Individual Differences: Personality Tests


People are so different in their basic personality and learning styles, talents, and goals that you simply cannot understand anyone deeply without using the Focused Listening skill. At Creative Edge Focusing ™ , we use a variety of personality tests and measures of individual difference  like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or The Enneagram to make this point about individual differences and uniqueness. We are more interested in getting people to consider the depth and range of individual differences than we are allied with any one measure.

When you really become embattled with someone who is widely different from you, you believe that the person must be from a different planet. They must be crazy. They are evil.  All you know is that they are not like you – and that they are not okay. They represent a threat to how you see the world, and you have to get rid of them. This misunderstanding about deep personality differences, or basic differences in ways-of- seeing- the- world, is the root of much violence in this world.

Almost everyone has had such a clash, for instance the stereotypical clash between masculine and feminine, between Thinker and Feeler, between the responsible Ant and the playful Grasshopper as portrayed in numerous films. These clashes are violent. They destroy relationships, families, students, and business relationships.

Creative Edge Focusing ™ provides a method for teaching people to work together, celebrating and utilizing diversity,  in teams, families, groups, and communities. Core Skills Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening, applied throughout Creative Edge Focusing Pyramid (Focusing Partnerships, Groups/Teams, Interpersonal Focusing, Focusing Communities, Collaborative Edge Focusing Decision Making, and Creative Edge Organizations), enable people to:

  • understand themselves and each other
  • resolve conflict
  • turn diversity into creativity
  • build community.

Below you will find descriptions of some of our favorite measures of individual differences  and links to online tests and more complete descriptions. We suggest that you try out lots of different measures and even several different versions of the same measure, building an “intuitive sense” of your own personality and style rather than rigidly forcing yourself into a pigeon hole.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) : Differing Gifts

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), widely used in business and education, is one way to understand the “differing gifts” of each individual. Based upon psychiatrist Carl Jung’s theory, The MBTI measures two orientations (Introversion vs. Extroversion; Judging vs. Perceiving), and four psychological functions (Sensing vs. iNtuition ; Thinking vs. Feeling). Scoring creates 16 distinct personality types, each describe with four letters (INFJ; ESTP; ENTJ, etc.). However, there are further complexities. For instance, in each type, two of the four functions are introverted; two are extroverted – you need a chart to figure that out.

The MBTI has been administered to millions in education and business settings, and individuals are surprised to recognize themselves in the personality descriptions. Much research has also shown that MBTI personality types accurately predict career choices (Myers, Gifts Differing, Consulting Psychologists Press, 1980). Even more importantly, the MBTI is widely used in business for personnel decisions and to develop teams that are balanced in terms of contributions from different personality types.

At a workshop, the trainers had all the Introverts sit at a table together for lunch, and all of the Extroverts at a different table.  The Introverts ran out of things to say and excused themselves quickly, needing time to gather energy by taking a walk alone or taking a nap or meditating or reading quietly before the next session.

The Extroverts filled up every silence, competing for turns to talk rather than listening to each other. They could have talked forever, gathering energy from the interaction regardless of whether they understood each other.

The Association for Personality Types ( ) makes it clear that the MBTI should be administered by a trained professional who can appropriately explain and interpret test scores. However, for an informal idea of your Jungian personality type, we can suggest the following websites….Take several different versions of the tests for greater clarity:\

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter: Four Basic Temperaments

Keirsey and Bates (Please Understand Me, Prometheus Nemesis, 1984) trace how, since earliest written reports, humans have continuously defined each other into four types, basically “fire, water, air, and earth” in many different versions. Please Understand Me includes a self-administered test derived from the Myers Briggs (MBTI) which produces the same 16 personality types marked by four letters (INFJ, ENFJ, ESTJ, etc.) as the MBTI. The book also includes excellent descriptions of learning, leadership, and relationship styles of the various types. This book is an excellent bargain, since it includes a test equivalent to the Myers Briggs plus user-friendly theory for about $15.

In Please Understand Me (Prometheus Nemesis, 1998) Keirseyfurther develops  his own typology of the four basic “temperaments,” which he calls, after Plato’s categories, Artisans (The Fox), Guardians (The Beaver), Idealists (The Dolphin), and Rationals (The Owl). He discusses forms of intelligence, social roles, self-image, values, and interests of each temperament. His book includes the original MBTI-like test and a new one for his four temperaments. It also has chapters on Mating, Parenting, and Leading according to the different temperaments.

