When Personality Types Are Relative

With all their differences, some personality types may seem a little strange to each other, and that can make families relatively interesting. We’re not talking about chosen families like significant others and kids (who may also be interesting and strange), but parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. A family often has its own unique character, a culture unto itself shaped by shared elements foreign to those outside it.

Some of that culture can be related to personality type. Family members don’t need to be similar types to feel close, but even a single shared personality trait can bring an additional sense of kinship. When it comes to extended families, there may be more connections than just biology and history. Many of us try to identify the personality types of people in our lives, and family is a great place to do this. Personality theory can refine the understanding between relatives, helping us better appreciate the familiar.

To inspire such thinking, we thought it would be fun to look at the four Role groups as if they were families. Of course, it’s very unlikely that everyone in a real family would fall into just one Role, but perhaps some of these (admittedly, somewhat exaggerated) descriptions sound like a few of your relatives.

Analyst Families

Social ineptitude and technical aptitude often abound in Analyst families. These people may sound familiar if you’re a cog in the workings of an Analyst family:

  • A dad who laboriously manipulates complex rebate programs to get back just a few dollars.
  • A mom addicted to difficult crossword and Sudoku puzzles.
  • A brother who spends more time arguing in excruciating detail on social media than socializing.
  • A sister who revels in advanced STEM classes.

Analyst personalities sometimes prioritize their rational thoughts over their feelings, making them seem a little distant even when their hearts are in the right place. Social awareness is rarely their forte, but they can be adept at understanding the world around them. With such active minds, they get bored easily and are always fiddling with conceptual projects. Analyst families are full of witty humor, ideas to make things better, and excitement for what might be. They’re thrilled to share their clever thoughts, especially if they can help those they love.

Diplomat Families

Deep, creative thought and sincere concern for other people are common aspects of Diplomat families. If you’ve got a lot of artists in the family – or if your relatives are outraged at having to smuggle raw milk due to FDA rules – they might be Diplomats. If your relatives seem like any of these people, you might be in the embrace of a Diplomat family:

  • An aunt with a thriving New Age crystal shop.
  • A cousin who expertly photographs – and then collects – flowers.
  • A sculptor uncle too busy creating masterworks to figure out how to sell them.
  • An outspoken activist parent.

Diplomats tend to put imagination and feelings first, and while they’re often passionate about their hopes and ideals, they occasionally struggle with practical realities. In these families, connections between people are goals unto themselves, and the spiritual often trumps the physical. Diplomat personalities not only care, they care despite stiff odds. Lofty ideas, a persistent belief in the intangible, and irrepressible love make life in a Diplomat family inspired, unusual, and frequently beautiful.

Sentinel Families

Cooperation, stability, and self-discipline are values often found in Sentinel families. If your family likes schedules and routines, they might be Sentinels. Such family members don’t need to be unusual to be amazing, and if these sound like your relatives, you might be in a nest of Sentinel personalities:

  • A grandfather with an impeccable lawn.
  • A mother who’s been loyal to the same job for 20 years.
  • A dad who organizes youth sports.
  • A grandmother who calmly babysits multiple generations without breaking a sweat.

Such families embrace traditions, though their specific ideals and backgrounds can vary widely. In Sentinel families, appreciation for duty and convention doesn’t necessarily create limitation, but security. Following the serviceable road right in front of them makes them unlikely to get lost in the weeds. Practicality, responsibility, and heartfelt loyalty are just a few of the ways Sentinel families make happy and secure lives together.

Explorer Families

Irreverent individualism and thirst for novelty are common in Explorer families. If your relatives march to their own drum regardless of the world’s judgments, they might be Explorers. These personalities can find satisfaction by embracing the moment. If this sounds like your relatives, you might be along for the ride in an Explorer family:

  • A freewheeling aunt who excels in sales.
  • A mom who is an expert dog trainer when she feels like it.
  • A skilled hairdresser brother who dislikes dealing with people.
  • An outdoorsy dad who’s just as happy to hike alone as with others.

These families are full of uniqueness, acceptance, and carefree practicality – they unabashedly take things as they come. In Explorer families, “anything goes” support for each other makes finding personal freedom easy. An uncomplicated, flexible kind of love bonds these families while they do things their own way. When conflicts arise in Explorer families, they can let go and move on. These families prefer to chase happiness rather than dwell on the past or worry about the future.


We hope these examples get you wondering about the personality types in your own family. Understanding personality traits gives new insight even about those we already know well. You can discover more about the personality types of your extended family members by encouraging them to take our free personality test. You can also share your perspectives and experiences regarding family matters through our related online surveys.

We here at 16Personalities love understanding people better, and personality type theory helps us appreciate what we have in common with our relatives – and their differences. Do you see a thread of similarity among the types in your family, perhaps through specific traits? Does your family have an oddball personality type who’s different from the rest? How do you fit into the mix? We’d love to hear about the personality types in your extended family in the comments below.

3 months ago
My sister and I are both Diplomats, I'm an Advocate (INFJ), and she is a Campaigner (ENFP). We are into very similar things and can sometimes know what the other is thinking. My dad, who is an engineer, is an Architect (INTJ) and I think my brother, who is pursuing either a math or physics degree, is a Logician (INTP) and he's almost like a "chip off the old block" so to speak.
4 months ago
My sister and I are both INFP-T; our birthdays are also only five days apart, so it’s almost like we’re twins with a three year age gap. My mother tested as ESFJ-T but I think she’s more introverted, as she enjoys social interaction but she needs alone time to rest. I’m not sure what type my father is; my sister thinks he’s also INFP-T, but I think he’s more INTP-T; he’s generally very quiet and reluctant to show strong emotion (like almost all men on both sides of my family). My mom with her Judging element is definitely in charge. We enjoy sitting quietly for hours at a time, all doing our own thing (my mom with her knitting, my dad with his book, my sister with her laptop, and me with my smartphone). My extended family on my father’s side are most likely Observant Feeling types, and are more extraverted; they tend to be conservative-leaning, marry younger, and place less importance on higher education. It’s all very different from my boyfriend’s family, which is mostly made up of Analysts: most are not religious at all, and all have at least a Bachelors degree. The more extraverted members enjoy having heated political and ethical debates after dinner, usually with no hard feelings. When my family does that, oftentimes someone gets offended and upset!
4 months ago
Explorer father (adventurer), explorer sister (virtuoso, like me), diplomat sister (campaigner), unsure of mother and perhaps diplomat brother (mediator). None of us have the Judging, that's for sure. It's a pretty chill family. Live and let live.
4 months ago
Everyone in my immediate family is introverted, feeling and turbulent. I'm always shocked by how loud some of my friends families can be, as we're all so quiet XD. Interestingly, my sister and I are only one trait away from each other (she's an advocate, whereas I'm a mediator) but we're really different people with different interests.
4 months ago
Sentinel mother, Explorer brother and Analyst father. Sentinel Mother’s side and Diplomat father’s side.
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