As human beings, we have a tendency to think everyone thinks, acts, and believes the same as we do. We even think they have similar habits. The tendency is so well known that it has a name: the false consensus effect.
But we are not all the same. Whether we prefer to base our decisions on logic or gut, whether we feel love through touch or gifts, or whether we have no problem following through on goals or the very idea of them makes us recoil, our similarities are offset by our distinct differences.
Not understanding these differences, or not understanding key aspects of ourselves, can mean we miss out on a deeper appreciation of how to communicate effectively, show our feelings, and pursue a future more in tune with who we are. In a nutshell, it can make us a whole less happy than we could be.
That’s why knowing yourself is the first article in my new series on Happiness Hacks.
I’ve always been a quiz taker- from those early days reading magazines as a teen, checking if I had the kind of personality boys would find attractive, to now, scrolling through my Facebook feed, stopping to find out what animal I was in a past life. But of all the tests over all the years, three stand out. Taking these personality tests (and getting my family to do them as well) has literally changed my life for the better. Have a read, take the tests, and see how they can make your life happier too.
No. 1. A Myers Briggs Type Assessment.
Where you can find it: The Jung Typology Test (The link is a personality test based on Myers-Briggs, and is free, as opposed to the Myers Briggs proper, which you have to pay for. I’ve done the above, and similar tests and always score the same letter combination, so I’m pretty convinced it’s consistent).
What’s it about: Myers-Briggs is kind of the gold standard of personality tests. It works on the idea that your personality can be divided into four dichotomies. You score one letter for each dichotomy and end up with a four letter profile. There are 16 possible combinations.
The four dichotomies are:
Extraversion or introversion: Extraverts and introverts were once mistakenly touted as being outgoing versus shy people. It is much more accurate to note that extraverts gain their energy from being around others, whereas introverts prefer to rest and recharge on their own.
Sensing or intuition. This refers to the way in which information is perceived. Sensing individuals want the facts ma’am, and use their five senses to gather data, as opposed to intuitive people who think about the big picture, analyse underlying meaning and rely on their gut.
Thinking or feeling. If you’re a thinker, you tend to make your decisions through logic, and if you’re a feeler, you tend to be swayed more by emotion.
Judging or perceiving. This relates to whether we approach life by planning, taking charge, and being a little rigid (judgers) or by being spontaneous, keeping options open –and also leaving things until the last minute (perceivers).
How it can make you happier: Knowing your Myers Briggs personality type is a game changer, simply because there is so much information about there about what the implications of that personality type is. For example, you can find out which types make good partners with you, how you can use knowledge about your type and others to improve communication, and what careers will float your boat.
In addition, knowing your type means you have a better idea about how to look after yourself. For example, as an INFJ, I know when I get stressed, the best thing to do it to make the environment quiet and still, and to remove expectations. Knowing your type also helps you ease up on the self-criticism. If you hate small talk and socialising, it doesn’t mean you are inadequate in any way – it’s simply an aspect of your personality.
Why it’s one of my top picks: My lightbulb moment with this one came after my second marriage. During the weekend, it’s always my preference to rest and relax at home, whereas my ex used to like to go out. He hated the fact I never wanted to go and I hated the fact I was never enough for him. Not only did I loathe being around people I hardly knew, I would rather cut my tongue out than be subjected to hours of small talk. The constant criticising from him, calling me antisocial at best, was damaging to my sense of self-worth. Doing this assessment helped me to accept myself- as I said above, it wasn’t something inherently wrong with me but rather an aspect of my personality, and another reason why we were a bad combo.
As well as this, it has also been interesting to me that my type loves the written word. Before getting into blogging, I spent many years writing (unpublished) novels. When I first thought about blogging it seemed like the perfect career for me, and I’ve been interested to see anecdotally that a lot of bloggers are INFJs, even though we purportedly are less than one percent of the population.
No. 2. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages.
Where you can find it: The Five Love Languages.
What’s it about: Love languages work on the premise that you have key ways in which you both express love and feel love. The five are as follows:
Words of affirmation are essentially compliments and comments of appreciation. “Your haircut looks great,” or “Thanks for bringing in the washing,” are two examples.
Acts of service are doing things such as cooking a meal, folding washing, cleaning the car, running an errand – the myriad of little things that boil down to you doing something for someone.
Physical touch is physical contact with one another, like holding hands, giving each other a massage, or cuddling up in bed.
Quality time is spending one-on-one focused time with your loved one.
Receiving gifts is just that. The gift does not have to be expensive but shows you were thinking of your partner.
You love language will manifest itself in your relationships by the things you complain you don’t get enough of (you never want to spend time with me, you only want to touch me when you want sex, you don’t encourage me) and the things you ask for (a hug, to help with the housework, a massive diamond).
