We cannot really understand someone until we go deeper

Personality is not simple.

The personality of a single person cannot be understood after one meeting — first impressions are rarely, if ever, accurate. Personality cannot be measured after a few spoken sentences or even a speech; it is created through a lifetime of experiences (nurture) and combined with disposition (nature).

 I am not using the general definition of personality here, which is defined as “the visible aspect of one’s character as it impresses others.” Instead, I am using the psychological definition: “the sum total of the physical, mental and social characteristics of an individual.”

Everyone who has taken a general psychology class should already know about the nature and nurture of personality, but do we practice this in our everyday lives? Understanding the disposition of the other can rarely be more important than in a college setting, where so many friendships are made.

Carl Jung, who was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, devoted much of his life to the understanding of human temperament or psychological types. To do so, he simply observed people relating to the world and others. Over time, he generated a theory on psychological types, which eventually led to his book, “Psychological Types,” in 1921.

The terms “introversion” and “extraversion” were popularized by Jung, largely in part from this book. Jung also observed two main perceiving functions: sensing and intuition, and two judging functions: thinking and feeling.  

Differing levels of these six terms: introversion, extraversion, sensing, intuition, thinking and feeling make up the core of an individual’s disposition, according to Jung. So if Jung could create a complete personality theory based off simple observations, how much easier should it be for us who only need to semi-understand a handful of people?

Not many of us are psychiatrists or psychotherapists, but we are someone’s friend, someone’s son or daughter or someone’s mom or dad. We owe it to the significant and insignificant people in our lives to understand both how we relate to them and how they relate to us.

There are probably few places better than a college campus to practice this. Instead of jumping in to correct a fellow classmate, countering someone’s opinion with a “better” opinion or snapping at someone because of their irritating behavior, take a second every now and then to reflect on the reasons for their behavior.

More importantly, reflect on your own behavior, because according to Jung’s autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”