Book Notes

Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything

Book cover for Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything
Anne Bogel

Some­time around 2012 I became intrigued by per­son­al­i­ty typ­ing sys­tems. I had a loose intro­duc­tion to the Myers-Brig­gs Type Indi­ca­tor and a deep­er intro­duc­tion to DISC. After imple­ment­ing DISC in a work set­ting I start­ed to real­ize how help­ful sys­tems such as DISC can be toward work­ing with oth­ers. The real mag­ic though came when I used DISC to help me under­stand myself better.

In the years since I’ve slow­ly read up on oth­er sim­i­lar sys­tems. Then, around mid-2018, I came across Anne Bogel’s book Read­ing Peo­ple. Anne aims to give an overview of many such sys­tems, which I’d say she suc­ceeds in.

If you’re look­ing for some high-lev­el descrip­tions of typ­ing sys­tems, Anne does a good job out­lin­ing them in her book. From this high-lev­el per­spec­tive, you can choose which system(s) to go deep­er on.

My only cri­tique of Anne’s book is that she doesn’t scru­ti­nize any of the typ­ing sys­tems in her writ­ing. I would have loved to see her touch on that side of each sys­tem, as each has its oppo­nents. That said, the book remains a great primer for any­one inter­est­ed in that alone.

Intro­duc­tion

I’ve come to think under­stand­ing per­son­al­i­ty is like hold­ing a good map. That map can’t take you any­where. It doesn’t change your loca­tion; you’re still right where you were before. But the map’s pur­pose isn’t to move you; it’s to show you the lay of the land. It’s the tool that makes it pos­si­ble for you to get where you want to go.” (p. 15)

I love this pic­ture of a map. The ques­tion I’m left with is this: how accu­rate is this map? How skilled were the car­tog­ra­phers? Is there a leg­end that shows me how to read the map? Etc.

We all live in the first per­son. I expe­ri­ence the world through my eyes; we all do. But each of these per­son­al­i­ty frame­works, when used thought­ful­ly, gives me eyes to see the world from some­one else’s point of view for a lit­tle while. It’s a sim­ple way to try out a new per­spec­tive, a dif­fer­ent world­view. And once we’ve caught a glimpse of the world through some­one else’s eyes, we won’t soon for­get that point of view. It changes us, and it changes the way we read oth­ers.” (p. 20)

I love the para­graph above. This puts an empha­sis on the empath­ic ben­e­fits to gain­ing more aware­ness about the var­i­ous per­son­al­i­ty frameworks. 

These are the frame­works dis­cussed in this book:

  • Intro­ver­sion and Extroversion
  • High­ly Sen­si­tive People
  • The 5 Love Languages
  • Keirsey’s Tem­pera­ments
  • Myers-Brig­gs Types
  • Myers-Brig­gs Types Cog­ni­tive Functions
  • Strengths­Find­er
  • Ennea­gram

Chap­ter 1: My Aha! Moment

Under­stand­ing My Per­son­al­i­ty Type

All the per­son­al­i­ty tests in the world won’t mean any­thing to you if you’re not hon­est with your­self about your own per­son­al­i­ty and the per­son­al­i­ties of those around you.” (p. 28)

Chap­ter 2: Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Breakdown

Intro­verts and Extroverts

Appear­ances can be deceiv­ing, but your men­tal state, feel­ings, and some­times even phys­i­cal reac­tions will key you in to which is your real world, the exter­nal works out there” or the inter­nal world of your thoughts.” (p. 43)

Once you under­stand your­self, you can stop fight­ing your nat­ur­al ten­den­cies and plan for them instead.” (p. 43)

We are all dif­fer­ent, even dif­fer­ent in our expres­sions of intro­ver­sion or extro­ver­sion. By under­stand­ing our­selves and how we might be dif­fer­ent from oth­ers, we can bet­ter appre­ci­ate oth­er peo­ple and the way they are wired. And with prac­tice and expe­ri­ence, through tri­al and error, we’ll get bet­ter at mak­ing the right deci­sions for our­selves, as well as for the peo­ple around us.” (p. 54)

Chap­ter 3: Too Hot to Handle

High­ly Sen­si­tive People

As I start­ed this chap­ter I real­ized that I’ve heard peo­ple call them­selves a high­ly sen­si­tive per­son” but didn’t real­ize it was a mea­sured thing. This chap­ter was real­ly inter­est­ing to me. I can see some of the HSP stuff in some peo­ple around me, and in myself as well. I’m inter­est­ed in tak­ing the assess­ment she talks about.

