Feed Your Mind: Reading People

About 25 years ago, when I was working at a big web development company in San Francisco, our Creative Director planned a team summit, the centerpiece of which was a Myers-Briggs expert to help us all learn our personality types. I was young and desperately eager to please, so despite the instruction to answer honestly, quickly, and without overthinking it, I (unintentionally) answered most of the questions the way I wished I would answer them. The result? I was identified as an extrovert.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

I have much better grasp on who I am now. I’m an introvert who likes to occasionally get dressed up and try to be the center of attention. I require plenty of downtime to recover from adventures—but if I don’t have adventures once in a while, I grow very pouty and twitchy.

Getting to know ourselves is a lifelong pursuit—and finding ways to understand and really know the people around us is equally vital to developing the kind of relationships that are sustaining, joyful, rejuvenating—and allow us to avoid unnecessary conflict.

One of my favorite fellow introverts is Anne Bogel. She’s the author of the Modern Mrs. Darcy web site and my number-one, never-miss-it podcast What Should I Read Next? Her new book is called Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, and it’s a breezy read that could have huge impact on your worldview.

You know how Tim Ferriss experiments on himself then shares the results in his books (The 4-Hour Work Week, The 4-Hour Chef)? That’s basically what Anne has done with personality frameworks in Reading People. She’s done the work on herself to deeply understand the various personality frameworks and generously shares her observations, and—BONUS! — Anne’s voice has zero bro-dude attitude and is infused, instead, with tons of charm and encouragement.

“Once you understand yourself, you can stop fighting your natural tendencies and plan for them instead.”

The book begins with personal revelations from Annie and a review of the introvert-extrovert spectrum, clearing up some misconceptions about these two biggies of personality, while acknowledging that the int-ent gap might be the biggest divide we must cross to understand each other: ‘If you’re an introvert and you’ve ever had a baffling conversation with an extroverted roommate and thought, My brain just doesn’t work like that, you’re absolutely right. Your brain doesn’t work like that.”

Subsequent chapters of the book dive into the popular personality-typing frameworks—the Five Love Languages, Keirsey’s Temperaments, Myers-Brigs, StrengthsFinder, Enneagram—outlining how each one works and what you can learn from your results. Anne does a really nice job of leading you through the jargon to clearly explain what terms mean so you can apply the concepts to everyday life.

“As you become more aware of the amazing variety of people and experiences, your worldview changes, making you more humble, more open, more aware of the possibilities in each person you encounter.”

The strength of this book is Anne’s infectious curiosity about how people work—how our cognition and physiology and personality all work together to make us us. Just as Anne doesn’t judge the books on her podcast—instead she plays match-maker, helping people find the books that best suit them—there’s no judgment in in Reading People. Anne helps you assess the results of your personality investigations with openness, thoughtfulness, and insight so you can make the best choices for you.

The last chapter is like the best pep talk ever and examines what we can do with the information we learn from personality tests—can we really change? As Anne explains, personality traits don’t change all the much over time, “but our behaviors are significantly more pliable. Understanding our personalities makes it easier to change the things within our grasp.”

And that is the beauty of Reading People: “When I understand myself, I can get out of my own way.”

Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything is out today.

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Comments

  • This sounds like a great book, and just the kind of thing I want to read right now. I’m a huge extrovert, but just got married (on Saturday!) to a definite introvert. We complement each other really well. This post made me think of the day when I first realized my now-husband was an introvert. He was very gregarious on our first few dates, and then started being quieter at times. I remember calling my mother after our fifth or sixth date, worried, and explaining that I thought he might not like me anymore (but he was still asking me out on dates, so I wasn’t sure what to make of it). My mom paused for a long time and then said, “Maybe he is an introvert!”. She was totally right, and it was such a relief to have that figured out and so helpful as we got to know each other better. We’re both still learning all the time six years later!