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Friday, December 22, 2017

"Reading People" (Anne Bogel)

TITLE: Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything
AUTHOR: Anne Bogel
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (224 pages).

Why do people behave in a certain way? How can we understand another person based on their behaviour? How can we better understand others and ourselves? Enter personality tests. These help us learn more about ourselves and give us a snapshot of who we are at any particular time. Many of these are based on scientific data and research. With choices lie a new challenge: Of the many  many personality tests out there, how do we choose? What are the differences between them? How do they stack up against one another? Here is where author Anne Bogel can help us navigate the potpourri of models. She talks about how the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (16 personality types) help her understand her own unique characteristics, how it explains her marital relationship and understanding herself. She dwells on Carl Jung's famous introvert/extrovert temperaments and takes it beyond just human people but church structures. For instance, she observes that most denominational churches have programs that appeal more to extroverts, which becomes a challenge for the introvert. Looking at Elaine Aaron's "Highly Sensitive Person," we become more aware of how sensitive our nervous systems are to various stimulus. This is particularly useful for parents dealing with highly sensitive children. Then there is the popular "Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman that essentially deals with our primary language that would stir us up emotionally. Kiersey's four basic temperaments are the Artisans (SP); Guardians (SJ); Idealists (NFs); and Rationals (NTs). Bogel goes into detail the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, showing us what we need to know about the eight cognitive functions (combinations of extrovert/introvert perceptive (sensing or intuiting) and judging (thinking or feeling) functions. She takes time to explain what each of the eight cognitive functions mean and gives us three reasons for persisting in this self-analysis. First, it helps us to be confident of our own MBTI Type. Second, it helps us understand people. Finally, it helps us in our relationship as we adapt ourselves to adapt to the respective persons we deal with. She covers the "Clifton Strengthfinder" and confesses how this tool helps her love reading in the first place. Listing the 34 strengths, we learn about themes in executing; influencing; relationship-building; strategic-thinking; etc. The Enneagram is a personality framework that "fosters self-awareness and self-examination" to help us understand our spirituality. It is based on Evagrius Ponticus's eight or nine vices that impede our relationship with God. She then summarizes all the models and shares about the uniqueness and challenges of personality change vs behavioral change. While the results for us change over time, our core temperaments remain consistent. The more important questions are:

  • How we see ourselves?
  • How we see the world?
  • How we shape our lives?
  • Insights that lead to change?
  • Growing ourselves out of our comfort zones.
On which particular tool is best, the important question is "for what." The objective determines the selection of the tool. I am happy to have such a powerful resource. I know that there are many such personality frameworks, and some of the more sophisticated ones tend to be expensive, and even more so for a group-based project. I was curious why Bogel didn't include Personality360 or 360 degree Feedback model. There is also another popular one, the DISC profile that could have been included. Anyway, the book itself is already a great tool for those of us wanting a one-volume summary of many popular personality models out there. For the skeptic, perhaps all the models are simply variants of the same themes. In some way, that is true, but I believe that one model may be too few, while seven models too many. Pick about two or three to begin with and go from there. If you have the time and resources to choose, try the MBTI or DISC profile. For spirituality purposes, try the Enneagram. For very basic and cheap options, go for the Five Love Languages. Most importantly, try it on ourselves first. 

I am thankful for this book because it is a easy to read primer about the many different personality tests out there. Though it does not cover every model out there in the market, it manages to pick a few of the major ones, which is more than sufficient for novices out there. In thinking about how we live out the commandments to love one another, I believe that understanding ourselves play a big part in forming good relationships. Of course, there is a danger of pre-judging other people, so the more we understand ourselves, both the strengths and weaknesses, we can better prepare ourselves against negative emotions or cognitive temptations to judge or belittle others. 

Anne Bogel is the creator of the popular blog Modern Mrs Darcy and the podcast What Should I Read Next? She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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