Who ARE You Anyway?

Podcast 033 - Personalities

Today let's talk about another aspect of you that will influence everything you do every day of your life - your personality.

I'm using chapter 5 from my book Break Free of Parenting Pressures to describe the types because how I describe them really doesn't change unless I'm doing a live session where we can do a personality quiz together and dig a little deeper.

With that said…let’s get personal

The nature-related aspects of who you are—those qualities you were born with—stay relatively consistent throughout life. These qualities include your temperament or personality and predispose you to certain behaviours. They influence who or what you gravitate toward and can even determine health risks.

Temperament is genetic and has a large influence on your natural behaviour. When you learn to do something that goes against your natural tendency (for example, organize your desk despite a natural desire to live in clutter), you will find that when you are stressed you revert back to your true nature. This doesn’t mean you can never change aspects of how you behave, but it does mean there are certain behaviours that will resurface throughout your life.

Every personality type has positive traits and challenging traits. Learning which traits apply to the individuals in your family can help guide your expectations and discipline strategies. For example, knowing that your three-year-old thrives on organization can help explain why he has a temper tantrum after you carelessly push his toys to the end of the table at supper time. It can also help you understand that he will not calm down and eat until you let him straighten things back out. As well, being aware of the personality of your teenager can help you decide if taking away her cell phone and making her stay home on a Friday night is going to make a big difference to her.

Where it stops being helpful is when you use this information to limit your loved ones (i.e. not telling them what you'd like) or use it as an excuse for allowing undesirable behaviours. Temperament is only one piece of the puzzle, and it's important to remember that. Children will always benefit from being taught social and emotional skills AND we can all use regular practice in this area. Knowing possible gaps due to personality, helps us determine which areas to focus on first.

Many personality tests put people into four main categories while recognizing that people will often be a blend of two or three. Although a small percentage of the population is said to share qualities from all four groupings, I typically find one or two categories are dominant. I like to use a model called DISC which William Moulton Marston is credited with originally creating under the title Emotions of Normal People in 1928, but I learned it through osmosis in a program I participated in over 20 years ago so my version is might not match up with the original.

As I share the following summaries, try to think about how you they might apply to your family. Remember – these are the extremes so you don't need all examples to apply to fit into this category.

The Four Types

The Determined Driver: This person is a very strong, independent, leader type. He likes to be in charge and will often tell people what to do. He is results-oriented and wants to see things done even if it means the quality suffers. Full of energy, he tends to be in a hurry, holds pointed conversations, and is unconcerned about offending others. Empathy does not come naturally to him. A good argument strengthens him, and while he may be quick to get angry, he cools down just as fast. He is not likely to take things personally and rarely believes something is his fault. (For example, “He shouldn’t have made me mad.”) He likes to know what is going to happen and is more focused on goals than on people.

A strong Determined Driver child will need his own space and stuff to really be happy. He will require clear boundaries and will need to be allowed to make choices. Use short, pointed messages with this child that focus on what needs to be done versus whom or how others are affected.

This child may need to be taught how to think of others’ feelings and will likely only engage in those teachings if you briefly explain what it will do for his future. (For example, “To run a company someday, you’ll need to be able to think of others’ feelings.”). These kids like to lead and take command of situations easily and quickly. They enjoy watching people disagree and often need help learning social skills like patience, empathy, and tolerance. Discipline works best when enforced consistently, calmly, and quickly with this child. Taking possessions from this child gets a strong reaction, while lectures do not. Remember, these kids love arguing and will look for any opportunity to get you riled up.

The Flamboyant Expressive: This person also has a very strong personality, but the focus is on people versus the task at hand. She loves fun and despises being controlled by others. She is a social butterfly who flits from group to group entertaining everyone in her flight path. She is imaginative, and while she likes to control others, is not very good at it due to her disorganized nature. She tends to struggle with time management and is notoriously late, even for her own events. She talks a lot and can overwhelm others with her force of character. People with this personality typically have good intentions, but are not great at follow-through which makes them appear scattered and inconsistent. They like to know who is involved rather than what is going to happen.

Kids who are Flamboyant Expressives have lots of friends, and social interaction will be the focus of their existence. They live in a world of disorganization, although will often be able to find what they need within that mess. They require reminders regarding time commitments and will be motivated by who will be involved (for example, “There will be lots of other kids at the daycare to play with.”) versus what fun things they’ll be doing (crafts, reading) once there. They enjoy planning social events, although they often need a helper to assist with organization. They can struggle with commitment as they might sign up for things because of the people involved and then decide they don’t like that activity at all.

A Flamboyant Expressive child is closely connected to her friends and will rebel if you come on too strong when disciplining (i.e., grounding with removal of telephone, computer chatting, etc). A little goes a long way when it comes to this type of discipline for these kids. Time-outs can be effective for the younger child, as long as the parent is calm and consistent.

The Easy-Going Amiable: These people are nice, friendly, and relaxed. They are safety oriented and do not like upsetting people. They like harmony and will work hard to help others get along. They are good listeners and often make good counselors. They like people and tend to have a few close friends. They are accommodating and peace-seeking sometimes over-empathizing or putting other’s needs before their own. They like routine and are uncomfortable with change to their schedules or environment. They like to know how things are going to happen and when.

