With the current awareness of introversion that is awakening worldwide, a great interest in personality types has also emerged.
In our personal journey’s of self-understanding, we undoubtedly come across the exploration of our psyches, and trying to understand why we are the way we are.
Before you can decide where you want to go in life, you first have to find out where you presently are – and self-understanding is essential for this.
I have previously written about Ambiversion and how most of us have ignored the fact that we are either Ambiverted Introverts or Ambiverted Extroverts, rather than being two polar extremes of people.
In my own practices of working and counseling different types of people, I have witnessed the immense power that exists when you learn to balance your psychological self with your spiritual self.
But to do that you need an effective psychological system of personality analysis – this article will aim to provide this, along with a free test you can take at the end.
Our Timeless Search For Self-Understanding
The desire to better understand why we are the way we are can be traced back since the birth of consciousness. Historically though, a Greek figure known as Theophrastus (371 BC), is considered by many to be the first personality psychologist.
Theophrastus would spend hours observing his fellow Athenians and taking notes of their pattern of behaviors that appeared to yield distinct personality types. One observation, for example, was that people who were late in paying back their borrowed money also drove the hardest bargain when buying an amphora of wine.
With a collection of these different observations, Theophrastus wrote his great work ‘The Characters‘, where he illustrates thirty types of people, such as the Penurious, the Unseasonable Man, and the Garrulous.
In this way, Theophrastus built the foundation of modern personality. He has also contributed to how psychologists today study the environment and how genetic inheritance combines to shape people’s personalities, or in other words: their patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, as well as how these guide a person’s decisions in life.
Another historical psychologist was the Greek physician Claudius Galen (130 AD). Claudius operated on wounded soldiers, taking this opportunity to study what he considered to be “windows to the soul”, or: a person’s excesses of fluids (known as “Humors”) which he felt influenced a persons mood/behavior. He broke down these fluids into four main types: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. From these observations he created what was known as the Four Humors or Temperaments.
Theophrastus’ thirty Characters, as well as the Four Temperaments, declined in popularity once better and more accurate systematic ways of studying a person’s psyche appeared. One such system is that of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which is actively used today for personal analysis as well as in corporate employment processes.
In my experience, MBTI as a means of self analysis and personality cataloging is ineffective. I will explain why below.
Why MBTI is Ineffective
The reason why personality profiling like Theophrastus’, Claudius’ and MBTI fail in truly helping you understand yourself or others in a deeper way, is that they work by dividing the dynamic nature of a human beings into static “types”.
In the Myers-Briggs system, for example, there are sixteen possible types and you fall into one, and only one, type. If you are an INTJ type for example (that is: you are classified as a combination of Introversion, iNtuitive, Thinking, and Judging), you cannot also be an INFP type – you’re placed in one type at the expense of another.
There is a problem with splitting people up this way. The reality of living and breathing human beings as opposed to robots, is that our types tend to blend together, with most people falling near the middle of the spectrum and a few at the extremes. By classifying someone as a “Thinker”, you immediately disqualify them from having any “Feeler” capacity. I, for example, get scored as an INTJ even though percentage wise I only received 55% thinker, while I also scored 45% feeler, and this gets completely ignored.
When we talk about “types” of people, this also implies a separation between groups of people that really doesn’t exist. Our minds find it comforting to think in extremes and absolutes. When you get classified as an “Introvert” for example, you immediately identify completely with the feeling of introversion, even though there might be much more introverted people than you.
For communication purposes, it is useful and convenient to refer to someone as an Extrovert instead of an Ambiverted Extrovert with 30% Introversion – it’s just more compelling to think this way about people. We do the same thing with height. When you say a person is tall you are not saying she falls into an entirely different category from short people, just that she falls toward one end of the spectrum.
This is why I’m an advocate for the Big Five Personality Traits system: it takes into account our dynamic human aspects while still expanding our understanding of the psyche.
Big Five Personality Traits
The first key advantage of the Big 5 Personality Traits is that it doesn’t work by grouping people into “types”, but instead it analyzes the individual traits of your psyche across five different dimensions. These dimensions are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (conveniently spelling out OCEAN so you can remember them).
When testing how you measure across these five unique dimensions, you are giving a percentage of how dominant these traits are in your psyche. If you’re Introverted you’ll rank lowly on the Extraverted dimension, for instance, while still being able to rank highly within the Extraverted ‘facets’, which we’ll now explore.
The second key advantage of the Big 5 categories are that they’re extremely broad. In each of the five dimensions, there are several sub-dimensions known as facets. For example, the Extraversion dimension is composed of Friendliness, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activity Level, Excitement Seeking, and Cheerfulness.
For instance, a person measuring high on the Extroverted Assertiveness facet would be someone who likes taking charge in group situations. This is quite powerful, because it means you can be high on Gregariousness (enjoyment of social activity) while low on Assertiveness, and not just defining yourself as an “Extrovert” type.
The following is a brief description of each one of the Big 5 Dimensions:
Openness: This dimension is known as openness to experiences. People at the high end of the scale enjoy questioning norms and conventions, they like to play with ideas and they have vivid imaginations. In contrast, the relatively conventional people at the other end of the scale prefer the concrete to the abstract, and the known to the unknown.
Conscientiousness: People high on the trait of conscientiousness, plan ahead. They like order. Although a sense of duty is part of this construct, the dimension is not as dominated by conscience as the Big Five label conscientiousness might suggest. Conscientious people tend not to become distracted, and they are not reckless.
Agreeableness: Agreeable people are generous, compassionate, warm, and kind. Despite the name, agreeableness does not really refer to people who are pushovers. It’s more about interpersonal warmth. People low on this trait are frank in their opinions, and blunt, and not particularly concerned with protecting other’s feelings.
Extraversion: Extroverted people are talkative, enthusiastic, cheerful, energetic, and gregarious. Extraversion also includes some traits you might not expect to be associated with this dimension. For example, although you might expect that extraverts would be higher than introverts on friendliness and gregariousness, most people would not expect assertiveness to be part of extraversion (it is easy to imagine that assertiveness would instead be associated with low agreeableness or low neuroticism, but it’s not).
Neuroticism: The Big Five brand is far broader than our use of this term in everyday speech (e.g. “neuroticism” usually refers to a person who worries a lot). In this case, Neuroticism refers to people who are easily stressed and find it hard to remain calm in tense situations. Neurotic people get ruffled and anxious easily. They worry a lot, often ruminating about what lies ahead or what has just happened. They are the opposite of someone who is laid-back and nonchalant.
Understanding your own (or someone else’s) psychological traits provides you with half of the story necessary to build a deeper understanding of your whole psychological ‘self’. The other half you need to discover is your own beliefs, goals, needs, hopes and dreams (which we explore in countless other articles). Feel free to take our short Big 5 Personality Trait’s Test by clicking the link below!
Big 5 Test!
If you would like to learn more about your own levels across these five dimensions, go ahead and take our short free Big 5 Personality Test.