In Defence of not hurting people's feelings

Someone sent me a link to this twitter conversation the other day with the title “interesting thread”.

The Myers-Briggs personality types were invented in 1944 based on Jungian psychoanalysis concepts from the 1920s. They've never been valid, and have been obsolete for over 60 years. Companies and therapists that use them are committing scientific malpractice.

— Geoffrey Miller (@primalpoly) March 21, 2018

I’m not so sure about that assessment but do realise that it contains many of the objections to psychometrics like ours, which I hear on a regular basis. Some don’t make much sense and while others are well meaning it is hardly possible to make coherent or nuanced point in 140 characters. Just ask Donald Tump. However one person did post a link to a video of one of Jordan Peterson’s lectures, in which (love him or hate him) he mounts a pretty strong case against psychometrics like MBTI and by extension MiRo.

You can watch them here:

Jordan Peterson on psychometric testing

Jordan Peterson on “what job suits you”

So given that “not hurting anyone’s feelings” seems to arouse such negative emotions in some folks, I thought I’d mount a defence of what we do.

There is a place for the Big 5 and IQ tests and whatever other psychometrics are out there that can predict performance or success in whatever way those things are measured. Peterson quite rightly says that people with an IQ of less than 100 are unlikely to be successful or happy in a career as a professor of mathematics. Likewise the much-vaunted Big 5 can make similarly accurate predictions. If you’re not very agreeable, highly neurotic, closed to new ideas, not very conscientious and incapable of extroversion (for which read “unsociable”) it is hard to imagine where you might be successful or happy. While if you score the opposite way on all of those scales, it would be surprising if you were not already successful and happy.

We at MiRo toyed with a Big 5 assessment but decided that “not hurting people’s feelings” was still important to us. We are not sure either that all of the Big 5 are not changeable and more allied to mental and emotional health than personality.

MiRo is here to help people to understand themselves and each other and to make better choices about how they, work, interact, approach problems in the here and now and plan for the future. We intend to help people understand how they are different from or similar to their colleagues, friends and customers not whether they are better or worse.

If you are a professor of mathematics with an IQ of less than 100, it will become evident soon enough; in fact I wonder why it was not evident a little earlier in your career. However regardless of your IQ and whether you are a professor, a parson or a post office worker, it might be useful to know why you are continually frustrated by a particular colleague and how you might communicate better with her. It might be worth knowing what kind of career is likely to feed your soul, how to help your workmates deal with changes to their working practices, what your boss expects of you but doesn’t say out loud, which of your personality traits is most likely to influence someone else to change their mind and any number of other factors that make work into a pleasurable and productive human experience instead of an undignified fight for resources.

There is space for all of it of course and if it works, by all means use it. However if you can avoid hurting people’s feelings, do, particularly if you have to work with them tomorrow. MiRo is about understanding people. The ancient Greeks knew that that was important too. Over the doorway of the temple at Delphi, it read, “Know thyself”. It is from there that all wisdom begins.