Identifying different personality types

Written by Katherine Nicholls
Katherine Nicholls
Life Coach Directory Content Team

If someone asked you to describe your personality, what would you say? Understanding our own personality and characteristics can be an incredible self-development tool. It can help us understand why certain things make us more stressed than others, offer clarity on the relationships we’re in and, overall, encourage greater self-awareness.

Here we’ll be diving deeper into the topic of personality, personality tests and how we can use this information to our advantage. 

What makes up your personality?

If we look at a dictionary definition of ‘personality’ it says:

The combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.

Other definitions say our personality is made up of the specific pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that makes us unique. A common belief is that our personalities come from within us as individuals and stay relatively consistent throughout life. Different experiences and environmental factors can, however, play a role in the development and expression of our personalities. How we’re raised and the culture we grow up in, for example, will likely shape who we become. 

Consistency is a key component in our personalities. When we react in similar ways to various situations, it’s likely due to our personality. Our personality drives our behaviours, but it can also be seen in the way we think, feel and interact with others.

It’s perhaps no surprise then, that many of us are fascinated by personalities and want to know as much as possible about our own. 

What are personality tests?

A personality test is a way of uncovering more about someone’s personality. There are several techniques used to measure characteristic traits which can tell us more about ourselves. Tests like these can be used in a clinical setting to clarify diagnoses, in therapeutic settings or through the hiring process to see how someone may react in certain situations. 

Often, personality tests are used for fun and self-development, helping us understand ourselves better. In the workplace, they can help managers set tasks for people according to their personality types and generally have a better understanding of how they work together. Outside of work, it can help you realise why you get along with certain people more than others.

Personality testing is thought to have increased as a result of more people going into office work in the twentieth century. Human resource science often uses personality testing to help identify who would be a good salesperson and who would be a good manager, for example, maximising the potential of employees

Types of personality tests

While there are many different personality tests out there, at their core, there are two basic types:

1. Self-report inventories

These are tests that are usually delivered as a questionnaire and rely on you to self-report how much you agree or disagree with different statements. Depending on your responses, your result will tell you more about your personality.

2. Projective tests

These are when you’re presented with a vague scene or object and are asked for your interpretation. An example of this you may be familiar with is the Rorschach inkblot test.

Interestingly, it’s thought that self-reported inventories have higher reliability and validity than projective tests, and tend to be easier to take. Psychologists may use projective testing more and use the results combined with their observations of the client to help them gain a better understanding of them.

Common personality tests

Self-reported inventories are more likely to be what you’ll find when you search for ‘personality tests’ online. There are many variants to choose from, but here are some of the most common:

Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI)

Perhaps one of the most well-known personality tests (over two million people take it every year), the MBTI was created by mother and daughter team Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers. The test itself is based on Carl Jung’s theory of personality and looks at four dimensions:

  • Attitudes: Extraversion or introversion. This looks at how people regain their energy (by reflecting inwards or outwards) and whether or not someone is action-oriented or thought-oriented.
  • The perceiving function: Sensing or intuition. This looks at whether someone perceives using their five senses or their intuition.
  • The judging function: Thinking or feeling. This looks at how someone makes a decision, using rational thought or empathic feeling.
  • Lifestyle preferences: Judging or perceiving. This looks at how someone primarily relates to the outside world, through their judging function or perceiving function. 

Depending on what combination of the above you relate to most, you’ll be labelled one of 16 personality types. Reading the descriptions of these types will likely spark some recognition and hopefully help you be more aware of your particular tendencies and traits.  

Neo Pi-R (also known as the Big Five personality test or OCEAN)

This test measures personality traits using the five-factor model. The model looks at five dimensions of personality: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. This approach is often used in corporate settings as it can help to predict work-related outcomes.

Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory (MMPI)

Originally published in 1943 and then revised in 1989, the MMPI was created to help diagnose personality disorders in clinical settings. These days, it’s also used for occupational screening for certain careers (such as law enforcement) and in marital counselling.  

DiSC profiling

Published by Dr Willian Marston, a physiological psychologist, the DiSC assessment is a tool used for discussion of people’s behavioural differences. The letters stand for the different areas the assessment looks into:

  • Dominance (confidence and emphasising accomplishing results).
  • Influence (openness and emphasising influencing/persuading others).
  • Steadiness (dependability and emphasising cooperation).
  • Conscientiousness (competency and emphasising quality and accuracy).

The Enneagram

This system describes patterns in how people interpret the world and manage their emotions. Using a nine-pointed diagram, the test looks at nine different personality types and how they relate to one another. Each personality type is believed to be defined by a specific core belief about how the world works.

The benefits of understanding your personality type

Getting to know your strengths and weaknesses is invaluable for personal development. It may encourage you to work on your weaknesses, or accept them and focus on your strengths. Understanding which personality traits you have can give you an insight into your behaviours, allowing you to adjust accordingly.

For example, if you discover you are more introverted, you can account for the energy depletion you feel after socialising and plan time to rest afterwards. 

Understanding the personality types of those close to you can be extremely beneficial too. You may want to ask friends, family and loved ones to take a test to help understand your relationships better. It can also be helpful to encourage teammates at your workplace to take a test. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the way you work together and may even change your approaches depending on the results.

Some coaches offer personality profiling as part of their service, so if this is an area you want to explore in more depth with a professional, this could be a great way to go. You can then work together to unpick the results and any changes you want to make moving forward. 

Taking a personality test

If you decide to take a personality test, be as honest as possible in your responses. Avoid projecting a ‘perfect’ version of yourself and be open about your true feelings. There’s no judgment within personality tests. 

Remember that most tests you find online are predominantly for fun and greater self-awareness. They may give you some valuable insights but are not formal or scientific assessments of your personality. Take it all with a pinch of salt. 

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