The HSP assess­ment can be found at http://​hsper​son​.com/​test/. The test seemed a bit too loose for my taste, but I took it and select­ed 16 of the 27 ques­tions as true” for me. If you select 14 or more you prob­a­bly fall into the HSP camp. So I’m there. But not by much.

Com­mon trig­gers for HSPs:

  • Noise
  • Clut­ter
  • Tex­ture
  • Peo­ple
  • Con­sec­u­tive errands/​meetings/​appointments
  • Big feel­ings
  • Infor­ma­tion overload
  • Media
  • Deci­sions

The first thing you need to know about high­ly sen­si­tive peo­ple is that their ner­vous sys­tems are what they are. Peo­ple can grow and devel­op in count­less ways, but there is no vol­ume knob they can access to turn down their ner­vous system’s nat­u­ral­ly ele­vat­ed response to stim­uli. This trait is hard­wired.” (p. 64)

As I read through this chap­ter I find myself won­der­ing if miso­pho­nia is at all con­nect­ed to being a high­ly sen­si­tive person.

The bad news for HSPs is that they have many things drain­ing their fuel tanks. The good news is that they can con­trol some, maybe even many, of those fac­tors.” (p. 65)

Here are some things impor­tant to inten­tion­al­ly pri­or­i­tize for HSPs:

  1. Qui­et
  2. Peace­ful, clut­ter-free environments
  3. Pri­va­cy
  4. Down­time
  5. Min­i­mal infor­ma­tion intake
  6. Rou­tine
  7. Bound­aries

💯

Under­stand­ing is the great­est gift any par­ent can give their high­ly sen­si­tive child.” (p. 71)

Expe­ri­enc­ing more does have advan­tages. This trait makes you a kind and car­ing friend, an empa­thet­ic and wise coun­selor, an insight­ful employ­ee, and a spir­i­tu­al seek­er.” (p. 72)

Chap­ter 4: Love and Oth­er Acts of Blindness

The 5 Love Languages

I didn’t take any notes in this chap­ter because I’m well acquaint­ed with The 5 Love Lan­guages. Here’s a list of the love lan­guages, just so I can feel like I added some­thing rel­e­vant here:

  • Qual­i­ty Time
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Phys­i­cal Touch
  • Giv­ing and Receiv­ing Gifts 

Chap­ter 5: You’re Not Crazy, You’re Just Not Me

Keirsey’s Tem­pera­ments

This was the only thing in the table of con­tents that I’d nev­er heard of.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, all par­ents project them­selves onto their chil­dren to one degree or anoth­er, and we expect them to resem­ble us more than we ought. It’s a haz­ard of being human, and of being the author­i­ty fig­ure in that par­tic­u­lar rela­tion­ship.” (p. 96)

The more I paid atten­tion to the way we inter­act­ed, the clear­er it became that the real thing that need­ed fix­ing was my point of view.” (p. 97)

Under Keirsey’s frame­work, two fac­tors deter­mine ter­pera­ment: how we use words (what we say) and how we use tools (what we do). Accord­ing to Keirsey, all of us lean toward being con­crete or abstract in our words usage and are either coop­er­a­tive or util­i­tar­i­an in our tool usage.” (p. 99, empha­sis mine to call out key words)

This assess­ment is free at https://​pro​file​.keirsey​.com/​#​/​b​2​c​/​a​s​s​e​s​s​m​e​n​t​/​start (I got Guardian Pro­tec­tor, though I ques­tion this a lit­tle since it’s paired to ISFJ in MBTI.)

