Who Are We? Understanding Our Personality Traits Can Help Us Better Navigate Life

By Ostdick, John H. | Success, January 2016 | Go to article overview

Who Are We? Understanding Our Personality Traits Can Help Us Better Navigate Life


Ostdick, John H., Success


Realizing that aspects of our personalities are engaged at various levels every day--at home, work and play--is one thing. Understanding how to use that knowledge is another. But it is important. Being able to identify personality types can help us exert our influence, improve relationships, communicate more effectively and achieve success in whatever pursuit is in play, whether it's getting our kids to pick up their toys or motivating a sales team to reach a lofty goal.

Los Angeles-based author and researcher Dario Nardi, Ph.D., peers into the brain and maps ways to help explain what makes us tick. He came face to face with these realizations as his neuroscience research and training business began to grow.

"I'm not somebody who's particularly gifted in anything managerial," Nardi says. "I am an introvert, and very much do my own thing. Just to know that there are these different types of people out there, and to not force everybody into how I think, is a wonderful step. Listening to them, learning the keywords that they use so I can effectively communicate with them, is critical. It's putting into practice all of the stuff that I think some people just come to naturally but a lot of folks need to learn somewhere along the way."

Another expert in the field, John D. Mayer, Ph.D., author and professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire, is an innovator in intelligence research and personality psychology.

"Does it matter that we know other people's personalities?" he asks. "I do think that it matters because each of us has our zone of comfort and a zone of ability in which we can engage. By knowing our own zones of comfort and our own zones of challenges--what we're able and not able to do--we can guide ourselves. And then if we know that about the people around us, we also can help guide ourselves amidst those people."

Nardi, who has conducted neuroscience research since 2006, explains that a person's psyche-the synergy of brain and mind-is a sum of forces that shape each other and co-evolve into a compass that provides us direction.

"People of various personality types don't merely rely on different brain regions," Nardi says. "They use their brains in fundamentally different ways. Brain, mind context and culture all shape each other and co-evolve. The horse shapes the rider's options, while the rider shapes the horse's options."

For example, Nardi watches how his subjects' brains light up as they engage in a series of tasks. When his electroencephalogram, or EEC, monitor turns a solid bright blue, his test subject is experiencing creative flow by doing something he or she is adept at. Nardi explores how we can activate these peak moments and keep nurturing them.

"We get into a zone one of two ways," he writes. "Often expertise comes from training. A professional musician gets in the zone while playing his songs. When we are really adept, closing our eyes and imagining the activity is enough to trigger us into the zone. Other times, peak moments relate to a person's personality type, from reviewing the past to active listening, managing crises or imagining the future. Either way, being in the zone often provides us with an avalanche of nearly flawless creative output."

GETTING TO THIS POINT

Psychologists have explored the theory of personality type since Swiss psychiatrist/psychotherapist Carl G. Jung introduced the concept in the 1910s. Jung identified four basic functions: sensing (S), intuiting (N), thinking (T) and functioning (F) in either the external (extroverting) or internal (introverting) world. He used a total of eight cognitive processes, expressed as a capital letter for process (S, N, T or F), plus a lowercase letter "e" (extroverting) or "i" (introverting) to indicate orientation. So "Se" indicates extrovert sensing, where sensing relates to engagement with the outside world.

In the 1940s, American author Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs, created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a test aimed at making Jung's theories "understandable and useful" in people's lives. …

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