Over the years in my studies and career, I’ve learned some very valuable tools to help me improve my clients’ quality of lives; understanding the diversity of personality types. As every individual is unique, the personality of each person can differ as day follows night. One of my favorite principles in my Faith – the Baha’i’ Faith – is Unity in Diversity, which I had always taken to mean diversity in cultures. More recently though, I’ve realized that diversity also includes personality types such as can be found in introversion or extroversion, feeling or thinking types, sensing or intuitive types, task-oriented or people-oriented and so on. In a sense, we are all thinking and feeling humans that are best in cinque when our actions mirror our thoughts yet, we don’t all react the same way because our personalities vary. Understanding the diversity of personality types in my clients helps me to better know how to communicate with them, learn from them as well as to teach them.
The subject of unity in diversity has long fascinated me. It’s about cultures yes. But also, it’s about the beautiful differences in each person’s personality type that can stem from birth and that consequently makes a society thrive. Each person is endowed with unique talents and faculties. Not surprisingly, then, that we may vie with one another. But owing to our differences, we should not make comparisons that belittle anyone. We should strive to understand each other and realize that just because someone may be awkward in a social situation doesn’t make that person someone to look down on or made fun of. Instead, why not make him/her feel more comfortable by being more inclusive and finding a topic that is interesting to him/her.
Consider now a beautiful garden that has all kinds of different flowers. Each flower brings its own unique beauty. But that particular flower may need more water or less water, more sun and or more attention than another flower. The same principle can be applied to people in terms of what they need or how they respond to a similar crisis. Or how much ‘people’ time one person versus another person may need with friends or family. One person may be energized by companionship whereas another may feel drained by too much chit-chat. Less judgement and a deeper understanding of diversity of personality types is much more useful and unifying.
As an example, for most of my life I’ve been an avid reader, loved nature and needed more quiet and alone time to recharge, particularly at the end of a busy day with people. Going out with friends for me can be a lot of fun at first but after too many hours I can become drained and ready to head home before my more extroverted friends. Because of my introversion, many times friends misunderstand my need for solitude, sometimes saying to me that I should do less reading and instead spend more time socializing. At times I try to explain myself to them and at others to myself I just smile knowingly. Simply expressed, by spending too much people time my energy store becomes depleted, it’s like a battery that is filled in the morning but wears out by eve. Interestingly, as I am getting older and knowing myself more I find more interests in my projects in private rather than a lot of public moments.
This self-discovery occurred gradually for me. In my 20’s working in Chicago a colleague who was a Doctor in Psychology, in observing me, teasingly commented: “You’re a closet introvert.” Later, when I began my study of personality types and my work with clients, did I come to appreciate his candid comment. At the time I had no real understanding of what he meant as I’d not studied this much. I just knew that I had more solitary interests and enjoyed being on my own.
So what matters is that every individual come to understand his/her uniqueness – what gives energy versus what takes energy. By appreciating the things that inspire creativity and service while avoiding people and situations that seek to dominate or manipulate one may discover and fulfil one’s destiny in this fast-fleeting life. It is important to know yourself to grow and thrive in life. I have spent years learning not only about myself but also my clients and how to better teach them.
The beauty of people is their diversity of thought, of personality, of culture. We need every member of the human family to create a prosperous and productive society. We need them to contribute to the diversity of jobs and careers that await those myriad personality types. Not everyone, for example, would like to be stuck in a research lab studying diseases with minimal day to day contact with others. Others may love the heightened risk of jumping out of planes to rescue people in need. And still others would rather be seated at a desk coming up with analytics for new apps. Then there are some who can inspire millions to live better lives. Such is a sampling of the wonderful diversity of personality types.
So, let us acknowledge that introverts may find their energy stores drained after too many distractions whereas the extrovert becomes a live wire in the midst of people and activities. It isn’t that the introvert doesn’t like people or is unsociable. It’s just that the energizing systems of the two “verts” are different and therefore unique.
Perhaps like me, you can see that being judgmental and not allowing for diversity of personality types can stunt the growth of a society and its peoples. If by chance a neighbor doesn’t look at or respond to some event as you do, instead celebrate this diversity. Because if we don’t all react the same way to people, news or stimuli, may we appreciate the beauty of the lovely flower garden of humankind which means learning to apply this principle of Unity in Diversity.
In concluding, remember that understanding the diversity of personality types of important for us all to create unity in our families, communities, career and become more loving with each other. Less judgement and more compassion for those around us and for ourselves.