An Introduction to Type and Behaviour
This is one of the largest and most important areas of Type that I’ve come across. It also seems to be one of the areas that causes the most confusion with clients. So the big question for today is: what’s the difference between someone’s Personality Type vs their behaviour?
Our Type is our underlying personality. This is set early on in our lives.
Now, psychologists like me can get very excited debating whether this is genetic, inborn, developed early in life or forever flexible.
The short answer is that, in adults, this seems to be very stable. In my experience I don’t find that people’s underlying personality changes. For example, people are Introverts or Extroverts. It’s all to do with how they recharge their batteries, and this seems to be very stable.
And yet people change. Much of my work is about helping individuals, teams and businesses to change. So what is it that changes then, if not our personality?
It’s our behaviour.
Our behaviour is what we choose to do in any given situation. So, if I have a preference for Extraversion, then I charge up my batteries by interacting. However, I can choose, in any given situation, to do either the Extraverted behaviour, or the Introverted behaviour. Whichever one matches my preference will take the least energy and concentration, but I can always do the other one.
When I do choose to do behaviour that goes against my preference, it will normally take more time and effort. Particularly if I haven’t done it much before, and very much so if I feel I’m being ‘forced’ to do it.
So thinking about the difference between Type and Preference like this gives a couple of areas to consider.
Tip No 1
My first tip here is that for everyone who says ‘I do a bit of both’ or ‘Sometimes I’m one and other times the other’, they’re right. Pretty much everyone does behaviours from both sides. So when someone says they do both, my first response is that yes, they’re absolutely right.
If that person is interested in discovering more about the relationship between their Type and their behaviour then my second tip is to use this notion of behaviour and preference to explore learnt behaviour. My favourite starter question is ‘Are you an Extravert, who has learnt to do introverted things, or an Introvert who has learnt to do extraverted things?’ Because the chances are that, by the time you’re working with them, they’ve already learnt a lot of useful tips and tricks from their less-preferred side.
Tip No 2
My second tip is to use this difference between preference and behaviour to help people to think about making changes. Because we have already learnt some tips and tricks form our non-preferred side, then we can use this to think about how to make further changes.
As I mentioned before, much of my work is about helping people, teams and organisations make changes. Making changes can be hard, and clients will sometimes question whether they can really do this.
The difference between preference and behaviour can be helpful, because it’s a reminder that we have already made changes and adaptations. So when someone I’m working with gets stuck, I find it can be useful to revisit the changes that they’ve already made and to consider how they did it. And importantly what has been the pay-off for them of making changes.
So, in conclusion, I have found that I have ended up talking about the difference between Type and behaviour more and more over the last few years. I think that it adds really practical insight for people into what they can change, and how they might be able to do it.
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