Screw You, Myers-Briggs
“You find that practical uses for your ideas may come as afterthoughts.”
This is stupid.
How can a stupid piece of paper pretend to know me or anything about me? On the following a page is a list of ways I can improve every aspect of my communication style; if I’m too one side of a scale, I should consider leaning more the other way -- and for my ambivalent middle-ground items, I should be aware that “people might be confused by your lack of consistency.” You know what Myers-Briggs? YOU’RE an afterthought.
But then I stop myself. I realize that’s just what they want me to do. This is the test, right now, when I can show just how professional I really am. I will collect myself, sit up a little higher, whisper a few clever comments to myself about how Myers and Briggs weren’t loved as children, and smile confidently at the other people assigned to sit at my table. They may be recovering from reading their own reports right now, and will need someone -– someone cheerful, warm, and humorous – to lead them through it. Me, the ENFJ.
My poise was put to the greatest test with the next assignment: work as a team to build a freestanding tower on the floor using only newspaper and tape. One person was supposed to observe how we approached and executed the assignment and then give us feedback on … I don’t know, leadership and communication skills or something. I wasn’t really paying attention. I was designing a tower in my mind.
I paused briefly to show that I valued my team members’ input, then launched into my vision of a triangular pyramid-like creation. A foreign student who I couldn’t really understand started rolling newspaper into a long tube, which I felt like protesting, until I saw its remarkable potential. Potential. Yes. The word reminded me, I am here to draw out the potential in others and let them soar. I provided the plan for the triangular foundation then stepped back and allowed my team members to build a much higher tower than the one I would have been able to build. In the end our tower stood over five feet tall and wasn’t bad to look at. I had to give myself props; I really allowed my team to blossom. And I did such a good job of leading they didn’t even realize it was me who drew it out of them.
When time ran out, I looked around the room in horror at the travesties that challenged us. Two were relatively short and stood on their team’s tables. So much for a tower on the floor. But the third was by far the worst: It was a long tube that was taped to the ceiling and fell all the way to the floor. I’ll let you all recover from the shock. More shocking, however, was that the professor didn’t seem phased by the fact that no one followed the rules; she was going to let us all vote on the “best” one, and from what I could gather, none had been disqualified. How would all my positive leadership skills get us through this?
Looking around, I knew what to do about the cheaters: I had to say embarrassing and inappropriate things. You don’t point out that someone has broken the rules, that would be petty. No –- you ask obvious questions, and then you make backhanded compliments, and do it just loud enough that other people notice.
“Wow, this is really creative, and I can see why you didn’t put it down on the floor like we were supposed to -- it looks nice up here on the table.”
“That’s so brave of you guys to completely disregard the rules of the assignment. I’ve never had that kind of confidence.”
“This is such a cool tube you guys made. Did you make a tower, too?”
And guess what: We won. In the end, I believe I did learn how to be a professional: I took credit for other people’s ideas and sabotaged the competitors whom I felt deserved it. Those may not have been the skills listed on the syllabus, but they sure do come in handy.