What if you could achieve a reliable snapshot of your personality and tendencies, helping you better navigate the world and flourish in life? In this article, we’re going to look at such a snapshot: personality typology systems. We’ll delve into six of them.
Learning about these typologies and discovering my own personality typologies has been crucial in my journey. It has shone light on aspects of myself that have long confused me. It has helped me honour my uniqueness and become more authentic, knowing that my quirkier traits are legitimate and not signs of defectiveness.
Let’s dive right into personality typoloy systems.
What Is a Personality Typology System?
There are hundreds or thousands of personality typology systems east and west, ancient and modern. They include: Masculine/Feminine, Myers–Briggs, The Enneagram, astrology, introvert and extrovert, DISC, Strengths Finder, The Human Design System, the Lover/Warrior/Magician/King profiles, even nationalities.
Profiling can get overwhelming, fast. Each of us has dozens or hundreds of typologies, and we likely have several within one system. For instance, I heavily embody Enneagram Types 3, 4, and 5, with marginal differences between the dominance of each. If I tried to understand myself using 20 different typologies, I’d probably end up more confused than I was to begin with.
So the key with typologies is to choose a few that resonate with you and explain your personality. You’ll find that certain personality profiles will jump out at you, bring almost instant self-knowledge, and clarify what was once confusing. Those are the typology systems you should favour.
People with different typologis see different worlds and have characteristic drives, needs, defenses and fears. Learning about them gives us deep empathy for ourselves and others, can reduce conflict and tension, and helps us deal with others more effectively.
Are We Bound To Our Personality Typologies?
In the psychology world, we like neat categories, short descriptions and tight conclusions. Sadly, human personality is far more complex than any model we might use to capture it.
The traditional view is that our personality is formed at age 4 and remains essentially the same throughout life. It may morph and change, but there’s a constant, underlying tone.
But that’s in an ideal world. Sure, there might be elements of our personality that remain fairly constant. Indeed, when I look at my typologies, I’m aware of how certain aspects of my character have remained stable throughout my life journey. I can also see which aspects of the human smorgasbord I poorly integrate.
The brains behind the Enneagram have incorporated personality variability into their model. According to that system, we naturally evolve through types as we change and grow.
When we attain high levels of self-understanding, our identity loosens up, becoming more of an object – something we can see instead of be. This means we can mould it as we please. Deliberately stepping into other types becomes fun, playful, and a source of further self-expansion.
Let’s begin our journey with a look at the masculine and feminine personality typology.
The Masculine and Feminine Personality Typology
The masculine and feminine personality typology covers a profiling that intuitively makes sense to us and is part of our common knowledge.
In this context, the word masculine comes from the observation that people who are biologically male tend to embody certain traits. The most salient are: strength, assertion, independence, achievement, and ambition. Men tend to tease things apart and analyse the pieces, create emotional distance, take risks, push through obstacles, and form hierarchies.
Women tend to embody feminine traits. These are the polar opposite of the masculine ones, and include themes like communion, receptivity, empathy, deference, sensitivity, and motherliness. Women tend to focus on the whole and think eclectically, favour intuition and insight, take action through non-action, adopt patience, and smooth out differences among people.
But here’s the deal.
Anyone – regardless of biological sex or gender identification – can embody both of these profiles. Think of them as forces within us. When harnessed correctly, they each bring certain capacities. When allowed to coexist and dance together, the product is a beautiful blend of all that’s human. Look closely at your own behaviour and seek intimate self-understanding. You’ll inevitably come to realise that you embody both the masculine and the feminine.
In fact, we all embody these traits. Sadly, most of us repress one or both of these profiles, leaving a gaping hole in our character. Rather than rejecting one and venerating the other, your goal is to healthily and deliberately integrate both, feeling yourself expand as you do.
A final warning: in the postmodern, pluralistic world, the masculine is shunned. But by throwing it out, we merely create repression, and our masculine side will express itself in distorted ways. Indeed, attacking male traits is a masculine move.
The Myers-Briggs Personality Typology System
The Myers–Briggs personality typology goes back to the great Carl Jung, who theorised that there were different types of personality. This lead to the work Psychological Types, which inspired Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers to develop their system in the 1940s. It was published in 1962.
Your Myers–Briggs type is based on four dimensions:
- How you derive energy: Introversion I (from solitude) v Extroversion E (from socialising)
- How you view the world: Intuition N (you’re imaginative and focus on abstract ideas and concepts) v Sensing S (you’re practical and logical and rely on facts)
- How you make decisions: Thinking T (with the head) v Feeling F (with the heart)
- How others see you: Judging J (as organised, informed, efficient, productive) v Perceiving P (as spontaneous and flexible)
For each of the four dimensions, you receive a letter. Bunch those letters together, and you have your type. The mathematically astute reader will realise that there are 16 possible types (2x2x2x2).
Types range in frequency from INFJ at 1.5% of the population to ISFJ at 14%.
The 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types
Here’s a short summary of the Myers–Briggs types.
