#3 – Personality 101

Biblioteca comunale di Castiglione delle Stiviere (MN), scalinata by Giulia Van Pelt (Flickr)

“Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is.” (Mae West)

As a father of four precious daughters, I get to see personality every day. Each one of my daughters, although they share elements of who my wife and I are, are unique individuals with unique personalities. They look at life, respond to issues and behave in situations in totally different ways. It would be a lot easier to parent them if they were all the same, but the fascinating thing is that they are so different. My eldest daughter is enthusiastic, dramatic and loves the company of people. My second-eldest on the other hand loves pottering with things on her own and needs one-on-one time rather than group time. Each of them has a unique way of responding to life. This unique way of being is our personality.

The word personality comes from the Latin word persona, which referred to a theatrical mask worn by performers in order to either project different roles or to disguise their identities. In terms of its modern use, personality can be defined as the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that make a person unique. Each individual has a specific personality and this personality remains fairly consistent throughout our lives. As someone once said: “Personality arises from within and makes us who we are.”

My personality is different to that of my wife. I am more introverted, preferring my own company and more comfortable listening to conversations, rather than being the centre of attention. My wife on the other hand loves social interaction, although she is shy when meeting new people. Once she gets to know people, then she is happy to be the centre of attention and can usually be found telling people stories and enthusiastically sharing life. She speaks her thoughts out loud while I tend to keep my thoughts to myself. My personality makes me unique and because it is made up of so many different elements means that I have something very different that I bring to the world than the next person.

Positive and negative personality traits

Each of us has certain actions, attitudes and behaviours that together make up our personality. We bring these elements into every situation we face, into every relationship and into our careers and world of work. Positive personality traits connect us with others, open doors to success and contribute to us taking steps forward in our lives. Positive traits can include being:

  • Adventurous
  • Dependable
  • Committed
  • Fearless
  • Encouraging
  • Reliable
  • Helpful
  • Humble
  • Meticulous
  • Trusting
  • Confident
  • Fair

Negative personality traits hold us back. They disconnect us from relationships, keep us in bondage to our past and undermine who we have the potential to be. Negative traits include being:

  • Picky
  • Sullen
  • Sarcastic
  • Arrogant
  • Self-centred
  • Impulsive
  • Quarrelsome
  • Thoughtless
  • Stingy

Personality and careers

We bring our personalities, including these personality traits, into our relationships and into our careers. Certain personality types work best in certain careers. For example, someone who is shy and introverted does not necessarily make the best salesperson who has to go out every day and face new people. On the other hand, someone who is meticulous and detailed would make a perfect architect or accountant where detail is important. Indeed, in a recent article titled How I Hire: Focus on Personality, Richard Branson noted that personality is more important than skill in determining career success.

An important step in finding the right career fit for each individual is thus to understand your personality. What makes you tick? What energizes you and what drains you? What are the unique elements of who you are that you can bring to your career and which can make you a success or a failure in what you do?

Over time, a large number of personality tests have tried to answer this question. In next week’s blog, I will point you towards some personality tests that I have found most helpful. Until then, I would encourage you to take time to notice what is unique about yourself. How are you different to the next person?

What thoughts, feelings and behaviours make you unique?

NEXT WEEK: Personality tests – discovering who you are …

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