Amiables like everyone, but are especially attracted to the energy and pep of Drivers and Expressives. They will often pair up for the long term with a Driver because they are the only ones willing to put up with the Driver’s bossy, pointed attitude. Since confrontation leaves them feeling drained, shaky, and concerned about what was said, they often avoid it. As a result, the confrontation-loving Driver will sometimes get bored with the lack of enthusiasm the Amiable puts into a fight. An Amiable who is backed into a corner (especially when defending her young) will respond very strongly, shocking those who know her best.

Children with an Amiable personality are easy to get along with. They are not disruptive and try hard to do what they are asked. The challenge with these children is that they tend to be followers. If they are not taught good decision-making skills while they are young and still idolize their parents, they can easily be led down a wrong path as a teen. They do not like when people argue, and they can get very angry at a parent who publicly stands up for them (for example, calls the school to complain). They thrive on routine as well as predictability and get anxious about changes in their environment. Teaching these kids why it is important to stand up for their beliefs and helping them with the skills to do so is extremely important. They can take all the world’s problems on their shoulders if we don’t stop them.

These kids will benefit from being taught assertiveness, good decision making, flexibility, and anxiety-related coping skills. Most discipline tools work on these kids as they are bothered more by disappointing people than by anything extra we might hand out.

The Careful Analytical: This group is task-oriented like the Drivers; however, they are focused on having the task done correctly—in fact, perfectly. They are very organized and patient (since perfection is a slow process) and will take all the time they need to do something right. They like order and think things through in a logical, critical way. Facts are more important to them than people, and they often enjoy working on their own.

They are not friendly or aggressive and usually have just one or two really close friends. They focus on the big picture and comply with the rules simply because that is the logical thing to do. They do not show their feelings easily and can be judgmental of others. These people can easily become loners and sometimes forget to eat or sleep when involved in a project. The Drivers make them crazy because of their disregard for detail and their rush to finish the task. Analyticals are often attracted to Expressives (sometimes wishing they were more like them) and will often wind up in a relationship with them.

Children in this category will like things set up in a precise fashion. They will organize their dresser, bedroom, and desk to reflect order and logical correctness. Disorganization drives them crazy and they might offer to clean something up as a fun afternoon of activity. Parents are often concerned over their reclusive nature and might try to force them to be more outgoing. Many social skills do not come naturally to this group (except in a very logical way), so some teaching in this area will be important.

These kids will need time to think when asked a question and should not be rushed into answering. They need to know why and how things are done. They will benefit from belonging to clubs (Mad Science, 4-H, Scouts), although be sure it is something they enjoy doing. Tact doesn’t come naturally to them, and they often need help with empathy and compassion. Learning to get dirty and have fun can also be helpful for this child, but not if you force her.

For discipline, consequences work well with this group as long as there is a logical connection to the misbehaviour (a toy removed after throwing it at a sibling). If you try to remove something unrelated (no movie outing because child threw a toy) the child will rebel and not learn anything useful. Because this personality enjoys time alone, grounding and time-outs are rarely effective and can be frustrating for the parent.

Being aware of your dominant personality traits and how they complement or contrast with your child’s can be very useful. Two Drivers will argue often and love every minute of it. If you recognize this and ensure the fights don’t get personal, you can sit back and enjoy the competition. On the other hand, if you're a Driver and you have an Amiable child, these battles will be stressful and possibly scary for your child so you'll want to be careful. If your child is Analytical and you want to 'play as a Driver' you might get him to debate with you as that is a logical skill he can relate to. If you're an Expressive parent and your child is an Analytical you may wonder what planet they come from.

In line with this, parents with an Expressive or Driver child will create extra struggle if they use controlling language. If they have two kids one who's a Driver then sibling rivalry can easily become a big problem in their house if the parents don't set clear boundaries and enforce them regularly (check out my sibling rivalry podcast for ideas on how to use this annoying practice to your advantate).

On a personal level, once a person is aware of their dominant tendencies it becomes easier to learn how to moderate certain behaviours. A Driver can learn to take other people’s feelings into account and practice patience. An Expressive can learn to be more organized and to arrive on time. Amiables can practice being assertive and accept that some disagreement is healthy and inevitable. Analyticals can learn to be more spontaneous and to strive for good quality instead of perfection. Our personality does not change when we do this but rather becomes educated. Our natural behaviours will still resurface during a crisis, but at least we will be able to understand and grant forgiveness to both ourselves and our family when this happens.

Now it's your turn. If you haven't already, take a moment and think about which of these categories describes you best. You might find you are a blend, but even then there will typically be areas that are more dominant in your life. If you find this too hard to do you might jot down some of the main points I shared and ask a friend or two which ones best describe you. Often people on the outside can more clearly see different sides of you.

Once you have an idea of who you are, you are ready to focus on others like your partner or child.  There are actual quizzes you can do, but for today I just wanted to get you thinking about how this information might affect you and your relationships.

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