Does Moving To Another Country Change Your MBTI?
Have you ever taken a personality test? I’ve often helped people take tests and one thing I noticed was that people can interpret words very differently. We often hold unconscious beliefs about different words and their meaning, and when we start discussing them with other people, we can realize that we look at these words in a very different way.
In this article, I want to show you how language and personality is connected. And I’ve met many that say their MBTI changed because they moved to a different country and culture. A german person living a decade in Italy might become more warm and passionate, and a Southern American who moves to Germany might become more conscientious over time. But does that mean that your MBTI changes?
Firstly, language is how you express your personality, and without language, you wouldn’t be able to express who you were or what you felt or how you thought to other people.
Secondly, language is connected to culture, and different forms of language, already convey cultural biases. Just because you are from a specific country, for example germany, can make you perceived in a certain way, for example, as more organized and conscientious, regardless of how you see yourself or how you feel about the matter.
Thirdly, language is a toolbox, and the structure of language can limit your ability to effectively utilize your cognitive functions and personality traits. Because the language you use is structured a certain way, and limited to certain words, means, you may not be able to translate certain thoughts or ideas the way you want.
Let’s dig deeper.
Using language to express your personality
Most people overestimate how understood they really are. The fact of the matter is, most of the time, if you don’t make an effort to clarify what you mean and how you feel about different things, other people will grossly misunderstand you. And you’ll often have no idea that it’s happening. The word outgoing can mean to like to go out, or it can mean to take initiative socially. To some, it means being hyper-extroverted, while other people might see it more neutrally, as being open to chat or interested in people. So to tell your partner that you’d like the two of you to be more outgoing, can confuse your partner, who doesn’t like to go to parties, but might be more than open to other extroverted activities, like mountain climbing or smaller, more relaxing social venues.
In comes language. Language can be seen as the toolbox of your personality. It’s how you express yourself. By having a deep and rich vocabulary and understanding of tone, grammar, and both nonverbal and verbal cues, you’re able to express yourself better to the world. A person who lacks the language or vocabulary or understanding of nuances in how we pronounce or articulate words, may find it hard to communicate their needs and feelings correctly.
Perhaps, you’ve been in a situation, where you tried to say something, but felt like the other person didn’t hear you? Perhaps they exaggerated or responded differently than you expected? Learning languages goes two ways. It helps you make yourself understood, and it helps you avoid miscommunications with other people, and helps you become a better listener. Instead of immediately reacting to what your friend or partner says, based on how you interpret a word, ask them how they mean it, or to give examples to demonstrate what they mean. Don’t just rely on the surface of the word but dig deeper to make sure you really hear the person.
Language tells a story about who you are
Language and nonverbal signals constantly tell the world a story about who you are – how you think – and what you want. When you use an indirect style of communication in the Netherlands, people think you’re being passive aggressive or manipulative, or they think you’re dishonest. When you use a direct style of communication in Spain, people think you’re being too forceful, rude, or aggressive. These are all personality coded traits, that tell a story of who you are. And it might not be the story you want to tell.
What makes you who you are is not the words you use – or the gestures or expressions themselves, it’s the meaning underneath it.Erik Thor
Often, when we move to another country or engage with people who have different cultural or subcultural views, and this can even happen in the southern vs northern region of a country, they might have negative beliefs about us, simply because of where we are from or where we grew up. The truth is, this can limit deeper connection and understanding. If they learn to look past how you’ve learnt to communicate or how your dialect or tone of voice sounds, they might find a very different person underneath it all. Just because your dialect sounds angry doesn’t mean that you are angry, and these kinds of miscommunications happen all the time.
Using language as a toolbox
Most people who learn languages feel that their MBTI or personality type is changed as a result of what language they use, and depending on what language they take the test in. To take a 16 personalities test in Swedish, English, or German, can produce different results. Being in your country of origin, and with your family, can cause you to take on a certain role or personality type. Think about how your family would describe you, compared to your friends or coworkers, and you might find that they see you differently. This is also because we perceive personality through a relative lens. Based on Swedish standards, you might appear more extroverted than american standards. Even though you haven’t changed how you act at all.
But understanding language and culture can give you a toolbox that helps you be able to be authentically yourself, regardless of where you are. By being fluent in multiple languages, and understanding how different cultures act, you know how to be yourself, and how to act and conduct yourself, to be understood by other people. This might mean that you adapt how aggressive or assertive you are to the situation. On the outer spectrum, your behaviour might change, but your personality or intention remains the same. You might speak more warmly and affectionately in a more warm country, but you know that these words, in this culture, doesn’t really mean what it means in your home country. So it’s still an accurate reflection of your personality and who you are.
We can’t force language to mean what we want it to mean. We can’t go to Japan and tell Japanese people what it means to be polite and expect them to adjust to us. We have to adjust how we interpret and use language to the situation and the context. That means using language as a toolbox to make ourselves understood for who we are and what we really want, by adjusting our tone of voice, or what expressions we use, to the listener. What makes you who you are is not the words you use – or the gestures or expressions themselves, it’s the meaning underneath it.
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