Seeing a middle-aged man in a conservative business suit sitting next to a chap with blue hair and a silver ring through his nose highlights the fact that people live life differently. It's often said that no two people are exactly alike, but according to one psychological theory, they can share one of 16 distinct personality types, which are formed by different combinations of personality traits.
Psychologists stress that personality type doesn't explain everything about us and that people with the same personality type often behave differently. But they also say that we can't simply trade one personality type for another.Personality type is a bit like left- or right-handedness. Most people are born preferring one hand, and all of us are born with a personality type, which has some aspects that we feel more comfortable with than others. For example, a person who is introverted would relax by focussing on their memories, thoughts or feelings, while an extrovert would naturally concentrate on the outer world.
Experts say that we typically develop our personality type - our preferred way of doing things - through the course of our lives in response to our surroundings and experiences - school or work, for example. A common pattern is to develop the dominant aspects of our personality type - those that feel most comfortable - until middle age. Some might call this process 'finding yourself'.
However, life rarely allows us to rely solely on the personality traits that come to us naturally. The extroverted, boisterous schoolboy may have to conform to more introverted behaviours in the classroom. An introverted personnel manager may have to focus more of his attention on people around the office.
As middle age approaches, the behaviours that stem from the dominant parts of our personality type may begin to seem boring, and less obvious or underused aspects of our personality may emerge. This experience is common and in some cases may be traumatic - the midlife crisis. So the quiet businessman who always took the bus to work and had a short haircut may decide that blue hair and a red sports car aren't such bad ideas after all. On the other hand, others may miss out on this personality change completely. Everyone has a different experience.
Psychologists say that it's possible to intentionally develop under-used parts of our personality type. Take as an example two friends preparing to go away on holiday. One of them may insist on planning every minute of the trip, while the other may just throw some clothes in a bag at the last minute and go with the flow. It's likely that the meticulous holiday planner would have a different personality type to their carefree companion, but each of them could probably learn to develop parts of their personality that would make them more like the other. They would have to do this through much thought and effort, and it would probably take years, not days or weeks, to see a real difference.
Just a theory
It's important to remember that though personality type is popular, it is not supported by all psychologists. Experts also caution that personality type should never be used as an excuse to avoid doing something and that no personality type is better than another.
Find out about the 16 personality types from the What Am I like? personality test:
Big Thinker, Counsellor, Go-getter, Idealist, Innovator, Leader, Mastermind, Mentor, Nurturer, Peacemaker, Performer, Provider, Realist, Resolver, Strategist and Supervisor.
* Many people discover their personality type with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a questionnaire based on the famous psychologist Carl G. Jung's theory of psychological type
SUMMARY OF BIG THINKERS
· Outspoken, ingenious and bored by routine
· Look for opportunities and enjoy tackling problems head-on
· Think of themselves as talkative, curious and self-sufficient
· May neglect the routine work required to make their plans successful
More about Big Thinkers
Big Thinkers are always looking for the next big idea or opportunity. They're adept at spotting trends and thinking on their feet. Big Thinkers like to jump in and find innovative solutions to complex problems and are good at developing strategies for the future. Big Thinkers are usually curious, logical and energetic. This chatty group enjoys a good debate and asserting their opinions. Sometimes others may find the way they express their ideas too abrupt or challenging. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Big Thinkers may be rude, critical of others or rebellious. Under extreme stress, Big Thinkers can become preoccupied with unimportant details and lose sight of the 'big picture'. Big Thinkers may ignore important details in their plans and overlook the impact their ideas have on the people around them.
BIG THINKER CAREERS: The entrepreneurial spirit of the Big Thinkers often leads them to seek new challenges; this is often more important to them than working in a particular field or a specific career.
SUMMARY OF COUNSELLORS
· Search for meaning in their life and develop powerful insights
· Are dedicated to helping others reach their potential
· Think of themselves as gentle, peaceable and cautious
· Others may find it difficult to get to know them
More about Counsellors
Counsellors have a natural understanding of human relationships and the complexities of life, which they use to help others. They search for meaning in everything and develop complex insights. Counsellors feel most relaxed and creative when their surroundings are organised. They are deeply private people who only share their insights with trusted friends; however, they will defend their values if challenged. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Counsellors may withdraw from the people around them or become resentful. Under extreme stress, Counsellors may feel overwhelmed and be driven to organise small parts of their lives such as their kitchen cabinets or their record collection. Counsellors typically prefer a few close relationships to a wide circle of friends.
COUNSELLOR CAREERS: Counsellors are often drawn to jobs where they can help people develop emotionally, intellectually or spiritually and where they can use their imagination.
