Popular personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Raymond Cattell's 16 personality factors, and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory develop personality classifications based on overlapping behavior in four key categories: task-oriented behavior, relationship-oriented behavior, introverted behavior, and extroverted behavior.
Reviewing a list of words that describe behavior can help you better understand how personality differences can occur, and help you better explain them.
Task-oriented behavior describes how someone behaves when they are given a project or an assignment to work on. Do they make detailed plans for how to proceed? Do they prefer to jump right in and see where the work takes them?
Examples of words to describe task-oriented behavior with a positive connotation include:
- Active: always busy with something
- Ambitious: strongly wants to succeed
- Cautious: being very careful
- Conscientious: taking time to do things right
- Creative: someone who can make up things easily or think of new things
- Curious: always wanting to know things
- Logical: using clear and sound reasoning
- Organized: dealing with one's affairs efficiently
- Perfectionist: wants everything to be done right and perfectly
- Precise: careful and with great attention to detail
Some examples words to describe task-oriented behavior with negative connotation include:
- Anxious: worried, uneasy, or nervous
- Careless: not being careful; rushing into things
- Impatient: quickly irritated and easily provoked
- Lazy: unwilling to work or showing a lack of effort
- Rigid: being unwilling to change one's outlook, belief, or response
- Scatterbrained: inattentive and forgetful
- Slapdash: performing work quickly and carelessly
- Sober: serious, sensible, or solemn
- Undisciplined: lacking in discipline
- Volatile: changing moods very quickly
Relationship-oriented behavior describes how someone acts around others. This can include behaviors with family, friends, coworkers, or strangers. Relationship-oriented behaviors can refer to how you express opinions, handle disagreements, or build connections.
Positive relationship-oriented behaviors may be described as:
- Altruistic: shows selfless concern for others
- Caring: desires to help people
- Compassionate: feels or shows sympathy or concern for others
- Considerate: thinks of others
- Faithful: being loyal
- Impartial: treats all persons equally; fair and just
- Kind: thoughtful, caring
- Pleasant: polite
- Polite: exhibiting good manners
- Sincere: being totally honest
Negative relationship-oriented behaviors may be described as:
- Aggressive: verbally or physically threatening
- Argumentative: often arguing with people
- Bossy: always telling people what to do
- Deceitful: doing or saying anything to get people to do what you want or to get what you want
- Domineering: constantly trying to control others
- Flaky: unstable and unreliable
- Inconsiderate: not caring about others or their feelings
- Manipulative: always trying to influences other people
- Rude: treating people badly; breaking social rules
- Spiteful: seeking revenge; hurting others because you didn’t get what you want
Relationship-oriented behavior is often affected by gender stereotypes. For example, women are socialized to see themselves as nurturing and peacemaking in their relationships while men are taught to value displays of leadership and authority.
Introverted behavior refers to actions that reflect a desire to find satisfaction from internal factors. Words that describe introverted behavior include:
- Guarded: cautious and reserved
- Loner: preferring not to socialize with others
- Maverick: unorthodox or independent
- Reflective: engaged in deep thought
- Reticent: not revealing one's thoughts easily
- Retiring: shy and fond of being alone
- Reserved: keeps thoughts and feelings to himself
- Self-aware: possessing in-depth knowledge of one's thoughts and feelings
- Sensitive: quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.
- Shy: quiet and reserved; lacking in confidence
Words that describe introverted behavior sometimes have a negative connotation, but the behaviors themselves are neutral. Introverted individuals do not dislike people. They simply prefer to spend the majority of their time engaged in solitary activities. Writers, artists, sculptors, scientists, and engineers often display introverted behaviors, yet make significant contributions to society with their work.
Extroverted behavior refers to actions intended to achieve gratification from external factors.
Words that describe extroverted behavior include:
- Affable: friendly, good-natured, and easy to talk to
- Amiable: displays a friendly or pleasant manner
- Assertive: confident and forceful
- Authoritative: commanding and self-confident; someone who is likely to be respected or obeyed
- Charismatic: shows a compelling charm that inspires devotion in others
- Enthusiastic: showing intense excitement, interest, or approval
- Gregarious: fond of company, sociable
- Persuasive: able to convince others to do or believe something
- Self-assured: confident in one's character
- Talkative: fond of making conversation with others
Extroverted behaviors are neither inherently positive nor negative, but extroverted individuals often fall into leadership roles due to their enjoyment of being around large groups of people. Extroverts are comfortable being the center of attention, which is a prerequisite for any leadership position.
Behavior can often vary depending upon a person's mood or situation, with actions falling at opposite ends of the spectrum when one or more variables are changed. Even the most popular personality tests caution against drawing too many conclusions from limited data.
As you're describing someone's behavior, it's best to choose words that paint a broad picture of his or her actions. Avoid descriptions that make unnecessary categorizations.