Dec 04

“Me, Myself, and Us”: Brian R. Little on Personality, Plus

Psychologist Brian R. Little specializes in studying personality. In Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being he spills on what he’s discovered.

Wency Leung, The Globe and Mail, reports on Little’s explanation for how we become who we do:

…Part of what shapes our personalities is biogenetic – we are born with certain dispositions and temperaments, he says. Part of it is sociogenetic – our cultural norms and social expectations encourage some traits and make us inhibit others. But in addition to these factors are idiogenic motives, the aspirations, commitments and personal projects we pursue in daily life, from the trivial, such as taking the dog for a walk, to the ‘core projects,’ such as raising a family, that provide us with a deep sense of meaning and define who we are.

The following are a few of the topics in Me, Myself, and Us that have garnered media attention.

I. Introversion

As he states in a TED talk, Little is an “extreme” introvert, but just as we all go outside the lines sometimes, he’s likely to act more extroverted as needed.

Oscar Raymundo, Slate, lists six points Little makes about introverts at the workplace:

1. Introverts Should Avoid Coffee–Both coffee and “being in a noisy, crowded environment” are likely to cause overstimulation.
2. Introverts Make Better Salespeople–Because introverts are better listeners.
3. Introverts Score Higher in Job Interviews–Also related to better listening.
4. Introverts Work Well With Extroverts–Effective communication can ensue when the introvert interviews and/or listens to the extrovert.
5. Introverts Can Be Extroverted–“…Oftentimes introverts take on the role of a pseudo-extrovert in order to engage in highly social situations that frequently occur in professions like public relations, communications, and marketing.”
6. Introverts Burn Out Easily–Following the need to act more extroverted, it’s important to recharge.

II. Burnout and “Free Trait Agreements”

As we can push the boundaries of other personality traits as well, Little has more to say on the idea that burnout can occur: “I actually argue that with our loved ones and our workmates, we should have a ‘free trait agreement.’ And that free trait agreement is, ‘I will act out of character for the firm or for the family if you grant me a restorative niche.'” (Source: Leung’s Globe and Mail article)

III. Personality Change in Adulthood

Kirkus Reviews: “Entertaining, enlightening and refreshingly light on psychobabble.”

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: “Brian Little is one of the wisest, funniest, kindest, and most erudite people I have ever met, and in this book you’ll be treated to a generous helping of all these personality traits. A monumentally important book for anyone who wants to understand their colleagues, their loved ones — and their very own selves.”

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: “This book is one ‘aha’ moment after another, each rocking your world and upending the way you think about your coworkers, your relationships and your life.”