Table of Contents
- What Does It Mean to Have a Type A Personality?
- Who Developed the Type A and Type B Personality Model?
- What Are the Characteristics of a Type A Personality?
- Is Someone With a Type A Personality More Extroverted or Introverted?
- Differences Between a Type A and a Type B Personality
- Understanding Type C and Type D Personalities
- Physical and Mental Challenges of the Type A Personality Type
- How to Find Balance With a Type A Personality
Do you or someone you work with have a reputation for always showing up early or on time, being very prepared and organized, multitasking, and working tirelessly until every detail of a project is “perfect”? If so, you’ve experienced what it’s like for someone to have a strong Type A personality, which can be both beneficial and challenging in the workplace and in relationships.
Of the two main personality types, Type A and Type B, type A’s are more likely to be competitive, aggressive, routined, and very ambitious. Focused on achievement and success, people with Type A personalities often work hard to gain knowledge, power, praise, and resources.
Some Type A individuals are natural leaders, and many excel in careers that require dealing with high amounts of pressure and working one’s way up hierarchies. You’ll often find Type A’s working in careers such as investment banking, medicine, engineering, corporate law, the military, and entrepreneurship—all environments where they can put their competitive drive, high standards, logical approach, and attention to detail to use.
In this article, learn about the strengths and weaknesses associated with Type A personalities, plus ways that Type A individuals can find more balance to avoid becoming overly stressed, hostile, or burnt out.
- If you consider yourself to be diligent, reliable, perfectionistic, and driven, chances are you lean toward being Type A.
- Type A people are known for having a “no nonsense” approach to life and strong work ethics, giving them certain advantages in their careers.
- Highly sought-out Type A traits include working well in fast-paced, high-pressure environments, constantly innovating and improving, and being comfortable making quick and important decisions.
- On the other hand, Type A people can become anxious and stressed out when their expectations aren’t met or when they feel a situation is out of their control. They might also struggle to handle criticism, setbacks, and the unexpected.
- Managing expectations, practicing patience, and being more mindful and flexible go a long way in preventing Type A people from sabotaging their own happiness and success.
What Does It Mean to Have a Type A Personality?
Someone with a Type A personality is described as being highly motivated, driven, competitive, and achievement-oriented. Type A’s typically have a strong sense of time urgency, a fear of being unreliable or incompetent, and a desire to work hard to succeed.
There are both pros and cons associated with having a Type A personality. For example, being determined can lead to career success and wealth, but being perfectionistic and “wound up” can also contribute to stress. Here are just a few of the most prominent positive and negative traits associated with this personality type:
Positive Type A Traits
- Driven and ambitious
- Highly achievement-oriented
- Pays attention to detail
Negative Type A Traits
- Prone to stress and anxiety
- Easily frustrated
- May be rigid and inflexible
- At times, cold, critical, and unforgiving
- May be closed off to feedback or constructive criticism
Who Developed the Type A and Type B Personality Model?
The terms “Type A” and “Type B” personality were first introduced in the 1950s by two cardiologists, Dr. Meyer Friedman and Dr. Ray Rosenman, who were studying the links between personality, behavior, and risk for heart disease. They observed that people who were highly competitive, achievement-oriented, and impatient were more likely to develop heart disease due to stress. They categorized these individuals as having a “Type A” personality. Type A’s were contrasted with people who were more relaxed, easy-going, and had a less intense focus on achievement—categorized as “Type B’s.”
The Type A and Type B personality model has since gained widespread attention and been popularized in popular culture. However, the two personality types are not always applicable to every person and are questioned by some researchers. Generally speaking, people who are highly Type A or highly Type B are rare compared to people who possess a mix of both personality types.
What Are the Characteristics of a Type A Personality?
What is a Type A personality best known for? The most common Type A personality traits include:
- Driven: Type A’s are usually hardworking and persistent when in pursuit of their goals. They may feel like there is always something that needs to be done and that downtime or relaxation is a waste. They’re the employees who will work late and long hours, take on extra work, and seek out additional responsibilities.
- Focused on achievement: Most people who are Type A work hard to seek out recognition, control, power, and success. They appreciate praise and recognition for their accomplishments but can have a hard time with failure or receiving feedback.
- Detail-oriented: Type As are often highly organized, reliable, and efficient. For instance, they may have a strong sense of time urgency and a fear of being late. They also usually follow rules and processes carefully to avoid making mistakes. Overall, they’re focused on ensuring that their work is of high quality.
