Personality Traits

We all know that we have different personality traits that make us unique human beings. Some of us seem to prefer order and predictability. We feel comfortable when we work on a schedule. A good day is when we can check everything off our "to do list". While others of us are more spontaneous and become bored when things are too predictable. Is one better than the other? The answer of course is "it depends" on the situation. In the best of all worlds, we would be able to spend the majority of our time in environments that allow us to produce in ways that align to our personal style. However, there will be times when we need to be flexible and accomplish tasks and adapt to the demands of the environment. The secret is balance of course. We need to set goals and expectations based on who we really are and know that there will be times when we need to shift gears. But those times should be in the minority.

For instance, for those of us who are "people" persons, committing to a position that requires hours of isolation while completing detailed paper work will most likely become highly stressful. Success at this kind of position will come at great cost both physically and emotionally. On the other hand, if the major requirements of the position were spending considerable time interacting with others in a creative environment, we would find much greater satisfaction and be much less stressed. Under the latter condition, our satisfaction will enable us to be flexible enough to adapt to tackle the more sequential, detailed tasks that may be necessary. In short, personality style affects our preferences for learning and creating, our expectations for relationships, our time management skills, our methods of communication, and even our adjustment to change. We will discuss some of these elements in this chapter and throughout the rest of the book.

Many experts have described their own version of personality styles and have created ways to assess them. Some theorists like to cluster traits into personality types based on Carl Jung's archetypes. Thus many of the personality types are similar to each other, as these likenesses support the same general ideas about common personality prototypes. Knowing our type-- that is the kinds of traits that define us can help us understand how we react in our environment and the kinds of conditions we need to maximize success and happiness potential while minimizing stress. We offer our own version here and have developed an assessment tool for determining personality type(s).

In our model (Nicols & Baum in press) there are four prototypes:
1. practical manager
2. learned expert
3. creative problem solver
4. people person

We all possess all four talents or prototypes but to varying degrees. This is an important consideration, however. For there will be times when we must use whatever amount of the trait that we have in a particular area to accomplish the demand. As we said before, the secret is to choose environments and situations where we can apply our strongest traits. Understanding this simple truth of choice provides insight as to why each of us has our own particular reaction to any given situation. What stresses some of us hardly bothers another at all.

Personality Prototypes

Practical Manager
If you are strong in this prototype you have a talent for management and are a champion for the pragmatic. These traits enable you to take charge, to organize things and people. Your room is probably neat, your clothes are usually hung up, and your appearance is important. You easily keep your notebooks in order and probably never lose your homework. Life works when you know what is expected and how you will be evaluated. You want to have clear, detailed directions. Time is also highly valued. You are on time and expect other to be as well. After all you know there is a time and place for everything. Yes you are the practical ones of the world. You are great with details and can even get "hung-up" on them at times. Some people may even call you obsessive compulsive. You don't need a lot of people around and can amuse yourself. One or two friends at a time suit you well. You love having a plan and checking off your accomplishments as they are completed. You are happy when you know you have done a good job. You are stressed when you are not sure of the requirements, when there is too much chaos, and when no one seems in charge!

Learned Expert
If you are strong in this prototype you have a strength that allows you to become the class expert. You crave knowledge and satiate this hunger by reading, watching documentaries, and listening to interesting and informed people. In fact at times you would often rather read or hear about an adventure than actually have it. You have a gift for words and can express yourself eloquently. Getting good grades is easy for you, as you like to learn by reading and writing. You are very logical and enjoy verbal debate even though some may think you argue for the sake of arguing. You don't much worry about the fashion scene and don't want to waste your time with boring people. You are happiest when engaged in some sort of intellectual pursuit or allowed to give your opinion. Evaluating the world is a favorite pastime. You feel stressed when people are too "mushy" or when no one around you is smart based on your criteria.

Creative Problem Solver
If you are strong in this prototype you have the traits that will allow you to be an idea generator. You are never satisfied with the status quo and would rather do it your way. In fact you won't often take no for an answer. According to your philosophy, rules can be bent and exceptions made for the good of the cause. You are a "spur of the moment person" and value spontaneity. You don't mind taking risks if there is a chance for fun and adventure. You can do many things at once and often have lots of projects going on simultaneously. Sometimes people fear you will never finish anything. You are happiest when you can be the life of the party or engaged in some risk-taking adventure or working on a creative project. You feel stressed when you have to focus on details, live on a fixed and predictable schedule, or be governed by too many rules and regulations. Because you like to keep your options open you resist making commitments and may "go nuts" when you feel you have no options.

People Person
If you are strong in this prototype you have a talent for human relations and are a master of harmony. These traits allow you to get along with others. You love harmony and will try to assure that events move along with little or no conflict. You are a people person and have many friends. Life is good when it gives you opportunities to be with your friends to study, to relax, or to provide social service. Because you are so sensitive, you can feel the emotions in the room as soon as you enter. This sensitivity often contributes to your talents in the arts such as poetry, drama, and musical composition. On the other hand, it can get you into trouble. You may take on the problems of others or have your feelings hurt by taking things much too personally. You are quite the colorful person in both how you dress and how you communicate. Because you have many friends, you are rarely alone. This is good for you because you hate being lonely. In fact you would prefer to study in the kitchen with people all around you. You are happiest when your relationships are going well, when the teacher allows you to work in groups or with a friend, and when the teacher compliments you. You are stressed when you have to be organized and on time, when there is dissension or conflict, and when you are not made to feel special.

Later in the chapter you will have the chance to take our Personality Prototype Assessment (PPA). Your scores for each prototype will enable you to generate your unique Personality Profile. This profile will show where you will have particular strengths and those areas which may be more of a challenge to you. This understanding can be critical in decision making of all sorts.