What Makes You You? 2: Personality ‘Trait’ and ‘Type’

When thinking about your uniqueness – What Makes You You? – what is the difference between personality traits and personality types or preferences? About how you view, interpret and understand the world? More importantly does it really matter?

What is the difference between personality traits and personality types or preferences was where we reached in the first blog on What Makes You You? Thanks for staying with it! I promise that if you want to be able to throw away your frustration or perhaps even anger on occasions, when your life doesn’t feel as if it is in your control, then exploring personality difference is worth this investment of a few minutes of your time.

However, it would be impossible to explore uniqueness

. . . or difference, without first recognising that we will both have our own view of some of the key words and concepts we are exploring. These might, or might not, be similar. Which, I guess, illustrates the point about difference – that even when we use the same word it is quite likely that you will have a different picture in your head, or thought in your mind, or even memory to unlock than I have. These have been influenced, of course, by experience but also by deeper level aspects of your personality – the lens through which you view, respond to and manage your world.

So, to get us off the same starting block it might be helpful if I share my definition of a few of the key words or phrases especially as some of them – such as ‘personality’ or ‘unconscious’ – can have emotions attached to them that sometimes get in the way.

By personality I mean ‘the distinctive characteristics which make an individual unique’ and by ‘unconscious’ I mean, ‘what you are not aware of right now’. When exploring the difference between personality traits and personality types or preference what do I mean by ‘traits’ and ‘types’?

‘Traits’

. . . put very simply, are a combination of characteristic ways of behaving, thinking, feeling and operating that change as you move through life. They change as a result of the experiences and insights that you have gained along the way and, in particular, from significant events that have given rise to strong emotions such as fear, anger, love and jealousy. Can you remember the last time, for example, when as the result of something life changing happening to you – such as the death of somebody close to you; a momentous achievement; a relationship breakdown or key change of direction in your life such as marriage or retirement – something that the previous week had seemed hugely signification suddenly became insignificant? Perhaps that comment that felt like a personal slight, or not being able to attend a close friend’s celebration event or applying for that new post?

If you think back even a few years

. . . you will know that you have changed in ways that have influenced how you see yourself and how others see you. These trait changes clearly influence what you can, or what you will, do at work or in your personal life. They will usually be quite easy to identify as they are relatively easy to pull into consciousness – sometimes with a little prompting from others – and track back to a specific event, to a training programme or to a personal resolution that you have made. It is your personality traits that will be tested out if you ever find yourself in a situation where you are completing a personality assessment as part of a recruitment campaign. What is of interest here, of course, is the difference between you and other candidates and how these ways of going about things – traits – fit a specific job description or person specification.

‘Type’

. . . theories of personality, move deeper into your unconscious and focus on your preferred ways of seeing and responding to the world and living your life. These theories are based primarily on the work of Carl Jung. They suggest that your ‘types’ or ‘preferences’ are less likely to change in your life as they are very much part of who you are at a deeper psychological level. This is at a level where you are operating almost on pilot because it feels so comfortable and natural to go about your life in a particular way. This does not mean that you cannot ‘learn’ to operate to the other preference – in fact we spend our whole lives trying to learn to work outside our preference almost by default. Why?

The answer to this question and how coming to an understanding of your personality type, how you can make best use of it and how this impacts on your relationships with other people, is the focus of What Makes You You 3


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