Birkman logo Get Started

Four Personality Types – The Hype is Fun, Now Let’s Talk About Human Reality

It’s exciting to see personality news and discussion break out across major media outlets like The Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, our social media feeds, and so many other channels following the Northwestern University research findings published in Nature Human Behavior.
Here at Birkman, we have millions of data points from over 65 years in the behavior assessment business, so there weren’t any aha moments for us in these findings. But they certainly provide a lively starting point to the personality, behavior and perception conversation, which requires going deeper into human nature to get any significant outcomes.

When we talk about personality, most people discuss how they show up and present themselves to the world. What characteristics and behaviors typically represent who I am? Do I act like an extrovert or an introvert? Or in the latest news, do I look like someone who is Average, Reserved, Self-Centered, or a Role-Model?

It’s a hard question to answer. And that’s because, for 70% of the population, their external personality is different from their internal personality. Yes, people have two different sides to their personalities—how they’ve socialized themselves to show up in public, and a deeper, hidden personality that reveals their inner expectations and Needs from others. This is the personality that we can’t see, yet when revealed and understood, has the power to change lives.
For example, I would describe myself as an extrovert most of the time. I’m friendly and outgoing. But, there is also a part of me that feels more introverted sometimes. It’s not how I identify, but having time alone is a big part of who I am.

Dana Scannell, an Organizational Psychologist and President of Scannell & Wight, an international consulting firm specializing in leadership, coaching and team development, underscores the importance of measuring this hidden side.

“Most conversations related to workplace psychometrics oversimplify the complexity of human capital. People problems in organizations are rooted in these perceptual differences. The ability to measure and communicate unseen expectations has been the single most transformative tool in my practice.”

When we self-report on our personality traits, we unconsciously tell the story that we think the world wants to hear. When we uncover the hidden side of our personality, we begin to tell the story that the world needs to hear. This is the conversation that businesses need to have right now. How can I understand my employee’s external and internal personalities—how can I understand their perception of the world?

There’s a reason why the Average Personality Type self-reports as a little more extroverted than the baseline, and that’s because as a society we’ve decided that being social is a good thing. We want to show up as the social person, but underneath after a long day’s work, what we may need most is time to be alone, time to just be who we are on the inside. This is the duality of personality—at any given time, our perceptions are working within us and we use them to navigate and thrive in our social world.

Our external and internal personalities create our perceptions. And the idea that each of us has a unique perception, a filter through which we see the world, is one of the stable parts of who we are. There’s a reason why at ages 15 and 16 we see young teens skewing our personality data, and that’s because their personalities and perceptions have not yet fully formed. At this age, we’re still growing— from a biological and societal standpoint. We expect older people to be less neurotic and more conscientious than those under 20 years old, but this does not represent a change in personality, it represents the development that most of us go through as our stable personalities unfold.

In a constantly changing, dynamic world, our perceptions are one of the things we can count on as truth, as our own personal realities. Personality and perception are stable, unlike most other parts of our lives. When we interact with different people, different parts of our personalities are triggered from within us. This can often give the impression that we’re changing, when in fact we’re just having a different reaction based on the people around us.The growth in our intelligence—both IQ and EQ—also give the impression that we’re no longer the “Self-Centered” personality type anymore, when in fact we’ve just learned how to better manage our behaviors and understand how to make our personality work best for us in different situations.

The people around you and your intelligence may give the perception that your personality is changing, when in fact, it’s everything else that is. As we continue to mature and find our way through life experiences, we learn how to cope with our deeply rooted perceptions in more productive ways.

Even if we do belong within one of four personality types, there’s an important layer underneath, and that is where our innate diversity and uniqueness is rooted. Sometimes we have to look beyond the surface to see where the true magic lies and understand our own, unique personal reality—it impacts our entire existence.

Register for The Birkman Method Certification

Gain access to over 40 reports, including the Birkman Signature Report, and data-driven insights to improve your organization or consulting practice.

Register to Attend

Featured Resource

Nav Resource Panel Webinar

Watch the webinar on demand.

Learn how shifting from feedback to feed forward helps you develop talent in real time.

Watch Webinar