February 17

Personality types: Your key to better business relationships

by Trish Smith

If there’s one lesson Michael Santarcangelo has taught me, it’s that security (and business) aren’t just “about business”. They’re about people. People who we get along with, people who we (as much as we might not like to admit it) don’t always get along with. But unless we’re Steve Jobs, we don’t have much choice who we need to interact with (and I’ll bet even Steve has to deal with people he doesn’t get along with too well, sometimes).

It’s about the people, stupid.

This article shares information to become more flexible, adaptable, and resilient in dealing with others.

Imagine the power of being able to predict, prevent, and resolve conflicts. How about improving communications with co-workers, clients, and peers?

This might sound like a pretty big claim, but when learning about personality and how it determines the ways people interact, this information is invaluable.

What is a “personality type”?

In modern psychology, there are two ways to think about personality: “traits” or “types.” Personality trait theories suggest two people can both be extroverts, but be very different in terms of how strong the trait is in their personality (for example, Bob and Mike might both be extroverts, but the trait is much stronger in Mike than it is in Bob). This view of personality sees it as existing along a continuum, rather than as an “either/or”.

“Personality type” approaches suggest people either have a characteristic or not. An individual is an introvert or an extrovert, assertive or passive, someone who works well in groups or not. This view is the more popular one among those who study personality today, and as such, is the one we’ll explore in more depth.

Defining the Type

The most common instrument to measure personality type is the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It’s widely used by businesses (and individuals) to better understand personality. It usually consists of about 70 questions that ask you about your likes, dislikes, opinions, and personality characteristics. It then groups people into several “types” based on four personality traits:

  • Extroversion/introversion (need external contact to recharge, or time alone?)
  • Intuition/sensing (trust more in own feelings or in external observations?)
  • Thinking/feeling (the dominant force relied upon to make decisions?)
  • Judgement/perception (the need to organize life or let the chips fall as they may?)

Although it would be useful to be able to administer this test to everyone we deal with day-to-day (as impractical as that might be), it’s not necessary.

Usually, it’s enough to simply understand which of the different personality types someone is, and keep that in mind when dealing with others. For example, recognizing that a team member is closer to the “judgement” end of the judgement/perception scale will help explain why they need to research and plan out every move of the project.

We can understand other people’s personality differences without making value judgements. John isn’t trying to drive you crazy by going with his feelings on a decision; he’s simply on the “feeling” end of the thinking/feeling scale, and that’s how he makes decisions.

This knowledge reduces frustration and improves approach to others – especially if an action is needed on their part.

Learning how to type others

So how do we figure out which personality type someone is?

We can’t very well hand everyone a Myers-Briggs test (although if the topic is brought up, it’s likely that at least one person in the group will volunteer not only that they have taken the test, but what their result was: That they are an “INTJ”, for example).

Observation is the key to success.

People’s personality comes out in a variety of ways, even when the person isn’t aware. Everything from personal style (how they dress), to their environment (how they set up their office), to social signals (verbal and nonverbal communication), reveals information about what personality type they are.

Want to type someone out?

Listen.

Watch.

Observe the things people are doing.

Recipe for Success

Then it’s simply a matter of being conscious of others’ personality styles and how your own (yes, you have a personality style too!) interacts with theirs, for good or for ill.

If you can do this successfully, it becomes easier to do all those neat things mentioned earlier – become more flexible in dealing with others, resolve conflicts, and improve communication with everyone.

So tell us – do you try to be aware of different personality types in your day-to-day life? Has knowing someone’s personality type ever helped you in your work, or has the converse ever happened – not being able to understand another’s personality style negatively impacted your business? Share with us in the comments!


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