The big benefit of using personality type tools (eg MBTI, Insights, Golden, TMP, TypeCoach), for personal development (NB NOT for recruitment) is that they help you see yourself as a whole person, rather than as a set of individual traits. It is as a whole person that you have an impact on other people and it is as a whole person that you can change and grow.

Type assessments – usually based on the work of Carl Jung who created the terms extraversion and introversion – describe patterns of behaviour rather than breaking behaviour down into individual traits. They describe how your mind works and your typical patterns of behaviour – what you tend to do, say, think and feel – but they do not predict how you will behave in a particular situation.

Trait or Type?

Both approaches to personality – either looking at individual traits or overall patterns – can be useful, depending on what you want to do. A trait-based approach can be useful in recruitment when you want to assess people against specific characteristics and identify areas to probe at interview.

In day-to-day life, I find looking at patterns of behaviour is helpful, both in understanding myself and in working and living with other people. If I think of one of my friends, I picture her as a whole person, I don’t think of her as a set of individual characteristics. It is the configuration of a variety of factors that represent someone’s personality

Big Cats

Lions and leopards share certain traits – they are in the cat family, they are furry, they stalk and kill their prey, they are carnivorous, they run quickly and so on. But when you look at them holistically, they are quite different from each other. The images of a whole lion or a whole leopard are more helpful to me in knowing what to expect, than knowing their individual traits.

Similarly, if I buy a new car, I tell my friends I have bought “a Nissan Qashqai”. This gives them an immediate picture of the car – if I said I had bought something with alloy tyres, a V6 engine and a sunroof, they would not have such a clear idea of the car I had bought.

Personality Type

It is the same with personality patterns in people. It is their whole self, which has an impact on me, rather than their individual traits. The true benefit of type-based approaches is that they make you aware of your own typical patterns of behaviour and give you a pathway for development to grow as a person and fulfil your potential.