1.6 Who? Who are you? What is your personality?

Who are you? What is your personality?

Know thyself: Who are you and what is your true personality and character?

Do you really know who you are? Can you describe your character, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses? How good is your self-awareness really?

“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”

Socrates

There is an old Greek aphorism ‘know thyself’ that has been quoted or paraphrased by many greats through the course of history, such as Socrates and Shakespeare.  It still rings true today as being self-aware is critical to how we relate to ourselves and others. 

Therefore it is good to know your personality type, your strengths and weaknesses, your most effective learning methods, your preferred communication styles, your love languages. We are also shaped by our values and beliefs.  Understanding this will go a long way to self-awareness.  

Know yourself and you will find it much easier to establish meaningful relationships and develop strong teams.

Introvert or extrovert?

I am an introvert. What does that make you think about me?

Most people have heard of extroversion and introversion but a lot of people misunderstand what it actually means to be an extrovert or introvert.

We generally stereotype these personality types by certain behaviours. We expect extroverts to be outgoing, boisterous or charismatic whereas introverts can be seen as shy, withdrawn or being loners.

People often assume extroverts are therefore the most successful people and are then surprised to learn that accomplished actors such as Meryl Streep, business leaders such as Elon Musk, or politicians such as Al Gore are actually introverts. 

How can this be?

That is because extroversion and introversion are more about stimulus and energy, not behaviour. An extrovert gains energy from external stimulus – for example, social occasions, but also noise and activity, whereas an introvert re-charges from quieter, calmer places and activities. And that is not to say that an extrovert can’t enjoy times of quiet or an introvert won’t feel good after being at a party. 

We are complex. As psychologist Brian Little explains, the science of personality is “to make sense of how each of us is…, in certain respects, like all other people, like some other people and like no other person.”

We can’t easily be put into boxes.

A better understanding of self and others

I have found that the most useful thing about doing these exercises is greater self-awareness. The second most useful thing is to help understand others. 

Doing a personality test gives a common language that we can use and provides starting points for better communication with people who may see the world slightly differently. 

Understanding personality traits is not about putting us in boxes, but about providing a language to understand people better. This helps us to thrive as individuals, collaborate harmoniously in teams and lead effectively.

As a leader, coach and facilitator, whether it is using ‘The Big 5’ to understand an individual, The Love Languages to deepen a relationship or Belbin to analyse a team, I have found these models most useful in the dialogue they create, not the models themselves (although they can be very accurate).

Exercise: Personality Tests

Tools for understanding self

There are numerous tools, exercises and tests you can do to help understand yourself better. Here are two of the main ones that I have found useful when it comes to individual personality:

Myers-Briggs Personality Test

The Myers-Briggs test is based on psychological research developed from the work of Carl Jung. You can conduct a free version of this test at Truity.com

Big 5 Personality Test

‘The Big 5’ is another popular personality test. You can conduct a free version of this test at Truity and also at Finding Potential.

Action: Next Steps

Have a go at least one of the personality tests. I would recommend planning some time in a few days to doing another one too. You can even repeat the same test again. I find that I am on the borderline for various aspects of the Myers-Briggs personality types so it is interesting to see how the results sometimes vary slightly depending on your state of mind when completing the answers.

For further reflection

Reflection Question: What does it mean for you to be true to yourself?

“This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Polonius from Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Further resources

Read this article/post:

Includes some more information on how personality affects our social interactions.

Watch this video:

This is an absolutely brilliant (informative and funny) introduction to the psychology of personality, particularly the Big 5:

The Puzzle of Personality

Read this book:

Love Languages. This multi-best-selling book is great for understanding how we communicate and thrive in relationships.

If you want to know more about Myers-Briggs:

Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type

Who are you really? By Brian Little (of the TED talk) on personality: