Chances are you’ve been labelled as a certain personality type in your life. You might have been called an extrovert or an introvert, or found out you’re an INTJ using the Myers-Briggs Indicator.
One of the most common personality designations is whether you’re a type A, B, C or D. They are fairly useful indicators for the kind of person you are, according to psychologist Perpetua Neo, but it might not be clear-cut whether you’re one or the other.
“I think for most people it tends to be one thing and then a little bit of another thing,” she told INSIDER. “I think with most personality type skills, you tend to have a distinct one and then something else that kind of influences it.”
Some people find labels stigmatising, while for others it’s a revelation because they find something that describes their life.
“Like a clinician or a doctor, we say we know the patterns, so this is how I can treat you and tailor it to you,” Neo said. “So personally I think the labels can be extremely helpful, because they help us understand who we are and our experiences.”
Here’s what separates the four personality types according to Neo, and what their strengths and weaknesses are:
Type A — The go-getter
“Type A tends to be a go-getter,” said Neo. “They tend to be quite impatient. Time is an important resource, so type A people tend to get overbooked, and overstretched.”
They have very high standards, and are extremely competitive. They love to set goals, and achieve as many as possible. And they’re always willing to set them for other people, and solve problems.
“Because they are quite rational and organised, they tend to think in terms of flow charts and KPIs and contingency plans,” said Neo. “But it’s not about being paralysed when things don’t go right. When things do go right, type A people still don’t think it’s good enough.”
Essentially they are highly competitive, driven people, but they can sometimes appear aggressive because they don’t say the right things.
Type A strengths
Type As are the kind of people you know you can rely on to inspire you, because they’re not afraid of pushing boundaries and exploring outside of their comfort zone.
“They don’t ask for permission, they ask for forgiveness instead,” said Neo. “Because there are a lot of things in life that require some kind of mindset, and sometimes if you ask for permission, nothing is going to happen – you have to make it happen yourself.”
Type A people can be highly inspiring in that way, because they can help you reach your goals, and achieve things you didn’t know you were capable of.
“They can get you connected to other people, or they can just make your life a lot more exciting,” Neo said.
Type B — The calming influence
“Type B people tend to be a lot more peaceful,” said Neo. “I’m not talking about the people who seem peaceful but are actually very chaotic – I’m talking about people who are actually generally at peace, very grounded.”
They give of a sense that’s warm and fuzzy, and people tend to like being around them because they’re not quick to anger.
So they may not be like a type A person who is an overachiever, Neo said, but with a type B person: “you look at them and you think that’s quite an admirable kind of life, or way of living.”
Type B strengths
People like to be around type Bs because it takes a lot for them to get frustrated, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever push their buttons.
“They tend to be very social, and always know the right things to say,” said Neo. “I’m sure you can think of people like that, who somehow, in spite of everything, have their feet on their ground.”
Because they are highly sensitive, they know how to read other people’s emotions and understand how they should be there for their friends. And, just as importantly, they know how to be there for themselves.
“If you’re in a state of frantic, and think ‘who can I channel?’ It would be your type Bs,” said Neo. “Just being around them feels like this little bubble where it’s like an energetic retreat.”
Type C — The perfectionist
Type Cs are easily confused with type As, Neo said, because they are perfectionists.
“But the difference is your type Cs sometimes get bogged down in tiny details,” she said. “Almost to the point of being over technical. And also, they are more reserved in interactions compared to a type A person.”
Type C people like routines, and having a set lifestyle. So much so that they feel uncomfortable if anything disrupts it. Neo said they can sometimes be confused with introverts too, but only because they like time alone.
“Introverts can enjoy social company, and can also be extremely ambitious, but type C is more ‘stay away from me most of the time,'” she said. “‘I don’t need amazing crazy achievements in my life but I want this stability,’ – so it’s almost like an obsession with stability.”
Type C strengths
Type C people are the kind of people who make great scientists, accountants, and even pilots to some extent – they’re very organised and you know you can rely on them in the face of danger.
They’re also great in an emergency, Neo said, because they’re the kind of people who know where all the exits are. If you’re on a night out with friends, and some of them drink a little too much, it’s the type Cs you want around to take care of them.
“The people you know will always have your back and you know they’re not going to get neurotic about the situation,” she said. “So that’s the kind of awesomeness about type C.”
Type D — The existential ones
“Then you get type D, which is an unfortunate name because it’s a depressive personality type,” said Neo.
They seem like type Bs on the surface, because they’re peaceful on the outside, and can be really warm. But type Ds can also be very isolated, Neo said, and feel lonely a lot of the time.
“If you look at them, they are like a lake,” she said. “They will be placid, everything seems great, but under the surface there’s lots of Loch Ness monsters cavorting merrily.”
They might not be aware of their emotional troubles, or they might justify them away in their mind. But type Ds can be incredibly sensitive.
“Bs are sensitive to other people’s emotions, but D tends to be a lot more introspective,” Neo said. “So they might interpret everything as a personal attack. They’re anxious and isolated internally, I would say, even if they don’t appear to be isolated externally.”
Type D strengths
Being existential and emotional isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Neo said rather than looking through dark-tinted glasses, it’s looking at life with your rose-tinted glasses taken off.
“Most of us, we’re actually pretty unrealistic about life, as a protective mechanism,” she said. “But when you get realistic about life, then maybe sometimes this is a good thing. It makes you wiser and more reflective.”
Existential philosophers who changed the world probably weren’t eternally happy people, she said, but they also shaped cultural conversations, and helped people understand who they really are.
“So the whole wisdom and insight comes from being able to understand your own sense of insecurity, or from learning to accept yourself as a type D,” she said. “It can actually be a very powerful thing that inspires fellow type Ds or fellow types of people, because people can actually draw strength from it.”
Type D people are always looking for security, because they know how bad things can get. That makes them resilient, great at giving advice, and the kind of people who will never give up.
“This means they can be this source of wisdom and support for friends in a way that perhaps your type Bs can’t be,” Neo said. “Because as much as type Bs are calm, they might not have this sense of wisdom because they haven’t been through that thing. Sometimes you need to walk through fire before you can understand how hot it is.”
Whether you’re A, B, C or D, you should embrace who you are
Our differences can sometimes make us feel isolated. Neo said in society we tend to punish diversity, whether you’re a night owl, neurotic, a bit of a hermit, or something else.
“The whole concept of that is you need to be neurotypical,” she said. “But obviously we are all neurodiverse, whether we’re talking about ADHD, or introversion, or Asperger’s, or whatever else.”
While it might be hard to lump yourself into one group completely, if you can find characteristics in personality types that you identify with, that’s a good thing, according to Neo.
“There’s a concept of neurotribe,” she said. “Like, this is your tribe and you’re not alone. So there’s this group of people you can look to, to work out who you really are.”