SUMMARY OF GO-GETTERS
· Inventive, resourceful problem solvers with a love of life
· Can be tough-minded when necessary
· Think of themselves as enthusiastic, determined and alert
· May become frustrated by rules and routines
More about Go-getters
Go-getters are active, flexible people who put a great deal of energy into life. This group prefers learning on the job to quiet study and willingly jumps into almost any situation. Others are attracted to the Go-getter's positive attitude and enthusiasm. Go-getters find fun ways to tackle problems head-on and don't worry too much about rules. They are good at using logic to assess the situation and finding realistic solutions.In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Go-getters may reject all routines and put fun ahead of responsibilities. Under extreme stress, Go-getters may become overwhelmed by thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong. Go-getters may be liable to forget important dates such as a loved one's birthday.
GO-GETTER CAREERS: Go-getters are attracted to a variety of careers, especially those which require attention to detail.
SUMMARY OF IDEALISTS
· Make sense of the world using inner values
· Focus on personal growth and the growth of others
· Think of themselves as bright, forgiving and curious
· May sometimes appear stubborn
More about Idealists
Idealists put time and energy into developing personal values that they use as a guide through life. They may seek fulfilment by helping others improve themselves and often want to make the world a better place. Idealists only share their inner values with people they respect. Idealists enjoy discussions about a wide range of topics, particularly those that deal with the future. They are typically easy-going and flexible, but if their values are challenged they may refuse to compromise. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Idealists may have trouble expressing themselves and withdraw. Under extreme stress, Idealists may become very critical of others, or lose confidence in their own ability to cope. Recognition for their work is important to Idealists; however, they are also good at spotting false praise.
IDEALIST CAREERS: Idealists are often drawn to jobs where they can help people reach their potential. They are also attracted to careers that allow artistic creativity.
SUMMARY OF INNOVATORS
· Energetic and creative, taking inspiration from everyone they meet
· Enjoy flexible work environments with few rules and many opportunities for fun
· Think of themselves as imaginative, sociable and sympathetic
· May not think logically about their ideas
More about Innovators
Innovators are fun-loving, creative, sensitive people who enjoy developing their ideas by discussing them with others. This group supports the people around them and expects the same in return. Others are drawn to Innovators because of their love of life, caring nature and openness. Innovators are good at spotting opportunities and recognizing potential in people. Innovators put all their energy into new projects and their enthusiasm motivates others to support their plans. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Innovators may become rebellious and unfocused. Under extreme stress, Innovators may become preoccupied with meaningless details. Innovators may over-extend themselves or put a night out with friends ahead of more pressing commitments.
INNOVATOR CAREERS: Innovators are drawn to careers that require teaching or counselling, where they can work with and help encourage the development of others.
SUMMARY OF LEADERS
· Natural managers who strive for efficiency
· See the big picture and make strategic plans for the future
· Think of themselves as bright, independent and logical
· May overlook other people's need for emotional support
More about Leaders
Leaders are strategic thinkers, planning ahead and anticipating difficulties. They quickly spot inefficiency and organise people to make improvements. Leaders like solving problems at the organisational level, but would rather leave the detailed work to others. Leaders enjoy discussing complex issues and will challenge people's views to spark a debate. They admire people who defend their beliefs by arguing persuasively. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Leaders may become detached, critical or aggressive. Under extreme stress, Leaders may feel isolated and doubt their abilities. Leaders are often so ambitious in their careers that they sacrifice their personal life in the process.
LEADER CAREERS: Leaders are often drawn to jobs in management where logical analysis and strategic planning are required.
SUMMARY OF MASTERMINDS
· Visionaries who put energy into achieving their goals
· Prefer to work independently and dislike inefficiency
· Think of themselves as logical, thorough and bright
· Value practicality and common sense above ideas and theories
More about Masterminds
Masterminds create a vision for the future by gathering and organising information. They then develop strategies to achieve their goals. They have a rare gift for looking at almost anything and seeing how it can be improved. These skills and the Masterminds' high standards often allow them to reach leadership positions at work. Masterminds value independence and prefer to work on their own. Once they have decided on a course of action, Masterminds rarely change their minds, although they can be persuaded by the clear reasoning of someone they respect. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Masterminds may cut themselves off from a group and criticise people who don't understand their plans. Under extreme stress, Masterminds may overindulge in sensory experiences like eating, shopping or watching television. Masterminds often have an unusual sense of humour, which arises from their ability to spot surprising links between seemingly unconnected facts.
MASTERMIND CAREERS: Masterminds are drawn to jobs requiring logical analysis or abstract thinking common in science or technical fields.
