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You may know Anne Bogel from her wildly popular book and lifestyle blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, where she opines about the latest and greatest reads, shares helpful lifestyle and productivity tips, and occasionally delves into the wonderful world of personality theory.
Recently, Anne took her passion for Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, and other personality typing systems beyond the pages of her blog and wrote a book about them. Personality Types: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything is available now.
I had a chance to ask Anne a few questions about her writing journey, the personality typing systems she talks about in her book, and what she’s reading these days. Here’s what she had to say…
Anne, you are probably best known for your blog and fabulous annual summer reading guide, so I’m sure my readers want to know: what inspired you to start blogging about books and eventually write one of your own?
My husband encouraged me to start blogging way back in 2010; I thought his idea was ludicrous when he suggested it, but I’m persuadable. I never intended to write about books online, but once I started blogging, it didn’t take long for my online musings to turn that direction.
Despite winning a Young Authors award in first grade for a terribly sappy story involving a wounded dove, I didn’t grow up determined to write a book one day. But I was persuaded to take on an agent, who persuaded me to rack my brain and see if there might be a topic out there I might be interested in committing 60,000 words and a few years of my life to, and once I landed on the idea that was Reading People, I couldn’t wait to write the book.
I ask everyone I interview this question but it’s particularly relevant to your book: What are your Myers-Briggs and Enneagram types?
Insightful readers are no doubt already forming theories based on my word choice thus far, particularly my heavy usage of the word “persuade,” but for those who haven’t cracked the code: INFP and Enneagram 9.
Many of my readers are at least somewhat familiar with Myers-Briggs because I write about it all the time, but for those who are new to personality typing, what does that jumble of letters and numbers say about you?
I’d say it’s just a fancy (cryptic?) way of describing the software we’re running in our brains. We all have slightly different operating systems, preferring some processes over others, and accessing them in a slightly different order than others.
As for me, the most helpful things I’ve learned from identifying my own personality types are these: as an INFP, I am really, really good at ideas—but I’m not naturally quite as good at the follow-through (to put it gently). As an Enneagram 9, I abhor conflict, and am way too quick to take on other people’s ideas, goals, and dreams as my own.
Knowing these things about myself doesn’t change who I am at my core, but it definitely helps me manage my blind spots. Without knowing that I’m naturally inclined to not finish things—and stay on guard against that—I might never finish anything! Without knowing that conflict makes me melt into a sad puddle, I might avoid it like the plague, even when doing so is unhealthy.
I realize that I just gave a super-quick summary of the benefits of personality typing that focused mostly on the negatives, but it’s a given that life is full of negatives. If the self-awareness I can gain through personality typing can help me avoid some of the yuck in my life, BRING IT ON.
When were you first introduced to personality theory? What was it that made you realize you wanted to dig deeper?
My mom left a book on personality types lying around the house when I was a teenager. I’d never been exposed to any kind of personality theory before, and I was fascinated.
But even though I read the whole thing cover to cover, twice, the information in that book didn’t help me much. I was frustrated, because it seemed that actually knowing my personality type could be so helpful in so many different areas of my life, if I could only figure out what my type was, and how to actually act on that information.
It would be years before I’d begin to figure it out, but that first book hooked me on the concept, and for that I’m grateful.Q&A with Anne Bogel: How Personality Typing Changed Her LifeClick To Tweet
You cover a number of different personality inventories in your book. If you had to pick just one that you think everyone should learn about, which would you choose and why?
I would encourage people to start with a personality concept that’s easy to grasp and easy to apply: introversion vs extroversion. Recently Susan Cain’s excellent work has demolished a lot of long-held misconceptions about introverts and extroverts, but despite this, so many people don’t understand the key differences between these two types. (Hint: it’s about energy, and which “real world” you live in.)
And I can’t resist: for the love of your well-being and sanity, go read up on highly sensitive people. The odds are better than ever that you—or someone you love, live with, hang out with, or work with—are highly sensitive, and knowing exactly what that means and how that affects you will change your life.
As a Myers-Briggs and Enneagram enthusiast, I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’re not interested in learning about personality theory because they don’t want to be labeled or put in a box. What is your response to that objection?
I really admire this objection to personality frameworks, because if this is your concern, it means that you want to preserve the individuality of every individual. I do, too—which is why I really like a good personality framework.
Your personality type doesn’t determine what you can or can’t do (and anytime you hear someone talking like this, you should picture a giant red warning light flashing in your mind!). Your type—regardless of what framework we’re talking about—doesn’t prescribe your actions, but it does help you thoughtfully consider those actions in a way you couldn’t before.
Imagine that your personality type is the lens through which you see the world. These personality frameworks help you look at the lens instead of always looking through it, enabling you to see the ways your unique viewpoint shapes your experience. By learning about personality frameworks, you can see how your lens differs from other people’s lenses, and what kinds of communication breakdowns are likely to result. And when you know what those potential trouble spots are, you can actually do something about them.
Learning about personality types helps you see where you’re likely to screw things up—and once you see it, you can do something about it. Think of me, never finishing my projects, because I love ideas but not the follow-through. Because I know this is my default mode, I can take care to bring tools and people into my life to help me actually finish the things I start. In this sense, the personality tool helps me be more fully myself, not a caricature of myself. My personality doesn’t box me in; instead, understanding myself helps me open the box and step out of it.
It’s one thing to take a personality inventory and read about your type; it’s another to use tools like Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram to grow as a human being. What is your advice to readers who want to use these systems for personal growth but feel overwhelmed by the process?
I hear you: the amount of information out there is completely overwhelming. Don’t try to take it all in.
Start small. Aim to discover one practical, actionable thing about your own personality, any aspect at all, any framework you choose. And put it into practice.
Before we go, I have to ask: what books are you reading and loving right now?
I’m so glad you asked! I’m currently reading Wallage Stegner’s Crossing to Safety for the fifth or sixth time; I love and adore this novel and am super excited to read it for Book Club. I love a book that I can put into action in my own life, and Chip and Dan Heath’s new book The Power of Moments, about crafting memorable experiences for yourself and others, totally delivers on that count. I love their work. And I just finally read Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind for the first time. Now I can totally see why so many readers with great taste call this their favorite book of all time.
Click here to buy Anne’s book and check out her website for more info.
What do you think about personality typing? Are you familiar with any of the personality frameworks Anne mentioned in this interview? Let me know in the comments below!