- Perfectionistic: A hallmark trait of a Type A personality is being perfectionistic and rigid. This can lead to success in school and at work, but it also contributes to Type A’s feeling stressed and anxious in situations where things are not under their control. At work, Type A’s may be focused on meeting deadlines but might become uncomfortable with uncertainty or ambiguity, since this makes it hard to know what “perfection” in a situation looks like.
- Impatient: Type A people have a tendency to be impatient and easily frustrated with delays or others who work at a slower pace. They might “work around the clock” to get things done quickly and thoroughly and rush from one task to another.
- Aggressive or hostile: Because being successful is so important to Type A people, they can become angry and aggressive when someone or something stands in their way. They may not like being told “no” or criticized, which undermines their abilities and can sometimes cause emotional outbursts. Type A’s may get especially frustrated when things don’t go as planned, when their work and worth aren’t recognized, or when they feel that others are not meeting their expectations.
- Competitive: Type A’s like to win and beat out the competition. They’re highly focused on outperforming their peers and willing to work hard to climb the ladder of success and to prove themselves to other people, both at work and in their personal lives.
- Sometimes self-absorbed: In order to achieve a lot in life, people with Type A personalities can sometimes be selfish and unaware of how they affect others. For example, many Type A’s are highly involved in their careers, which might interfere with their personal lives. In general, being highly focused on their own goals and ambitions can lead Type A’s to fail to consider the needs and feelings of others. However, this is not true for all people with Type A personalities.
- Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships: People with Type A personalities may have a hard time forming and maintaining relationships, as their drive for achievement and competitiveness may make them appear cold, aloof, or unapproachable. They also have high standards for themselves and others, making them “hard to please.”
Is Someone With a Type A Personality More Extroverted or Introverted?
Many psychologists believe that someone’s personality is made up of five primary traits:
- Extroversion vs. introversion
Being Type A doesn’t necessarily make someone either extroverted or introverted. It’s possible to be Type A and either be extroverted or introverted. However, Type A personalities are linked to other characteristics such as having a higher degree of neuroticism, being very conscientious, and not being very agreeable or open.
Extroverts are typically described as outgoing, energetic, sociable, and comfortable being the center of attention. Some people with Type A personalities may exhibit extroverted tendencies, as they enjoy being in competitive and high-achieving environments, which often involve socializing or public speaking.
Statistically, most Type A’s and Type B’s are considered ambiverts, or those who exhibit both introverted and extroverted tendencies. According to Barry Smith, a professor of human psychophysiology, “Ambiverts make up 68 percent of the population.”
Ambiverts can switch between being highly competitive and focused to more relaxed and easy-going, meaning they may be good at balancing Type A and B behaviors.
On the other hand, if someone displays extreme behaviors that are very extroverted and then very introverted, which may happen with some Type A’s, this is called being an omnivert.
Differences Between a Type A and a Type B Personality
A “Type B personality” refers to a personality that is typically more relaxed, flexible, adaptive, and easy-going, compared to a Type A personality. Because Type B’s are more laid-back, they’re often less prone to stress and anxiety than Type A’s. However, Type B’s may be more inclined to procrastinate, overlook details, be taken advantage of, or be viewed as “lazy.”
Some common traits associated with a Type B personality include:
- A relaxed and easy-going demeanor.
- Being patient and not easily frustrated.
- Being less competitive and achievement-oriented.
- Taking a more laid-back approach to life and not feeling a strong sense of time urgency.
- Being more adaptable and flexible in their thinking and behavior.
- Being less critical of themselves and others.
- Being more content and satisfied with their life.
Understanding Type C and Type D Personalities
Type C Personality
Aside from Type A and B personalities, there are also Type C and D people. Type C’s are those who are detail-oriented, passive, patient, and have a strong need to be rational and accurate.
Some consider Type C’s to be “people pleasers” as they struggle to voice their opinions and needs, instead choosing to be stoic and keep quiet to “keep the peace.” Those who are Type C’s may suppress negative emotions, avoid conflict or tough situations, and take criticism very personally. In some ways, being Type C means having negative qualities of both Type A and B personalities, such as caring a lot about others’ opinions, appearing unemotional, and not setting boundaries easily.
Type D Personality
Type D people are those who experience a lot of strong, negative emotions, but also feel the need to conceal their emotions, leading to maladaptive coping mechanisms. One review published in Health and Quality Life Outcomes found that having a Type D personality is a risk factor for psychological distress that affects one’s mental and physical health. Because Type D’s are prone to emotions such as helplessness and loneliness, plus they are socially inhibited, being Type D can lead to anxiety, depression, work-related problems, and dysfunctional relationships.
