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Understanding the 3 Personality Types

Dr. Libby Brown shares the different personality types, the characteristics of each and how each personality type affects how people handle stressful situations.
Understanding the 3 Personality Types
Libby Brown, PhD, PsyD
Libby Brown, PsyD is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who earned her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Texas in 1975. She graduated from the University of Evansville in 1984 with her master’s degree in Counseling. Libby earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Spalding University in 1994.

Learn more about Libby Brown, PhD, PsyD

Melanie Cole (Host): We realize that aspects of our personalities are engaged at various levels everyday at home and at work and at play and that’s one thing, but understanding how to use that knowledge is a whole other ballgame and we’re going to learn about that today with Dr. Libby Brown. She’s a clinical psychologist at Deaconess the Women’s Hospital. Dr. Brown, I’m really glad to have you with us today as this topic fascinates me, about personality traits and types and how that determines how we interact with people, how we manage our stress, what kind of professions even that we choose. So first start with the listeners please, what are personality traits or types? Are they the same thing?

Dr. Libby Brown (Guest): Well they’re not really considered the same, at least in the mental health field. People always try to find shortcuts to how we describe an entire person, but a type tend to be the most researched and have followed through time, you know starting from back – way back in Socrates’ days. So there are types that encompass a large, like a person, but the traits are what the person has. So I might describe someone as somewhat melancholy and that might be considered like a type, or introverted or extroverted, but inside of that, the person has traits, and sometimes a bundle of traits will be used to describe a type.

Host: So interesting. So tell us how this helps determine what our personality is like, whether we’re an extrovert or an introvert, whether we are somebody who is willing to take bold chances or not. Tell us how this all fits in the world of psychology to help you all help us.

Dr. Brown: Well I think most of us are probably, in any conversation, especially when you first meet someone, trying to figure out a little bit about who that person is, and what that – first of all lets you know how is that person thinking? How are they interacting? I think that when you look at the classic everybody likes to talk introvert or extrovert, and we have used that so often it’s almost a stereotype response, you’re either outgoing or you’re shy, but it’s a lot more than that. For something like introversion, you tend to actually get your energy from being in your head, time alone, walking or reading. You store up energy so that you can go out and do your job and interact with people. An extroverted type tend to – they actually get energy from interacting with people, so they’re more external. So they are out there talking and moving and usually thinking out loud, you can almost hear them process out loud. So they’re getting energy, and then when they’re too alone, they may lose energy. So sometimes you look at that as good information for just knowing yourself well enough to make sure you stay connected to where you fuel yourself with energy, and knowing that about yourself one way or another often helps you kind of accept yourself, helps prepare you for careers. As you mentioned earlier, it might help you in a relationship to understand yourself. So just knowing just some kind of ways to group your own thoughts into understanding yourself is where the types come in. So I’ve kind of rambled a little bit. Did that somewhat give you an idea? Because there are lots of those, I just used the two most common ones.

Host: No, you cleared that up very well. You made it very understandable. So let’s talk about the different types and the characteristics that tend to, not necessarily be stereotypes but go along with the different types. Give us a little lesson.

Dr. Brown: Well if I were to switch over to again, what I hear commonly used, people often talk about what we consider types that bundle into like a medical or health related area. So that tends to be when people talk about type A. I’m a type A personality. Some people wear that like a badge of I’m a hard worker, and some people are like, I’m impatient. So what they have done with research is try to determine if the original hypothesis of a type A personality really does show up in people that tend to have heart disease or heart attacks and that got presented in the 50s and continues to be somewhat debated today, but a type A personality is kind of known for a sense of competitiveness. They’re always striving toward goals, but they may not experience joy of the effort or joy of accomplishment but they’re always striving. They may be easy to overreact. They’re easy to wind up. They are often self critical. A type A person may have a constant sense of urgency. So they’re inpatient. They may schedule things too tightly. They multitask, so that since of urgency, so even waiting for an elevator, they may be the person standing next to you that keeps hitting the button like it’s not coming up fast enough. They also are known to be somewhat covertly or overtly seeing the worst in others or displacing anger. They’re accused of having a lack of compassion, and those three groupings under a type A were researched as to people who tended to have heart attacks with all of that. Like I said, that’s still somewhat debated but the hostility factor is still there. That seems to hold a little bit true across that over time. A type B person would almost be on a continuum, on a scale. You’re going to have all of these traits at some point or another depending on situations, but on a long range of type A all the way to type B, the type B on the other end are usually more patient. They’re more relaxed. They tend to walk slower. They tend to be someone that knows that something’s there and they’ll get to it, so they don’t have that sense of urgency. They also are known to have higher degrees of creativity and imagination and that can be based off of they’re not always rushing. Used to – there was a type C that was for a while connected with the suppression of emotions and that was questionable in the field of health and medicine and wellness as to whether too much suppression, conflict avoidance, high social discomfort, over compliance, did those people tend to get autoimmune disorders because they’re holding everything in and not letting anything out, and then in the 90s, I guess to round out even more, we began to research kind of a type D, and that was almost a joint tendency in someone towards negativity or irritability, sadness, a gloomy person, kind of social inhibition and the glass half empty personality, and again they were looking at how does that affect you and that has added in, are you leaning towards depression and what about some of the other compromised immunological disorders or chronic inflammation, coronary artery disease. So you can’t do unnecessary cause and effect, but we’re looking at clusters and patterns and trying to see where we could interject ourselves to help these types if you are prone toward – not to mention your DNA and what you inherited and everything else. Types are like shortcuts to discuss, clusters of behaviors and attitudes.