Best bargain: buy Please Understand Me and get the test as well as useful information about the sixteen types.

You can take a brief Four Temperaments test online for free, but, in order to also get your one of the sixteen Jungian-based types and a full report, you will be asked to pay a small charge. Keirsey’s website contains lots of interesting information, for instance, his ratings of personality types of US Presidents and other famous people:  (short, free quiz; small charge for longer report)
See also free quizzes under Myers-Briggs, the root for Keirsey’s test

The Enneagram: Looking At Your Shadow Side 

While the MBTI stresses the positive, our “differing gifts,” The Enneagram also helps us to take a brave look at our shadow side, our personal demon, and the motivations driving us. There are nine basic personality types, refined by degree of interaction with the other types.  They are The Reformer, The Helper, The Motivator, The Artist, The Thinker, The Loyalist, The Generalist, The Leader, and The Peacemaker. However, complexities involve leaning toward one”wing” or the other and passing into a different type when ideal vs. under stress, etc.

Riso’s book, Discover Your Personality Type: The New Enneagram Questionnaire (Houghton Mifflin, 1995) provides a simple description and test for exploring your Enneagram profile. However, Helen Palmer’s work with the Enneagram can lead to somewhat different results. Again, try several tests and see what you learn:

Multiple Intelligences: Many Ways To Learn And Perform 

Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences provides another rubric for recognizing the differing gifts and talents of each student and each worker, including observation of student preferences from the earliest age. Gardner, of Harvard University has argued persuasively for different kinds of intelligences other than the academic intelligence usually valued in schools. His Project Zero ( ) actively applies and researches  the model in actual schools.

Gardner (Frames of Mind , 1985) defines seven “intelligences:” linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. In the classroom, students can be exposed to learning opportunities through all the different “intelligences,” as well as being allowed to develop their natural propensities toward certain of the “intelligences. Like the MBTI and Keirsey Temperament Sorter above, Gardner’s model can be especially helpful in giving a positive definition, and teaching methods, for the active, hands-on learning style of children called ADHD.

Although preferred “intelligences” are best discovered through observation of an individual’s choices of modalities over time, an informal online paper-and-pencil measure can give you an idea of your own preferences:

All Kinds Of Minds: A Niche For Each Student, Each Person 

“The problem is not a lack of intelligence but a learning style that doesn’t fit the assignment.” Out of his experience as a pediatrician, Mel Levine defines the following systems making up learning and performance: Attention Control, Memory, Language, Spatial Ordering, Sequential Ordering, Motor, Higher Thinking, Social Thinking. Every child and adult will have strengths and weaknesses in the various systems.

While adults are expected to have certain areas of competence, students are expected to be good at everything and to approach learning in the same way. Instead, Levine helps students, parents, and teachers to define the strengths and weaknesses of learners, and to find a “niche” for each person which capitalizes upon his or her strengths. His books, A Mind At A Time (Simon and Schuster, 2002) and The Myth of Laziness (Simon and Schuster, 2003) have led to an actual in-school program called Schools Attuned. (Levine’s organization)

Emotional Intelligence: More Important Than IQ At Work And Home 

Daniel Goleman, in his initial book Emotional Intelligence (Bantam, 1995), looked at actual neurological grounds in the brain for different kinds of problem solving, often referred to as “right-“ vs. “left-“ brain.  He argues that a series of intrapsychic and interpersonal competencies, with involvement of the limbic and other areas of the brain, which he called “Emotional Intelligence,” actually account for the expert behavior of the most successful managers more than intellectual IQ.

Goleman got the concept of “emotional intelligence” from earlier theorists, Salovey and Mayer, who coined the term in 1990 and defined it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.”(quoted in “Emotional Intelligence: What it is and Why it Matters” by Cary Cherniss, Ph.D., available at

The concept of “emotional intelligence” and competence in the workplace has been widely explored.  As EQ, many have developed measures for various aspects of emotional intelligence and training programs for increasing these competencies.

We at Creative Edge Focusing ™ believe that our core skills of Intuitive Focusing and Focused Listening, applied throughout levels from individual to interpersonal to organizational in Creative Edge Focusing Pyramid, provide a most basic yet broadly applicable form of increasing “emotional intelligence,” or “human literacy,” across the board.

I haven’t found a free, online test of EQ, although a variety of consulting businesses offer extensive testing and training programs. 


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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.