Can People Change Their Behavior?

Can People Change Their Behavior?

One of the first questions asked by people receiving their Golden Personality Profiler results is “can’t people change their behavior and be both extraverted and Introverted or Rational and Empathetic?” The answer, from my experience and my study of normal personality is (which most people hate to hear), “yes and no”. Understanding why that is will help you and your clients understand this news better.

Carl Jung suggested that we all possess all behavioral capabilities within us. We have the complete range of behavior and through conscious and unconscious mechanisms we engage the world with all the potential faculties. Jung and Gordon Allport also tell us that we have preferred behaviors and approaches that we tend to rely and and develop from a very early age. We learn to trust these approaches and react with them when called up. When we are conscious about our behavior we can alter our behaviors and select behaviors that may not be natural. In this case, I like to think of these behavioral selections as “skilled” behaviors as opposed to “natural” behaviors. As an executive and life coach, I try to get my clients to develop these alternate behaviors. Life circumstances call for them. Some people are more capable than others at adapting and adopting new behaviors, but we all have the potential to develop them. As we age I think this process happens naturally to all of us. Allport called this capability to develop behaviors to the extent that skilled behaviors are indistinguishable from innate behaviors “Functional Autonomy”. Allport gave us all the hope that any behavior is possible if we work on it. I prefer to think of this as development as opposed to change. We all can develop, but we don’t change.

From a typological perspective each type has a range of adaptiveness. Each profile can change or develop within its own range. ENFAs have the broadest range of adaptiveness. I refer to the ENFA as “the chameleon.” They can adopt most any role for short periods of time, and they try many new activities and manifest many new behaviors. When they see a behavior they haven’t seen before they sometime copy the behavior without realizing they are doing so. On the downside ENFAs, if they stay with behaviors that are not their own long enough, can lose their own sense of self-identity and experience forms of depression. Marking changes in an ENFA’s behavior is a difficult task because they are always changing and rechanging.

Behavioral changes are easier to recognize in other personality profiles. Knowing how to observe and recognize change is critical to our role as professionals. Read on to the next blog entry for more in-depth discussion of how change in social behavior can signify brain dysfunction.

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