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.)
- Strict Perfectionist
- Considerate Helper
- Competitive Achiever
- Intense Creative
- Quiet Specialist
- Loyal Skeptic
- Enthusiastic Visionary
- Active Controller
- 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.
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:
Stephanie Stamm is the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy A Gift of Wings. (She is working on the sequel.)
She has also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes: