As humans, we like to put things into groups: clean socks or dirty socks; red wine, white wine, or rosé; movies with or without Jason Momoa. This helps us make sense of the world around us, assigning categories as shortcuts for our brain. This is also a technique we apply to other people — specifically, their personality. You’ve probably heard someone referred to as a “Type A” or having a “type A personality,” often with a negative connotation. Maybe they were even referring to you.
If this is your character type, It’s nice to know, you are not alone. Actually, when it comes to workplace culture, this is the character many employers prefer. However, it is important to manage your stress and work load in a healthy manner. Type A people are go-getters and they don’t stop until the job is done. But maximum efficiency is a double-edged sword and usually comes at a small price. We’ve done the research and found several ways for you to be the best type A personality you can be.
But what is a type A personality, anyway? Here’s what you need to know about the definition of a type A personality, and some of the most common traits.
What is a type A personality?
The theory that people have either a type A or type B personality has been around since the 1950s. Two cardiologists — Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman — were looking at personality factors that may contribute to the risk of heart attacks and heart disease. They found that people with what they deemed “type A” personalities — who had a tendency to be competitive, driven, hurried, and easily angered — had a much higher risk of cardiovascular problems than those with the more laid-back “type B” personalities. Of course, Friedman and Rosenman only conducted their research on a sample of middle-aged men, and there are a number of other factors that contribute to heart disease (genetics and socioeconomic factors, among others), but their personality groupings — particularly in the form of labeling someone a “type A” — have stuck around since.
What are the traits of a type A personality?
- having a tendency to multitask
- being competitive
- being aggressive or having a “short fuse”
- having a need for dominance
- having a lot of ambition
- being very organized
- disliking wasting time
- deriving much of their self-worth from what they are able to achieve
- feeling impatient or irritated when delayed
- spending much of your time focused on work
- being highly focused on your goals
- being more likely to experience stress when faced with delays or other challenges that affect success
- being prone to criticizing themselves, especially if they had to leave something undone or feel you didn’t do a good job
In case it helps to hear a bit about the flip side, here are some common traits of type B personalities:
- spending a lot of time on creative pursuits or philosophical thought
- feeling less rushed when completing assignments or tasks for work or school
- not feeling stressed when you can’t get to everything on your to-do list
And given that people with type A personalities were originally grouped together because of higher risk of heart disease, here are a few physical traits that they may experience as a result of stress:
- Facial tension (tight lips, clenched jaw, etc.)
- Tongue clicking or teeth grinding
- Dark circles under eyes
- Facial sweating (on forehead or upper lip)
What are the cons of a Type A personality?
Having a type A personality can sometimes cause a lot of stress. You may be able to juggle and complete multiple tasks but it can taxing, even if you are efficient. A type A person may feel the need to keep working until all the work is completed and although this may help them get employee of the month, it can run a person down. It can have an unhealthy effect on your physical and emotional health if left unmanaged. Some type A people may also have short tempers. When they feel slowed down or that their workflow is being impaired, they can become quite irritated, which is also a form of unhealthy stress management.
What are some ways for type A personalities to deal with stress?
We should also point out that there is no “good” or “bad” personality types: it all comes down to how you deal with challenges and stressors that come your way. People with type A personalities can help to control (and ideally minimize) their stress levels using strategies including:
- Finding their stress triggers, and minimizing exposure as much as possible
- Taking breaks during periods of stress
- Making time for exercise
- Practicing self-care
- Learning (and then using) new relaxation techniques
If your stress has gotten to the point of causing high levels of anxiety or depression or otherwise being disruptive to your life or health, then it may be a good idea to make an appointment with a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional.
How can you deal with Type A personalities?
We’ve all come across this kind of perfectionist, ambitious, and dominant personality at school, work, or in our lives and wondered: how on earth do you get along with a Type A personality? Is it even possible?
According to Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D., yes it is. Writing for Psychology Today, Whitebourne says Type A personalities might actually make for fantastic partners and friends as long as their pursuit of perfection is focused on themselves and not others. Need an organized partner who can handle things when shit hits the fan? You want a Type A in your life. (Best example of this is Miranda Hobbes in the first Sex And The City movie. Her BFF Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding/life was falling apart and she handled wedding cancellations, honeymoon flights, and got Carrie her beloved apartment back all before Mr. Big could get his head on straight.)
Another point Whitebourne makes: “It’s also possible to argue that a person obsessed with achieving perfection could also be obsessed with becoming the perfect relationship partner.”
Famous Type A personalities in pop culture
— Miranda Hobbes, Sex and the City
— Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
— Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada
— Olivia Pope, Scandal
— Amy Santiago, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
— Hermione Granger, Harry Potter
— Javert, Les Misérables
— Monica Gellar, Friends
— Tony Soprano, The Sopranos
— Batman, Batman
— Amy Brookheimer, Veep
— Jane Villanueva, Jane The Virgin
— Helen, Bridesmaids
— Belle, Beauty and the Beast
— Heisenberg (Not Walter White), Breaking Bad
— Joan Harris, Mad Men
— Captain Kirk, Star Trek
— Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld
— Reuben Feffer, Along Came Polly
— Sebastian, Cruel intentions
— Steve Jobs, Jobs
— Sebastian, The Little Mermaid
— Lilo, Lilo and Stitch
— Gabriella Montez, High School Musical
— Professor X, X-Men
— Will Hunting, Good Will Hunting
— Greg Focker, Meet The Parents
— Carolyn, American Beauty
— The Moonrise Kingdom, (There isn’t one specific character we think is type A, but the movie itself is a neat film that was created with symmetry and perfectionism in mind.)