SUMMARY OF MENTORS
· Warm and lively people who focus on the needs of others
· Bring people together and encourage group participation
· Think of themselves as intelligent, outgoing and sensitive
· May become overbearing in their quest for harmony
More about Mentors
Articulate, lively and enthusiastic, Mentors spend time and energy fostering relationships and encouraging personal growth in others. They are extremely sensitive to people's needs and play a central role in families and social groups. Mentors love to bring people together in harmony and enjoy busy, active lives. However, their warm nature may mean they have trouble making tough decisions that affect others negatively. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Mentors may focus too much on the needs of others. Under extreme stress, Mentors may be troubled by unusually critical thoughts about themselves and others. Mentors readily see the best traits in others, but may have trouble recognising personality faults.
MENTOR CAREERS: Mentors are often drawn to jobs where they can help people develop their potential.
SUMMARY OF NURTURERS
· Care for the important people in their lives
· Strive for harmony and avoid confrontation
· Think of themselves as gentle, conscientious and mature
· May have trouble making decisions that could hurt others
More about Nurturers
Nurturers are quiet people who believe in order and diligently look after the people they care about. They focus on the needs of others and establish routines to help them meet their commitments. Nurturers remember details that are important to them, such as their friends' birthdays and anniversaries. People with this personality type value others' feelings and may challenge behaviour they think is insensitive. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Nurturers may feel bitter and seek support by complaining to their colleagues. Under extreme stress, Nurturers may become preoccupied with the worst possible outcome and believe that they are heading for disaster. Because they are so caring and loyal, Nurturers run the risk of being taken advantage of.
NURTURER CAREERS: Nurturers are often drawn to jobs that allow them to help others.
SUMMARY OF PEACEMAKERS
· Value personal freedom
· Particularly sensitive to the feelings of others
· Think of themselves as steady, gentle and sympathetic
· Others may mistake their quiet nature for weakness
More about Peacemakers
Peacemakers focus on the present and enjoy helping others in practical ways. They are sensitive to the world around them and take quiet joy from people and nature, particularly animals. Peacemakers value close relationships, but it may take time for others to get to know them. Peacemakers live by a set of personal values, which they work hard to reflect in their everyday life. They would rather support an activity than organise it. When they do find themselves in leadership positions, they observe quietly and lead by example. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Peacemakers may withdraw and become self-critical. Under extreme stress, Peacemakers may become even more critical of themselves and others and make harsh judgements about minor issues.Peacemakers tend to show someone how much they care about them by helping them in a practical way rather than putting their feelings into words.
PEACEMAKER CAREERS: Peacemakers are often drawn to jobs that allow them to serve others and require close attention to detail.
SUMMARY OF PERFORMERS
· Love fun, people and the world around them
· Prefer hands-on learning to reading a book
· Think of themselves as enthusiastic, sociable or sensitive
· May forget about commitments because they're having so much fun
More about Performers
For the Performers, people and the exciting world around them come before rules and routines. This group believes you can get work done efficiently and have fun at the same time. Others are naturally drawn to the Performers' outgoing nature and enjoyment of life. Performers are good at reading people and figuring out what their needs are. They don't believe in making plans and are confident that they can handle whatever comes their way. These skills allow Performers to quickly motivate others. In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Performers may become distracted, fail to accept or meet deadlines, or take criticism too personally. Under extreme stress, Performers can be overwhelmed by thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong. Performers may live for the moment and forget the consequences of their actions.
PERFORMER CAREERS: Performers are drawn to careers that require people skills and attention to detail.
SUMMARY OF PROVIDERS
· Warm, caring people who value order and tradition
· Loyal workers who follow through on commitments
· Think of themselves as sympathetic, easy-going and steady
· They don't feel comfortable with radical change
More about Providers
Providers like to make plans with other people and then to work with them towards achievable goals in a fun, harmonious environment. They support people that are important to them and respect their individuality. Providers have traditional values and support order and responsible behaviour. They enjoy social events, particularly family celebrations, and often help plan them. Providers work hard to avoid conflict, but they will state their beliefs when they think it is suitable.In situations where they can't use their talents or are unappreciated, Providers may doubt their abilities and focus solely on the needs of other people. Under extreme stress, Providers may withdraw completely and become excessively critical of themselves and others. Providers prefer warm, face-to-face communication and often express their ideas by telling stories from their own lives.
PROVIDER CAREERS: Providers are often drawn to jobs in education, health care or religion.
SUMMARY OF REALISTS
· Loyal and steady workers who meet deadlines
· Believe in established rules and respect facts
· Think of themselves as mature, stable and conscientious
· May appear too logical or tough-minded and forget their impact on other people