When I start talk­ing about tem­pera­ment with peo­ple, some­times they’ll ask, But which tem­pera­ment is best?’ My answer is always, Best for what?’ Each tem­pera­ment has cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics; we can­not be all things to all peo­ple. Each tem­pera­ment has great strengths, but no one tem­pera­ment has every pos­si­ble strength. We can’t be tra­di­tion­al and cut­ting-edge, detail-ori­ent­ed and big-pic­ture-ori­ent­ed, staid and spon­ta­neous.” (p. 108)

Real­i­ty check: no one indi­vid­ual can meet all our needs. It’s like want­i­ng your spouse to be tall, except on the days you’d rather they be short.” (p. 109)

The point of the four tem­pera­ments isn’t to put peo­ple into box­es or to defin­i­tive­ly describe all human behav­ior. The point is to get us out of the box­es we’re trapped in by help­ing us grasp the insights we need for improved empa­thy through bet­ter under­stand­ing. When we under­stand what’s hap­pen­ing with regard to people’s vary­ing per­son­al­i­ties, we can appre­ci­ate their dif­fer­ences — and the fun­da­men­tal need for those dif­fer­ences — instead of doing what we usu­al­ly do, which is get all crazy about them.” (p. 113)

This pas­sage above sums up my inter­est in this book, and all source mate­ri­als as well. The pur­suit of empa­thy and the tools to teach it are impor­tant to me. I love that she called it out here. (Though I think it could have been writ­ten in any part of the book, not just the chap­ter about Keirsey’s Temperaments.)

Accord­ing to Keirsey’s frame­work, or any of the oth­ers in this book, two rea­son­ably well-adjust­ed peo­ple can build a rela­tion­ship that works well for them, no mat­ter their tem­pera­ments. The key is to under­stand the fac­tors at play, appre­ci­ate each person’s strengths and weak­ness­es, and enter the rela­tion­ship with real­is­tic expec­ta­tions.” (p. 113)

Chap­ter 6: Type Talk

The Myers-Brig­gs Type Indicator

I had a very loose under­stand­ing of MBTI before read­ing this chap­ter. After read­ing this, and the fol­low­ing, chap­ter I’m get­ting it a bit more. I lat­er took time to actu­al­ly go through the assessment.

The let­ters are for:

  • Introversion/​Extraversion (I/E)
  • Intuition/​Seeking (N/S)
  • Thinking/​Feeling (T/F)
  • Judging/​Perceiving (J/P)

After read­ing the descrip­tions I wasn’t sure where I fell. Thank­ful­ly she goes deep­er in the next chap­ter which helped me nar­row it down better.

The MBTI is focused on per­son­al growth. At its core, it assumes that self-under­stand­ing leads to growth.” (p. 127)

A broad dis­tri­b­u­tion of type strength­ens an orga­ni­za­tion and pre­vents it from being lop­sided. With­out all the types work­ing togeth­er, an orga­ni­za­tion will have points of weak­ness.” (pp. 128 – 129)

Con­flicts that arise due to per­son­al­i­ty dif­fer­ences can be trou­ble­some but fair­ly innocu­ous, as long as we’re able to diag­nose what’s hap­pen­ing. Not all rela­tion­al con­flicts are per­son­al­i­ty con­flicts, of course, but many are. And those can often be effec­tive­ly man­aged when we enlist the aid of a good per­son­al­i­ty frame­work to see the world through some­one else’s eyes for a bit.” (p. 137)

I appre­ci­ate the end of the pas­sage above. The empha­sis isn’t on how a per­son­al­i­ty frame­work fix­es any­thing. It just gives one the abil­i­ty to see the world through some­one else’s eyes when they need to. The approach is from the inside out, not the out­side in.

Over­all, the author sug­gests you need a pro­fes­sion­al facil­i­ta­tor for the results to be tru­ly accu­rate and effec­tive. She did men­tion a free ver­sion though which I plan to take. You can find that at https://​www​.16per​son​al​i​ties​.com/​f​r​e​e​-​p​e​r​s​o​n​a​l​i​t​y​-test. (I got INFJ‑A here, then got ISTJ from the offi­cial Myers-Brig­gs online assessment.)

