Telling Stories at Parties: Which Personality Types Do It Best?
“Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” – Gabriel García Marquez, Living to Tell the Tale
We share stories for many different reasons, but in the setting of a party or a reunion, our stories tend to center on a few main goals: to entertain, to impress, to reconnect, or even to commiserate, perhaps about a messy roommate, a difficult boss, or the aches and pains of growing older.
In a setting like this, you’re probably not going to hear or engage in the most intensely personal, deeply intellectual, or experimentally symbolic storytelling, unless you’ve somehow found yourself at a reunion of Lost Generation expats in 1920s Paris or Beat poets in 1950s San Francisco. And even then, you can always count on an Ernest Hemingway or a Neal Cassady to crash the party with some wild, exuberant tale of adventure. Indeed, there always seems to be one person who rises to the role of “life of the party,” thrilling or entertaining the crowd with their most hilarious, shocking, or relatable stories, and we wondered if, based on personality type, that person could be you.
We asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “At a party or reunion, you are usually the person who tells the best stories.” Interestingly, the average agreement rate was low, at 33%, suggesting that most of us don’t view ourselves as the greatest storytellers, at least not in highly social settings. But a closer look reveals that there were significant differences between certain personality aspects, most notably Mind and Energy.
Why do some personality types see themselves as superior storytellers at parties? Let’s jump right into the data below.
Analysts and Diplomats (37% each agreeing)
Although we may not necessarily think of Analysts as social butterflies, they agreed at the same rate as Diplomats that they tell the best stories at parties and reunions. Because of their shared Intuitive trait, these personality types love to make connections and find hidden meaning. They may view their experiences in terms of protagonists and antagonists, rising action, conflict, resolution, and growth – all elements of a good story. At parties or reunions, Analysts may feel compelled to tell stories to impart wisdom, while Diplomats may do so to bring people together.
Once an Intuitive personality’s active imagination gets going, it can be tempting for them to embroider their story with the sort of extra details or loose interpretations that can make it really entertaining or memorable – like the proverbial big fish you caught that seems to grow a few more inches each time you tell the tale. With Analysts in particular, it’s quite possible that they sometimes get caught up in their competitive nature, trying to one-up other partygoers with the best stories.
Explorers and Sentinels (29% and 26%)
As Observant personality types, Explorers and Sentinels were on average 10% less likely to agree with our statement. Compared to Intuitive types, Observant individuals probably see their stories as more straightforward accounts of events and perhaps, therefore, less crowd-pleasing. Observant personalities like to see, touch, taste, experience – an in-the-moment approach and attention to detail that can actually make for quite vivid storytelling. It just might be the case that they’re less interested in telling stories about their hands-on experiences after the fact.
Explorers, with their Prospecting personality trait, indicated slightly more confidence in their ability to tell great stories at parties, no doubt because of their spontaneity and openness. Many are happy to jump in and wow the crowd with an adventurous story if the moment feels right, but more often than not, Explorers would rather be enjoying new experiences than telling stories about old ones. Even Entertainers (ESFP), the personality type we might immediately think of as the life of the party, didn’t agree with our statement in strong numbers (45%).
As Judging personalities, Sentinels tend to take a measured approach to life, and that includes how they tell stories. Preferring to stick to the facts, Sentinels are unlikely to get swept up in the excitement of a party and tell a whopper of a tale.
People Mastery and Social Engagement (53% and 51% agreeing)
The single personality trait that proved to be by far the most influential in this survey was Extraversion. Extraverts were 37% more likely than Introverts to agree that they tell the best stories at parties or reunions. This makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, Extraverts crave social connection, and that’s exactly what they can get by making themselves the center of attention and telling stories. It energizes them and, in turn, livens up the party.
Second, acting can often be an essential item in a storyteller’s toolbox, and the inflection, the drama or humor, the enthusiasm, the improvisation that it takes to tell a great story simply comes more naturally to Extraverts.
People Masters are particularly gifted at getting into people’s heads and understanding what makes them tick, a skill that can help these personalities both with weaving another layer of depth into their stories and with adapting their storytelling to get the best possible response out of a given audience.
It’s also worth noting that Assertive personalities overall were 8% more likely than Turbulent personalities to agree with our statement. Assertive types might not actually be better storytellers, but with their natural self-confidence, they’re more likely in general to believe that they’re good at things.
Of all the personality types, Assertive Debaters (ENTP-A) agreed with our statement the most (67%). Storytelling is often a natural fit for Extraverted Debaters because they love to engage people intellectually – it’s what they live for. Debaters might be more inclined to agree with the bold claim at the beginning of this article by author Gabriel García Marquez (a pioneer of magical realism) that life isn’t about what you lived, but how you remember it and how you tell the story.
Debaters often take positions they don’t believe in for the sake of argument, and from there, it’s not a great leap to stretching or interpreting or crafting the truth into an unforgettable tale. Especially in the midst of a party atmosphere where people may be trying to outdo each other’s stories, an Assertive Debater’s sense of competition will likely kick in, and it’s not hard to picture them heading home later believing that they told the best stories.
Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement (15% and 14%)
In stimulating social situations like parties or reunions, Introverted personalities often prefer to observe, and the idea of being the life of the party is unappealing or even intimidating to many Introverts. Their low agreement in this survey doesn’t mean that Introverts can’t be great storytellers, just that they usually prefer a different atmosphere or medium, like a quiet dinner with a few good friends or writing in a personal journal. Even Introverts who do enjoy regaling a crowd with a tale probably feel exhausted once the party is over.
Constant Improvers are especially unlikely to agree because of their Turbulent Identity. These personalities are always evaluating their own performance, always seeing room for improvement, and as such, they’re not very likely to rate themselves “the best” at anything.
The single personality type least likely to agree that they tell the best stories at parties or reunions was Turbulent Defenders (ISFJ-T) (8%). Possessing all the opposite traits of Debaters, Defenders are warm, conflict-averse personalities more interested in fostering positive, intimate relationships than anything else. Although they are more social than most Introverts and may be perfectly comfortable chatting at parties, they’re not fans of the spotlight and not interested in competing for storytelling glory. Indeed, Defenders may have the most fun listening, observing, and learning about others instead of talking about themselves.
Some people want to be remembered as great storytellers, as the life of the party. Based on the results of this survey, we can draw a clear connection between that desire and certain personality traits – especially the Extravert and Intuitive traits. Other people are happier listening and observing, spending their time at parties or reunions learning about others, catching up with old friends, and developing new relationships.
The low overall agreement in this survey suggests that something about the idea of captivating a crowd of partygoers by telling all the best stories can be a bit intimidating to most of us. Perhaps even more than that, it may be the case that most people don’t view it as a competition – parties can be more enjoyable when everyone participates. After all, much of the fun of parties and reunions is in creating new memories that could make great stories to tell next time.
Do you consider yourself a master storyteller at parties? Or are you more of a wallflower? Let us know in the comments below!