Host: Can you change your type? If you’re a type A, can you then change that to somebody more relaxed?

Dr. Brown: Yeah, I believe all of us are capable of layering on skills and layering on anything that would help us cope with ourselves, with our environment with our relationships. I believe that you have to go towards the acceptance of whatever type you are and accept the positives of it instead of just hoping, you can get rid of it and get rid of the negative sides of it because honestly I think we do what people to have a sense of urgency, that’s why I will pay my bills on time. That sense of urgency. I want to honor the types that you might have inherited, that is who you are, but what may look like you’re changing them, is probably accepting and coping with the negative side of that type.

Host: That’s so interesting. Doctor, we’re really learning a lot and I’m fascinated with this topic. As we wrap up, tell us how these different personality types effect that people handle stressful situations and why you feel that it’s important that we know not only our own type and come to accept the type of person that we are and maybe work to layer on some of the more positive aspects of either that type or other types, but why it’s important as we interact with our employers and our friends and our family, that we understand the other types as well?

Dr. Brown: Well that’s a lot to try to jump in and respond to.

Host: It is but you can do it.

Dr. Brown:I will try, I will try. I honestly believe that if you come from, first of all, know thyself. If you know who you are and you accept yourself, then you will also look for yourself in others and as you look at yourself and there are parts of you that you’re not so accepting of but you know they’re there, then perhaps you would then tolerate those same things in other people so that you do have a give and a take in relationships. I do believe that knowledge is powerful in that and once you know something you can’t not know it. So if you’re going, oh my gosh that type fits me, when I have some self awareness, and the first thing you’ll do is find everyone that’s like you, but if you’re not real crazy about some of the things in yourself, then that’s accidentally what you look for and find in the others as well. So it’s giving people some tools to look at what they have and to realize that you can actually have coping skills for anxiety, coping skills for depression, coping skills for when you’re uncomfortable in a situation. Honor yourself to know where you get your energy from because interacting with people and doing our jobs and studying and everything else we do requires energy and if you try to be a square peg crammed into a round hole, you may get it to fit but it won’t stay there very well. So I do believe in that you can work on, instead of avoiding what our weakness are, I believe in kind of looking at them rather objectively, like well that’s what it is and not putting a whole lot of disclaimers on it like that’s bad or that’s good. I would just look at it as what it is, and then there’s all kinds of stress reduction. There’s mindfulness, there’s mental relaxation. There’s so many things available to people. I’ve noticed that they usually come in with all kinds of great info they’ve discovered on their own or their favorite books are podcasts themselves and it’s taking all of that information and applying it to yourself, and talking with your friends, and with your friends who feel like counselors, and there’s all kinds of ways to get help if you need some clarity. We get kind of mixed up in our own heads if we stay there too long or if we talk so much we don’t listen, but I do believe there are coping skills that are applicable to all of the different types especially once you know what they are.

Host: So important. So interesting besides. Thank you so much Dr. Brown for coming on and explaining the personality types and the personality traits and why it’s important that we understand them so that we can learn more about ourselves. Thank you again for joining us, and that wraps up this episode of the women’s hospital, a place for all your life. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Brown please call 812-842-4020 or head on over to our website at for more information and to get connected with one of our providers. If you found this podcast as informative as I did, please share on your social media and be sure to check out all the other fascinating podcasts in our library. I’m Melanie Cole.