Reading Ourselves

How personality shapes our decisions and interactions.

Author Anne Bogel knows that it’s not easy for people to understand their own personalities. “Finding this information [isn’t] exactly complicated; it’s just that it’s difficult to look directly at our own natures.”

So Bogel began to study various personality frameworks, which “give us the eyes we need to see ourselves in a new way.” Personality tests also help us see the world from someone else’s vantage point. Once that is achieved, Bogel says, “It changes us, and it changes the way we read others.”

Before writing this book, Bogel wrote a blog in which she shared stories about her own personality. Readers expressed appreciation for her insights. At the same time, many said that learning about personality frameworks involved more information than they had time for or were able to digest. So Bogel decided to write a book. Her goal is threefold: to provide a summary of personality frameworks that have proved most helpful to her, to make the information less intimidating, and to highlight insights that she has gained. 

Bogel is clear that she shares her findings not as a scholar but “as a fellow traveller, someone who has benefited from the same information and has learned to pay attention to the right moments, ask the right questions of myself, and tweak accordingly.”

Unflinching
Bogel cautions readers that a common mistake people make when taking personality tests is to give “aspirational answers” – answers that will make the test results paint a picture of who they want to be and not who they really are. She warns readers that if they won’t take an unflinching look at themselves, there is no point in taking the test because the results will not be accurate.

Bogel briefly explores the following personality frameworks: introverts and extroverts, highly sensitive people, the Five Love Languages, Keirsey’s Temperaments, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as well as its Cognitive Functions, the Clifton StrengthsFinder and the Enneagram. She gives a short historical account of why and how some of the tests were created and spells out the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Bogel repeatedly points out that no one personality type is better than another one; each type has its strengths and weaknesses; and none will perfectly capture you. She notes the danger of trying to “fix” other people so that we can mould them into the personality type we wish they were. She shows that by understanding our own and other people’s personalities we can build relationships, overcome conflict, and celebrate the uniqueness of each person. She also shares excellent insights and examples of how understanding the complexities of personalities can help you become a better and more understanding parent, spouse, colleague, church member and neighbour.

Can people change?
People’s personalities are a given, but personality traits don’t determine a person’s destiny, they “inform it.” About herself, Bogel says, “I’ve never made a decision based strictly on my personality type. I’ve never felt that my personality determined my calling. But I’ve gained a great deal of self-awareness over the years [which] has empowered me to make better decisions about my life. My personality isn’t a limiting label; instead, understanding my personality has blown my possibilities wide open.”

Reading People has much to offer anyone who is intrigued by the possibility of understanding their own or someone else’s personality. It could serve as a helpful tool for parents and spouses as they navigate relationships in their families, for teachers as they deal with various personality types in their classrooms, and for pastors and other ministry staff as they work among the differing personalities in their congregations or ministries. 
 

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