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Personality Types, according to Helen Fisher (I’m a Negotiator) March 25, 2009

Posted by Jordan in Books, Thoughts.
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I checked out Helen Fisher’s latest book a few days ago, titled Why Him? Why Her?, and I found it really interesting. In it, she goes over some of the biological reasons behind why we fall in love with some people, but not with others. She also touches on the “nature vs. nurture” debate, and how, for quite some time, the “nurture” side (how we are raised, our parents, the environment we grow up in, etc.) was thought to play a pretty significant role in determining our relationship preferences. Ms. Fisher doesn’t seek to dismiss that school of thought entirely, as that stuff obviously affects us to a certain extent, but she discusses at length some of the new research that’s been done on body chemistry, and how it’s become more and more obvious that a large part of who we are, as far as personality and temperament goes, is determined by the “nature” side. (Wow, that last sentence had FIVE commas. Nice.)

Through the research she’s done, there are four main personality types that she’s defined. Almost everyone has traits from all four types, on some level, but there are one or two that are usually at the forefront, and she has designed a personality test that can measure how strongly you exhibit tendencies of each of the four. There are fourteen statements for each of the four types, and you’re measured on how strongly you agree or disagree with each of them.

There’s the Explorer, who usually tends to rely on his/her impulses. Explorers are the closest personality type to what people usually call “adrenaline junkies” or “thrill seekers”. While the Builder, another of her personality types, generally finds comfort and relaxation from routine, Explorers are just the opposite – they thrive off of spontaneity, and they feel stagnated by nearly any sort of predictable, repetitive activity or routine. They are enthusiastic, optimistic, sexual, open-minded, and eager. They love trying new things, and are always up for an adventure.

There’s the Builder, who usually tends to rely on his/her values. Builders have a clear idea of what they do and do not agree with, and they conduct themselves based on that. Their values are the most “traditional” of the four personality types, and they view most long-held customs or traditions as good indicators that should be followed. Family is almost always a big priority. Ms. Fisher designated this type as the “Builder” for pretty obvious reasons – they are the primary “building blocks” of society, and Builders treasure and seek out stable environments for themselves and their loved ones.

There’s the Director, who usually tends to rely on his/her logic. Directors shoot for the stars, and, when they know what they want, they go after it with everything they have. They value getting to the point and speaking directly, and they normally don’t have much patience for procrastinating or for doing things that aren’t directly related to what they’re trying to take care of. They understand complex machines fairly easily, and are interested in seeing how things work, or in seeing rules and procedures that govern systems. Directors look at the world from a fairly scientific perspective, and, as such, are open to new ideas, just not new ideas that lack support, evidence, or justification.

Last, there’s the Negotiator, who usually tends to rely on his/her intuition. If the Director looks at the world like a scientist, the Negotiator looks at the world like a philosopher. Every topic or thought, no matter how big or small, can be dissected and looked at from multiple angles. Negotiators are emotional, passionate, empathetic, romantic, and nurturing. They also have the most idealistic view of love and romance – they would rather live alone than be in an unfulfilling relationship, and they are enchanted by the idea of true love, and of a soulmate. Being connected to and invested in others is part of what makes life worth living for Negotiators, and they find it hard to maintain interest in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) that doesn’t allow them to find common emotional ground.

So, I took the test, because I had become quite curious about what kind of results I would get, and because I had gotten a rough idea about where I would fall, and I wanted to see if I was right. (I was.) You’re scored on each of the fourteen statements on a scale of zero, one, two, or three, based on how strongly you identify with the statement. This is repeated four times, so that at the end of the test, you have four numbers between zero and forty-two, each of them corresponding to how much you agreed with the overall set of statements for each personality type.

For the Explorer set of statements, I scored in the mid-twenties – twenty-four or twenty-five.

For the Builder set, I scored lower – about twenty or twenty-one.

For the Director set, I scored almost identically to how I scored on the Builder set – about twenty.

For the Negotiator set? My score was almost the maximum score possible, which is forty-two. I think I was at thirty-eight or thirty-nine. I immediately had a strong positive reaction to almost every one of the statements – stuff like “I enjoy it when an author takes a sidetrack to say something beautiful or meaningful”, “After watching a particularly emotional film, I often still feel moved by it several hours later”, and “I like to get to know my friends’ deepest needs and feelings”. Moreover, when I read the chapter specifically about Negotiators, I caught myself agreeing with just about everything, and thinking, “That totally sounds like me!”

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Comments»

1. '86 Rabbit - March 25, 2009

I scored pretty much as I did in a team building exercise at work a long time ago–an unusually even split. The test I just took online had me tied Negotiator/Explorer with Builder and Director 2 and 4 points behind, respectively.

BTW, you’re fabulous!
http://86rabbit.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/you-like-me-you-really-like-me/

2. muttslikeme - March 26, 2009

Interesting post and reference to nature/nurture. I’d be curious about what sociologists would think of my nature vs nurture story, from prison to poetry, so to speak.
http://muttslikeme.wordpress.com/about/
Do genes really drive behavior?

3. Jordan - March 27, 2009

Hi! Thanks for dropping by, and your story sounds pretty amazing. I think that, as far as what Ms. Fisher talks about in her book, it’s mainly in reference to relationship preferences, although that certainly has to do with behavior. I would be curious, as well, to see how your story would be interpreted or viewed by sociologists – I would say that genes can influence behavior, but that there are plenty of examples, yours included, to show that they don’t drive it.


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