What kind of people do we feel attracted to? Understanding personality types and how they interact might help you understand your attractions better.
As far as attraction goes, there are no rules. The physical features that we might feel attracted to in a person are only part of a much bigger picture. There’s also the mental, emotional and spiritual attraction. All of those attractions connect somehow to the human personality as a whole.
Maybe you have found yourself disappointed in past relationships because of compatibility issues or communication challenges with your partner. You might be a homebody, but the person that you were dating was a social butterfly who loved parties. Or maybe you’re impulsive, but your date likes to plan everything out. Not knowing the reason behind why you feel uncomfortable in certain situations or not being able to understand your date’s behavior can affect a relationship.
Our personality plays an essential role in how we see the world and feel attracted to certain people. Knowing about and understanding our personality type are definitely important factors for self-development. By being aware of our strengths and recognizing those personality traits that we need to work on, we can improve our interpersonal relationships.
Nobody knows the secret to a perfect relationship. Some people consider that compatibility and like-mindedness play an important role in developing a long-lasting relationship. Having similar views, interests and values can be quite helpful in a romantic relationship, but let’s be honest—compatibility is not just about sharing all and having lots of things in common. It’s also about complementing each other by respecting and accepting our differences. Can opposites attract?
So, a way to improve our relationship compatibility and acknowledge both our differences and similarities is learning about each other’s personality types, and referring to personality psychology.
What is personality psychology?
Personality psychology refers to a branch of psychology aiming to understand why each of us is unique based on our thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and how our personality relates to our experiences.
In other words, your personality makes you unique and affects your life and relationships. Your personality doesn’t just affect your romantic sphere, but also your daily interactions with other people.
Before we dig deeper into personality psychology, there are a few different concepts to consider. Those are personality, temperament, traits and character.
Both personality and temperament are two concepts generally used as synonyms in some research studies. Although there is not a clear distinction between these two terms, personality seems to be the general term that encompasses all of the other concepts.
Personality refers to those “individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.” Personality is influenced by the unconscious and life experiences. Some research indicates that, as we age (and become more mature), personality can change in a positive way.
On the other hand, our temperament, which is inherent to each of us, might clearly reveal to others only in specific circumstances, since it refers closely to our emotions (for instance, anger).
In the past, researchers focused on making people fit into rigid personality types. This came with many limitations when categorizing individuals since personality types are considered to be discrete categories (e.g., extrovert vs. introvert seen as extreme poles).
For that reason, some theories actually prefer to focus on the flexibility that personality traits offer. Traits are stable aspects of the personality which influence the way we behave and remain consistent in different situations. Personality traits allow more flexibility and broader categorization of personalities. Traits focus on the continuum and not on complete opposites (multiple traits can be found in varying degrees in a person).
One of the founding approaches in the study of traits is Gordon Allport’s trait theory. Allport used empirical methods to organize traits into three levels: cardinal traits, central traits and secondary traits. Cardinal traits are the most dominant in a person’s behavior, whereas central and secondary traits are more general or less present in a person.
Last but not least, there is the concept of character. While personality might be easier to infer after having met someone new because personality traits are more visible, it might take longer to observe and recognize the character of an individual because it is based on values and beliefs, and it might even show only in certain circumstances (for example, jealousy, patience or greed).
So, is there a specific way to assess personality? Not really. There is not a specific or definite way to measure personality in a nutshell, the main reason being the many theories and dichotomies found in personality psychology.
However, truth be told—many of the studies and theories share some similarities and common concepts.
There are multiple personality tests available; some widely taken and more popular than others (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI). Each of them is usually designed based on a personality theory.
Personality tests are used both for personal development and for career assessment purposes. They can also become a useful tool for relationship compatibility. But remember, it’s just a test which can provide some guidance; it does not guarantee a successful relationship!
Let’s take a closer look at some popular personality theories.
Introverts versus extroverts
When describing someone’s personality, “introvert’ or “extrovert” are probably the most popular and common adjectives used. These words refer to the core characteristics of the human personality.
Many psychologists have used these terms in their personality theories. Both Carl Jung and Hans Eysenck contributed to their popularity. Jung’s theory led later to the development of the famous Myers-Briggs personality theory.
Jung referred to introversion and extroversion (or “extraversion” as he originally used it and spelled it) as two different ways or attitudes in which people direct their energy. Extroverts direct their energy towards the external world. They feel energized with social interaction. Meanwhile, introverts direct their energy to the inner world. They get their energy by being alone.
