Celebrating Our Similarities . . . And What Makes Us Unique

The Ted Talk, Who Are You, Really? The Puzzle of Personality, appeared in my Twitter feed today. As my work often focuses on personality, and specifically how personality impacts communication, conflict, and career I thought it was worth watching. I was right!

In his 15-minute talk, Dr. Brian Little explores some of the commonly known (I’d hope!) differences between Introverts and Extraverts. However, what I found most intriguing was language preferences; Extraverts prefer close communication, eye contact, and simple or less formal language. Conversely, Introverts prefer complex and formal language and may talk past rather than talk to each other. The example shared had me laughing out loud and reflecting on myself, and my colleagues wondering, given I know our E/I preferences, if these language preferences were the same.

What I appreciated most, however, was Dr. Little’s emphasis that we are more than the sum of our traits and that, despite being immersed in personality science, he is uncomfortable with the labels (he calls them pigeon holes), noting it is how we act and what we do, within and outside of those traits that make us unique. He introduced the notion of free traits and how we use them to advance personal, and core, projects. He shared a personal example, the Introvert, with a passion for teaching . . . often an Extraverted profession. Within this he stresses the importance of self-care, acknowledging that it can be exhausting to continuously stray far from core preferences. This isn’t to say, don’t do it but to simply take care.

This message is similar to one I often share when exploring personality preferences with clients and when teaching others how to use these tools; it is especially important when the tools offer career suggestions. My goal is to remind people they are more complex than the sum of their MBTI results and that a career choice not appearing to be a good choice for their personality, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go for it . . . they just need to be mindful of how they may be different from others in the profession and how they will cope.

I hope you take the time to watch the Ted Talk; it is definitely worth it!

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