While grouping the population into personality types makes it easier to understand others’ tendencies, in reality, personality is a complex and multi-faceted construct. Experts think of personality traits as occurring along a continuum. This means most people don’t neatly fit into the Type A, Type B, Type C, or Type D groups, but rather have characteristics of all of them.
Physical and Mental Challenges of the Type A Personality Type
Due to their tendency toward perfectionism, strong drive for achievement, and need for control, Type A’s can be prone to feeling anxious and stressed. Their competitive nature, constant rushing, and tendency to be highly organized and efficient can contribute to struggles such as feeling the need to always be doing something and seeking out “bigger, better, and more.” This makes it hard for some Type A’s to relax, be present, and appreciate what they already have.
Mental and emotional challenges that someone with a Type A personality may experience:
- Dealing with a lot of stress: Stress can impact many aspects of someone’s life, including their relationships, behaviors at work, family responsibilities, and health.
- Feeling impatient: A lack of patience can create anxiety and lead to conflict with other people. For example, being late can increase stress levels, or someone taking too long to complete a project can cause anger.
- Easily getting frustrated: A rigid attitude is another contributor to conflicts, anger, and blame.
- Having unrealistically high expectations: Type A’s may expect too much of themselves and others. Expecting perfection in all situations makes someone bound to feel disappointed.
- Fearful of disapproval and rejection: Being perfectionistic can make Type A’s feel like they’re coming up short and “dropping the ball” in certain situations, resulting in insecurity.
Physical manifestations of stress that someone who is Type A might deal with:
- Struggling with their mental health: Type A’s who can’t find balance in their thoughts and behaviors may deal with ongoing anxiety and depression, sometimes contributing to issues such as substance abuse.
- Having a higher risk for heart disease: Dating back to the 1980s, certain studies have found that Type A people are at greater risk for experiencing hypertension/high blood pressure and coronary heart disease due to the extra stress they incur.
The Framingham Heart Study and the Western Collaborative Group Study both found evidence that people with mostly Type A tendencies are more likely to develop heart disease than Type B.
A study published in Atherosclerosis uncovered that Type A people are susceptible to developing premature coronary heart disease, which some experts believe is due to their “maladaptive coping strategies” and struggles with inner anguish, agitation, and sense of pressure.
On the other hand, one study published in Diabetes and Metabolism found that Type A people have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to being more likely to stick to a healthy diet.
How to Find Balance With a Type A Personality
Having a Type A personality isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering there are many positive traits of being Type A, such as being diligent, having a lot of ambition, and paying attention to deadlines and details. That said, if your personality type often makes you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or drained, it’s important to find balance. For instance, people with strong Type A personalities can benefit from learning to manage stress better, tapping into their creativity, and being more adaptive and flexible (all typical Type B traits).
No set of behaviors is necessarily permanent. Therefore, it’s possible to change certain aspects of a Type A personality. With effort and help, each of us has the ability to mold our personalities, outlook, and actions so that they’re better in line with our values and goals.
Balancing Type A and B personality traits can be a challenging but rewarding process. Here are some steps that can help:
- Recognize and acknowledge your tendencies: Understanding and being aware of your natural tendencies and behaviors is the first step in finding balance. Use self-reflection to gain self-awareness in order to find areas where you can afford to improve. Take time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how they contribute to your stress levels, such as by journaling, reading, or talking to a therapist or friend. You can also use personality tests to uncover your strengths and weaknesses.
- Find healthy ways to manage stress: Engage in activities that help you purposefully slow down and relax. These can include exercise, mindfulness meditation, and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, spending time in nature, walking outside, “grounding,” or gardening. Set realistic boundaries for work versus personal time. Stick to a regular schedule as much as possible, this way, you make sure to carve out time for family, friends, leisure activities, and simply resting.
- Cultivate a flexible, growth mindset: Keep an open mind when someone provides you with feedback in a respectful way. Don’t assume others are trying to bring you down or outshine you. Instead of viewing challenges as threats, try to see them as opportunities for growth and learning. Adapt to new situations, keep an open mind, and embrace change instead of rigidly sticking to your usual routines.
- Learn to be present: Practice being mindful and present in the moment rather than rushing to the next task or event. When you’re doing something, focus on the moment, listen to others, and pay attention. Try to avoid worrying about what needs to be done next.
Want to learn more about the negative aspects of perfectionism and how to be more flexible? Check out this article: “Perfectionism: Why You Have It (And How to Fix It).”
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