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Know Thyself. A Guide for Teachers to Better Understand Themselves and Others

How Well Do You Know Yourself?

“I dare not confess that lest I should compare with him in excellence, but to know a man well were to know himself.” – Shakespeare, Hamlet

I took my first personality test in college. I remember taking the Myers Briggs personality test. When I done I was an ENFJ or something close to those letters. I don’t remember what any of those letters mean except the first one “E”. E means that I am an extrovert, if there had been an “I” at the beginning it would be that I am an introvert. If you are around me for any length of time at all you would know that I am indeed an extrovert, and I’m sure those other letters are meaningful, but I didn’t pay them much attention. Fast forward to one of my first corporate jobs at Texas Instruments. I was a Business Analyst and at TI we had “Service Excellence Training”. This is where I first heard of the DISC personality test. Everyone on my team, which was rather large, all took the test. Then we were divided into groups based on the letters. I was in the “I” quadrant where most of my team was in the “D” quadrant. I worked with a very analytical group of engineers. We would often butt heads when it came to problem solving because we approached problems two different ways. I am a people person so I often used emotion and a sense of urgency to try to solve a problem. Engineers use data and facts. Without the data they were unable to move forward, but I didn’t understand that. My personality is such that you just start looking for a problem when you are told there is a problem. Why stop for data? But the more I learned about how they worked, and the more they understood how I worked, we could better work together to accomplish our end goal – solve problems.

The DISC test is great for understanding core elements of your personality, but I still found it limiting. It was less complicated than the Myers Briggs, but the letters, and knowing that someone was in a specific quadrant, wasn’t easy for me to understand or remember.

After I took the DISC test, the next year at TI we also took the Strengths Finder Test. This test gives you your top 5 strengths out of a total 34 possible strengths. I loved this test because it tells you to focus on your strengths, focus on what you are good at and find others with complimentary strengths to help you fill in the gaps with your projects. This is a great tool, but I feel like it was too focused on just these five strengths and not the overall core of my personality. It further covered so many strengths that it was hard to keep up with what other strengths meant. Some strengths were “Woo”‘ or “Strategic”. These general terms give me some idea of what another’s strengths might be, but sometimes the answers weren’t super obvious.

One summer I worked at a church and the pastor wanted everyone on staff to take a personality test. That test was called “Servants by Design” and the pastor said, “This test saved my marriage!” Some tests are really good at exposing blindspots in ourselves and can even highlight areas where we are different – by design. If we realize that everyone is created differently and uniquely we can stop trying to make them conform to how we see the world.

I took Servants by Design and it turns out that I am a “Harmonizer” first and an “Energizer” second. This means that I bring harmony to most situations and the “Energizer” part of my personality gets things done. Good to know, but there are also “Dreamers” and other personality types that I don’t remember. I also read through the material associated with this test and parts of it didn’t resonate with me. So fast forward to Enneagram. Enneagram is like the ring from Lord of the Rings – it is the “One Test to Rule them All”. I took the Enneagram test and it turns out I am a 7. When I read through all of the personality types, I could not only remember each type, but nine times out of 10 I could spot a number in my closer relationships. My mentor is a 5, the Investigator, one of my closes friends is an 8, the challenger. Each of these numbers and corresponding one word description immediately sums up that person – almost perfectly. However, there are “wings” associated with each number. An example would be I am a 7 and so I could have a 6 or 8 wing. A 6 is the Loyalist, the 8 is the challenger. So when someone challenges me on something I think I am an expert then I shift into becoming more like an 8. I stand up for myself and what I believe to be true. The Enneagram is so helpful that it has healed many of my relationships because I can understand others better. When someone is a 9, the Peacemaker, then I get who they are and can understand why they are non confrontational and sometimes even slow to respond. Instead of thinking that a 9 is uninterested or aloof, if you know that a person is a 9 and you understand their attributes you can know that they are going to contemplate and process the information that you are giving them.

Understanding Ourselves Helps Us to Understand Others Better

So to summarize all of this, each personality test is amazing and helped me understand myself and others a bit better. However, the Enneagram has been the best at understanding myself and others better and when we understand others better we can educate them better – which is the goal of all teachers and leaders. For me, to know myself well, I can appreciate my strengths and weakness and it helps me to value others and their differences instead of seeing them as threats.

Myers Briggs Personality Test

Disc Personality Test

Strengths Finder 2.0 Personality Test


Enneagram Personality Test

Enneagram Personality Test


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