Introversion should not be confused with being shy, though (even if they share some similarities!). An introvert enjoys time alone and they value few, close friends. Meanwhile, a shy person might not want to be alone but is afraid of joining other people, despite the desire to interact with them.
Carl Jung considered that these two attitudes (introversion and extraversion) get influenced by our four main psychological functions and the way we use these mental capacities: thinking, feeling (both are processes of judgment), and sensation and intuition (which are processes of perception). One of them becomes the most dominant in each person, whereas its opposite gets repressed (e.g., thinking vs sensation and intuition vs. feeling). These functions are the basis of the MBTI personality theory, which we will discuss later.
To the extraversion-introversion dimension that Jung referred to in his personality theory, Hans Eysenck added one more: neuroticism (or emotional instability) and emotional stability. Neuroticism refers to stress, anxiety and perfectionism, and emotional stability relates to being calmer and more tolerant.
Since some people cannot be categorized under the polar extremes of extraversion and introversion, we need to mention the term “ambivert,” which shares traits of both dimensions. Even though this term was not coined neither by Jung nor by Eysenck, it started being used in psychology in the 1940s.
Type A vs. Type B
This personality theory classifies individuals into two categories: A or B. This classification, which seems to be too simple and extreme at the same time, is mainly focused on human health and the risk of developing certain diseases based on personality, so it is closely related to health psychology. In fact, the creators of this Type A personality theory were two American cardiologists: Friedman and Rosenman.
The level of stress that a type A individual lives with makes it prone to heart diseases and other stress-related disorders. These people are competitive, strongly focused on goals and on time management, and very impatient. They are the “workaholics.” On the other hand, a type B person likes to enjoy the moment, is more creative and tolerant, philosophical and relaxed.
The Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS), also called Personality Type A/B, is a self-administered questionnaire that was developed in the 1970’s with the purpose of detecting those behaviors that might lead to heart diseases. It is important to note, however, that the study findings did not seem to find enough evidence to link the risk of heart disease to a type A personality.
The Big Five
The Big Five, also called the Five Factor Model (FFM), the Big Five Traits or the 5 Factor theory, is based on five fundamental elements of the personality. Along with the Myers-Briggs personality theory, the Big Five is probably the most popular all over the world. In fact, we at CatholicSingles use this personality theory as the foundation for the personality compatibility test, which we customized by adding a religious dimension since finding a same-faith partner is the goal for most of our members.
One of the main researchers in personality psychology, Lewis Goldberg, played an important role in the development of this theory. The big five personality traits are the following: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. OCEAN or CANOE are the two acronyms commonly used as a mnemonic device for remembering these five factors.
- Openness to Experience. Individuals who score high on this dimension of the personality are creative, imaginative and appreciate art. They do not conform to routine.
- Conscientiousness. This personality trait gains ground among people who prefer to get things carefully planned (rather than doing things on impulse), lean towards orderliness and are self-disciplined.
- Extroversion. Extroverts engage with the external world, so they are very sociable, warm and positive.
- Agreeableness. This factor focuses on being cooperative and preferring social harmony versus being skeptical and motivated by self-interest. Agreeable people tend to be emotionally supportive, compassionate and great altruists. Whereas agreeableness can be useful to minimize hostility, for instance, it can be an issue when facing tough decisions or getting involved in an argument. Being agreeable also means having trust, which can be a key factor for success in a romantic relationship.
- Neuroticism. This is a classic personality factor that Eysenck already identified back in the 1960’s. Neuroticism is the opposite of emotional stability—showing a high degree of neuroticism means being prone to stress-related diseases and to emotions such as worry, anger or anxiety, which can lead to depression.
The Four Temperaments
As we already mentioned, temperament refers to biological behaviors—the way we respond innately in certain situations, and it is influenced by our character and personality.
The origins of this theory are based on ancient Greek medicine: our temperament and health are influenced by the level of bodily fluids. So, these “humors” and the four elements of nature (air, fire, earth and water) which everything is made up of affect our temperament. The resulting temperaments are the following: sanguine, melancholic, choleric, and phlegmatic.
A sanguine person is lively, outgoing and optimistic, but they are not very good at committing and they are forgetful (forget obligations and get easily distracted). The sanguine temperament is quite the opposite of a melancholic, but despite their personality differences, these can be used to their advantage in a relationship.
