Few human activities are as ancient or elemental as dancing to a rhythmic beat. Yet, as anyone who’s ever gone to a wedding reception or a dance club can attest, people’s enthusiasm for this activity is not necessarily matched by their competence. And, by the same token, having legitimate or even just decent dancing skills does not necessarily breed confidence on the dance floor. In fact, when we asked our community to respond to the statement, “You are a good dancer,” only 44% agreed.
Extraverts (56% agreeing) were the most likely to rate themselves as good dancers, much more so than Introverts (33%), but the results suggest that how we feel about our dancing can’t simply be chalked up to how comfortable we are in social situations. Other personality traits play a part too.
What does how well we dance – or, more to the point, how well we think we dance – have to do with personality type? Let’s take a closer look at the data below.
Diplomats (49% agreeing)
Although the Roles were all fairly close in their responses, two traits emerged as important factors in this survey: the Feeling and Intuitive traits, which lie at the core of Diplomats’ personalities. Dancing is very often an emotional act: we dance to celebrate a happy occasion, to unwind after a bad day, to flirt, to express joy or anger or sorrow, or to commune with our familial and cultural traditions. Sometimes all it takes is an irresistibly catchy beat to get us moving – even if we’re barely aware that we’re tapping our toes and shaking our shoulders, we’re still connecting emotionally to the music. Diplomats’ emotional sensitivity gives them an advantage on the dance floor, as does their Intuitive trait, which helps them feel comfortable with improvising and trying out creative new moves.
Assertive Protagonists (64%) are self-confident, charismatic, unafraid of the spotlight, and eager to use all the tools at their disposal, including dance, to captivate and motivate those around them. They were also the personality type most likely to agree that they’re good dancers, followed closely by Assertive Campaigners (62%).
Enthusiastic and free-spirited, Campaigner personalities want to make sure that everyone is having a good time and would never miss a chance to energize a room by starting a dance party. How many times did we see Michael Scott, the fictional Campaigner of The Office, try to do just that? Particularly memorable was the company booze cruise, when Michael busts out his inexplicable skipping, knee-slapping, arm-waving moves. Immune to the giggles and open-mouthed stares of the crowd, he cheerfully declares, “Sometimes you have to just be the boss of dancing!”
As Observant, Judging personality types, Sentinels are probably less comfortable with improvising on the dance floor, although they may enjoy structured dances or choreographed routines that offer clear steps to follow. Sentinels with the Feeling trait, more open to the emotional connections of dance, agreed at higher rates than their Thinking counterparts.
Consuls (56%), for instance, value the social aspects of dancing and are willing to work at it to become better. Even Introverted Sentinels who possess the Feeling trait (and undeniable natural talent), like Beyoncé, an iconic trendsetter and a Defender personality type (34%), can be incredible dancers.
Although their Intuitive trait can make Analysts creative, inspired dancers, their Thinking trait puts a serious damper on how they judge their dancing skills. In fact, three Analyst personality types – Commanders (56%), Architects (37%), and Logicians (28%) – along with one Sentinel type, Logisticians (28%), proved to be interesting anomalies: these were the only types whose Turbulent variants actually agreed at higher rates than their Assertive variants.
It would seem that the Assertive members of these types, arguably the most logically minded of the personality types, are very confident in the cerebral strengths that their Thinking trait affords them – the ability to reason, analyze, and plan – but not necessarily in their physical abilities, like getting footloose on the dance floor. Their Turbulent counterparts, on the other hand, being somewhat more emotional, are better able to tap into their feelings as they dance.
It may seem surprising that Explorer personality types wound up at the bottom of the results, given their reputation for spontaneity and living in the moment. But Prospecting types were actually 2% less likely to agree with our statement than Judging types. It may simply be the case that Explorers are all about enjoying the experience of dancing and are uninterested in deciding whether or not they’re good at it.
As with Sentinels, we saw Explorer personalities with the Feeling trait agree at higher rates than those with the Thinking trait. Entertainers (53%), for instance, love putting on a show, and in their minds, they are good because they feel good, an attitude that can be infectious.
Virtuosos (26%), on the other hand, were the least likely to say that they’re good at dancing, and their Turbulent variants were even lower, at just 23%. People with this personality type prefer solitary, open-ended tinkering to public, uninhibited boogying. Any type of dancing that requires serious training or a long-term commitment to practicing is going to be a particular turn-off for Virtuoso personalities, who don’t like limiting themselves to one narrow specialty. They are always ready to do the unexpected, however, and Virtuoso Tom Cruise freestyling in his underwear in Risky Business is a perfect example.
People Mastery and Social Engagement (57% and 54% agreeing)
As Extraverted personality types, members of the People Mastery and Social Engagement Strategies topped the results. Confident and sociable, it’s no wonder that more than half of all People Masters identified themselves as good dancers. If anything, we may wonder why this number wasn’t even higher.
Social Engagers, although almost as likely as People Masters to agree, are held back slightly by their Turbulent trait. Overall, Turbulent personality types were 6% less likely than Assertive types to agree with our statement. Social Engagers, always concerned with how others are judging them, tend to have less of the confidence that it takes to strut John Travolta-style onto the dance floor, but their hard work and perfectionism make it likely that what they lack in charisma, they make up for in hard-earned technique.
Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement (33% each)
As the low responses of the Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement Strategies demonstrate, the bottom line is that, whether Assertive or Turbulent, Introverts are much less likely than Extraverted personalities to say that they are good at dancing. They probably enjoy the activity less to begin with, finding the bright lights, loud music, and crowds of people to be unpleasantly overstimulating. That aversion, coupled with a strong fear of embarrassment or failure, especially among perfectionistic Constant Improvers, makes Introverts less willing to put themselves out there and attempt a skill that does not come naturally.
Becoming a good dancer is a bit of a catch-22: the best way to become a better dancer is to spend time dancing, but it can feel embarrassing to dance if you aren’t naturally good. Introverted, Turbulent, and Thinking personality types are the most challenged by this dilemma.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope for the 56% of our readers who said they aren’t good dancers. According to Peter Lovatt, director of the University of Hertfordshire’s Dance Psychology Lab, dance can actually help build self-esteem, as long as we have “a high degree of tolerance for not getting it right.”
We need to be able to count on other people to extend this tolerance to us too, of course, but in most cases, our harshest dance critic is usually the one inside our own heads. So if you long to be a better dancer, don’t worry too much about making a fool of yourself out on the dance floor. After all, you’ll probably fit right in.
What kind of dancer are you? What do you think your personality type says about your dancing? Tell us about it in the comments below.