Personality Blog

Do opposites attract or do relationships work best with people like us?

Bill McAneny's picture
Published on Thu, 05/08/2014 - 11:45 by Bill McAneny

Swan love

Well yes and no, and no and yes! There has been a huge rise on online dating sites and many are now offering personality “tests” for ‘compatibility,’ which always worries me. Since time began people have been attracted to someone for a whole variety of reasons, many of them illogical (and rightly so) and, like buying a property, you often don’t know what you want until you see it and then any previous preconceptions get rationalised away: 

Yeah OK I know she’s not what I originally thought would be my type but she’s just so positive. 

But you didn’t have ‘positive’ in your ‘list of requirements.

Well I do now.

Why are first impressions often lasting impressions?

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Published on Thu, 05/01/2014 - 11:46 by Bill McAneny

The layers of an orangeThere’s a (very) old saying: “When we meet someone we form an impression in the first few seconds,” I guess we’ve all heard that and it’s pretty scary. However when we hear the full quote it is even scarier:

When we meet someone we form an impression in the first few seconds, then we spend the rest of the time justifying it.

How scary is that, and how does it work? Well our brains want us to be right and so when we make that initial connections and form an opinion, our brain searches out evidence to prove that we were indeed correct in our assumption.

So for example if I am interviewing someone for a job and they walk into the room and I (totally subconsciously) believe they are aggressive then I will, (again totally subconsciously) phrase my questions in such a way that the other person will give aggressive responses thereby proving I’m right.

"Change is a door that can only be opened from the inside"

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Published on Fri, 04/25/2014 - 15:09 by Bill McAneny

Open DoorQuestion: “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “Only one but the light bulb has to want to change.” Sure it’s not that funny, in fact it’s a serious point. We often hold the metaphoric mirror up to people, show them their flaws; but can we change, and why would we want to?

OK first things first: We can’t really change our personalities. Personality is a result of the interaction between genetic conditions (what’s in our biological data) and environmental conditions (what is fed into us during those first crucial 7-8 years and can be represented this way: P=(GxE). So from quite an early age our personalities are roughly set.

But we can modify our behaviour. Behaviour is a result of the interaction between personality and situation and can be represented in this way: B=(PxS). So change the situation we are all capable of modifying our behaviour. When I teach psychology everyone loves these descriptions until they realise the implications: you really can change if you want to. 

But of course we can’t leave it there. I have worked in organisations across the world, confronted some very senior people with some difficult truths and they sometimes say: “why would I want to change?” So there is another dimension, which is the motivation to change.

The ISFJ - often undervalued, usually invaluable

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Published on Fri, 04/11/2014 - 16:10 by Bill McAneny
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The scales of justiceBecause their best work usually occurs more behind the scenes as they don’t really like the limelight, ISFJs are often the unsung heroes. They work systematically and assiduously a rare combination of caring and detailed and they are often the protectors making sure the routine is taken care of and that what has been agreed is delivered, on time, exactly as agreed and without fuss. Once they have ‘bought in’ ISFJs will work incredibly hard in the background, often unnoticed by the rest of the team, to make sure that things work and hang together for everyone.

Caring and sensitive to how other people are feeling, ISFJs are superb at remembering names and faces and specific facts, (including those who have offended them), which they store in the pristine filing cabinets inside their heads. They can then draw all these strands together into a plan, which they will quietly carry out to completion ensuring every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ crossed. 

"I don’t want to be categorised and put in a box"

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Published on Fri, 03/28/2014 - 13:28 by Bill McAneny

Horizon​How many times do you think I have heard this over the years when the notion of psychological assessment is mentioned? Or just as popular: “You can’t classify me I am different.” The problem is that people, like organisations, are like some other people, all other people and no other people. So why assess? It’s a fair question.

Well assessment is not about ‘putting people in a box,’ it’s about identifying some personality traits that help us understand people, help them better understand themselves and so begin the process of development. So if you record as an ISTJ it means you probably will display some ISTJ-like characteristics and that helps when you dig deeper into the whole person. You won’t be like every single other ISTJ. Indeed it’s almost like putting someone in a ‘box’ so that you can then understand them better and so, paradoxically, take them out of the ‘box.’

Exploding the myths of Thinking vs. Feeling

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Published on Fri, 03/07/2014 - 15:09 by Bill McAneny

BarometerThe most misunderstood element of personality is the Thinking vs Feeling scale. The traditional view is that Thinkers are logical and Feelers are emotional. OK this may be true, but it does not begin to even scratch the surface of the real differences.

