Making Sense of it!
How often have you come across a situation when suddenly, multiple pairs of eyes follow the presence of a complete stranger (a stranger is used here, as s/he elicits the maximum ‘wow’ affect). If by the grace of God, or the person’s self-motivation, or the hard work of some grooming class, the entire effect is net positive, you shall definitely hear someone express her sentiment – What a Personality! We all have been witness to situations which aid in firmly associating the use of the term ‘personality’ with a generic sense of well-being and good looks, presentable enough to stand out from others. And thus gets entrenched in the minds of the ‘common man’ that a personality is something that only the thoroughly blessed possess. Children of a lesser God aren’t destined to be complimented with a nice personality. What a waste indeed!
Sometimes, we add to the expression, using adjectives such as pleasant, charming, positive, attractive and the likes. We are not totally off the mark, as humans have an evolutionary penchant for heuristics….anything that can lessen an effort. In other words, do less work. Thus, the expression – Attractive Personality is a sum total of the assessment of a person, based on visible parameters – looks, mannerisms, body language, attire and body structure, and what not. Is this ‘sum of totals’ wrong? Let’s explore further…
I. The smallest sentence. The most complex of creations. The sum total of our experiences and learning determine how and what we think and act. This response is almost pre-meditated and is consistent across situations. Personality thus is an individual’s consistent response to a situation. The situation and the response are both manifested at the physiological and sociological level. Let us decipher this with an illustration.
Mr. X is an extrovert. The moment you read the word ‘extrovert’ I bet you could see a man who is confident, outspoken, not at all timid or shy and one who can easily talk to strangers. Mr.X is traveling to meet his cousin. En route (in the train) he catches easy banter withi his fellow passengers (strangers), to the extent that they all end up exchanging telephone numbers and promises of catching up on each other the next time they are in town (though that never happens!).
Mr. X reaches his cousin’s house. The cousin has to attend a party in the evening and asks Mr. X to come along. What according to you would be our guy’s response? Yups, Mr.X would be glad to go. Why should he refuse? He is an extrovert. Isn’t that what extroverts do? Talk to strangers, make friends easily, talk on any topic for hours with complete strangers…..these are behavioral patterns that we associate with an extroverted PERSONALITY.
Notice how both situations are similar? Mr. X is pitched into the arena, with total strangers around him. And his response? Consistent. Adaptation to the situation, manipulating the events to his advantage. And by the way, he did not do all these because he is an extrovert. He is an extrovert because of his consistent behavioral responses to similar environments.
Why is it then that personality is so very important to marketing? Because, what we do is totally in sync with the way we intend to behave in situations that confront us. Self-imagery works at the conscious as well as the sub-conscious level. Our choice of product categories, brands, shopping outlets or belief systems and attitudes – are influenced by and in turn determine the way we would like to behave overtly. And when we acknowledge the fact that every person has a unique personality, it surely does baffle the market.
Thus, the expression – ‘he has a confident personality’ is testimony to the subjective, heuristically determined assessment of observable behaviors of an individual in a given setting. Just that the observed behavior should not be considered the determinant of the ‘confident personality’. It is rather the resultant.
I shall discuss the popular personality assessment tools and scales in the next article. It shall help you to ‘peep’ into your inner-self too. Who knows, there may be someone hiding in there?