Newsletter #3: 10 things you need to know about personality
What would you say about yourself if you were asked to describe your personality? And do you think it’s possible to change?
Maybe you’re thinking “I’m creative,” “I’m analytical,” “I’m social,” or “I’m quiet.”
The most popular personality assessment today, the Myers-Briggs, categorizes you in this way. That is, as is feeling or thinking, judging or perceiving, introverted or extroverted.
Being able to categorize yourself and others in this way creates an intimate sense of security and belonging. Yet the issue lies within labels. These can leave us thinking that our personality is fixed and that people are only one certain way: you're either one type or the other (which is usually false!).
It’s not just Myers-Briggs who label us in this way of course. We all tend to speak about personality traits as if they were categorical, as when we describe someone as being introverted or extroverted. In reality, these traits are continuous variables (like height or age), and we all fall somewhere along the line between being an extreme introvert or an extreme extrovert.
In this week's newsletter, I’ll clarify what personality really is whilst debunking some common misconceptions about personality assessments. You won’t want to miss this ⬇️
10 things you need to know about personality
🎭 The word personality itself stems from the Latin word “persona”, which refers to a theatrical mask worn by performers to either project different roles or disguise their identities.
🧑🤝🧑 Today we think of personality as the patterns of behaviors and characteristics that can help predict and explain a person's behavior.
5️⃣ The most scientifically validated assessment of personality today is the Big Five Model of Personality. It suggests that the differences between people’s personalities can be broken down in terms of five major traits - called the “Big Five.” People fall on a dimension on each of these and reflect a key part of how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The Big Five traits are:
Openness to experience (includes aspects such as curiosity and imagination)
Conscientiousness (organization, productiveness, responsibility)
Extroversion (sociability, assertiveness)
Agreeableness (compassion, respectfulness, trust in others)
Emotional Stability (tendencies toward stress and worry)
🚫 Despite research showing that there is little evidence to support the Myers-Briggs (it’s neither reliable nor valid), more than 50 million globally people have taken it. According to the Myers-Briggs website, the tool is used by more than 88 percent of Fortune 500 companies in 115 countries!
💓 Another dimension of personality that receives a lot of cultural attention consists of type A and type B classifications. These terms were actually invented by cardiologists to identify those who may have a greater risk of coronary disease.
📈 Personality assessments now make up a $500+ million industry, with annual rates predicting 10% - 15% in growth. It’s a largely unregulated industry, so make sure you do your research before signing up for anything. When considering what personality assessment to take or use for your business, make sure you pick one that is valid, reliable, and dimensional (e.g. The Big Five). Rather than sole categorization amidst two opposing traits, dimensions allow for contrasts, individuality, and explanations for those who fall in the middle of the spectrum.
🌖 Historically, personality has been referred to as relatively stable, but current scientific literature shows that certain aspects of personality are more changeable than previously thought. Significant life events such as childbirth, death, marriage, or losing a job can also lead to personality changes
💡Knowing your own and surrounding personalities within the workplace helps you understand preferences, avoid conflict, appreciate diversity, find the right career or employee, and improve decision-making abilities. A recent study found that the more aligned you feel with your co-workers, the better your physical and mental health, and overall well-being
“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.”
— Desmond Tutu
😶Funnily, while 95% of people think they're self-aware, only 10-15% truly are.
⚖️ The more extreme a person is on a particular trait, the better a predictor it is of behaviors such as who you vote for, where you work and how you relate with family, friends, and romantic partners. If you score in the middle of the dimension somewhere, the odds are that other factors (such as values) likely play a more important role in determining your behavior.
Feeling inspired by all the personality chat? Log in to bestselfy and try out a new topic that you think could help develop and strengthen your best traits! If you're not a user, simply respond to this email and we will get you set up in no time.
Want more? In this podcast Adam Grant helps you discover what your traits really are and how you can stretch beyond them
Reflection question of the week 🤔
What is your favorite personality trait in yourself?
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Keep reflecting! Best, Hilary