Featured image by vox_efx on Flickr
Did you ever wish there was a way to know a person’s personality type at a glance? In our romantic relationships, our family, our career – we are always seeking ways to interpret behavior and understand it. It would be nice to know that if they had brown eyes it would mean they preferred Sensing (living in the present, taking info in through the senses) or if they had green eyes they preferred iNtuition (looking toward the future, figuring out how things fit into the bigger picture). Wouldn’t that be easier, though maybe a little boring?
Unfortunately, there are no physical characteristics that correlate with personality type. But there are ways that you can guess a person’s preferences based on their behavior. Here are some behaviors that will give you clues to someone’s preferences:
1) How quickly does the person respond to a question? (Introversion vs Extraversion)
When you ask a question, does the person start talking immediately and sound like they are almost thinking out loud? Or do they take a second or two to compose a response, and then give a complete and well thought out answer? People who prefer Introversion need to consider things internally before responding, while people who prefer Extraversion truly NEED to think out loud.
A discussion between Extraverts seems like chaos to an Introvert – people talking over one another in a jumble of excited speech that rambles all over the place. A discussion between Introverts seems way too calm and … dare I say it … boring to an Extravert. Calm, reasonable discussion with time enough between responses to drive a train through.
And pair an Extravert with an Introvert? That’s where Introverts often get short-changed because the Extravert will blurt all their thoughts out and keep on going, while the Introvert seldom gets enough conversational white space to craft a reply, much less say it out loud.
An instructor in a type training class once told us, “If you are an Extravert talking with an Introvert, ask a question and then STOP TALKING for a count of 10. You’ll be surprised at what you will learn.” I’ve found this to be very true and I’ve used it often enough that my husband, delightful Introvert that he is, will sometimes ask me, “Are you counting?” after I ask him a question and am uncharacteristically quiet afterward.
Think you can spot an Introvert? Try taking the quiz in my Two Truths and A Lie about Introverts post.
2) Do they talk and think about what’s happening now or in the past, or do they talk and think about what’s going to happen next? (Sensing vs iNtuition)
People who prefer Sensing are all about what’s going on in the situation NOW. Not the future impacts or possibilities, but what is real at this moment.
Ever watch the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan? In my opinion, he could be the poster child for Sensing – he’s always reminding dog owners to live in the present instead of thinking about what might happen or what has happened before.
That’s not to say that the owners on the show are not Sensors – Sensors often base their opinions of what is happening now on their experiences in the past. Again, the key is that they base their behavior on experiences and not on visions of what could be. Those who prefer iNtuition, on the other hand, are often accused of looking at the world through rose colored glasses or living in their head.
Ask a person to describe a common household object like an apple, and the Sensor is likely to describe what is – “This apple is red, it has a long stem, there’s a little soft spot here on the top …” Ask someone with a dominant iNtuitive preference and the response is likely to be something like, “Oh, this apple is just like the one my Grandma used to use to make pies. I remember those apples, sweet and crisp, and how my Grandma used to peel for hours in the kitchen while …” and so on.
3) How mindful are they of how others will be affected by a decision? (Thinking vs Feeling)
People who prefer Feeling run everything through a filter of “How will this affect others?” in their heads before taking any sort of action. Even Extraverts, who usually act or speak immediately, will choose their words based on the impact to other people if they have an iNtuitive preference. And if an Extravert who prefers Feeling let’s his mouth get ahead of his head, he’s usually mortified to have caused hurt or embarrassment to others.
Those who prefer Thinking, on the other hand, believe you should just Parla come magni or “Say it like you eat it.” Thinkers are objective by nature, and believe everyone else should be too. They believe in calling a spade a spade and speaking the truth even if it isn’t so pretty.
That doesn’t mean that Thinkers aren’t considerate of others, but tact is something they learn as they grow and develop and sometimes the lessons come hard. My son, as a 5 year old exhibiting Thinking behavior, strode right up to a preschool classmate and said her new haircut made her look like a boy. The teacher, while trying to comfort the girl in tears, cautioned him to not say things that would hurt someone’s feelings. While discussing this at home, it was clear that my son still wasn’t getting it. “But Mom,” he objected, “it was TRUE!” This is the way with young Thinkers before they take a few hard lessons in forming tact, a lesson that is tough for them to learn because for them truth is the bedrock of understanding.
4) Does a change in plans rock their world or enhance it? (Judging vs Perceiving)
So, here’s the situation. It’s late afternoon and everyone is hungry. Person A says, “Let’s go out to dinner tonight. I feel like eating seafood. Would you like to go to Red Lobster or Joe’s Crab Shack?” Person B says, “Oh, okay. Let’s go to Red Lobster. Want to leave now?” Person A says, “Great! Let me get my shoes/jacket/whatever and I’ll be ready.” A minute passes and Person A comes back ready to leave and saying, “We could also go eat tacos tonight. A friend of mine was telling me today about this great tex-mex place down the road …”
“Wait!” person B says, “I thought we had decided on Red Lobster! Let’s just go there and be done with it. I’m hungry.” Person A, rebuffed, says resentfully “I was just giving you another option. You don’t have to get huffy about it.”
Are you person A or person B in this scenario?
If you said person A, you are showing a Perceiving tendency (you are also a lot like me, and might want to read more about building a relationship with your opposite type). To Perceivers, the world is in a constant state of flux – and they like it that way. They feel constricted if they are locked into a plan, unable to incorporate new ideas or experiences into the way forward. These are people who roll with the punches, who seem able to adjust to anything life throws their way. Seen through the lens of Judging types, Perceivers also hate to commit to anything and get to a happy ending out of a combination of luck and chance rather than by design.
Are you more like person B? You likely prefer Judging, a behavior of deciding on a clear plan of action and following through on every step. Judging folks are willing to consider options for doing something, but once a plan is in place they persevere through any obstacles and stay on target. They feel flustered when life throws a curveball at them, frustrated if it means changing the way they intended to do something – even if it all ends up okay anyway.
If you’d like to read more about how this difference plays out in a work environment, head over to my post about J/P Differences and Business Strengths post.
5) Putting it all together into temperament (Golds, Reds, Greens and Blues)
Here’s where you start combining the behaviors above into a personality profile or temperament. Temperament looks at two of a person’s preferred behaviors as an explanation for why they might act the way they do. Full personality profiles are based on all four preferences, including those that aren’t apparent to the casual observer. That is why the broad brush of temperament proves so useful when dealing with the people in your life.
Does your significant other tend to deal with what is happening now in your lives and the nuts and bolts of what needs to happen today to create a happy future? Get stressed when things happen that change plans at the last minute? Feel that it is their duty to stay the course to make sure things turn out right? Your partner is likely a Gold, also referred to as an SJ (Sensing, Judging) or a Guardian temperament.
Does your boss seem to thrive on putting out fires, hurrying around the office like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland muttering “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”? Does she react to every situation as it arises, trying to resolve it NOW? Talk in terms of striving toward a target or goal rather than laying out a specific plan of tasks to be done? Your boss is likely a Red, also referred to as an SP (Sensing, Perceiving) or an Artisan temperament.
Keep in mind that we’re talking about OBSERVABLE behavior here. Due to how preference combinations affect behavior, you probably won’t be able to guess a person’s whole type by observing a few behaviors. However, noticing patterns like those above will help you interpret how a behavior fits into that person’s personality type and therefore help you relate better to others in your life.