You’ve got personality

Human behavior fascinates me. I am endlessly curious about the human condition, and the question of why we behave the way we behave. Why do some people choose to bungee jump off a bridge, while others prefer to curl up at home by the fire? Why are some people energized by the fast-paced conversation of a cocktail party, while others gravitate toward a quiet conversation in the corner?

Our behavior, of course, is simply the exterior manifestation of our inner process. We have different worldviews, different core motivations.  Some (like many in the library profession) are primarily motivated by the need to help, while others are motivated by a need for excitement, the need for individual expression, the need for security, the need to learn, or the need to succeed. 

As human beings, I believe that we each encompass a multitude of of needs, motivations, and worldviews. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, we are large, we contain multitudes. But I also believe that each of us has a primary motivation, and a primary worldview, which leads to certain patterns in our behavior. In other words, we each have a personality style.

My fascination with human behavior has led me to explore many concepts and models of human personality. The most widely known personality inventory is probably the “Myers Briggs Type Indicator” (MBTI), created by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs, and based on the work and ideas of Carl Jung. The Myers Briggs inventory measures our psychological preferences; how we perceive the world and make decisions. Two popular books that explain the Myers Briggs model and offer practical suggestions on how to use knowledge of our type to enhance our lives are “Type Talk” and “Type Talk at Work.”

One of the more subtle and multi-layered personality models is the Enneagram. “Enneagram” comes from the Greek words ennea [nine] and grammos [something written or drawn], and is so named because the model suggests nine fundamental, yet interconnected, personality types. While not as widely known as the MBTI, the Enneagram is a much older theoretical model, with some suggesting origins as early as the fourth century. Because it is more complex than the MBTI it does not lend itself as easily to use in the business world, but the subtlety and depth make it ideal for those interested in a deeper psychological or spiritual exploration of themselves and the human condition. Check out Helen Palmer’s classic work, “The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and the Others in Your Life” for a great introduction to this rich theory of personality.

While Myers Briggs and Enneagram are two of my personal favorites, there are many theories that attempt to make sense of the complexity of human motivation, behavior and personality.  I’ve put together a list in our Bibliocommons catalog that brings together a number of our library resources as well as some useful websites. If you’re also fascinated by human behavior, check out my list here: You’ve Got Personality.  (If you want to make and share your own list, click here for helpful instructions.)

Image used under creative commons license: 2.0 Sharealike courtesy of flickr user: gwenboul

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