Personality Buckets

I think there are some personality traits that are pretty damn useful to know about yourself and others. For example: the spectrum between introversion and extroversion is real and has really helped me understand myself.

But some personality trait frameworks seem like utter nonsense to me. Some people put stock behind their astrological signs. But how can it possibly be that your personality is in any way shaped by a wide swath of birth dates that you share with ~8% of the population? I’d bet some homeless fella on skid row that died last night and a kid who had breakfast on a yacht anchored just off the Maldives share your same birthday, but their life circumstances have shaped them into having pretttttty different personalities.

If some personality buckets are useful and some aren’t, I suppose there are a bunch in the middle. Meyers-Briggs is a classic. I’m INFP-A, apparently. “Mediators are poetic, kind, and altruistic people, always eager to help a good cause.” I don’t hate that for a little self-reflection and understanding. But like Dave said recently:

I’ve been skeptical of Myers-Briggs since college. It always felt like a weird mix of psychology and astrology which reeks of pseudoscience. It’s okay if you use a tool to understand yourself, but I don’t think it survives widespread application. I also personally don’t like being put in boxes, so I hate it when people take the test “for me.”

Meyers-Briggs, in particular, gets taken too far. Like if you don’t hire someone because of the results of this test, that’s whack. (And also kinda whack you even have the results to begin with.)

I listened to a podcast that featured another personality test recently, the “People Code”, which categorizes people into four groups: Reds, Blues, Whites, and Yellows. Those are some pretty big buckets! You could put all of virgos, leos, and sagittarius’ in just one of them. This test raised the bullshit alarm on me pretty hard for that reason, but in a way that almost makes it more… fun. Of course, the researcher dude behind it considers this like high holy 100% accurate stuff because that’s what you have to say if you sell personality tests for a living.

I’m white.

Red 8%

Even though the rests results boldly declare your color, you don’t just go in one bucket; the actual test puts you on a spectrum for each of the four colors. Which makes every single thing they can possibly say about you plausibly “true”. But that’s boring. It’s more fun to just dive into your bucket and own it. And when you’re sitting around gossiping with your wife, put other people into buckets too, because the four-color system makes it pretty easy to do that.

I’m also obviously earth to my wife’s water, where our flighty friend is air, and their heavily opinionated spouse is fire. Obviously.



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2 responses to “Personality Buckets”

  1. Anonymous says:

    We were just talking about personality types in school and you make this post the same day. Nice coincidence eh?

  2. Tyler Mercer says:

    I agree. I think reducing the wide spectrum of humanity to a handful of buckets is more harmful than helpful. Been meaning to write a blog post about these thoughts as well.

    Also on this topic, I personally find it beneficial to think in habits instead of in traits. When it comes down to it, a trait is just a habit that we’ve decided meets some threshold of stubbornness such that it is “permanent… ish.” Both are encoded in neurological pathways that are shaped through their use, both are highly context-dependent, and both are things that we can, to some degree, change. Certainly it is useful to know that some habits are much more stubborn and harder to change—often it’s easier and more productive to adjust your life to fit your introversion than to adjust your introversion, for example—but I think people put too much stock in traits as these permanent and unchanging things.

    Also relevant:

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