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A New Personality Inventory: The Birkman

My sending organization made me take a 45-minute long personality inventory last week, and today a man walked me through the results.  The Birkman stands apart from Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram because it focuses mainly on the difference between how a person acts, and how they want other people to act toward them.

This is useful in group situations, because most of the time we mirror each other.  If I chat for a while before getting to the real issue, chances are you will do the same.  Generally, that’s fine, and people want to be treated the way they treat others.  But occasionally, the way you interact with the world is NOT the way you want the world to interact with you.  That’s totally okay, but it can be confusing (both for you and for the people working with you).  The Birkman tries to erase that confusion so that you can pre-emptively inform someone:  “Hey, I like to chat a while, but I’d really prefer if you just got straight to the point with me.  Thanks!”  

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For the category of Acceptance: Social Relationships, my usual style, need, and stress reaction are all about the same.  I’m friendly, I want other people to be friendly to me, and when I’m stressed I WILL BE SO FRIENDLY YOU WILL HAVE TO ACCEPT ME.

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But for Structure: Organizing, my usual style is very different from my need and stress reaction.  While I am very organized and like to create routine, I HATE when others impose structure upon me.  I need people to give me space, general guidelines, and freedom to do my own thing.

It’s these sorts of disparities where the Birkman is useful.  Someone looking at me with my alphabetized bookshelf and 90 degree angles of papers on my desk and carefully planned weekly schedule might think:  Wow, I bet she’d like a well-thought-out itinerary of daily tasks.  NOPE.  I will seethe for a while and eventually wither into nothingness.  To prevent this, I can tell teammates and employers, “I work best when you give me goals and guidelines, but allow me to create my own schedule and organizing principles.”  A possible conflict has been avoided!

There are eleven of these categories, and the test also covers organizational focus (sales/marketing), areas of interests (artistic, literary, and social service) and preferred work styles (public contact, corporate adaptability, and knowledge specialist).  At the end of it all, Birkman provides a summary of who I am:

In working with others, she is sensitive and diplomatic; she is sociable, but known by most people only on the surface.

When giving or accepting direction, she is methodical and persevering, except when pressed into boring and unexciting tasks.

As to competitiveness and stamina, she places significant value on rewards and trophies; she seeks encouragement from others. She is enthusiastic and responsive but prefers a deliberate pace that allows her ample thinking time.

When organizing or planning, she is generally restrained, but will appreciate opportunities to act on her own initiative.

I DO love prizes and encouragement!  That’s the absolute easiest way to get me to do something.

There are also suggestions for how someone might best coach and/or work with me:

Handle personal issues by providing an attentive ear, without too much personal involvement on your part.

Adopt a “we’re all in this together” attitude at least most of the time.

Introduce a sense of adventure to compensate for tedious projects.

Demonstrate reassuring understanding at every opportunity to help bolster her spirit.

Encourage occasional independence.

Hahaha, I really like that first one:  Listen to her a lot, but shut up about your own stuff.  That is….exactly what a blog is, right?  I also really like the third one about making tedious tasks adventurous.  That is extremely effective for me, because it’s mostly just playing pretend, and I love that!

I hadn’t heard of the Birkman before last week, but I think it’s pretty helpful.  Has anyone else ever taken it?  What did you learn about yourself?

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