Personality—it’s not just one of the first things we notice when we meet someone new; it also shapes how we see the world and interact with one another. While there’s no shortage of ways to assess personality, from the psychological (Myers Briggs) to the pop culture (Hogwarts houses), a recent study found that people actually tend to fall into one of four personality types: average, reserved, role models, and self-centered. The scientists explain how they came to these conclusions, but basically, they break down to:
- Average: Average people score high in neuroticism and extraversion, but low in openness. This is the most common personality type. (Hence, “average.”)
- Reserved: Emotionally stable, but not particularly open nor neurotic. Also not super extraverted, but are somewhat agreeable and conscientious.
- Role models: Tend to be extraverted, open, agreeable, and conscientious, but not neurotic.
- Self-centered: Score very high in extraversion, but score low in openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. (Good news—the number of self-centered personality types decreases with age!)
Chances are your troop is made up of girls with a wide array of personalities, and these different personalities can have a big impact on troop dynamics. Take some time to understand what makes your girls tick—it’s not only instrumental to smooth troop meetings, but also helps foster each girl’s success. Not sure how to leverage and work with different personality types? Here are some ideas:
Find Out What Kind of G.I.R.L. They Are
Take the Girl Scout quiz with your girls to see if they’re a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, or leader! Remind them that the quiz is meant to be a fun activity and not an end-all-be-all diagnostic. Afterward, use their answers as a jumping off point to have a bigger discussion about how girls see themselves, how they think other people view them, and what they wish you as their troop leader knew about them. Their answers may surprise you.
Use Personality as a Guide, Not as a Label
Flip through any yearbook, and you’ll find a superlatives page—the students voted “Class Clown,” “Most Talkative,” or “Most Likely to Achieve.” But labels can be a self-fulfilling prophecy and can unintentionally pigeonhole some girls. For example, a girl who is constantly referred to as “the shy one” may internalize the idea that she’ll never learn to use her voice and speak up. Instead, we can reframe this as “needs some time to warm up to situations,” and then adapt to meet those needs.
One of the girls in our troop gets easily overwhelmed at large gatherings. Rather than concluding, “Oh, she won’t enjoy those types of events,” we let her know what the program entails, saying, “There’ll be quite a few other girls attending, but we’ll move through the stations together as a troop. If you feel like the noise is too much to handle, we can find a quiet corner to take a break. Does that sound like something you’d like to do?” This way, you’re showing your girl that you understand that while this isn’t necessarily her jam, you can work together to find a solution that makes her feel included.
Mix Up Your Activities
Be it a badge, Journey, or Take Action project, whatever it is you’re working on, try to have a blend of activities (cerebral, kinesthetic, etc.) to incorporate your girls’ preferred ways of engaging and learning. Personalities can shift depending on environment and circumstance, so giving your girls a variety of ways to participate can bring out different sides of themselves. You may find that the girl in your troop who doesn’t like to raise her hand during reflection time is the first to express herself through dance.
With these tips, it’s important to note that everyone is a product of their personal culture and society. Here in the United States, we give preference to extroversion and rugged individualism. In other cultures, those traits would be considered a huge character flaw. So when we find ourselves secretly wishing that some of our girls would be more intrepid or unflappable, we should ask ourselves why. Research shows that we, like birds of a feather, are more likely to prefer others with similar characteristics. This can cause us to be biased against difference, but being aware of this bias can help us see a situation more objectively.
And because personality, like mindset, can change and develop over time, it’s crucial that we let girls know that we’re willing to meet them where they are rather than where we wish they were. Ultimately, that’s our role as troop leaders—showing our girls that they can forge their own paths not in spite of who they are, but because of who they are.
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Daisy troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (and rescue dog, Neil!).