Chap­ter 7: The Deck is Stacked

The MBTI Cog­ni­tive Functions

…the only way to tru­ly deter­mine your MBTI type is to iden­ti­fy your [cog­ni­tive] func­tions and the order you use them in.” (p. 140)

There’s a hier­ar­chy to how the func­tions play out:

  • Dom­i­nant (1st)
  • Aux­il­iary (2nd)
  • Ter­tiary (3rd)
  • Inte­ri­or (4th)

We don’t tend to notice or think about our dom­i­nant. It’s just nat­ur­al; instinc­tive. We’re more aware of our aux­il­iary since it’s typ­i­cal­ly in oppo­si­tion to our nature. 

Many of us notice that our per­son­al­i­ties seem to shift as we move into our twen­ties and thir­ties and chalk it up to our MBTI type chang­ing because we’re matur­ing or we got mar­ried or we had kids or we took a new job. That’t not what hap­pens. We don’t change out MBTI type, but we devel­op and strength­en those process­es that char­ac­ter­ize our type that are already present. We become deep­er, more com­plete ver­sions of our­selves.” (p. 148)

Chap­ter 8: Play to Your Strengths

The Clifton StrengthsFinder

We all engage in work, what­ev­er that looks like, and the Strengths­Find­er assess­ment can help us see how our strengths fit into all that stuff.” (p. 157)

(This assess­ment is includ­ed in the pur­chase of the book Strengths­Find­er 2.0. I’ll include a link below if you want to check that out.)

I appre­ci­at­ed how my results specif­i­cal­ly sug­gest­ed that I part­ner with peo­ple who have themes dif­fer­ent from mine so that, togeth­er, we can accom­plish things I wouldn’t be able to do on my own.” (pp. 166 – 167)

I didn’t cap­ture much from this chap­ter because I chose to read through Strengths­Find­er 2.0 itself.

Chap­ter 9: Con­front Your Junk

The Ennea­gram

This was my primer for the Ennea­gram. I already had anoth­er book I bought, The Road Back to You, for a more focused dive into the sub­ject. Ulti­mate­ly I’d rec­om­mend that book as a start­ing point for the Ennea­gram — if you’re look­ing for one.

The Ennea­gram fos­ters the self-aware­ness and self-exam­i­na­tion nec­es­sary for per­son­al and spir­i­tu­al growth.” (p. 172)

Think of each type as see­ing the world through a unique paid of glass­es. These glass­es some­times bring us clar­i­ty, but they can also dis­tort our vision in big and small ways.” (p. 173)

This is my favorite illus­tra­tion of the ennea­gram as a tool. I think I’ve heard Suzanne Sta­bile speak to it the most.

The Ennea­gram pin­points not our weak­ness­es but our moti­va­tions — the under­ly­ing rea­sons that dri­ve every­thing we do.” (p. 174)

Growth is a mul­ti­step process, but it is an actu­al process.” (p. 179)

The goal is, as always, to become more our­selves — our true selves — instead of get­ting tripped up by the stum­bling blocks that tend to befall each per­son­al­i­ty type. Per­son­al growth takes us out of unhealthy reflex­ive actions and enables us to be more ful­ly our­selves, more present, more aware, and more inten­tion­al.” (p. 180)

It’s often our glar­ing weak­ness­es that con­firm our type.” (p. 184)

Until we learn to pay atten­tion to our own pat­terns of behav­ior, we are pow­er­less to change them.” (p. 188)

Chap­ter 10: Your Per­son­al­i­ty is Not Your Destiny

How much can peo­ple change?

To a large extent, our mind­sets deter­mine the qual­i­ty of our friend­ships. When we don’t feel we need to prove that we’re worth some­thing — whether to our­selves or to oth­ers — we’re free to appre­ci­ate oth­er peo­ple for who they are.” (p. 198)

Learn­ing more about per­son­al­i­ty types has helped me make peace with the way I was made (even though some days I’d rather trade myself in for a dif­fer­ent mod­el). It has helped me under­stand the peo­ple I love, live with, and work with, and it has helped me accept the way they were made, which is to say, dif­fer­ent­ly from me.” (p. 201)

My per­son­al­i­ty traits don’t deter­mine my des­tiny, but they inform it, and I’ve accept­ed that.” (p. 201)

Because I under­stand myself bet­ter, I can nav­i­gate the world a lit­tle bet­ter.” (p. 202)


Oth­er books ref­er­enced by the author

All excerpts © 2017 by Anne Bogel

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