Is it possible to change your personality type?

Every personality type has its strengths and weaknesses – there is no ideal type just like there are no ideal humans walking on this planet. That being said, it is almost inevitable that at some point in life you will say “I wish I had a different personality”. You may want to become more outgoing, more in tune with your senses, more organized, more resistant to criticism etc. Not surprisingly, one of the most frequent questions people interested in personal development ask is “Can I change my personality type?”

Unfortunately, the answer is not that simple. According to most personality type theories, the individual’s type is inborn and does not change. However, individuals can develop traits and habits that differ or even directly contradict the description of their type. How does that happen?

Let’s use an example. Imagine that lights in your flat suddenly go off and you are in complete darkness. You may be able to navigate your way to the door, but what senses are you going to use? Touch? Hearing? Smell? It would be anything but vision, your preferred sense. However, as soon as the lights come back on, you will switch back to using vision again as it makes it much easier to navigate around the flat.

The way your personality works is very similar. The environment you are in shapes your personality in a certain way, forcing you to develop traits and habits that might be foreign to your type. For instance, if you are naturally casual and spontaneous (Prospecting), but your work schedule is very structured and your manager is obsessive about schedules, your preferences are likely to change. However, you will probably switch back to being a Prospecting individual as soon as you leave that job. The same rule applies to other traits as well.

We should probably mention one more thing. Sociability is often confused with Extraversion, just like shyness is confused with Introversion – this is one of the most common mistakes when it comes to discussing personality types. While Extraverted individuals naturally find it easier to talk to other people (they gain energy when they do this), there are many shy or solitary people among them. Conversely, Introverted types lose energy when they communicate with others, but you would be able to find many eloquent individuals in that group. In fact, certain Introverted types (e.g. INFJ or INFP) are often more sociable than most Extraverted types. In Western societies, Extraverted individuals outnumber Introverted ones by a large margin and consequently most people believe that everyone should strive to be outgoing, confident, have a large circle of friends etc. This is a misguided belief as every personality type is unique and has different strengths – yet this is often the reason behind the “Can I change my personality type?” question.

To conclude, your basic personality type cannot change – however, you can (and should!) change the aspects of your personality that you are unhappy with. By doing this you will strengthen your shadow traits and become a more well-rounded individual, even though your dominant traits will still remain the same. Such a change could be triggered by either the environment you are in or your own will – to each his own.






6 Responses to “Is it possible to change your personality type?”

  1. abi Reply

    I have taken the test a number of times. A few years ago, I was INFJ. Then after a life-changing event, I took it again and found I was INFP. Then upon leaving my last job, I got ENFP. NF is certain, and I understand that I’ve developed a more outgoing and effusive personality as I have grown into adulthood (now 27). But how can the J have changed to P?

    • Nico Reply

      If you look at cognitive functions you will see that EP types and IJ types both have a P function as their dominant function (e.g. Ni for INFJ, and Ne for ENFP). I would suggest that you are probably an introvert as the theory suggests that everyone becomes more balanced as they get older (i.e. introverts become more extraverted, and extraverts become more introverted). To choose between INFJ and INFP, consider whether you primarily think in terms of ideas, patterns and systems (INFJ), or whether your predominant trait is very deeply held values (INFP).

      Keep in mind that the tests aren’t very accurate as they are based on reported behaviour which can change significantly (esp. short term) as a result of important life events or simply as a result of your environment, whereas your personality type is actually how you think, which is indicated but not completely correlated with behaviour.

  2. Joshua Crowther Reply

    Most of my life I have tested INTJ but for two years when my Dad was dying I kept testing as ENTP. Contrary to my personality, which generally finds social situations draining, I couldn’t be alone because my mind was running a million miles. Being around people let me escape from my brain. So I don’t know if that counts…

  3. John Innodence Reply

    INTP:

    I theorize that at your core, you cannot truly change your personality type; for example: an introvert will always have introverted qualities. however, the way you interact with the world is completely up for development if you follow Jungian, Myers-Briggs, and Keirsey theories to an open minded extent. The more you know about your type and how it interacts with the world at it’s core, you can manipulate your functions in a way that lets you not only excel in other circumstances, but have limited exhaustion.

    for example if we look at the functions of an INTP type (keeping it moderately simple) we find the functions in order are:
    Ti Ne Si : Fe – Te Ni Se Fi
    the first three functions come moderately naturally, the fourth is a little underdeveloped, and the remaining four are stressful. The more you exercise each function the more experience you will have with it and, hopefully, the less stressful it will be. An INTP can, with a bit of practice, come across quite easily as an ENTP (NeTiFe:Si), ISFJ (SiFeTi:Ne) or even an ESFJ (FeSiNe:Ti), and be quite comfortable for a long while. With a small deal of effort and possible stress, an INTP can also mold themselves into close types like the ISTP (TiSeNi:Fe) or an INFP(FiNeSi:Te), or other types with only one pair of opposing functions, but will likely become overstressed and need to wind down into their natural state. In extreme cases, an INTP has potential to behave very differently from their main function like an ISFP(FiSeNi:Te) or an ENTJ(TeNiSe:Fi), but likely at the expense of their energy and their stability and in theory would be unhealthy, but not impossible. As long as a type exercises their functions, they could potentially act like any type.

    This should be applicable to other types as well, but being only one person of one type (which statistically could get a lot of flak for ideas like this) I must admit I am limited in some regards. I would like to know how others think of this theory/ have experienced this practice, and am curious to see if there are flaws in it so I can shift it to a more correct form.