Personality Theory

Personality Theory

Anthropology helps answer the question, “where did our communication styles come from?” Psychology, and particularly research into personality, further reinforces the idea that there are four distinct communication styles.

One major branch of personality theory was developed by Carl Jung.

He based his work on the premise that it is the difference in how and what we perceive that creates our different personalities. He theorized that there are four types of perception and that each of these results in a particular pattern of relating to the world.

The following chart shows these four different ways of perceiving, and the resulting personality types:

Perceives the World Through:                                     Personality Type:

Actions Sensor
Values Feeler
Facts Thinker
Ideas Intuiter

The work of Jung led to the development of the Meyers Briggs Personality Type Indicator in the 1960s. The MBTI, widely used in organizations today, separates people into sixteen distinct personality types, each based on Jung’s insights into how we perceive and relate to the world.

Jung’s work was inductive – it began with a theory. The second branch of personality theory is deductive, founded by empirical psychologists who examined the words we use to describe personality. They employed a series of statistical tests to categorize those words into five separate factors. Adherents of the “Five Factors Model” disagree on the precise definitions of these factors. But this school of thought contains the majority of scholars who work on personality typing today.[1]

Both schools – the Jungian and the Five Factors Model –  lend weight to one of the fundamental ideas of this book:

That people have very different styles of communicating, and that understanding those styles is crucial for straight talk.

[1] Definitions of the Five Factors of personality vary somewhat. One mainstream definition (by Borgatta) is assertiveness, likeability, task orientation, emotionality, and intelligence.

Previous: Where Communication Styles Come From Next: The Four Communication Styles

Eric Douglas

Eric Douglas is the senior partner and founder of Leading Resources Inc., a consulting firm that focuses on developing high-performing organizations. For more than 20 years, Eric has successfully helped a wide array of government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporations achieve breakthroughs in performance. His new book The Leadership Equation helps leaders achieve strategic clarity, manage change effectively, and build a leadership culture.

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