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. Laura Paola Reply

    Six years ago my results in another test were ENFP. Now I get ISTJ. It seems a little extreme of a change to be honest. Many consider me to be introverted but in high school all my personality tests showed that I was extroverted. I’ve noticed that the others who have commented have gone through life changing events like death of loved ones. In the past six years I moved to another country and started my bachelors degree in another language. I don’t consider that a big life changing experience. Could this be the reason why my results have changed? One thing that I have come to realize is that I feel like I have changed a lot. When I look back at old pictures I barely recognize myself… and I’m not referring to physical aspects.

  3. Erin Reply

    INFJ:

    Since I am reading this page, I am certainly interested in discovering if type change is at all possible. I grew up with an ENTJ father who was not at all understanding of my personality, and an ESFJ mother, who was understanding but could not connect with my strong Ni. I think that what you say about exhaustion is important in terms of changing type. It might be that INFJ is in a constant state of trying to change type, which is why we mimic and then withdraw, since our type is not well balanced against most others, and has difficulty with the “results” function (inferior Se), we routinely experiment with our personalities to see if we can achieve better results. As you said, this creates exhaustion and I then withdraw to recharge my energy using my natural state. I was given very effective personality “nurturing” from an ENTJ and ESFJ mother, as these types are both well accepted in the culture I live in, but despite that I developed into an INFJ because those methods could not produce results for me. My mind literally needs emotional information as fuel to “spin”, despite me being able to test higher on math than on verbal functions and with a top IQ. Telling me to be concerned about money and products is like pouring gasoline and ethanol into a diesel engine. It completely breaks my thought process that produces useful results.

    That said, I completely agree with your conclusions about being able to mold yourself as a different type, not just as a mimic, but to learn to take in information differently from your preferred method. Learning about type was a revelation for me, because it was suddenly so clear to me what was frustrating about me to everyone around me, which I previously could not understand and caused me great sadness, but also in what ways I could be unique and therefore very valuable as different from them. I can certainly see myself learning to sacrifice my dominant intuitive function and focus on sensing when communicating with others in order to finally be understood (and less frustrating), as well as avoiding the feeling function but learning to extravert my thoughts correctly (using language rules instead of visual metaphor) to accomplish tasks. In this post, in my behavior and discourse, I reveal what this means is possible and what probably is not. Of course you, as a thinking type, readily communicate this in the style of a formula, which I immediately understand, I hope my narrative can offer insight for you, and if not, for other feeling types who enjoy using and interpreting this type of data. I could also create a formula and approach it from a rational perspective, but it requires rethinking my thinking, a double effort, and more energy. Before doing that, I would weigh the costs and benefits of the energy expenditure; in most scenarios doing what comes naturally to me first.