16 Personalities — Summary and Application

Updated: Feb 18

In his best-selling book Principles, multibillionaire Ray Dalio talks about the importance of knowing the objective strengths and weaknesses of yourself and others. To quote his words,

“Just as people have different physical traits, people also have different psychological traits. Since our brains are biologically different, we all experience reality in different ways, and any one way is actually distorted. By getting multiple perspectives, we get closer to truth. The better we know ourselves, the better we can recognize our blind spots and what we can or cannot change about ourselves. The better we know other people, the better we can predict their behavior and performance on certain tasks.”

—Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio uses psychometric assessments, and 16 Personalities is a great one because it is free and offers highly detailed insights. You can learn all about the 16 Personalities framework on their website, but my goal with this article is to summarize the key details, as well as real life examples to add color to the theory.

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This post will talk about

  1. Why personality profiles so useful

  2. Personality Traits in 16 Personalities

  3. The Four Roles

  4. The Four Strategies

  5. How I’ve used 16 Personalities in my life

  6. Frequently Asked Questions

(Hint: You can click on a title to jump to that section)

Part 1: Why Personality Profiles are so Useful

Knowing your personality profile is extremely useful for three reasons:

  1. Self-Understanding: You can learn your objective strengths and weaknesses and those of others.

  2. Convenient: It’s a fast way to get a deep understanding of someone.

  3. Harmony: You can more easily embrace people’s differences rather than complain about them.

First, you learn about your objective strengths and weaknesses. Successful and happy people invest most their time and energy into their strengths. As for weaknesses, they just have to patch them up to the point where it’s not hindering their ability to pursue their strengths. All of this requires you to actually KNOW your strengths and weaknesses!

Most people only have a rough idea of a couple of strengths and weaknesses. But your personality profile gives you a detailed list with multiple strengths and weaknesses. When you read your strengths and weaknesses you probably think, “Oh yeah that’s true.” You might even think you don’t need a personality test to tell you. But if you didn’t read it, you wouldn’t have thought of all those strengths and weaknesses yourself. THAT’s why reading your personality profile is extremely valuable. With that knowledge, you can take steps towards optimizing your life for the better.

Second, it’s a fast way to get a deep understanding of someone. Have you ever wished you could understand someone quickly? For example, maybe you have a new colleague or a new boss. It only takes 10-15 minutes for someone to do the personality survey and tell you their results. When you know their personality profile, you can predict their thinking and behavior. That means you can stop viewing people as “super-hard-to-understand creatures” and start seeing them as “just another one of those.

Third, when you understand yourself and others, it’s much easier to accept and embrace other people’s differences rather than fight over them. If you’re like me, you’ve wondered, “Why are people so strange? Why aren’t people more like me?” After learning about 16 Personalities, you realize people aren’t strange; they are predictable. And people aren’t more similar to you because their personality is different from yours. You understand their values (what’s important to them in life), and you learn to predict their behavior. This one is huge!

Before learning about 16 Personalities, I would always think, “Why can’t that person be as reliable/trustworthy/logical/whatever like me?” After learning about 16 Personalities, I now think, “That’s just her personality. You can’t change that about her. Plus, that personality trait has these strengths which are my weaknesses.” I can also predict people’s thinking and behavior, so I don’t get annoyed or shocked when they do something that I previously would have thought, “Why would anyone do that?

Ultimately, understanding others allows us to stop always thinking about their weaknesses and why they annoy us, and instead focus on their strengths and how we can bring out more of their strengths in our relationship. When we focus on their strengths, we naturally will have a better, happier, and more productive relationship with them.

Now that we’ve looked at why 16 Personalities is so useful, let’s get into the details of the test.

Part 2: Personality Traits in 16 Personalities

The 16 Personality test is a comprehensive personality test that measures five personality traits:

  1. Introverted versus Extraverted

  2. Observant versus Intuitive (or in simple words, Practical versus Imaginative)

  3. Thinking versus Feeling (or in simple words, Logical versus Emotional)

  4. Judging versus Prospecting (or in simple words, Planning versus Spontaneous)

  5. Assertive versus Turbulent (or in simple words, Self-assured versus Self-conscious)

To find out your personality type, take the test here:

English: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

Chinese: https://www.16personalities.com/ch/

Given these 5 traits, there are a total of 32 possible combinations. The way 16 Personalities organizes these possible combinations is into 16 personality profiles. Each profile uses the first 4 traits, and then the 5th trait is added on at the end. So you can get a result like INTJ-T, which means Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging, and Turbulent. INTJ is the personality profile. The “-T” is the additional add-on to the profile.

Here is an overview of the 16 personality profiles:

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For the sake of time, I’m not going to go into the details for each of the 16 profiles (and certainly not the 32 possible combinations). I think it’s plenty enough to cover the 4 roles and the 4 strategies. Then you can read the profiles that interest you (probably your profile and those of a few close family members and friends).

Alright, let’s get into the 5 traits.

Trait 1: Introverted versus Extraverted

This trait determines how the interact with our environment. Specifically, it determines what kind of environment energizes us and what kind of environment drains us.

A lot of people misunderstand introversion and extraversion. They think that someone who likes to talk a lot is extraverted, and someone who is quiet is introverted. That’s not necessarily true.

Introverted people lose energy from being with a group of people that they are not familiar with. In order to replenish their energy, they have to have alone time. Introverted people can be very talkative and energetic when they are just with a few close friends.

Extraverted people gain energy from being with a group of people that they are not familiar with. They enjoy that social interaction. Being alone makes them lose energy and get restless.

It’s very useful to know if someone is introverted or extraverted because the workplace and society is always full of social activities. Extraverts love them and will go to as many as they can. Introverts literally lose energy going to them, so they have to be selective.

Introverts are great at sitting down alone and working or studying. Extraverts literally lose energy if they try to do that. That’s why they need to get up and go somewhere with people and talk to people to recover their energy. Once people understand this, they stop judging each other on their differences.

Trait 2: Observant versus Intuitive

This trait determines how we process information. Out of the five traits, this trait is probably the most difficult to understand.

Observant people are highly practical and concrete, whereas Intuitive people are very imaginative and curious. Observant people like to focus on what is, while Intuitive people like to think about what could be. Intuitive people enjoy talking about what-if scenarios, while observant people see that as a waste of time.

Observant people prefer to have habits, while Intuitive people prefer novelty. If you ask an Observant person, “What do you want to do this weekend?”, she might say, “The usual. I need to clean the house and go to the park.” Her answer is very practical and reflects her habits. If you ask an Intuitive person, “What do you want to do this weekend?”, he might say, “Hmmm, I’d love to go watch a movie. There are so many good movies choices right now." His answer is very open-minded and focuses on novelty.

Observant people might get annoyed and Intuitive people for being so unpractical and having weak habits, while Intuitive people get annoyed at Observant people for being so boring and too routine-focused. Observant people might also get frustrated at Intuitive types for implicating hidden meanings all the time, while Intuitive types might get frustrated at Observant types for being so numb to hidden or deeper meanings.

Making good decisions requires creativity first to think of many options and possibilities. Then picking the best option requires practicality. If these two types can work together, they can make better decisions.

Trait 3: Thinking versus Feeling

This trait determines how we make decisions and handle emotions.