There are two kinds of people in this world…. wait maybe four….but if you use this model then there are sixteen… okay let’s try this again. There are over 200 models for human behaviour in the world, and each one will tell you different things, like how many types of people there are, or how to work with people who you just can’t get along with. I’ve encountered a few of these models in my life, though I feel like the Myers-Briggs types based on Carl Jung’s psychology is the most well-known, and the one that most people colloquially identify with. Does a person need to spend hours and hours mastering the process of identifying and placing themselves and others into these categories? Does it really make a difference in how we interact with others? And the burning question: Can it help us get the best out of people?
There is a ton of literature out there on the subject of ‘mastery’ – mastery of a skill, mastery of our feelings, mastery of our focus, mastery of our interactions with others. We can spend years on any one of these tasks, though they all summarize to the standard method of building skills that I’ve discussed previously, where you need a certain amount of expert knowledge and a certain amount of practice. It’s easy to see how this applies to learning to play an instrument, or learning to be more productive on a day to day basis, but how does it apply to our interactions with others?
If there is one thing I’ve seen time and time again when studying models of human behaviour, its that even though the categories of any model seem relatively straightforward, human beings are far more complex and are often mixtures of several different categories. This means that any expert communicator has to try and identify the most prominent personality type in a person if they want to increase the chances of a successful interaction.
I was attending a talk by a retired Canadian Intelligence Agent, JJ Brun, who is a prolific speaker and expert on human behaviour and communications. He was using a model called the DISC model. It involves the use of four main categories and explained that even though each one is distinct, real human beings are made of a mix of each category in different amounts.
During the talk, we were all asked to stand up and split into four regions based on how we identified with two statements: ‘Are you outgoing or reserved?’ and ‘Are you task oriented or people oriented?’ I ended up in the outgoing side of things, and couldn’t quite decide on the task vs. people question, though I eventually shifted to the task side. I decided to do a quick internet test to see where I fell along the spectrum to see if I could gather more insights. Here is a quick outline of my personality – now you, the reader, should know how to successfully interact with me.
I have always fallen fairly evenly across the spectrum of personalities. It’s strange, I know, but no matter which personality test I take, the results often say that I’m an even mix. This case was no different. The test said I was a combination of D, C, and S, and that it couldn’t determine which one was my dominant trait. Remember I chose D during the talk, so that is probably my dominant trait.
In general I find one of my personal superpowers (btw you should identify yours) is that I can talk to and relate to pretty much anyone. It would make sense then that my personality has pieces of all four major traits.
How does this help you?
Enough about me. How can this information, these personality types, help you? Should you choose Myers-Briggs, DISC, or one of the other 198 personality type models to help understand people? JJ Brun said it very well; “It doesn’t matter which model you choose, but pick one and master it.”
So if you want to understand people and be able to get more out of an interaction, get very good at understanding one model and use it to identify the strongest trait in a person, then alter your communication style to match what will be most relatable to that trait.
Notice that earlier I said ‘increase the chances of a successful interaction?’ There is no guarantee for success. There is no guarantee that you’ll have a positive interaction with someone, even if you become a true master of communication and can identify personalities immediately. You can still fail, but you can significantly increase your chances of success and have great interactions with people most of the time. In my opinion this is definitely worth the effort.
I do have one very good piece of advice though. It’s simple, elegant, and can make sure that every single person you meet will respect you, even if they don’t like you in the end.
If you can honestly and truthfully listen to what a person is saying, devote your full attention to them, and really pay attention to the words and concepts they are communicating, people will always feel heard when they interact with you. This is the most important factor bar none. Even if you disagree, even if they dislike you and you clash with them, they will always respect you for hearing them out and listening to them. I’ve always kept this idea close to me: You don’t learn by talking.