To Thine Own Self Be Who? Part II

Your personal temperament may be the reason you wake up early or sleep in late.

Posted Aug 30, 2014

You’ve heard “To thine own self be true.” But what happens when you don’t know your true self? This is part II in a series of free self-tests aimed at helping you discover the real you.

Part I illuminated a few potential wake-up calls for areas in your life that may need refining. Wake-up calls are normal stages of life that precede change and growth. It is not failure to identify a wake-up call. It is a healthy sign of honest self-awareness and growth. Part II is going to look at more traditional personality typing. Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at some of the origins of personality typing.

One of the first attempts at categorizing human behavior came in 450 B.C. when Hippocrates, the Father of Medical Science, lumped personalities into four broad anatomical categories. These divisions were based on the concept of having an imbalance of “humors” or secretions of the heart, liver, lungs, or kidneys. In his theory, a person could be assessed as a Sanguine (heart – upbeat, optimistic), Choleric (liver – hot-tempered), Phlegmatic (lungs – stoic, apathetic), or a Melancholic (kidneys - depressed).

Paracelsus revamped these four types into Earth, Air, Water, and Fire in the 16th century (okay, astrology did that first, yet Paracelsus’s typologies were more accepted in the scientific community).

After the birth of psychology a couple hundred years later, Carl G. Jung developed a temperament framework not unlike Hippocrates’ humors typology. Jung’s temperaments are a bit more elaborate as they consist of four main temperament continuums, resulting in 16 personality combinations. These form the basis of today’s popular Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Keirsey-Bates tests.

These temperament tests continue to amaze me as they reveal how people think and see the world. They also shed light on communication styles and relationship compatibility and why some ‘personality clashes’ occur.

 Following are the four main temperament continuum descriptions so that you can find your dominant temperament type. We’ll then wrap up part II with some of the conflicts, compatibilities and issues among the types.

1. People

How do you feel after being with other people? Do you leave a large party or any large gathering of people and generally feel buzzed with excitement afterward? Are you a social butterfly at gatherings, flitting from one person to the next to catch up with everyone? Or do you tend to go to a safe spot away from everyone and engage in conversation with one or two people the whole time? Does being alone for long periods of time charge you up or drain you?

All of these questions relate to the continuum of introversion to extraversion.

Extraverts get their energy from being around others. They are sociable and tend to be social butterflies. They often know lots of people and are comfortable talking to anyone. Standing out in a crowd, they often help to stir up energy in group settings. Being alone for long periods of time can be draining for an extravert and the more extraverted they are, the more they want to go, go, go.

Introverts will get drained after being in large groups of people and need down time alone to recharge. They tend to have fewer friendships that are deeper. They can be more introspective and quiet in group settings, taking more of an observer view and processing everything they are witnessing. Many introverts can speak well in front of a large group or in a one-to-one basis, yet have most discomfort participating in group situations with light shallow talk.

→Rating – Write “E” if you more closely identify with extravert and “I” if the introvert is a better description of you. If you are having a hard time because you identify with both, write down what fits you more of the time even if it’s just slightly more. Still vacillating? You can put “X”. (Note: We may be born with one dominant trait and move to the other side of the continuum as we age or as we go through major life transitions.)

2. Relate

This section addresses how you relate to the world, ideas, concepts, and information. The continuum ranges from sensing to intuitive.

A sensing person receives information through his/her senses. What does it tangibly look, see, smell, and sound like? A sensing person wants details and has a “just give me the facts” type of mentality. A sensing person can easily categorize information and deal with what is right in front of them and is good at seeing facts and figures.

An intuitive person receives information from their intuition (almost like in a sixth sense fashion or a hyper sense). Because the intuition is dominant, they are more apt to see the big picture and are drawn to complex and abstract ideas. Intuitive people tend to ‘just know’ and can easily synthesize multiple concepts and theories and see the interconnections. They are good at spotting trends and having long-sighted vision. Sensing people can often get baffled by an intuitive communicator and will just want them to stick to the facts or get their head out of the clouds.

→Rating—Write an “S” for sensing or an “N” for intuitive. If you are having a hard time because you identify with both, write down what fits you more of the time even if it’s just slightly more. Still vacillating? You can put “X”. (Note: We may be born with one dominant trait and move to the other side of the continuum as we age or as we go through major life transitions.)

3. Emotion

We all feel. There’s a continuum to how we feel. This section addresses temperament and is not addressing psychological defenses of denial or repression. This continuum ranges from thinking to feeling.

Thinking is exactly how it sounds. Think academia and research. The goal is to be objective. Principles trump values. Justice, analysis, standards, and being impersonal are a way thinkers feel. They feel, yet detach from feelings in order to observe things logically. These are not the touch-feely types.

Feeling people bask in the subjective realm of feelings. Values are important. Subjectivity is understood because a feeler recognizes that feelings change and are different in everybody. They are motivated by humane conditions over justice. Intimacy, sympathy and devotion reign. They are heartfelt and often seek to help others feel better.

