How to spot someone’s personality type

Is it possible to tell?

How to spot someone’s personality type

We often see people posting questions online, trying to figure out someone’s personality type: “help me ‘type’ my boss/parent/fiancé/friend,” so is it possible to tell?

It is to some extent but it’s in the subtle things. We can’t make any assumptions based on things like their job, the way they dress, or their hobbies. We’ve heard it said about business leaders that: “they’re great with the team so they must be an extravert,” not understanding that it’s something that takes such effort and energy for someone who is actually very introverted. Also, people excel at different aspects and draw different things from the same activities. For example, take a team sport like soccer, an ENTP might enjoy the competitiveness and the chance to shine, an ISTJ might enjoy the discipline of the training and execution of the tactics to win, an ESFP might love the camaraderie of the team and drama of the match. So we can’t really infer anything from someone’s love of soccer.

There is also the issue that some people have more well-developed lesser preferences and so because someone projects more comfortable in some situations, it doesn't follow that's their primary preference, so it is more complex. However, there's no doubt there are some hidden clues that are worth exploring.

So what clues can we look for to help us work out someone’s type? It helps to look through the lens of each of the dichotomies: Extravert v Introvert, Sensing v Intuitive, Thinking v Feeling, Judging v Perceiving.


Extraversion v Introversion


This isn’t about how friendly, outgoing or social someone is, versus are they a shy bookworm. There are plenty of friendly, sociable introverts and plenty of shy, unfriendly extraverts out there! This is about where they draw their energy. Here are things to look for to help determine whether someone is extroverted or introverted:


  • - Get energised with action, people, situations. They like the buzz of being where the action is and will seek out or create it.
  • - Speak their thoughts out. This can be anything from their views on current affairs to a running update on their current task! They will often just ‘extravert’ what’s in their heads. If they say “Where’s my... oh there it is!” they are probably an extravert!
  • - Fill gaps in the conversations. They don’t like too much space, they prefer to keep the momentum of the conversation up, and are happy for it to bounce around.


  • - Get energised by time to themselves. They need ‘me time’ to reflect, process their thoughts and do quiet activities that give them energy.
  • - Think first, then speak. They prefer to thoughtfully consider the topic, then speak out their conclusions, and can then be very vocal.
  • - Comfortable with pauses and silences in the conversation. They can seem to withdraw from the conversation while they gather their thoughts.


Sensing vs Intuitive


This is how we prefer to take in information. You can often spot S v N in the language people use. Is it more concrete, tangible, specific (S) or broad-brush and impressionistic (N)?


  • - Grounded. Prefer to talk about the specific realities. What, when, where, why, how?
  • - Focused more on the here and now.
  • - Like to take things a step at a time.

Example: How was your day:

“Well, I got to the office at 8:30, which is 10 minutes later than usual, because the traffic lights at the top of the bypass weren’t working and there was a queue. Anyway.. then I had my first meeting with Steven about the new project….”


  • - Conceptual. Prefer to talk about ideas, possibilities. What could be? Imagine if! I wonder…
  • - Focused more on the future.
  • - Need to see the bigger picture, what’s the end game?

Example: How was your day:

“Pretty good actually. You know that project I was talking to you about? The one where we’re working with that new tech company? Well, we made some really good progress on that today!”


Thinking v Feeling


This is how we make our decisions. Thinking types focus on the logic of the decision, drawing on evidence and facts, while Feeling types will focus the impact on people, factoring in their values and people’s feelings.

Thinking types:

  • - Rational. Focus on the logic of the situation, matter of fact.
  • - Analytical. Do not see, or cannot be swayed by feelings or emotional issues.
  • - Can seem a little cold, focused on the problem not the person.

Example: I am so sorry, my car has broken down and I am not going to make it into work today:

“I am sorry to hear that. Have you phoned the breakdown assistance company? What did they say? Will you be able to get it fixed by tomorrow? If not I can ask Geoff to pick you up.”

Feeling types:

  • - Empathetic. Focus on the people impact, how will people feel?
  • - Driven by values, which can be subjective and hidden.
  • - Can be willing overlook the hard facts of the situation to maintain harmony.

Example: I am so sorry, my car has broken down and I am not going to make it into work today:

“Oh no! Poor you! Are you ok? What a rubbish start to the day! What happened? Are you alright? Please don’t worry, we can look after things here.”


Judging vs Perceiving


This is how someone likes to operate. In very short-hand terms, are they a planner or do they like to keep their options open?

Judging types:

  • - Feel better when it’s all decided and settled, they know what the plan is.
  • - Make lists, plans, like to be prepared.
  • - Don't like it when plans change, can be inflexible.

Example: What shall we do this weekend?

“Well, I need mow the grass and go shopping on Saturday morning. And then I am meeting Jane for a coffee. I saw this new restaurant has opened and I thought you and I could go there for dinner? Let me show you their website.”

Perceiving types:

  • - Feel better with the freedom of keeping their options open.
  • - Like to be spontaneous.
  • - Don’t like to be too planned, but can come unstuck relying on winging it.

Example: What shall we do this weekend?

“Let’s just see how we feel, shall we?”

It’s worth remembering that we each have all 8 elements to our personality, and we use them at different times, some are just more natural than others. We’ve found that with people you are closer to, you may see more dimensions to them than might generally be the case, so it can be harder to assess their preferences. What are they generally like? What is their ‘go to’ approach?


To find out for sure, you can create a free team map. Discover your and their personality types and compare your profiles to really understand the dynamics at play.

Create a Team Personality Map