- ENTJ: THE COMMANDER – creates vision and executes it, accomplishes things
- INTJ: THE INSPECTOR – leads and innovates, is methodical, thorough and dependable
- ENTP: THE DEBATER – is rebellious and opinionated, debates with others and goes against status quo
- ISTP: THE CRAFTER – learns through hands-on experience and solves problems, is adventurous and thrill-seeking
- ESTP: THE PERSUADER – makes decisions quickly and is outgoing and logical
- ISFJ: THE PROTECTOR – is selfless and protective of loved ones
- INTJ: THE ARCHITECT – is logical and strategic, holds high standards, and strives for excellence
- ESTJ: THE DIRECTOR – manages others and gets things done
- INFJ: THE MEDIATOR – is a daydreamer and imaginative, has a rich inner life
- ISFP: THE ARTIST – is highly creative, has a rich imagination, and is present-focused
- ENFP: THE CHAMPION – helps others achieve, is inspiring and motivating
- INTP: THE THINKER – solves problems, makes sense of world through logic, likes solitude
- ESFJ: THE CAREGIVER – brings harmony, fosters teamwork and cooperation, is empathetic
- ESFP: THE PERFORMER – thrives in the spotlight and is centre of attention, is caring and sensitive
- INFJ: THE ADVOCATE – contradictory personality traits: logical yet emotional, imaginative yet analytical, desires to better humanity
- ENFJ: THE GIVER – more extroverted than INFJ, is caring and attentive, wants to improve world
Which seem to best fit your personality and tendencies? Take this test to find your dominant Myers–Briggs type.
Constructive Use of Myers–Briggs
The main critique of the Myers–Briggs is that it’s too simplistic, which leads some to dismiss it as hogwash. How can we chop up human personality and assign it these neat labels, shoehorning a person into one simple category?
I don’t see this as an issue per se, especially when using it for our own purposes rather than to decide who we’ll employ and how much we’ll pay them. Sure, the results only spit out one type, but as long as we remember that we have several types, we won’t grasp our dominant one so tightly.
I see myself as a constellation of tendencies that lights up several of the boxes on the Myers–Briggs matrix. I don’t fit into just one of them. But my dominant type is spookily accurate. And like all the other typologies I’ve studied, knowing my dominant type has only enhanced my compassion for myself and others.
The Enneagram is among the most popular typologies. It’s an elaborate system which organises human personality into nine categories and several groups. Unlike the Myers–Briggs, which assigns you one personality type, the Enneagram test spits out a pie chart, showing how your personality is divvied among all nine profiles. In this way, you can see which profiles you most and least embody.
This is revealing. It helps you identify your strengths and gives some guidance on how to honour your strengths and improve your weak points.
Let’s look at a potted summary of the Enneagram types.
The 9 Enneagram Personality Types
1. Perfectionist: strong moral principles, disciplined, reliable, precise
2. Giver: a loving people person, likely to be caring, social, helpful
3. Performer: ambitious achiever, energetic, adaptive, driven
4. Romantic: passionate individualist, imaginative, sensitive, creative
5. Observer: seeker of knowledge, curious, insightful, strong reasoning skills
6. The Questioner: seeker of safety and security, cooperative, trustworthy
7. Epicure: pleasure seeker, spontaneous, lively, optimistic
8. Protector: assertive influencer, decisive, persistent, effective leader
9. Meditator: seeker of harmony, likely to be peaceful, agreeable, kind
Remember: each Enneagram type has strengths and weaknesses, and healthy and unhealthy expressions. There are no superior or inferior types.
What’s more, we constantly move between several Enneagram types. On those days when we reach into the realms of our higher self, we adopt qualities of the type connected to ours on the right hand side (4 adopts 2, 8 adopts 5, and so on). And on tough days, we tend to embody dysfunctional qualities of the type joined to ours on the left (4 adopts 1, 8 adopts 2, etc.).
A final word – types 4 and 5 are at the bottom of the Ennegram circle for a reason! These are the types that are most willing to go into the depths of human nature, good or bad. They feel comfortable with subjects and conversations that others don’t.
Astrology And Personality Typology
Modern science seems to have debunked the tenets underpinning astrology. This system dates back to the ancient Greeks and the Babylonians, who believed the stars and planets revolved around the Earth. They noticed the moon influenced our life, and thought they could gain greater control of life on Earth by understanding the stars. The Greeks were sure that the position of the planets throughout the year affected our moods and could do the same for those born under them.
We now have overwhelming evidence that our planet isn’t the centre of the universe, and the idea that the stars influence our personality, mood and decisions just doesn’t jive with modern biology, neuroscience and psychology.
Nonetheless, many people find this system useful for understanding themselves and others. It could do the same for you.
The 12 Astrology Star Signs
Astrology gets complicated, fast. Let’s keep things simple and look only at the Sun signs. These are the profiles based on our date of birth – the star signs we’re all familiar with. They reveal aspects of our personality and character – positive traits above, negatives ones below.
