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13 Sep 2010

Definitions, Connotations and Personality Assessment

Word choice and phrasing (phraseology) are simple ways we can assess personalities. As I’ve said in previous postings, everything we think, do and say reflects on our personalities in some way. The challenge is determining what.

Understanding the two aspects of any word – definition and connotation – is a first step. Definitions trigger thoughts about words’ meanings while connotations trigger emotions about the impressions they create. Words can have similar definitions but vastly different connotations. A funny riddle expresses this:

Q: What is the difference between escargot and snails?

A: People don’t eat snails.

Phraseology works as an assessment approach because word choice is largely subjective. Yes, we need to consider the context of the conversation, but there is usually plenty of room for subjective inputs. This occurs because many times several words could suffice, but the final choice is intuitive and based upon the connotation the person prefers. For example, consider these pair of words:

  • Determined – Stubborn
  • Irrational – Passionate
  • Focus – Restrict
  • Organize – Standardize
  • Fun – Undisciplined
  • Rigid – Strong
  • Stable – Stale
  • House – Home
  • Flexible – Soft
  • Interesting – Fascinating

Many times we can simply discern from people’s phrasing whether they like something. We can also discern much deeper qualities of their personalities. For instance, they can tell us how they might approach a planning endeavor or collaborative effort. They can also tell us the degree to which they are influenced by qualitative or quantitative arguments or by logical or humanistic ones.

Therefore, the challenge is classifying various words according to such groupings as quantitative words versus qualitative ones, logical versus humanistic, individual versus collective, etc. Once we’ve made these classifications, we can correlate people’s personalities along these spectra by examining the dominance of certain words and phrasing.


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  1. Pingback : Leadership’s CREATE by Tiffany Crawford for Women | Leadership Matters

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