Personality Types and the Golden Rule

Many of us learn the golden rule as kids – something along the lines of ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, or ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

It carries with it the ideal of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and then interacting with them in the way we think we would appreciate if we were them.

So what does that have to do with personality types? I would suggest, quite a bit…

Let’s just focus on one simple type of personality distinction – Introverts and Extroverts.

At a very basic level, some key differences between these two types of personalities can lie in

  • How they recharge
  • Whether they prefer concentrated focus or diverse multitasking
  • Whether they prefer groups or one-one-one conversation
  • Whether they prefer more or less stimulus
  • Whether they process and make decisions quickly and out-loud, or over time and after individual reflection

There are many more facets we could touch on, and no one person fits neatly in one box, but the differences between these two personality types can provide opportunities for us to practice the golden rule in both our personal and professional relationships.


1. Personality and ourselves

Are you aware of your own natural tendencies and where you sit on the spectrum of introversion and extroversion? Understanding where you are is a great first step to understanding and accommodating the differences you might find in others. Here is a great, simple 12-question quiz from Susan Cain, the author of the insightful book ‘Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’, which will give you a broad idea of how introverted or extroverted you may be.


2. Personality in the workplace

If you’re an extrovert working with an introvert, you might (depending on the person) be able to bulldoze them into doing things your way through sheer force of personality and an insistence of quick decisions. But you won’t be creating buy-in with them on the ultimate outcomes, and you certainly won’t be creating a strong working relationship.

Conversely, if you’re an introvert working with an extrovert, you may need to recognise that your style of focus and reflection will only frustrate a get-it-done, talk-to-process style extrovert, if you insist that all decisions and discussions follow your own preferences.

We need to be aware of where we sit on the introvert-extrovert personality spectrum, so that we can ensure that in our working interactions we are making space for a variety of natural approaches to how people process, discuss and execute. Ultimately, this will enable everyone to have the best opportunity to fully exercise the gifts they bring to the project table.


3. Personality in our personal lives

Perhaps even in more in our personal than professional lives, we need to be aware of the personality styles of the important people in our lives. We certainly don’t need to attempt to conform ourselves to whomever we happen to be interacting with at a given time – that will only lead to inauthenticity and ultimately hamper relationship. But we do need to be aware and intentionally considerate.
If an introverted loved one has had a demanding week, this may look like suggesting an intimate dinner with just a couple of close friends when perhaps our own preference is to check out the latest busy night markets. The extrovert in our lives, on the other hand, may greatly appreciate a night out amidst the energy and stimulus of crowds and a great new venue if their head has been in their laptop all week for work.
It doesn’t have to be formulaic or follow any rules – but being aware of personality preferences like introversion and extroversion in ourselves and others can be a great tool for helping us to apply the golden rule throughout the various spheres of life!