5 Classic Personality Types in Business and How to Work With Each
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Wilhelm Reich, a colleague of Sigmund Freud, laid the foundation for five classic personality types which, to this day, are well recognized in the field of psychology. Dr. Reich actually identified the body builds of these five types first, and then identified the personality types. Here, I discuss both. The theory of, and how to therapeutically deal with, these types is beyond the scope of this article. However, by knowing about and working with these five classic personality types, you can understand yourself better and become more effective at working with others.
The names of each of the classic types have been changed to better describe each one. The body build of each type has been included since it is the base of this model, and it is what sets this model apart from other personality models. The body build can also help with identifying our predominant type and others'. You can't rely on the body type information alone, but when first starting to work with this model, it can make discerning the type easier. As you become more proficient in identifying and working with these types, your ability to understand and work with others will improve significantly.
1. Spirituality type.
Years ago, I had a friend named Irwin who primarily exhibited the classic Spirituality Type. He seemed to be in another world, as if his mind was floating on the ceiling or in the heavenly, spiritual realms above. In fact, when I walked by him in the hallway, I would wave up to the ceiling and say, "Hi Irwin." He would wave up to the ceiling in return.
Most of the energy in a Spirituality Type's body is in their head, and they can seem like they're in another world. Their body tends to be slim and somewhat emaciated, and they can look disheveled. The billionaire Paul Allen and actor Jim Carrey are good examples of this type. Relating to people and being in the world can be frightening to them.
In business, to best deal with those who primarily demonstrate the Spirituality Type, it is important to not be aggressive or invasive. That would scare them. It's best to be more soft-spoken and meet them where their mind is. Conversations do well to remain intellectual, conceptual, and non-aggressive. People who primarily demonstrate the Spirituality Type make great computer programmers, bookkeepers, or other occupations where they're cloistered away at a desk with minimal client or customer contact.
2. Love type.
This personality type is all about having heartfelt, meaningful, and loving connections with people. The tendency is for the chest to be a little collapsed and deflated, and the jaw to be a bit recessed. Woody Allen and Nicholas Cage are examples of this type. It is as if they are trying to receive nourishment in their connections with other people, seeming to pull at other people to feed them emotionally. Unfortunately, people can find that pull to be clingy and uncomfortable, and therefore push the people who do this away.
In a business environment, it's important to be kind and understanding, but not get sucked into trying to fill these people's emotional void with your attention and support. The Love Type tends to speak excessively and often in a sing-songy voice. It can be difficult to get them off the phone or keep them on track with the business at hand. The art lies in not alienating them by being rude, while sticking to the business at hand. The Love Type can be good at customer service or helping coworkers with personal issues, conflicts, or complaints—anything that requires connecting with others on an emotional level.
3. Sensitivity type.
The Sensitivity Type's body tends to be overweight and big, and seemingly pinched off at the neck and in the pelvis. This sometimes results in a knock-kneed stature. John Candy and Oliver Hardy are good examples. They have big, loving hearts and strive to please. If you can load the wagon, they will pull it. In fact they'll even load it for you. For example, they may volunteer to help you with your workload while struggling to keep up with theirs.
You can ask a lot of the Sensitivity Type, but it's important not to take advantage of that by asking too much. When they are pushed too hard, taken advantage of, or offended, they don't tend to communicate that. Instead, they tend to hold in their feelings as resentment builds. Once their limit is reached, they can lose their temper. They are very sensitive and accommodating, and can be easily humiliated. The kindness in their heart makes them easy to connect with and work with on a daily basis, and they tend to be really nice people.
4. Commitment type.
"I'm right, you're wrong" is the war cry of the Commitment Type. They tend to not trust people or situations, and have their antennas up with respect to being betrayed, which is why they like to remain in control. Men tend to have small lower bodies and muscular upper bodies as if making the statement, "I'm the man in charge here." Sylvester Stallone and Hulk Hogan are good examples. We also see many of this type strutting the beaches in their Speedos. The characteristic female body type may have a pear-shaped body or a strong upper chest.
One does well to not get into conflict with this type. Even when you see they're wrong, pointing that out is rarely fruitful. It's better to acknowledge what truth there might be in their point and work with them to evolve the idea further. If their point ends up being refuted, it's best that it comes out as if it's their idea. That's not as hard to do as it might seem because they're always trying to keep one step ahead. When they see where a conversation is logically going, they are eager to get to the conclusion before anyone else.
Commitment Type people make great sales people and managers because they so steadfastly remain 110% committed to a cause, and are happy to get people to conform to their opinion. They have a gift for seeing the big picture and are great at rallying and managing the troops. Because they're afraid to be wrong, blindsided, or betrayed, they always have their attention on the big picture, which in the business environment can be a real asset.
5. Perfection type.
These people can look like they're wearing a uniform even if they're wearing a burlap bag. Their proportions tend to be perfect. John Tesh and Nancy Pelosi are good examples. In fact, people can resent or be put off by them because they appear so perfect. The reality is they have delicate hearts that they can't show, but can shatter like glass if they feel criticized or rejected. They tend to be all business or have all their attention on making the surface look right. Their desks and office are always perfectly in order.
People who primarily exhibit the Perfection Type are excellent at organizing the office, attending to details, quality control, researching, or creating office systems and professional-looking documents. However, they can also be so obsessed with getting every detail right that it can be hard to get them to stop when enough is enough. As a manager, it's best to give this type tasks to accomplish and deadlines to keep them on track.
We all have the five personality types to varying degrees. When first working with this tool, it is common to pigeon hole people. However, with practice, we can see how each person's two or three primary types play out. As we understand that, our ability to function in the workplace with others grows by leaps and bounds.
A useful exercise is to watch people walk by, or even just think about people you know, and see if you can identify their primary personality type(s). By having a basic understanding of these five personality types, you have a very powerful tool to use in the workplace and your personal life to help you relate to and work with other people effectively.