Why are Personality Tests So Fascinating?

Your unique blend of traits affects your emotions, work performance, and relationships. For centuries, psychologists, doctors, and academics have created personality tests for helping us understand ourselves and others.

Especially since the advent of online tests and social media, certain personality tests are all the rage for awhile until they join the cabinets with the hundreds of tools available for personality assessments. Yet when we hear about a new one – many of us get in the line to take it. Why do we do that?

“In spite of the relative sophistication of society today, people remain a mystery to themselves as well as others — and they are always curious to get a bit of insight as to what they’re really like,” says Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, and faculty at Fielding Graduate University.

“People like confirmation of their qualities, particularly strengths. In spite of the frivolity, we all have an existential craving to be validated and ‘seen.’”

As an executive trainer, I don’t use personality tests as a tool for self-reflection. They are a practical way of opening our understanding to the complex dynamics that take place when different personalities are teamed together. The inevitable dissonance when people with different lenses partner in decisions is what I want to analyze.

The purpose of this knowledge is not so we can see through one another, but that we can see one another through.

Today, the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator is the most popular personality test in the world used by Fortune 100 companies, universities, hospitals, churches, and the military.

It seems that everybody has a favorite test. The latest rage has been the Enneagram system. I can’t help but wonder if we gravitate to the tests that make us say, “This is so me!”. But if we don’t agree with the results of a test, we are likely to move on until we find one that seems true to our beliefs about ourselves. That’s exactly why I like to focus on what the tests reveal to us about getting along with others rather than those that dive deep into our psyche.

The interest in personality tests dates way back to the pre-Socratics in Greece. Hippocrates described how four bodily fluids, or ‘humors,’ affected human personal traits and behaviors. These were translated into four temperament categories: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic. This personality profiling influenced everything from the creation of the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator test, to the Keirsey Temperament Sorter popularly used today.

For group training purposes, I have found this time-tested, simple system of the Four Temperaments provides enough information to give people insights in how they can shift their communication style with certain co-workers to create a more harmonious workplace. Hint: this also can yield good results with spouses and children.

Because the Hippocratic Four Temperants are named after body fluids and are not easy to remember, I created names that form the acronym LEAP.

The LEAP Personality Profiles

Leader/Choleric Personality

This personality type is the “do it now and do it my way” kind of person. They are often extremely goal-oriented, independent people. They sometimes leave a wake of offended people behind them, because they tend to be blunt and focused on results over process and productivity over people. They are quick thinkers and make decisions easily for themselves as well as for those around them. They often have a short fuse and can erupt into anger when things do not go according to their expectations or they feel out of control.

They do well in professions requiring strong leadership. They tend to see things as black or white, right or wrong, with no gray areas or exceptions. Some examples of ideal professions would include law (enforcement and lawyers) and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Their response when life is not going their way is generally to work harder. This often produces workaholics who are convinced that through their efforts, control will be regained.

Expressive/Sanguine Personality

The expressive personality is the one doing all the talking when you walk in a room. They are often popular, preferring to be with people rather than alone. They are happy to be the center of attention. The expressive is not detail-oriented or organized. They are usually the ones walking in late to appointments and might be perceived as scatter-brained. They tend to be emotional people and can ride can emotional roller coaster through the course of a day. They are the ones laughing the loudest or crying the hardest.

They make great salespeople because of their communication skills and ease with people. They are often seen in leadership positions in the private and public sector because of their charisma.

When life is not going well for this personality type, they tend to find comfort in eating, shopping, or spending time with friends.

Analytical/Melancholy Personality

The analytical people are the ones who like order in their lives. They are schedule-oriented and unsettled by change. They are perfectionists and therefore often hard to please. They like to see things through to completion and are persistent and thorough. They tend to have sensitive natures and get offended easily. The analytical personalities make very faithful and loyal friends. Their emotional sensitivity often reveals itself as giftedness in the arts. This personality type is the most likely to struggle with depression.

Professionally, any tasks that require great attention to detail would fit this personality type. Computer programmers, graphic designers, accountants, as well as painters, artists and musicians are often found in this category.

When the analytical personality is losing control of his life, he tends to withdraw and become moody or even depressed.

Peaceful/Phlegmatic Personality

This personality type is probably the easiest to get along with. They are comfortable with the status quo and like everyone to be happy. Their temperament is easygoing and they tend to perform well under pressure. They are sometimes perceived as unmotivated or lazy because they can be so laid back. Once they are off the ground with a project, they are consistent and reliable.

The peaceful personality does well in a variety of careers. Helping professions, such as nursing, teaching and counseling are often staffed with the peaceful personality. They are also well-suited for jobs requiring mediation and diplomacy.

When the peaceful personality is under stress, he would tend to respond with inaction. Typical behaviors might be watching television, reading or sleeping.

Personality Matters

The more insight you have into how you operate, the easier it is to determine what your best and worst traits are — something that can come in handy both personally and professionally. Yet understanding the motivations and needs of others is just as important.

One can find fault with many personality-assessment tools. But there’s no escaping personality types. We freely categorize people all the time—as extroverts, drama queens, or control-freaks. Maybe we’ve judged someone to be introverted, moody or unmotivated. We hardly know some of the people we are labeling. Personality tests can provide us with labels that serve a productive purpose.

An understanding of personality differences can go a long way in navigating interpersonal relations without drama or undue stress.

To take a fast and simple Hippocratic personality test which translates neatly into the LEAP profile above, visit
*Disclaimer: There are spelling errors in the test. As a self-professed word nerd and grammar queen, this is annoying. But I want to send you to one that doesn’t require you to enter your email address. I can overlook mistakes, can you?

Beverly’s workshop, Building a Harmonious Workplace & Surviving One that’s Not, includes training for teams on the material in this post. Contact us for details.

People Can’t Drive You Crazy if You Don’t Give them the Keys!

The purpose of understanding personality types is not so we can see through one another, but that we can see one another through.

Posted by Beverly Lewis, Speaker, Business Coach, Author on Monday, 10 June 2019

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