According to the ancient medicine, this temperament is the result of the excess of black bile in the body, so it has also been coined “the black temperament.” Melancholic people are usually perfectionists who like to work alone and analyze the past. They focus on the negative and seem to struggle with depression, since they also worry about the future. Because they take life very seriously, they also will choose their partner very carefully and will stand out for their thoughtfulness, although they might not be ones taking the lead.
A person with a choleric temperament will stand out for their personable image—not for being a people person, though. In fact, while a sanguine enjoys interacting with other people and being social, a choleric might have egotistical reasons to mingle with others, since they tend to be dictatorial and opinionated. A choleric temperament relates closely the “type A” personality since they are natural extroverts with goals in mind and very impatient.
Last but not least, we have the phlegmatics—these are relaxed and easy-going people who avoid conflict and making decisions. They are very honest and faithful and tend to have few friendships because they look for true companionship. Because of their introspection, they do not express their emotions impulsively the same way that a person with a sanguine temperament would do.
Originally it was believed that an ideal personality should have a balance of these four temperaments, but that does not mean that a temperament is better or worse than the other, since each of them has both weaknesses and strengths.
The Myers-Briggs Personality Types
One of the most popular personality assessment tools is actually the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or MBTI. The Myers-Briggs personality test is based on Jung’s personality theory: the concepts of introversion and extraversion (our attitude), based on his empirical observations, and how people perceive and judge the world (our four psychological functions: thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition).
Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers popularized the Jungian psychology with the introduction of the MBTI. By arranging Jung’s psychological differences into dichotomies, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator results in 16 personality types. Each of these 16 personalities has an abbreviation composed of four letters, where the first letter stands for the most prevalent personality trait in each combination.
There are four indexes on the MBTI:
E-I: Extroversion-Introversion (our attitude)
S-N: Sensing-Intuition (perception)
T-F: Thinking-Feeling (judgment)
J-P: Judgment-Perception (preference of dealing with the outside world)
The combination of these four indexes yields sixteen personality types, but we will just give you a brief overview here:
|ESTP||The entrepreneur||The Explorers|
|ISFJ||The defender **||The Sentinels|
|ESFJ||The consul **|
|INFJ||The advocate *||The Diplomats|
|ENTJ||The commander||The Analysts|
* INFJ is the rarest personality type because of its unique combination of traits.
** ISFJ and ESFJ are the most common personality types.
There are no right or wrong answers in the MBTI personality assessment. This multiple-choice questionnaire can be taken online or with an MBTI Master Practitioner, who is a certified professional trained to give you a better insight on your test results (which are confidential). The MBTI can be used for career management, relationships and personal growth.
There is lot of research out there about dating do’s and don’ts for each of these 16 personality types, and about MBTI compatibility. However, what is important to remember—as in any other personality type theory—is that the MBTI is just a tool and not the absolute truth—there is so much about humankind which cannot be condensed in a test.
Helen Fisher and the Temperament Inventory
The Fisher Temperament Inventory (FTI) was created by Helen Fisher, an American anthropologist known for her studies on the biology of love and attraction, as well as for her creation of various personality matching systems.
Since her research is based on brain physiology, Fisher considers that our personality traits are connected to our biological systems and the brain chemicals that are released into our bodies: dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen.
Each temperament is the result of a higher activity on a specific hormone or neurotransmitter. The 4 personality types are the following:
- Explorer:These are curious and energetic risk-takers, expressive of the dopamine system.
- Builder: High serotonin activity relates to conscientious people who like to follow rules and are driven by habits.
- Director: People expressive of the testosterone system are usually analytical and determined.
- Negotiator: Those who score high on estrogen-related behaviors are empathetic and intuitive.
One of the criticisms that Helen Fisher has received about her classification of temperaments is that is limited to biological research, so it is only a big part of the puzzle. Again, the FTI should be used as a tool to find out our natural patterns of attraction, but not as an end in itself.
TheAnatomyofLove.com, a website created by Dr. Fisher and her colleague Dr. Lucy Brown (a neuroscientist), provides a good amount of information about her research as well as some relationship quizzes. Just remember that no match is better than the others, so do not take it too seriously!
The Enneagram of Personality refers to a numerical system of nine personality types (all interconnected) which is popular among New Age philosophies. It is a complex system that has been used for business and spiritual purposes, mostly for self-development and spiritual growth.
