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Show your true colors

Personality tests are inherently silly, but they can still give us clues that make it easier to understand and relate to co-workers.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Has your employer ever had you take one of those personality tests — Myers-Briggs probably being the most well-known — designed to let them see if you have character traits that are best suited for a specific position, either the one you’re applying for or the one you’re already in?

My wife recently took the True Colors personality test along with her colleagues at the high school she teaches at. Of course, that meant she wanted me to take it, too.

If you’re not familiar with True Colors, it uses the colors blue, orange, gold, and green to represent four core personality types. For most people, one of the four colors is dominant, but all four colors can combine in different ways to create an individual’s personality spectrum.

According to the True Colors website:

Blues are “empathetic, compassionate, and cooperative. Blues tend to be very social people. If you’re a Blue, you value relationships and harmony. Genuine kindness, sincerity, and compassion are important to you. You enjoy opportunities to work with others and collaborate, and any opportunity to develop a connection.”

Orange personalities are “energetic, spontaneous, and charming. If you’re an Orange, you tend to be action-oriented and are comfortable taking risks. You probably also tend to be competitive and seek out adventures with opportunities to push the boundaries. Living in the moment and enjoying an adaptable time schedule are important to you.”

Golds are “punctual, organized, and precise. Golds tend to need structure and organization. If you’re a Gold, then order, rules, respect, and dependability are important to you. Time is a key part of your life if you’re a Gold personality type. You need to be on time and want others to be punctual, as well. Following the plan or schedule is best for you.”

And Green personality types are “analytical, intuitive, and visionary. Greens find innovative thinking and problem-solving exciting. If you’re a Green, you tend to be able to see the big picture and able to effectively analyze situations. Thinking outside the box is a real strength. You also have an extreme need to be right.”

Now, this is clearly pseudoscience at its finest, but I begrudgingly played along. I would have guessed I was a Green just based on those descriptions, but the test revealed that I’m the greenest Green a person can be. Basically, I value rational, analytical thought over everything else — especially people.

Blue was my lowest-scoring category by far, which makes sense considering how deeply I skewed green. But if you’re a fan of the opposites-attract theory of love, it shouldn’t come as a shock that my wife is primarily a Blue. When she was reading how best to relate to a Green, every piece of advice more or less boiled down to “leave Greens alone.”

“Yep,” I replied.

It’s a good thing most companies that use personality tests tend not to go overboard with the results. For one thing, we’re all more nuanced than the results of one test can predict. After all, True Colors clearly shows that I don’t have much use for emotion, and yet I married someone who wears her heart on her sleeve. Just because I’m not emotional doesn’t mean I can’t work in that realm.

Where personality tests can really be beneficial lies more in the interpersonal relationships we develop with our co-workers. Knowing a colleague is a risk-taker or needs a lot of structure can really go a long way toward smoothing the office dynamic between disparate personalities, especially between managers and subordinates.

When the personalities of others differ so much from our own, we often have a hard time communicating exactly what we need from those around us. Having a guide like True Colors or Myers-Briggs, silly as they often seem, can still be a handy tool for relating better with the people we spend a third of every day with.

Just remember to leave me alone.

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