Have you ever incorporated personality testing into your bcomm courses? Others have. In fact, quite a few articles on personality analysis have appeared in Business Communication Quarterly over the years—such as Valerie Priscilla Goby and Justus Helen Lewis’s “Using Experiential Learning Theory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in Teaching Business Communication” and Nancy K. Schullery and Melissa K. Gibson’s “Working in Groups: Indentification and Treatment of Students’ Perceived Weaknesses.” But while I’ve always found personality tests intriguing, I’ve never used them in my classes.
Maybe that’s about to change.
As a board member for a nonprofit group, I was recently asked, along with the other members, to take a free online personality test at enneagraminstitute.com in preparation for working with a new director. The results were fascinating—and also seemingly on target and useful.
The questions in The Enneagram Institute’s approach test for tendencies toward nine different personality types: the reformer, the helper, the achiever, the individualist, the investigator, the loyalist, the enthusiast, the challenger, and the peacemaker. As you’d expect, each has its particular strengths and weaknesses. For example, the enthusiast is “busy, productive, . . . extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous,” as the website says—but also easily distracted, prone to exhaustion, impatient, and impulsive. Also as you’d expect, no one falls into just one category, though each person has one predominant category.
Such tests are often used in business to identify the most promising job candidates, help with team building, coach employees on their career development, and improve organizational culture. I get the impression that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, developed during World War II, is still the most popular and highly regarded test (certainly among Business Communication Quarterly authors), but other tests and categorizing systems are also on the playing field.
—Queendom.com, a subsidiary of the high-tech psychometric company PsychTests AIM Inc., offers a Big Five Personality Test (along with a communication skills test, an emotional intelligence test, and others). The test places each taker along five continuua: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (emotional stability).
—Maximumadvantage.com (whose tagline is “Psychology Applied to Business”) identifies four personality types: the “bottom line person,” the “people person,” the “’can’t we all get along’ person,” and the “detail person.” Of particular relevance to us, the site links these types to four communication styles.
–Australian communication consultant Lee Hopkins identifies “the four personality” types as “extrovert,” “amiable,” “analytical,” and “pragmatic” and bases his communication advice on these.
–The Keirsey Temperament Sorter was developed by David Keirsey as a variant on Myers-Briggs. His test—which, like Myers-Briggs, yields 16 personality types—measures people’s tendencies in regard to four scales: abstract/concrete, cooperative/utilitarian, directive/informative, and expressive/attentive.
What uses spring to mind as you contemplate these tests and typologies in relation to bcomm? Here are the main ones I think of:
–Have students use one or more of these typologies to become more self-aware, which can make them better team members and more adaptable communicators.
–Use one or more of these typologies to make students sensitive to others’ personalities and thus enhance students’ audience analysis. (Wouldn’t it be fun and enlightening to have students analyze the personality types revealed in sample documents or speeches?)
–Use one or more of these tests/typologies as the basis for a major assignment—for example, a report comparing several tests or a proposal recommending that a company use one of them.
I must confess that personality typing systems scare me a bit. Maybe that’s why I’ve held off on using them. Seeing others as “types” can blind students to the uniqueness of each individual—and I’m very uneasy with those who suggest (or sometimes even say) that hiring committees should use these tests to screen out everyone except extroverted, cooperative, high-energy people.
But I think that, if used wisely, personality types can help our students achieve the interpersonal acumen and skill that we’re hoping they’ll achieve.
What do you think?