Understanding why people do what they do, will help you understand why the world works as it does, and provide opportunities to improve yourself, build and maintain relationships, and potentially lead to new and exciting places. 

And while each of us is unique, there are a number of systems you can use to organize people into general categories that will give you a starting point for understanding and predicting their behavior in different situations.

Here are a few of the more popular ones:

1. The Simplest Human Model

The most basic model simply says: Humans move towards pleasure and away from pain (“the carrot and the stick” theory of motivation). When both are present, pain avoidance tends to be the stronger motivator.

2. The 6 Human Needs Model

Tony Robbins’ interesting model identifies 6 human needs that everyone has in common. In this model, all behavior is simply an attempt to meet these 6 needs:

  1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure
  2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, and new stimuli
  3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special, or needed
  4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something
  5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability, or understanding
  6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, supporting, and giving to others

While people need all 6, most individuals will have 2 that dominate their behavior. The last two – growth and contribution – have a unique place in the model as he believes they are the keys to having a fulfilling life.

3. Myer’s Briggs (myersbriggs.org)

Myers-Briggs theory is an adaptation of the theory of psychological types produced by Carl Gustav Jung. At the heart of Myers Briggs theory are four preferences. Do you prefer to deal with:

  • Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
  • Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
  • Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
  • Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

In Myers Briggs theory, for each pair you prefer one style more than the other. You combine the letters associated with your preferences to get your Myers Briggs personality type. For example, having preferences for I, N, T and J gives a personality type of INTJ (which happens to be what Drew is). Although you have preferences, you still use all eight styles – in the same way that most people are right-handed but they still use both hands.

When applying this framework to others, here is some guidance on to how best to interact:

Extraverted (E) types learn best by talking and interacting with others.Introverted (I) types prefer quiet reflection and privacy.
Sensing (S) types enjoy a learning environment where the material is presented in a detailed, sequential manner.Intuitive (N) types prefer a learning atmosphere where an emphasis is placed on meaning and associations.
Thinking (T) types desire objective truth and logical principles and are natural at deductive reasoning.Feeling (F) types place an emphasis on issues and causes that can be personalized while they consider other people’s motives.
Judging (J) types will thrive when information is organized and structured, and they will be motivated to complete assignments in order to gain closure.Perceiving (P) types will flourish in a flexible learning environment in which they are stimulated by new and exciting ideas.

4. DiSC Profile (discprofile.com)

The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

Unlike Myer’s Briggs, with it’s combination of traits, DiSC focuses on 4 dominant personality types (although there are subtypes – for example, Drew is an “Appraiser”, which is a “I” dominant, but with a secondary “C” style).

Person places emphasis on accomplishing results, the bottom line, confidence
– Sees the big picture
– Can be blunt
– Accepts challenges
– Gets straight to the point
Person places emphasis on influencing or persuading others, openness, relationships
– Shows enthusiasm
– Is optimistic
– Likes to collaborate
– Dislikes being ignored
Person places emphasis on cooperation, sincerity, dependability
– Doesn’t like to be rushed
– Calm manner
– Calm approach
– Supportive actions
Person places emphasis on quality and accuracy, expertise, competency
– Enjoys independence
– Objective reasoning
– Wants the details
– Fears being wrong