Book Review: Reading People

Reading People: Ho Seeing The World Through The Lens Of Personality Changes Everything, by Anne Bogel

I must admit that, if it is not obvious to others, that I greatly enjoy looking at other people (and myself) through the lens of personality theory. It so happens that I have read and written on all of the personality approaches discussed in this book [1]. In some ways I am the ideal reader for a book like this, in that I know what the author is talking about and can laugh about the struggles that the author faces in properly understanding herself as she is and not as she would wish to be as well as the way in which the author uses an interest in personality theory in a very broad way in order to have a great deal more empathy and understanding of why people are the way they are and, just as importantly, what different perspectives offer and how they can be celebrated and enjoyed even if such approaches are very different from our own. By and large, if the author speaks a lot about her own shortcomings, there is plenty of insight here into how reading people can ultimately help us to appreciate them and understand them better, and that is a worthwhile aim.

This short book is only about 200 pages in length and divided into ten chapters dealing with different aspects of personality and how it can be understood. The author begins with a discussion of typing and reading people for insights on personality as a noble pursuit that can at times go awry. After that the author writes about her understanding of her own personality type (1), as well as a discussion of the communication breakdowns that occur between introverts and extroverts (2). This is followed by a discussion of highly sensitive people, something I have a good deal of experience in dealing with, not least from myself (3), as well as the five love languages (4). This is followed by a discussion of Keirsey’s temperaments (5) as well as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (6) and its cognitive functions (7). The author then turns her attention to the Clifton StrengthsFinder (8) as well as the Enneagram (9) in her further efforts to explore the complexity of personality and motivation and its origins before she finishes with a discussion of how personality is not destiny (10), after which there are acknowledgements, recommended resources, and notes.

As a fan of personality theory, this is a book I can warmly recommend to those I know who engage in people watching and who will find in this book a kindred spirit in the sometimes awkward attempts to read books and understand where it is we fit and what drives and motivates us. In many ways, this is a book that is designed to help the reader better understand a wide variety of means by which we can better understand ourselves and others, and to recognize that a lot of what irritates us and frustrates us about other people is in fact something that allows them to provide a different perspective than we have. To the extent that we are wise people and are around wise people, we can use our differences for the best by looking at the same situations through different perspectives. But the book also cautions us as well–and it is a wise caution–that all too often we feel ourselves pressured to pretend that we are something we are not, and to neglect the deepest and sometimes most troubling motivations that we have. Self-knowledge is not easy, but it is worthwhile, and knowledge of others that allows us to better appreciate them is certainly one of the reasons why it is not a bad thing to read people as long as we read them with a hermeneutic of generosity.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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