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When Fists Start Flying: Personality Type and Physical Fighting

6 months ago 15 comments

“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”

Tyler Durden in Fight Club

All the advances that civilization has supposedly made can seem to evaporate in an instant once fists begin to fly. And while some choose the path of nonviolence, others welcome this reversion to brute instinct.

But could some personality types be more physically combative than others?

We asked our community of readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You do not shy away from physical fights.” Overall, just 37% of readers agreed, and only a few personality types agreed in a majority, suggesting that most of our readers don’t seek out physical altercations and probably prefer to try other tactics first.

But the data we’ve compiled shows a link between certain personality traits and a greater willingness to throw punches. There were significant gaps between every trait pairing, most notably between Thinking and Feeling types (46% vs. 29% agreeing, respectively) and between Extraverts and Introverts (41% vs. 28%).

Agreement with “You do not shy away from physical fights.”

Which personality types are most prone to engaging in fisticuffs? Let’s find out.


Agreement with “You do not shy away from physical fights.”

Analysts (47% agreeing)

Analysts and other Thinking personality types are known for their cool logic and rationality, which we might expect would dissuade them, intellectually, from physical fighting. But because they have a tendency to be less in touch with their emotions than other personalities, strong feelings can catch them off guard. When that happens, they don’t always react in the most rational way.

With Analysts in particular, their fierce independence, stubborn resolve, and need to be in control may prove the perfect recipe for physical confrontations.

Assertive Debaters (ENTP-A) were the most likely of all personality types to say they don’t shy away from physical fights (59%). Debaters love to challenge others, test limits, and push boundaries. Although this usually takes the form of intellectual debates and battles of wit, it can sometimes escalate to physical altercations, especially when the atmosphere is overly aggressive or emotionally charged. The more self-confident and Assertive a Debater is, the more likely they are to take their natural combativeness to a physical level.

Explorers (35%)

As Observant personality types, Explorers may be more down to earth than Intuitive Analysts about the fact that, realistically speaking, throwing punches probably isn’t going to solve much. Flexible and quick-thinking, Explorers may be more successful at defusing a tense situation with other means, like a joke or an offer to buy their foe a drink.

Still, thanks to their Prospecting personality trait, Explorers take a spontaneous, in-the-moment approach to life. That means that anything could happen if the conditions are right, including a physical fight.

Diplomats (33%)

Diplomats, true to their name, generally prefer to work toward harmony, cooperation, and compromise whenever a conflict arises, rather than to wade into battle, especially a physical one. With their core Feeling personality trait, they tend to empathize with their opponents (or at least try to), extending kindness and seeking common ground.

We shouldn’t forget, though, that Diplomats can get seriously riled up when their core values and beliefs are threatened. The 33% who agreed with our statement would probably be willing to fight tooth and nail, figuratively and literally, for something they deeply believe in.

Sentinels (29%)

Sentinels, guided by their Observant and Judging personality traits, are all about law and order. They have little use for the chaos of a fight. Sentinels prefer to live by the rules and regulations of society and to rely on established systems of justice to enforce those rules.

Sentinels might be willing to engage in a physical confrontation if they feel deeply offended or threatened by an affront to their personal integrity, to their core values, or to their friends or loved ones. But even for those who agreed with our statement, it would take a lot for a Sentinel to go around the proper authorities and exact vengeance themselves.

This is especially true of Turbulent Defenders (ISFJ-T), who were the least likely of all personality types to agree (15%) – and who are the opposite of Assertive Debaters in every trait. Defenders are often dedicated to protecting others, nurturing them, and helping them heal and grow. Physical violence actively undermines their priorities and goals in life, and it is particularly upsetting and stressful to those with Turbulent Identities.


Agreement with “You do not shy away from physical fights.”

People Mastery (44% agreeing)

Extraverts, including People Masters, were significantly more likely than Introverts to agree that they don’t shy away from physical fights. Energized and excited as they are by their physical surroundings, it makes sense that Extraverts would focus more attention on an external conflict and be more willing to jump into the fray themselves. For better or worse, a fight is sure to be a thrilling experience for these personality types.

People Masters, with their Assertive Identities, are naturally self-assured. They’re not afraid to take charge of a situation, and if their strong communication skills can’t resolve a problem, they’re less hesitant than other personalities to engage in a fight. This is partly because they worry less about the consequences of their actions, feeling that things will work out in the end.

Social Engagement (38%)

Brawls are often the result of volatile emotional reactions: tensions rise, tempers flare, and fists start flying. Since Turbulent personality types have more volatile emotions than Assertive types, we might have expected to see them agreeing at higher rates. But in the case of physical fighting, it would seem that other aspects of the Turbulent trait – like fluctuating self-esteem, persistent worry, and acute awareness of risks – tend to take over.

Extraverted Social Engagers may find themselves drawn to the excitement of a potential fight, but they’re less likely than People Masters to actually take a swing or swing back at an aggressor. They may fear the repercussions of fighting, like injury, arrest, or the negative opinions of others, too greatly to act on their adrenaline or anger.

Confident Individualism and Constant Improvement (32% and 27%)

The responses of Confident Individualists and Constant Improvers demonstrate how conflict-averse Introverted personality types tend to be. Introverts are more likely to want to walk away from a confrontation and regroup in private than to participate in a fight. Physical contact isn’t necessarily their thing to begin with, even in positive contexts – let alone tussling in a painful, sweaty, bloody, all-out brawl.

Assertive Confident Individualists were slightly more likely to agree, likely motivated by a desire to protect their self-reliant independence or exercise their self-defense skills. Turbulent Constant Improvers, always thinking about the implications of their actions and less confident in their own abilities, were the least willing to come to blows with someone else.


Although hot tempers and bitter words may make the situation appear otherwise, the choice to fight is most often just that: a choice. And while the knowledge that one can gain about oneself from being in a fight is beyond the scope of this article, the simple choice to fight or not may tell us a great deal about who we are. Our research tells us that personality types with the Thinking, Extraverted, and Assertive traits are more likely than others to choose to fight.

At its core, fighting is an expression of dominance, of the need to make our will supreme. As such, whether we instigate a fight or merely refuse to back down from one, those of us who tend to prioritize or impose our own will in other areas will perhaps be more drawn to fighting than others.

Have you ever been in a physical fight? Do you think your personality traits played a role? Let us know in the comments below.

Further Reading

Bearing Ill Will: Why Some Personality Types Can’t Get Over Arguments

“You Ate My Sandwich?”: Keeping (or Losing) Your Cool by Personality Type

Anger and the Four Personality Type Strategies

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. If you have a minute to help us with our research, check out our Member Surveys.

Also, consider subscribing to our newsletter to receive interesting and useful insights tailored for your personality type – we send them every couple of weeks, and you can unsubscribe at any time if you don’t find them useful.

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