Although some people claim that it is based on ancient traditions, the popularity of the Enneagram in Western culture is due to one of his creators and promoters, Oscar Ichazo, who was quite active in esotericism and occultism. Interestingly enough, the Enneagram is quite popular among some Catholics, especially because of the “[Catholic] outward appearance,” but many people do not know that it is based on gnostic roots and lacks scientific research. Actually, the way it is read can be compared to other esoteric systems.
Because of all of these reasons, the Enneagram personality system should be used cautiously, and we will just mention it as a reference, without going into detail.
In fact, Pope Francis recognizes that “it can be misused and lead to excessive introspection if not deployed within a solid spiritual framework,” and Pope St John Paul II stated that it is in “conflict with all that is essentially Christian.”
The Five Love Languages
Knowing about our personality type can be quite helpful not just to explore our strengths and develop our talents, but also to figure out those personality traits that we need to work on so that we can excel in life.
If you take a personality test, your first goal should be using it as a self-discovery tool, because by knowing and understanding yourself, you will be able to learn how to know others better. That is, you will be able to understand other people’s needs and improve your communication and interpersonal relationship. In fact, did you realize that each personality type expresses and needs love in a different way?
Gary Chapman, the author of The Five Love Languages series, considers that people communicate their love and affection in five different ways:
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
Even though generally couples may end up using all of the five love languages throughout their relationship, each person usually leans more towards one or two of these languages in their daily lives.
This classification of love languages can help you improve the way you communicate in a relationship and not set false expectations. Introverts, for example, will probably convey their feelings by spending quality time with their partner or doing acts of service, but just because they do not usually express their love through words, that does not mean that the relationship is failing. Understanding and accepting these differences is important for a relationship to work and thrive.
If you are curious about what your primary love language is, you can take the 5 Love Languages® official assessment here.
How does personality impact religion?
As we already mentioned earlier, there is no right or wrong theory, because, although each theory has its merits, none of them provides an absolute analysis of the human being, and some could even be considered a remix of old concepts. Each of these personality theories has its flaws—some theories might be based on assumptions and they lack reliability and validity, or they are just based on specific demographic groups, or their categorization is too extreme.
One of the claims made by Catholic scholars is that most of these classifications of personality types are actually secular theories that leave out the Catholic/Christian characteristics of a person, for instance, reason and virtues, and do not include the “God experience.”
There is research available on the correlation between religious beliefs and personality. Some research indicates that spirituality and religiosity, and ultimately trusting God, can affect positively in our personality, helping us deal better with daily challenges and develop positive personality traits, such as such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness . Also, a new form of psychotherapy coined Religious Cognitive-Emotional Therapy (RCET) takes into account the patient’s religious beliefs in order to treat effectively certain disorders as well as depression and anxiety.
How do we put all of these personality types into perspective?
Your personality type impacts your dating relationship, and so does the personality type of the person you’re interested in.
But it’s also important to remember that no personality type is set in stone. In fact, personality can evolve and change because it’s also influenced by our life experiences. Some aspects of the personality might be more challenging to modify than others, but you can try to develop some positive character traits. For instance, changes in certain beliefs can gradually change your personality. Setting goals, modifying habits and working on coping strategies can be helpful in bringing change to certain personality traits.
Even though personality type assessments are helpful, remember not to take them too seriously. The assessments are just guides, and each as their own limitations.
As a Catholic single, it’s also important to assess your personality through the lens of your relationship with God. The Temperament God Gave You is a helpful guide to understanding your personality type from a Catholic perspective.
Since we are made in God’s image, you are supposed to cultivate your personality and temperament so that you can become the godly man or the godly woman that you are meant to be. Relationship goals, you ask? Stay close to God and don’t compare yourself to anybody else. Be a joyful Christian. Get to know yourself better, because that way you will be able to develop your strengths and build on your virtues, which ultimately leads to holiness.
Understanding your own personality type
So, where should you start? The answer is simple—always be yourself, and recognize your flaws (needs) while avoiding insecurities. But above all, be positive about yourself. What you might consider negative personality traits on you, someone else might find them attractive and interesting or see them as a chance to help you grow personally. Plus being honest will lead to a better communication and a healthy relationship.
Think outside the box—a person is more than just a test, so don’t label yourself or others. Avoid assumptions: maybe you go on a date with someone who seems to be shy, but that does not mean that he or she is an introvert. Remember that getting to know someone actually takes time.
Just because you thought that you liked extroverts all your life, does that mean that God has an extrovert for you reserved in His plans? Ask God to be your personal matchmaker.