Reaching Across the Aisle

No, we’re not talking about politics. In this article, we’ll discuss the idea of using personality traits that fall outside of your own personality type to inform and inspire your personal growth. It’s a self-improvement hack with the added benefit of fostering understanding of other types – super cool.

Trait Polarities, Balance, and You

For many of us, personality traits run more toward one polarity. It’s common to test with a 70/30 split between opposing traits, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Certain behaviors are more likely for each of those traits, though, which can be both helpful and troublesome. Of course, no category can capture the nuances of every individual, which is why we work so hard to help you understand your own unique characteristics and tendencies.

In our Academy, we offer guidance on seeking “balance,” which loosely means expressing your personality type and traits in ways that create happiness, health, and maybe even prosperity. It’s about finding a useful personal mode, not necessarily trying to change your traits to even out to a 50/50 split. Ultimately, you decide what balance means for you.

Finding this balance usually involves intent and plenty of practice, just like any learning does. One method is to draw on personality traits other than our own. Studying the positive tendencies associated with a different personality type or trait can inspire us, and we can emulate those behaviors in order to balance our own tendencies. You might call it “borrowing behaviors” – more on that later.

The Sublime and the Questionable

Our tendencies are often entrenched within us, and our personality traits can bring us strengths as well as certain challenges. It’s up to us to question and evaluate how well our behavior works for us. Without care and moderation, some trait-related behavior can become quite unproductive. Let’s consider an example of two opposing traits and some (very) broad strokes of their likely tendencies:

  • Judging: On the upside, this trait is associated with organized discipline, consistency, and long-term dedication. On the downside, it can bring narrow thinking, resistance to change, and overreliance on structure to function well.
  • Prospecting: On the upside, this trait is associated with adaptability, openness to new things, and an ability to thrive amid changes. On the downside, it can bring lack of follow-through, easy distraction, and inconsistency.

We’re not beating anyone up here, just discussing some common potentials. The point is that as we explore ourselves, we may see trait-related behaviors that we’d like to change. When we decide to seek balance in this way, it’s nice to have some guidance and inspiration beyond just “stop doing that.” That’s where “borrowing a behavior” comes in.

Borrowing a Behavior

Simply put, practicing the “upside” of an opposing trait can help us balance its “downside.” What’s more, we can choose to emulate only the “upside” of that trait. For example, a Judging personality who wants to become more flexible could study how Prospecting personalities adapt and embrace change. And the Judging individual can practice that positive behavior independently of any less appealing potentials of the Prospecting trait.

Maintaining the useful parts of our own personality traits while practicing desirable aspects of other traits can be very complementary. A Judging individual needn’t abandon their value of structure but simply blend in a little more adaptability from “across the aisle.” It can be the best of both worlds. Learning to happily roll with a sudden change in plans? Yes. Still being punctual? Yes. Balance.

Knowledge Is the Seed of Balance, Experience Is Its Growth

Borrowing a behavior is a nice idea, but how do you do it? A good start is learning – and you’ve come to the right place. Our framework can help you understand the wonderful qualities of other personality types and traits. As you learn, you may discover behaviors that seem as though they could provide a nice counterpoint to your own. These are opportunities to borrow and grow.

A great way to take this learning further is to engage with real people who have different personality types and traits from your own. Connect personality theory to the real world by watching how people of very different types create happy, functional lives. You don’t need a perfect role model, just someone who is genuinely good at whatever you want to learn. As we discussed above, the goal is to borrow a positive, useful behavior, not to try to become someone else.

Reaching Out

If you want to learn more about how real people express their personality type and what works (or doesn’t work) for them, check out our Members Area. It’s a great place to reach out to others for inspiration and a personal take on different personality types and traits. Maybe you’ll even make a friend who can teach you something new and exciting about yourself. We’re all trying to learn and grow, and we can borrow the best from each other’s experiences to help us along the way.

1 month ago
I like to think that somewhere in me there’s an ESTJ-A telling me to get off my butt and get things done, to get my head out of the clouds and pay attention.
2 months ago
Again, my way of seeing the personality theory has changed. There's a very argumentative Virtuoso in my life, and I can definitely use some of that logical Thinking side of his in my own conflicts!
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