Despite my previous criticisms, I’ll say that researchers at Oxford and Cambridge are investigating how to integrate astrology into modern medicine to give more personalised treatment. They’ve found that common conditions such as autism, SAD, alcoholism and bipolar disorder are more common among people born at certain times of the year.
And whether or not it holds scientific muster doesn’t prevent us from using it as a tool to better understand ourselves, if only for the reason that it provokes us to ask deeper questions about our psychology and behaviour.
As the founder of the Co-star app says: “On social media, everyone has this really polished version of themselves, but by using astrology they’re having really earnest conversations about who they are, which kinds of people they love, and which kinds of people break their heart.”
Personality Typology: Introverted And Extroverted
We’re all familiar with this personality typology: the words introvert and extrovert are part of common parlance. What are the characteristics of these types?
All About Introverts
Introverts get their energy from solitude and feel overwhelmed by excessive socialising and stimulation. This doesn’t mean they have social phobia or suffer social awkwardness, but their orientation is inward. When it comes to friends, introverts seek close bonds with a few trusted companions rather than loose, half-baked relationships. But once you gain their trust, you become one of the few who have VIP access to their rich inner world.
There is also a biological basis for their retiring ways – introverts have a higher baseline level of neural activity, meaning external stimuli quickly bring about an overload in their brain circuitry, resulting in burnout and tiredness. If you find yourself slipping away during social occasions to take a deep breath and gather yourself, you’re likely an introvert.
Extroverts are the polar opposite: they derive energy from stimulation and socialising, so they actively seek them out. They feel more comfortable in company than alone, and are more open, meaning they’ll readily share details of their private life with anyone willing to listen. They want to be the centre of attention and stir up the atmosphere.
Constructive Use of Introvert–Extrovert Taxonomy
It’s estimated about 1/3 of the population fall into the introvert category. These two types tend to gravely misunderstand one another: introverts see extroverts as shallow and over-the-top, and extroverts look down on introverts as stubborn and antisocial.
As a fervent introvert, others have made me feel boring and hermitlike, which doesn’t match my own self-perception. After discovering I was an introvert, I’ve been able to curb my destructive tendencies while cultivating my introvert superpowers and taking better care of my own needs.
I often find it easy to tell when someone is predominantly one or the other. However, we all lie somewhere on the introvert–extrovert spectrum, and it’s a mistake to think we’re set in stone. Besides, both tendencies have a crucial role to play in our wellbeing.
It’s useful to take a test, but also become a master at using self-observation to detect your behaviour in either direction. Always ask which strengths of the opposite type you lack rather than villifying the other side.
Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrants Personality Typology
For those familiar with Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrants, there’s also a quadrant-based personality typology. We tend to rely on or operate more skillfully in one or two quadrants. We can even see how entire societies favour certain quadrants.
Upper Left: we focus on self and personality, the inner world, our individual self
Upper Right: we emphasise health, body, behaviour, actions
Lower Left: we focus on relationships, connection, culture and community
Lower Right: we emphasise society and environment, seeing patterns, analysing systems, connecting the dots
Which of the quadrants do you tend to favour? I believe this changes as we grow and develop. Indeed, the Spiral Dynamics literature explicitly states that each stage of development is either Collective-oriented (lower quadrants) or Self-oriented (upper quadrants).
Personality Typology In Wilber’s AQAL Model
Since this article is part of my Ken Wilber Series, let’s discuss how this pillar of Wilber’s AQAL model relates to the others.
In an attempt to holistically understand human beings and human life, the model includes five central factors: the four quadrants (All Quadrants), the levels of development (All Levels), the developmental lines (All Lines), the states of consciousness (All States), and the typologies (All Types).
How To Distinguish Types
The main difficulty lies in separating the typologies from the levels of development. Those who know and use the AQAL model claim that we express our types profile differently according to the level of development we’re operating from. That seems clear and logical.
But how do we separate levels from types? In some cases, they seem to be intertwined. Indeed, those researching either factor could easily fail to take into account the other, leading to confusion and intertwining. Even when we take a personality typology test, factors that have more to do with levels of development might be wrongly interpreted as permanent personality traits.
One way to see the types as separate from the levels is by identifying traits that have persisted in our lives no matter our age or the changes we undergo. Those stable characteristics likely point to our personality type.
On the other hand, when we move through the levels in our worldviews, morals, cognitive abilities, linguistic abilities and more, fundamental, unalterable changes take place inside us. Individuals certainly experience those, as does humanity at large.
In any case, I believe human psychology is incredibly complex, and any attempts to categorise it will always fall short. The AQAL model helps us realise the complexity, keep asking questions, and seek to ever expand our knowledge of ourselves and the human condition, even if we can never understand it all.
Personality typologies help us better understand our own inclinations and realise that our quirkier traits are in fact normal and predictable. As with any theory or model, we should recognise they don’t tell the whole story and to hold them playfully and loosely, while also absorbing the wisdom and lessons.
If there’s any other useful personality typologies you want to share, tell me about it in the comments section. Come and sign up to my newsletter. And if you loved this article, consider making a donation below.