What 'type' are you?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Doug Ottinger
  • ARPC's Director of Future Ops and Integration
Over the years, I have attended numerous courses, conferences and seminars dealing with the subject of leadership styles or personality traits. In every case, the discussions eventually turn to participants describing what personality trait or "type" best describes them. 

While they may use many different terms to describe themselves, one term that is routinely used by these managers/leaders is the term "Type A personality." 

In fact, almost without fail, those who proclaim themselves Type A do so as if it were a badge of honor bestowed only to the best. However, my research into personality types would say being considered Type A is nothing to brag about. 

Dr. Meyer Friedman is credited with identifying the personality types of "A" and "B" to help predict heart disease back in the late 1950s. According to his research, there are two distinct personality types; Type A and Type B. The characteristics of a Type A personality are:

1. Time urgency/impatience - a persistent feeling that there is not or will not be sufficient time to accomplish the things that he or she feels should be done.

2. Chronic failure to refrain from giving excess, time-consuming aid to other persons or organizations.

3. Free-floating hostility. 

The characteristics of a Type B personality, as you may have guessed, are nearly the opposite; patient, relaxed and easy-going. 

While on the surface, the first two attributes of the Type A personality may sound appealing (especially if it describes someone working for you!) but knowing the underlying reasons surrounding these attributes may change your mind. 

For starters, "time urgency or impatience," according to Dr. Friedman, is the direct result of covert insecurity or inadequate self-esteem. People suffering from this attribute feel the need to cover their feeling of inadequacy by acquiring as many achievements or engage in as many activities as they can, even to their own detriment! This leads them to believe that there is not enough time for them to do all the things they think they should and adds to their feelings of inadequacy. 

This innate insecurity or lack of self-esteem is a strong contributor to the second attribute of the Type A individual; "chronic failure to refrain from giving excess, time-consuming aid to other persons or organizations." 

As I already stated, Type A people feel the need to fill their lives with activities and achievements; whether it's taking on too many tasks from work or volunteering for too many community projects. 

This over-commitment to work or community only serves to amplify the Type A's "Time Urgency/Impatience" feelings and thereby creates a vicious cycle. A failure or reluctance to delegate also contributes to this attribute and can, again, be directly tied to the Type A's basic lack of self-confidence and a fear of someone else getting credit for their accomplishments. 

The last attribute and clearly the most undesirable is "free floating hostility. In the majority of cases, this is not displayed in physical hostility. In most cases, this attribute displays itself in the Type A's inability to show frank and frequent appreciation or admiration to those around them. 

Instead, they substitute these with competition, rivalry and criticism. So, instead of complimenting a co-worker or spouse when they do something right, Type A people wait until that person does something wrong so they can criticize. 

To the Type A, every interaction is a competition and every person is an opponent who must be defeated; whether it's winning an argument or winning an award. This is definitely not the person you want to be paired with for a team-building exercise! 

Hopefully by now, you're beginning to see that being considered Type A is not the badge of honor many perceive it to be. In fact, in today's team-oriented workplace, being Type A is a detriment to the person and those that work with him or her. 

Fortunately, according to Dr. Friedman, there is hope for the chronic Type A through self-treatment. 

For Dr. Friedman's patients, he recommended a series of exercises to teach Type A's to emulate the mellower, more thoughtful behavior of people with Type B personality. He would ask them to leave their watches home for a day, to drive in the slow lane, to pick the longest line in the grocery store, and consciously observe and talk to other people. 

To force Type A's to slow down, he also prescribed reading Marcel Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" -- all seven volumes. These exercises, if pursued sincerely and consistently, can help the Type A personality become a more effective member of society. 

I'm sure by now you're wondering "could I be a Type A?" Of course, the only way to accurately be diagnosed would require a visit to your local psychiatrist or psychologist. However, Discovery-Health has come up with a Web-based test that can give you a pretty good idea of where you stand on the Type A/Type B continuum at http://discoveryhealth.queendom.com/type_a_personality_access.html

Hopefully, after you've taken this test, you can proudly say "I'm a Type B!" personality, or at least some combination of Type A and Type B. However, if the results indicate that you definitely have a Type A personality, don't be ashamed - just say "I'm a Type A, but getting better!" Remember, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery!