Written by Jenny Holt, Freelance Health Writer
Could there be a way for you to better understand those who you provide care to? Studies suggest that if you make a concerted effort to better understand personality traits, you could fell a little better equipped to care for those under your charge. By taking into account the subtle and yet complex nature of the many personality types we come into contact with on a daily basis, you may enjoy a deeper understanding of those you care for, allowing both them and you to feel more positive about the caring relationship.
Understand your own personality first
One of the best things you can do before trying to care for someone else, is to first know yourself. If you’re acutely aware of your own personality traits, you will be more consciously able to adapt your approach to suit the needs and tailor to the differences of those you care for. Many personality tests, the most famous being the Myers-Briggs Typology Inventory, are based on the work of Carl Jung. In fact, the Myers-Briggs personality test has become so commonplace within mainstream popular culture that you can now gain insight into your individual character traits within minutes. It is a great place to start if this journey is something that interests you.
Breaking things down
While Jung’s initial work only contemplates eight personality traits, the Myers-Briggs inventory breaks his analysis down even further by separating all human personality traits into 16 categories, made easily identifiable via a four-letter acronym system. For example, the Extravert-Intuitive-Feeler-Judger is succinctly referred to as the ENFJ, while the Introvert-Sensing-Thinker-Judger becomes an ISTJ.
If, as a carer, you do decide to dig a little deeper into your own personality and take the Myers-Briggs personality test, you’ll be able to use your findings to your advantage and adjust the way in which you respond to certain situations, or find ways of either reducing or heightening your sensitivity to the world around you as needs be. There is of course a slight catch. Unless you can get all the people you care for to also take the test, then you’re going to need to find alternate ways of tapping into the personality traits of others.
Reading personality traits
Without an exact reading, taken from the Myers-Briggs test, or any other kind of personality test, you’ll need to practice watching and reading the actions, reactions and behaviour patterns of those you take care of in order to gauge a better understanding of their personality traits over time. This is probably something you have naturally done already. In this instance, it’s a really good idea to reduce your options and break down the known personality traits into even fewer categories.
Luckily, in 1921, the psychologist David Merrill did just that, naming his four communication styles as Analytical, Amiable, Expressive and Driver. In short, Analyticals enjoy being able to access lots of data before making decisions, Amiables are tolerant grafters who love to be consulted ahead of the masses, Expressives are imaginative, creative and fast-moving with a particular dislike for slow details and Drivers are the managing directors among us, prone to assertive behaviour and natural delegation.
Type A and Type B personalities
If you like the idea of reducing your options even further, you can try categorising the people you care for into just two main categories: Type A and Type B personalities. Those people with dominating Type A personality traits will usually be fairly extrovert, noticeably competitive and may even show signs of obsessive compulsive tendencies. Those with dominating Type B personality traits will be more introvert, relaxed and creative.
It’s likely that you’ll discover that the individual personality traits best suited to a career in care work – patience, cheerfulness, multi-tasking, kindness, empathy, punctuality and leadership – are the ones that you hold. As Drivers, Type As, or Thinkers we might want to place emphasis on our ability to multi-task, whereas as Amiables, Type Bs, or Feelers we can focus on accentuating our natural ability to be empathetic and kind.
How to use personality traits to your advantage
Having established your own personality traits and spent time analysing the behaviour patterns of the people you care for, you should find it easier to get the very best out of daily human interactions. It’s natural for us to enjoy immediate connections with some people, but to experience a complete lack of common ground with others. Even so, when we make a special effort to understand personality traits we begin to value diversity and we focus on the positives of interacting with all kinds of people.
Even by dipping just below the surface into personality trait theory, we can make significant changes to the way in which we care for others. Not only will these changes make our life easier and more enjoyable, but they will translate into peace of mind and true happiness for the people we take care of on a daily basis.