Even Jung, who coined the term conceded:

…I freely admit that this problem of feeling has been one that has caused me much brain racking.

So if Jung struggled what chance do the rest of us have? Well we think that Feeling types often get a bad press, as they are more tactful, more in tune and more concerned about the impact on people than their Thinking opposites. So the view is often expressed that Feelers are ‘soft.’ One HR Director I know well always fakes his assessments so that he records as ENTP because he truly believes that being seen as an ENFP may well be career limiting! 

How Introverts Can Succeed on Teams with Extroverts

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Published on Fri, 02/28/2014 - 16:12 by Guest Blogger

Pen and PaperI’m sitting in the back of the crowded room, near the wall, and it seems like this staff meeting is never going to end.

All the extroverts – the room is full of them – are jumping over each other to debate the finer points of a new policy we’re putting into effect. There are so many differing opinions and rapid changes of topic that I’m not even sure what the central problem is anymore. The conversation is moving so quickly that I couldn’t get a word in if I wanted to.

Suddenly all the talking stops. A decision has been made. I’m still thinking about a point someone made ten minutes ago.

As an introvert working on a team of (mostly) extroverts, this has happened to me more times than I can count.

What’s an introvert to do? Shrink back into the wall and let everyone else make the decisions? Get passed over for raises and promotions because you’re not as visible as your extroverted colleagues?

While we’re never going to keep pace with extroverts in their ability to talk eloquently on the fly or possess (seemingly) endless amounts of energy, we can succeed on extroverted teams, and keep ourselves sane. 

Judging vs Perceiving in the workplace

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Published on Fri, 02/21/2014 - 14:35 by Bill McAneny

CoffeeI met with my friend Gary last Thursday for a coffee and catch up. We were really pleased to see each other. We caught up on what’s happening, had a really warm chat about things and then something strange happened as we got down to work. He got out a notepad which had a list of items and said: “OK this is what I’d like to get out of this meeting, what do you want to cover.” Me: “I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about it!” And do you know what the difference was? Yep, Judging vs Perceiving. He needed a list and a plan, and I wanted to just see where it would go.

In the workplace there is often a misalignment between Js and Ps. Unlike Extraversion vs Introversion, which now gets a lot of airtime, has heaps of books and articles written about it and which is probably easier to ‘get,’ the J-P scale can cause friction between those who need to create a plan and stick to it, and those who prefer to see how it all unfolds.

Carl Jung on Extraversion and Introversion

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Published on Fri, 02/14/2014 - 08:51 by Bill McAneny

Carl JungWe all know what Jung meant by Extraversion and Introversion, but do we know what he actually said?

It’s strange how many people are bought into the theory and practice of Jungian type but haven’t ventured to read the words of the great man himself. The primary source materials provide an excellent insight into his thinking on personality differences and he gives us colour, flavour and lots of humour! We all know that Jung was clear what he meant by Extraversion and Introversion: where we draw our energy from. However when we read his words we can see not only his take but also his opinion. On Extraversion:

Extraversion is characterized by a desire to influence and be influenced by events, a need to join in and get “with it,” the capacity to endure bustle and noise of every kind…the cultivation of friends and acquaintances, none too carefully selected…He has no secrets he has not long since shared with others.  Should something unmentionable nevertheless befall him, he prefers to forget it…all self-communings give him the creeps.  Dangers lurk there which are better drowned out by noise. 

INFP vs ISFP: savouring new possibilities vs savouring new experiences

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Published on Fri, 02/07/2014 - 09:45 by Bill McAneny

Golden Air​People often confuse the INFP and the ISFP, as they are both quiet, laid back, gentle enigmas. They are also both intensely private inhabiting their own internal worlds but there is a major difference: INFPs are future oriented dreamers who enjoy flights of fancy and seeing many possibilities while ISFPs prefer to stop and savour the sensory, real experiences of the moment to the max. Neither are forthcoming types, both love the new, both dislike structure or being controlled, however the INFP will look up and dream big dreams and the ISFP will look down, immersing themselves in actual experiences.

These are subtle differences but they help us better understand the two character types, which, paradoxically, are often the most misunderstood. Both are astute observers of life, caring and loyal: yet they experience the world in very different ways with the INFP wanting to see way beyond the here and now and the ISFP wanting to remain there until their need for experience is satiated and they move onto the next, new sensory experience.

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