625 says:

      Sometimes just reading some of the descriptions is enough to figure out where we fit. Doris said she tested as an ISTP this time. Yeah, I’m something of a pantser too, Nancy–or really, I guess I’m a “tweener.” I outline the big stuff and then pants my way in between the big scenes. Also as an NF, an intuitive gut feeler, I tend to just envision my characters and their traits and run with them, only looking into things like personality typing for them after the fact. I find it interesting though.

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  9. This was a very interesting post. I’m an IFSP. Long ago my workplace had all managerial staff take this test to help them interact with each other. We each brought different skills to the hospital I worked in and we all found this helpful. We also had a session afterwards where we had to solve a problem in groups of four. This was really fun and intense. It made us all see where we could give and take when making decisions that affected our department with another’s. I notice here on WW&W most of us have different scores. I think that makes for a fantastic mix of authors who all approach their work in different ways, yet all respect the others work and get along well. Thanks Stephanie!

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    • sstamm625 says:

      Thanks, Linda! That sounds like a great exercise–to see how each person could contribute from their own strengths and interests and learn from and help each other. Very cool! We are a good mix too–very diverse.

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  10. erinfarwell says:

    Hi Steph – great post. I can’t remember what I am but I do know that the test saved my marriage! I learned that I am more comfortable after a decision is made because then I know what to do, Mike (and his parents) are more comfortable before a decision is made because their options are open. Understanding this has made a huge difference in being able to understand where the other person is coming from and getting to a decision. 🙂

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    • sstamm625 says:

      Hi Erin! Wow, that’s a great testimony. It is amazingly helpful to find out why people do what they do and where they are coming from. It’s eye-opening to realize not everybody sees the world the way “I” do. Doing the enneagram made me understand my parents better too.

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  11. Stephanie, I’m like you: INFP (with emphasis on FEELINGS!) I love your idea for using the test for characters (though I wonder if dogs would be tested the same way! LOL) Great insights and ideas, and an insightful post!

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    • sstamm625 says:

      Thanks, Gayle. I think that makes four of us in the group who are INFPs. It is funny to think of testing dogs the same way–or cats, in my case. Someone cleverer than I am could probably come up with a great set of types based on preferred ways of napping, eating, tail chasing, etc.

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