Churches seem to love conducting personality tests these days. But what does an Enneagram test and other similar ones accomplish?
Back in August, I took an Enneagram test at a church meeting. The Enneagram is a personality assessment that sets out to help explain who the real you actually is.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve taken such a test. About a dozen years ago, I took a “spiritual gifts” test. That one analyzed your talents, and I scored high on things like wisdom, discernment and “creative communications.” That third one came as good news, since “creative communications” is what I did for 20 years in marketing!
I’ve also taken the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, which determines which you are from among 16 personality types.
Myers-Brigs says I’m an ISFJ. The Enneagram test says I’m a type 6.
I found it interesting to read what those codes meant.
But in the end, what difference does it make?
My problem with churches giving personality tests
Relevant recently published an article with four rules about the Enneagram test. One of the key rules is states should be in effect is that you shouldn’t “guess” someone’s type, as in, “Oh, you’re definitely a ‘5.’”
I can see that, since I don’t know the individual results — and more importantly — the deep-down inner person well enough to be able to make such an assessment.
You also, the article says, should not use the test results to manipulate people or exploit them. Well, here’s the problem: this is exactly why churches would give the test as a group exercise. They want to know how many 2s and how many 7s are in their midst. If they have a room full of 4s, that might mean something different than having a room full of 9s.
Knowing which you are means they know what your strengths and weaknesses might be. They know who’s better at persuading others. They know who’s better at having “difficult conversations.” And they know which types are likely to just sit back and go with the flow.
Don’t get me wrong: I think it can be interesting and even helpful for someone to know his or her own personality type. That’s especially true if you think the test sufficiently defined the real you.
But in a group exercise, where I’m still struggling to remember people’s names, there’s a zero percent chance I’ll ever remember their type. So sharing that information, on one hand, is useless.
And how do I treat people if I do know their type? Won’t I inherently try to exploit them if I know the best way to do so? I’d like to think I wouldn’t, but I can only know what my own intent would be. In a group setting, there’s no telling what others have in mind.
Maybe such personality test results are best shared with no one but the test taker. A group discussion about how each distinct personality fits in is one thing; sharing those results with the group as the discussion about fitting in happens seems potentially exploitive to me.