Personality Types vs. Stereotypes

Kyle’s avatar

The 16 personality types are unique, with each group defined by their traits and the behavioral tendencies that go along with them. Based on statistics, personality typing allows for accurate descriptions and assessments of people. But there’s a difference between personality typing, which can be very helpful in many areas of life, and stereotyping, which can be harmful. Understanding that difference is important for the sake of fairness, accuracy, and usefulness. Let’s consider how personality types differ from stereotypes.

Likelihoods vs. Certainties

A stereotype assumes that someone conforms to a broad rule. For example, take the beliefs that Introverts don’t like to go out, prefer to be alone, are shy about meeting new people, etc. Those beliefs can influence real-world outcomes, like if an Introvert is excluded socially based on such assumptions. “Sam’s an Introvert and Introverts don’t go out, so we don’t invite Sam to go out.”

Personality typing, on the other hand, says that while Introverts may indeed be less socially inclined than Extraverts overall, it’s relative. Most Introverts like to go out with friends, meet new people, and attend gatherings, to some degree. They might be less likely than an Extravert to accept every social invitation, yet they still do so some of the time – and they appreciate the opportunity either way.

In real life, the truth of Introversion is often nuanced and requires more understanding than simplistic stereotypes allow for. The same is true for all personality traits and types – their associated tendencies can be likely but not completely consistent from person to person or instance to instance. Stereotypes are clumsy and too extreme to be useful.

Identity vs. Perception

Another way that stereotypes and personality types differ is in their origin. A stereotype is a label applied to someone from an outside source, and it may reflect the biases of those who apply it more than the qualities of those to whom it’s applied. Stereotypes are limiting because they only include what’s perceived by the observer, not what’s going on under the surface. Even if bias is minimal, any such assessment is likely to be incomplete at best.

Personality typing, on the other hand, relies on self-recognition and objective evaluation of internal thoughts, feelings, values, and beliefs, as well as measuring behaviors that may be more externally visible. Someone’s personality type is as much a disclosure as an assessment because of their awareness and participation in defining themselves. Personality typing includes critical elements of self-awareness and identity, not merely external perception.

So, in real life, treating people according to stereotypes is like subjecting them to limited external judgments. It’s essentially a one-sided declaration: “Here’s what we think you are because of how we perceive you.” But when you approach someone through the lens of personality type, it’s more like a mutual dialogue that includes self-identified, internal, authentic parts of themselves. It’s more like a conversation than a declaration.

Connecting vs. Dividing

Stereotypes and personality types are often used in very different ways. As simplistic absolutes that tend to reflect people’s biases, stereotypes often function negatively. They can demean or dismiss others by failing to accurately reflect – and respect – who they truly are. Stereotypes tend to encourage barriers between people, often leading to “othering.”

But since it’s far more nuanced, truthful, and inclusive of people’s own awareness and identity, personality typing enables people to understand each other. It expands and humanizes their perceptions and positively affects their interactions. This can encourage communication, respect, and empathy, making personality typing a good way to bring people together.

In very real terms, the difference between stereotypes and personality types can be a matter of belief versus fact. Stereotypes frequently reinforce false perceptions and ignorance, while personality types tend to reveal authentic truths. The former can prevent compatibility, whereas the latter often highlights it. Stereotyping may be an outgrowth of some understandable, basic human instincts, but they’re not our better instincts.

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