Do You Question Assessments?
© Steve Whiteford 2023
Many people question the value of assessments, and there are many reasons why. Here are a few:
- You disagree with the results.
I always want to ask the question “What were you thinking?” in response to this objection. You, the disbeliever, answered the questions that the results are based on. So, it would be helpful for you to remember what you were referencing when you chose your answers. This could be considered a first point of validity. Your answer is valid and reflects what you may have been thinking at the time. That point of awareness might reveal hidden thoughts and feelings, self-deception, an attempt to create a particular result that is not true for you, fear of the instrument, and many more possibilities. All of which have the potential to add to one’s self-awareness which is the point of any personality assessment.
- You understandably hate being categorized and labeled.
Most assessments operate under the Rumpelstiltskin Theory. “If you name it, you can tame it.” And this belief has some validity to it. When human beings developed language, it naturally empowered us. Naming things was very useful. It was a system for communication and social agreement about reality. But we also love shortcuts, and once we have a name for something we think we’re done. We stop
taking the time to investigate how it works, and what it’s made of; it becomes a thing. Its characteristics are set. This applies to why we accept or reject results. It’s uncomfortable to be pegged with a label. It may define us negatively.
In contrast, we might attach the label to our identity and strive to justify and defend it. Labels are a little easier to work with if they’re positive, but if they’re negative, we might say “That’s just the way I am,” or “I’m not that way at all.”
Even if you believe in your astrological sign, it reveals something about yourself which is useful and can lead to behavioral awareness. We scoff at astrology, but it’s likely that if you are a Taurus and believe you are stubborn as defined, you probably behave in ways that confirm it. But you might choose to determine if that behavior works for you, and wonder if you might change it. The challenge is that once
we believe a label, we believe it is “who we are” and will run with it.
The truth is that labels are representations. Signposts for consideration. Behavioral indicators. Not unquestionable facts. But they’re often taught in absolute and simplified wording, because it takes a long time, a lot of study, and personal experience to understand the complexity of what the labels represent and how they may function for an individual. Ultimately, we each construct our identity.
These days, meme-based learning that happens in brief segments is preferred. We get a quick introduction to the instrument and our results. If we’re lucky we might get a half-day workshop. We accept the labels as confirmation of our identity or reject them. We may not gain the depth of information to use them wisely.
- You question the instrument’s “scientific validity.”
Highly validated and reliable assessments are considered scientific and therefore more credible. They include repetition of similar questions to measure consistency, conformational cross-referencing of items per category, and are judged by “the degree to which evidence and theory support the interpretations of test scores for the proposed uses of tests.” (They accurately measure what they claim to measure.)
Validation/Reliability is a little more complicated than that; a valid and reliable instrument also requires multiple iterations of piloting and testing and is strengthened by the number of people that have taken the test for whom the results were experienced as true.
360° Versions of personality and productivity assessments provide comparative perspectives that help describe when, where, and how traits, behaviors, and preferences show up across contexts and environments.
For a very thorough explanation and comparison, please watch this YouTube presentation by Doris Fullgrabe. It’s 20 minutes long. The first five minutes are a primer on comparative scientific validity.
Bottom line, no amount of validity and reliability will change your mind if the results don’t resonate with your sense of self, or if you’re committed to resisting challenging results.
In addition, we face a continuous problem because people come up with all kinds of competitive versions of existing valid and reliable assessments to make a buck. A lot of biased comparisons happen in marketing. There is nothing wrong with variety, but the attack on competing legitimate products is often unsupported and ultimately weakens the esteem of all assessments.
I have personally benefitted from my assessment results. I’ve taken many. It’s part of my profession and I’m curious and growth-oriented.
The California Psychological Inventory indicated that I was Super Vigilant. That didn’t mean that I was clinically disturbed. I understood that it was a perfectly reasonable response to my upbringing and that it was a trait that when acknowledged, contained awareness and intuition, which are quite valuable.
Another personality test I took was something akin to DiSC. It wasn’t presented well, so I ended up self-typing as an Analytic. I was thinking of my natural tendency to analyze personalities and behaviors. When given a validated model (DiSC) and quality instruction, I consistently test as an Expressive Driver which matches my behaviors, strengths, and preferences. However, I once worked in a toxic culture and
during that time I tested as a pure Driver. Circumstances affect results.
I test as an ENTJ in Myers-Briggs, but I would not describe myself as a “Field Marshall” as the type is often named. That’s because MBTI includes a clarity scale for each letter and a few of my letters were close to the center on the scale. The instrument accurately describes my preferences, and there is a variance in how they show up. MBTI has a lot more depth to it than is usually presented in a type validation workshop. (All that organizations often provide.) Examining my behaviors in relation to those typical of the type allowed me to balance and manage the expression of my preferences. And much more, by studying associated Jungian theory, I gained very useful insight for the trajectory of my life.
When I became certified in EQi 2.0, I was fascinated that the traits measured by the instrument strongly coordinated with the preferences of an ENTJ. This additional perspective helped me understand and adjust my behaviors to match who I really feel I am. For instance, my EQi 2.0 Independence score was
very high. I considered what drove my need for independence, saw how it created problems and misconceptions and determined when to use it and when to soften it.
I’ve gained similar benefits by exploring numerous other assessments. They often deliver congruent feedback which polishes the reliable mirror.
It’s very powerful when individuals on a team become more self-aware through assessment, share their results, learn respect for their differences, and benefit from better relationships.
How assessments are presented has a tremendous impact on their acceptance and utility. Misinterpretations of concepts and shortcutting information to meet time limits or increase the entertainment value build skepticism. Declaring that the results are absolute and unchanging is sure to
arouse suspicion and, considering recent discoveries in neuroscience, is false. We need to honor the complexities of being human while identifying the observable (testable) patterns, which can give us the perspective to enhance our humanity.
Assessments increase our self-awareness by giving us labels for traits, preferences, behavioral patterns, and psychological complexes, but rarely address their emotional foundations. A label is helpful but if a need for flexibility is indicated, you might be stuck with a “Stop doing that, start doing this” strategy.
In my work with assessments, I’ve found that to clearly understand and utilize the results you need to work with the emotions that motivate the identified preferences, patterns, traits, strengths, weaknesses, and behaviors if you want depth of self-insight or change. At the start of every emotion, thought, and action is a feeling. A biological body-brain-mind perception that taps attention.
Feelings sit at the core of our humanity and emotions motivate how we express ourselves. It might be easier if we started by building emotional self-awareness before identifying behavioral patterns. Objections to assessments don’t apply to this self-driven exploration.
When working with emotions you can benefit from having a guide, but no one can tell you what you’re feeling. It’s your experience. As you gain expertise in catching and identifying your feelings you can notice the thoughts and patterns they ignite. When you are emotionally aware, you can choose behaviors.
I believe having the knowledge and skills of Emotional Intelligence before taking assessments and receiving the results empowers the experience. The science behind EI is unquestionably strong and rapidly advancing. Self-driven self-awareness makes us more open to the value of conceptual reflection. But instruction on the skills of emotional self-awareness as part of coaching post-assessment also deepens self-awareness, intensifies learning, and accelerates change.
One way or the other, incorporating the skills of emotional intelligence increases the power of learning through assessment