How it can make you happier: It stands to reason that if you feel loved only if someone is speaking to your love language, you better be sure you know what yours is. And in reverse, knowing what your husband’s is, is also crucial. It’s all well and good if you speak the same, as not much effort will be required to keep those love tanks full. However, if your love languages is Gifts and your husband’s is Acts of Service, then you will need to remember that he does not care for the new shirt you bought him in the same way you do, and what you might need to focus on is ironing him some shirts instead! It takes more effort but there is a wealth of information available on how to speak each other’s language and it can make all the difference in the world (If you want some quality time date ideas, check out my post here.).
However love languages also apply to other members of your family. I realised that my mother’s love language is receiving gifts, in part because she was always sending them to me. So when it came to her birthday, I picked a magazine subscription so that every week she would receive something in the mail. Knowing your colleagues’ love languages can also help strengthen your working relationships with them.
Why it’s one of my top picks: When I first read the love languages book (which contains the quiz) some years ago now, I instantly thought of my first husband and the constant feeling I had that he did not really love me. In fact I still remember being shocked at his reaction when I told him I was leaving. I also used to complain a lot that he was not affectionate to me at all. Reading this book, I felt a little sad that it was clear he never spoke one of my high ranking love languages, which is physical touch. There were other reasons we split, but this was still an epiphany.
When I read the book, I also got my children to do the quiz (they were about 13 and 16) and that made a tangible difference in our home life. My son is Words of Affirmation and my daughter is Physical Touch. When they were feeling stressed, it was verbal encouragement for my boy and a hug for my girl. I now knew exactly how to comfort them in a way that made them feel the most supported. Gary Chapman now has a book specifically on love languages for children and also teens, which I am sure goes into even more detail (These are affiliate links which means I’ ll be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through them. Read my disclosure policy for more information).
No. 3: Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies.
Where you can find it: Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz.
What’s it about: Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies quiz is related to habits. She argues that “when we try to form a new habit, we’re setting an expectation for ourselves. Therefore, to change our habits, it’s crucial to understand how we respond to expectations. We all face outer expectations (meet deadlines, observe traffic regulations) and inner expectations (stop napping, give up sugar).”
By taking the quiz, you can find out if you are an upholder, questioner, obliger, or rebel.
Upholders meet both outer and inner expectations.
Questioners (unsurprisingly) question expectations. For them to buy in to them, they have to believe that they make sense on some level. They then become inner expectations.
Rebels don’t want to engage in either outer or inner expectations.
Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet inner ones. They do everything for everyone before they do things for themselves.
How it can make you happier:
You can leverage your type to help you achieve your habits and goals. For example, if you are an obliger, the best strategy for habit change is that of accountability. You need to take the things you want for yourself and make yourself accountable to someone else to support you to achieve it. For example, if you’re trying to instil exercise habits, hire a personal trainer, meet up with a friend for a walk, or join a club where people count on you to show up and you’ll be more likely to actually follow through.
You can use your understanding to make a happier home. For example, if your teenager is a rebel, he is likely to resist doing the things you ask, and he is also unlikely to commit to anything he sets for himself. So asking is a recipe for futility and frustration, and may even make him more determined to not do what you say. Because Rebels respond to opposition, you can make for a more harmonious home by stating rather than asking, and in addition saying things like, “I don’t think you can get this done by the end of the weekend.” (Thankfully, not many people are Rebels!). If your husband is a Questioner, you can help by providing him with the reasons behind the decisions you are trying to make together. As Questioners can get into information paralysis, you can also help him make a decision by setting a deadline by which it has to be reached.
Why it’s one of my top picks: You don’t have to have read this blog for long to know that I believe so much in the power of good habits to turn your life around (Most recently I wrote about this in How to get your habits back on track). I’m an upholder, and knowing this has helped me work out that when my habits are at risk, the strategy of scheduling helps me to achieve them.
In addition, it helped me understand retrospectively yet another one of the myriad of ways my second marriage was so unhappy. My ex was most definitely a Rebel, though I knew nothing of the tendencies at the time, and with me being an Upholder-well it was a match made in hell. Rebels and Obligers generally make a much better partnership.
Finally, it also helps as I’m a teacher and I make requests of students every single day. While the “I want you to” might cover the needs of the Upholders and Obligers, it won’t satisfy the Questioners, who need me to provide sound justification as to why this task is worth their time. The Rebels need a different approach altogether. They are probably the ones who end up getting into the most trouble at school with teachers who don’t recognise or respect this type and just launch straight into a confrontation when students don’t do what they ask.
Now you are armed with this new found knowledge of yourself and others, it’s time to use it! Whether it’s to investigate a career change, improve your relationships with a family member, or instil a new habit, take action today and see how it can make your life better than it was before.
(And I can personally recommend screening any future partners, as it seems pretty clear from writing this that I could have saved myself two divorces by doing so. Luckily, my lovely husband ticks all the boxes on all three tests!)