“Me, Myself and I” by Brian Little
Human behaviour is complicated. One minute you think you know someone, and in a second, they can become someone completely different. It takes many us even a lifetime to figure out who we are, why we do and think in the ways we do, and sometimes, never really figuring out this spectacularly important puzzle. If we don’t understand ourselves, then how are we supposed to understand others, and truly take the time to appreciate their circumstance and emphathise with them in times of joy and crisis?
To help us get to grips with balancing work with the rest of life, we recommend the book “Me, Myself and I: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being” by Brian Little to support Chapter 4 “Know Thyself” of the Diplomatic Planner. As pointed out by our fourth chapter, knowing oneself helps us to connect better with others in our role as diplomats. Dr Little is a psychology professor specialising in personality psychology and there is much we can learn from him in the art and science of personality.
If there is one thing we can take away from this book, its this: not all of us are designed to do the same work. Even if you really want to become a diplomat, is your personality suitable for this job type with all of its complexities? Rather than be alarmed, let’s look into some of the personality traits discussed in this book.
Our first impressions are based on our personal constructs which determine our behaviour. It is easy to dismiss someone based on pre-conceived notions and this is just human nature. We filter people through our personal experience in the world, but these quick judgments aren’t objective. These are, what the author refers to as, personal constructs – a term that was first coined by psychologist George Kelly. Personal construct describes the complex emotional lens we view each person and everyone has a different perspective. These constructs determine how we behave and face challenges. For instance, the more limited one’s experience is in the world, the more limited their viewpoint which will make it harder for the individual to face and cope with difficult challenges and unexpected problems. A limited experience of the world will make it challenging for someone to enter the field of diplomacy. Regular exposure to new people, different lifestyles and societal norms is what makes the work of diplomacy rich for so many. In addition, if a friend is unable to move past their divorce, they may become bitter and pessimistic about humanity and will find it difficult to meet someone trustworthy based on their personal scale.
Little goes into detail about various personality types based on the Ten-Item Personality Inventory (TIPI) that is trusted by most psychologists. TIPI is based on the belief that everyone’s personality is based on the Big Five traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion.
In short, conscientiousness is the ability to stay organised and dedicated to goals. A person with this personality trait is likely to have academic and professional success, but will struggle to work in environments that are less structured, such as like in the music scene. Being able to improvise and bend the rules may be difficult, and therefore likely to be many diplomats with such personality trait.
The agreeableness trait refers to how pleasant, friendly, supportive and empathetic as person is. According to studies, individuals who fall under this personality trait tend to have slightly lower salaries due to difficulties in competitive and unfriendly environments.
Neuroticism refers to how someone perceives threats and dangers in terms of sensitivities. In more primal times, this personality trait made a lot of sense which helped individuals survive in dangerous environments. In our more modern age, this trait may lead to someone constantly triggering their levels of anxiety and depression due to a high level of sensitivity.
Openness measures how receptive someone is to new ideas, people and places, and is strongly connected to the arts and travel. The need to satisfy curiosity is a high priority and can branch outside of their comfort zone more easily than others.
Finally, extraversion refers to any other personalities that are already not covered. People with an extravert personality type value external realities over internal feelings.
According to the author, a person’s personality trait among the Big Five is likely to stay the same throughout one’s lifetime. However, there is one other personality type called ‘free traits’ which changes as a person gathers new experiences. These are determined by the sources of personality: biogenic, sociogenic and idiogenic.
Biogenic refers to factors rooted in our genes and brain structured which are hardwired from the start, even as early as babies. For example, if you turn towards a loud sound, this may indicate that you’re an extrovert. Whereas, introverts will turn away from the sound. Sociogenic personality sources are based on the environment that we grew up in. For example, East Asian children are taught to blend into social groups, whereas American children are raised to stand out of the crowd. Idiogenic sources, as the author notes, are the values concerns that people pursue in their daily lives, from the shopping choices they make to causes they contribute to. Free traits push us to do things that may seem out of character which may help us towards our goal or hinder our progress.
According to the author, psychologists have found that people who suppress certain aspects of their personality have health problem compared to those who stay true to themselves. Our behaviour also changes depending on whether we have a high self-monitor (HSM) or a low self-monitor (LSM). HSM is strongly influenced by social contexts such as being worried about what others think of you, or meeting certain expectations. By adapting to other people’s expectations, your personality trait changes and makes you more difficult to read. LSM, on the other hand, are less affected by the environment and remain firmly guided by one’s own traits, but this can lead to being seen as rigid.
This book goes into an amazing amount of detail that will help you determine that type of person you are, how you create to stress, and examine people. It is essential to keep a healthy balance of control, commitment and challenge, no matter what personality type you may fall into. How you deal with things are rooted to your personality and this is only the first step is truly knowing yourself.
“Me, Myself and I” is recommended for the purposes of the Diplomatic Planner. The Diplomatic Planner is a 12-month career development toolkit for diplomacy professionals looking to explore or grow their expertise in the field. Both books are available for purchase via Amazon. For further recommendations, insights, case studies and practical worksheets, please join the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy via: www.grassrootdiplomat.org/register