→Rating—Write a “T” for thinking and “F” for feeling. If you are having a hard time because you identify with both, write down what fits you more of the time even if it’s just slightly more. Still vacillating? You can put “X”. (Note: We may be born with one dominant trait and move to the other side of the continuum as we age or as we go through major life transitions.)

4. Organization

How do you organize your day and relate to time? This continuum involves judging through perceiving.

Judging as dominant means a person highly organizes their life in a planned fashion and according to the clock. Thus, they are punctual, decisive, and fixed. A judging temperament likes structure and activities to be scheduled in a calendar. If going on a trip, everything will be planned and ordered ahead of time. They tend to be impatient and frustrated when others do not commit or are indecisive.

Perceiving is more in the moment and has a pending relation with plans. Perceivers prefer to gather more data before settling on a decision—which can lead to a level of indecisiveness. They are flexible and take life with an adapt as you go attitude. There is a tendency to resist schedules and prefer to keep things open ended and spontaneous. Trips are taken with an adventurous treasure-hunting mindset and many judgers often discover surprises they would have missed when traveling with a perceiver.

→Rating—Write “J” for judging and “P” for perceiving. If you are having a hard time because you identify with both, write down what fits you more of the time even if it’s just slightly more. Still vacillating? You can put “X”. (Note: We may be born with one dominant trait and move to the other side of the continuum as we age or as we go through major life transitions.)

Your Type: Write each letter of your score in order as presented. So, you might have ESTJ or INFP or XSXP or some variation. That is your type. Now you have an answer when when someone asks you your Meyers-Briggs type. Plus you will have an understanding of their type when they tell you theirs. The next section shares how the temperaments relate to each other.

Conflicts and Compatibility

If you were to guess which ends of temperament continuum has the most conflict with each other, which would you pick?

Extravert and introvert?

Sometimes an extravert can get frustrated when an introvert doesn’t want to go out and play and an introvert can get fed up and exhausted when they don’t get their needed down time, yet this is not a major source of friction in a relationship. However, understanding someone’s dominant people type can be extremely helpful as it promotes empathy and how not to take a behavior personally.

How about judging versus perceiving?

Ahh, you can see where some battles occur with these two sides of the continuum. One person is ready on time and the other runs perpetually late. One is flexible and adaptable and the other is rigid and unyielding. One wants to schedule a vacation ahead of time in order to get best deals and the other feels forced and prefers last minute adventure weekends. Yes these two sides have challenges and yet it’s not the toughest incompatibility as they can complement each other as well.

Then it must be thinkers and feelers, right?

Somehow there seems to be a mass understanding of the feeling – thinking continuum. While the stereotype is that women are feelers and men are thinkers, it’s not always true. It does a hurt a feeler when a thinker cannot empathize with their feelings and it can frustrate a thinker when a feeler prioritizes subjectivity over objectivity. What’s worse is when a human experiences a battle over this continuum within themselves. Still, this is not temperament with the biggest incompatibility.

Sensing versus intuition, really?

This continuum is how we organize the world, information and shapes how we communicate. Sensing individuals represent around 75% of the population with intuitive types at 25%. Misunderstandings and frustrations abound here as intuitives get frustrated trying to communicate a big picture perspective only to have it knocked down as irrelevant. It’s like someone witnessing a tornado that will hit a town in 3 hours and everyone in the town doesn’t believe it because they can’t see it, so they keep going about business as usual. For the sensing folks, it’s like watching a crazed chicken little screaming the sky is falling. They just don’t make sense and too bad they can’t come back down to earth and get back to business as usual.

Challenges facing each type 

An NT (intuitive thinker) can see the big picture and appeals to logic. Because they can see details in a unique way and represent a smaller portion of the population, the NT runs the risk of assuming they know more than everyone and that others cannot fully comprehend the nuances and complexity of his/her knowledge. The challenge for the NT is superiority, which can lead to rejection from others and isolation.

The NF (intuitive feeler) out of all of the types is actually the least understood. All of the other types, while not agreeing with each other, can easily understand each other’s perspective, yet all of them have difficulty understanding the NF. Conversely, the NF, an empathic feeler, can understand all of the other types. The risk is loneliness and depression. Many NFs saturate the writing and art fields and seem to be able to most effectively share their experience through story, art and with other NFs.

The SP (sensing perceiver) is almost alchemical in their ability to motivate people and change. They have an uncanny knack for reading people and tend to be steps ahead of the game. The challenge for this type is hedonism, which can lead to addictions and escapism.

The SJ (sensing judger) is like a strong foundation that runs the world. They are organized and on top of details others dismiss, including history. They relish in hard work and receive great satisfaction from a job well done. The challenge for the SJ is overworking and not being recognized for their contributions and taken advantage of by others, which can lead to exhaustion and staying in unhealthy relationships.

I hope this helps shed some light on the real you so that you can be true to you. Remember we have all of these characteristics within us. No one is better than anyone else. What is dominant today may change tomorrow. The important thing is to understand the continuum exists. And when we become stressed, we tend to respond from our opposite sides. If that happens, now you have a little more description of what that means and how you might be experiencing and relating to the world at that time. 

Check back next week for the final part in our self-test series when we will discuss the 9 main fear-driven personality styles.