Recognising the Type A personality

I recently came across this blog about understanding the Type A personality by Elizabeth Scott, a prolific blogger and author on Stress Management.

According to the blog there are four behavioural characteristics of Type A Behaviour.

Time Urgency and Impatience

Free-Floating Hostility or Aggressiveness


Strong Achievement-Orientation

In addition the blog says there four physical characteristics that often accompany TAB:

Facial Tension (Tight Lips, Clenched Jaw, Etc.)

Tongue Clicking or Teeth Grinding

Dark Circles Under Eyes

Facial Sweating (On Forehead or Upper Lip)

If you look at the first list and know the Humm-Wadsworth components you quickly realise the congruency between a Type A personality and the Politician or P component. High Ps are driven by the desire to win and are competitive, assertive and impatient. However recognising a Type A as described in the blog is fraught with issues. To use physical characteristics as suggested in the blog is really risky. Constitutional psychology developed in the 1940s, which held that the size and shape of a person’s body indicated intelligence, moral worth and future achievement has been discredited. Dark Circles under the eyes can simply be due to fatigue or aging. Facial sweating can be caused by being hot or nervous. Teeth grinding can be due to crooked teeth or sleep apnoea.

However there are more useful clues that can be used to recognise Type A people and they can be summed up by the acronym TOPDOG which stands for Talk-Organisation-Position-Dress-Office-Gambit. This is a simple framework you use when you first meet someone. First, Talk. What a person says and how it is said are major clues to a person’s temperament. Typically Type A/Politicians are egotistic and refer themselves constantly. “I did this, I like that, etc.” They suffer from I-strain. They are good with words and articulate and use audio words like listen and hear.

“What do you do for a living?” would have to be one of the most common conversation starters — and with justification, for the decisions a person makes about the career and organisation can be very revealing about his or her personality. Working at a McDonald’s is very different from working at a bank, which is different again from a firm of lawyers. Even within an industry there can be major differences in the corporate personality and, on the whole, people will tend to work for an organisation that fits their personality. How do you work out the personality of an organisation? Simple, you just need to look at the cover of the annual report, which for many organisations is on their website, typically under investor relations. Type A people like to work in large organisations, particularly those where the employees wear uniforms.

Next consider the position of the person you are going to meet. If the position requires the holder to make decisions, be a team leader and be persuasive it likely that person is a Type A/Politician. Most managers have a high P component.

Dress and general appearance are key signals of the personality. Shakespeare said, “The apparel oft proclaims the man” or, the modern equivalent, “I dress to make a statement about myself”. The dress of the Politician is conservative and blue is their favourite colour. Maggie Thatcher always wore a blue dress, conservative politicians nearly always wear blue ties.

It is the offices of the aggressive, assertive people which give them away. It is often in the most dominant position in the building and larger than the surrounding offices. Even if the offices are the same size you will see status symbols such as name plates, degrees and certificates on the walls, pictures with famous people and the desk in a dominant position.

Finally, consider the gambit. I have taken this term from the game of chess, where it is used to describe the opening moves. In a similar fashion someone may keep you waiting for a meeting or they might be punctual. I agree that Type A people are impatient and hate to wait in lines. They hate wasting their own time but are indifferent to wasting the time of others. Consequently they are generally the last to arrive at a meeting. Another clue is how soon he or she first uses your first name. Type A/Politicians are typically late, do not apologise, and then will address you formally and take some time before using your given name. They are working out your status. Another clue is their business cards. Just as their offices are festooned with qualifications, so are their business cards.


Chris Golis

23 Nov,2017
Hi Peter Yes I agree, 'Type A" personalities are high Politicans with low Normal. The A in "Type A" has nothing to do with the Artist component. Cheers

Peter Chamberlain

23 Nov,2017
Very interesting summation of the P competent Chris, however it would appear to my lay understanding of Humm , that Ms Scott’s A type personality would be considerate to be a relatively ‘uncontrolled’ P..?

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