No two people on the planet have the same set of personality traits, not even identical twins who were apparently brought up in ‘identical’ circumstances or have similar genes.
What then makes each of us so unique? Why is it that you have a personality that is distinct from the personality of everyone else?
The answer lies in psychological needs. We all have our own unique psychological needs and we develop a set of personality traits that is designed to meet those very needs.
Needs are shaped by past life experiences and the needs that are shaped by early life experiences are the most pivotal in shaping our personality.
If you want to understand the crux of someone’s personality, all you got to do is know their early life experiences and figure out what impact those experiences must have had on their psyche.
Needs shaped by early life experiences comprise our core needs and form the core of our personality. This part of our personality tends to stay with us throughout our life because core needs are often difficult to change or override.
All needs are not that rigid
Needs that are formed later on in life are more volatile and hence may easily change with future life experiences. Therefore, these types of needs are not suitable for gauging someone’s personality.
Let’s say a person has a core need to always act like a leader and a recently developed need to be competitive.
First, let’s take a look at how these two needs got shaped in his psyche…
He was the eldest of the four children of his parents. He was always assigned the task of checking the behavior of his younger siblings by his parents. He was almost like a parent to his younger siblings. He told them what to do, when to do and how to do things.
This developed strong leadership skills in him from early on. In school, he was appointed as the head boy and in college, head of the students’ union. When he got a job and found out that he had to work under a boss, he got depressed and found the job unfulfilling.
Always being the leader was his core psychological need.
Now, competitiveness is not the same wanting to be a leader. This guy developed the need to be competitive only recently in college where he encountered students that were far more brilliant and hard-working than him.
To keep pace with them, he started to develop the personality trait of competitiveness.
I want you to understand the difference here. Being a leader is a much stronger need for this guy than being competitive simply because the former need was developed much earlier in his life.
A future life event is more likely to change his competitive nature than his ‘I am a leader’ nature. This is why, when decoding someone’s personality, you got to pay more attention to the core psychological needs.
Core needs are present 24/7
How do you figure out someone’s core needs?
It’s quite easy; watch what a person does repeatedly. Try to figure out the motives behind a person’s unique, repetitive behaviour. All people have their quirks and eccentricities. These are not just oddities that are there for no reason and usually point to a person’s core needs.
Since core needs are ever-present in a person’s mind, they repeatedly tend to perform actions that are designed to satisfy those needs. This extends to everything a person does, even their on-line
There’s a reason why people tend to share the same kind of stuff on social media or why they share certain kinds of stuff more often.
An example of how core needs are developed
Mohan was a very knowledgeable and wise guy. He took pride in his knowledge and his philosophical understanding of the world. He regularly shared updates on social media that served to show others how knowledgeable he was.
Some of his friends found his unsolicited nuggets of wisdom irritating while others found them inspiring and enlightening.
What was behind this strong need of Mohan to appear knowledgeable?
As always, to understand Mohan’s strong preoccupation with knowledge, we need to go back to his childhood… When young Mohan was in kindergarten one day, the teacher decided to take a quiz.
His friend Amir did exceptionally well in the quiz and all the classmates, especially the girls, applauded Amir for his exceptional knowledge. Mohan noticed how the girls stood in awe of Amir.
It was at that very instant that Mohan subconsciously realized that he was missing an important trait that seemed to attract the opposite sex- being knowledgeable.
You see, survival and reproduction are the basic drives of the human mind. The entire evolutionary theory is based on these two fundamental drives. We come into this world pre-programmed with traits that help us to optimize survival and reproduction.
From then on, Mohan never missed a chance to gain knowledge. He won almost every quiz that was ever conducted in his school and hated it when, if ever, he lost. He continues advertising his ‘special trait’ to this day.
On social media, he posts smart comments, especially on girls’ posts and he’s more likely to join a discussion in a thread if an attractive female participating.
It’s important to note here that all who have a need to appear knowledgeable don’t have that need for the same reason. In psychology, a single behaviour can have many different causes.
For example, a person may possibly also develop the need to appear knowledgeable because early on in his life he learned that it was a good way to win the approval of his teachers or that it was the best way to please one’s parents… etc.
To summarize, if you want to understand someone’s personality watch what they do repeatedly- preferably something that’s unique to them. Then try, if you can, collecting information about their past to piece together the whole puzzle.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.