There are many psychological tests to identify a man or woman’s personality. The Myers-Briggs test is the most recognized that I know. At the Adizes Institute, we have the MSI (Management Style Indicator).

Over the years, I have wondered if there was anything like the “eye ball” method that is sometimes employed informally by people. The “eye ball” method is when you skip the research, no tests, just use a fast and dirty way of determining the personality style of someone. I wondered if there was one to determine if a person is a P, A, E or I (I assume the readers of my blog know my PAEI theory.)

The most difficult personalities to classify are often those we know best. Analyzing their style turns out to be more complicated than expected. The one that is the most difficult to classify is ourselves, the one we supposedly know the best. This runs contrary to what appears logical.  Why is it true though?

When you think about it, this phenomenon should not be surprising. After all, when we know people over a long period, we see him or her in multiple and changing situations in which they exhibit a number of different styles; as the situation changes the style can change too.  Thus the difficulty to categorize clearly.

I have been searching for a short cut to identifying a particular style for some time now.  A way to categorize a style, to identify their core, independent of the situation or stimuli. I think I have found it in the Jewish Book of the Sages, which says you know a person by kiso, koso and kaaso which means: by the way they spend money, the way they drink (alcohol) and the way they behave when they are angry.

This made a great deal of sense to me.

Each of the P, A, E, I styles has a typical back-up behavior; it comes into play when anger takes over. Just watch when someone you know turns angry, and you will know their style. This will enable you to predict how they will behave when their anger recedes as well.

The (P) becomes a little dictator. Short tempered. Will not waste time. Will just order you around. He will give you no chance to argue back, to explain. Nothing. Just do as you are told and that is all.

The (A) will freeze, lock his or her jaw and say nothing. Probably gaze at you with semi closed-eyes and refuse to talk or relate, at least at that moment.

The (E) is the dangerous one. He or she will attack, demean, tear you down….and then forget it all the next day and relate to you as though nothing happened. (The (A) on the other hand never forgets and will remind you of your behavior for years to come.)

The (I) yields and tries to avoid confrontation and will say something like “Oh, never mind – it is ok,” without really meaning it.

Just watch people get angry, and you can tell their personality style.

Complexity arises because people are not pure P, A, E or I. Instead they act out a mixture of angry responses.

The most frequent responses I have encountered are combinations of the PE and AI styles.

The PE will attack AND order you around.

The AI will retreat, freeze and give you the impression that he or she is ok with what happened.  But in reality they are recording everything in their “diary” and will never forget whatever it is you did that offended them.

The AE combination (that is me I think) retreats and freezes when the confrontation occurs (that is the A in me).  But then later on after some time I angrily lash back and attack (the E coming out); it is a postponed reaction and the person I attack often does not understand why he is suddenly being criticized. What happened?

The PI combination is something else altogether. He orders you around, but in a manipulative way. He or she is nice, but you can feel the aggression in the room, and usually in their body language as well.

To know people well, you have to be present and conscious and have no agenda of your own so you can evaluate them clearly.  The “eye ball” system relies on intuition and forces you to really feel the person you are evaluating.  In a test you do not make an effort to feel the person, to sense intuitively who they are; you just “brand“ or label them. You do not actually know them.

Tests give precise results. But they may be precisely wrong when intuition is only approximately right….

Just thinking.

Ichak Kalderon Adizes