Forget Myers-Briggs for a moment. That personality profiling system is too dry, too academic, and a little overused. If you fly often and tend to analyze other passengers (and who doesn't), then you know there are certain personality types on board. And, it might help to know your own personality type, especially if you're like me and want to change.
How else can you use this list? If you know people who fit these profiles, you can coach them on how to change or adapt, or at least try engaging with fellow passengers in different ways. Maybe you can help them if you fly together--or they can help you.
(This article gets a little personal, so sorry about that. I'm the first personality type, the clammed-up flyer, but I really want to figure out how to expand my horizons. If you identify yourself and want to compare notes, drop me a line on my Twitter feed.)
1. Clammed-up Carl
Here we go--this is me. I pull out a laptop, I put on earbuds--I clam up into a shell. I don't really like that this is my personality type (either on a plane or off at times). I want to help the people around me who might be afraid to fly, or get to know someone who might have an interesting job. It takes guts to emerge out of your cocoon. That new Snow Patrol album can wait until later, and even if you really need eight hours to work, you might be missing out. Besides, if we're all in a shell, who is going to deal with the next personality type?
2. Talkative Tony
I'm not against making idle chit-chat with a stranger on a plane, although I usually pull out the earbuds shortly after take-off. However, if you tend to talk constantly during a flight, you might be compensating for some stress or chatting as a way to deal with boredom. This personality type can be a problem if the person talking is really not picking up on any clues at all, or if the chatting becomes a major annoyance to everyone in that aisle. That said, if you want to listen to idle chatter, switch seats to find this person.
3. Jammer Janet
I see this personality type quite often. It's all about the entertainment. This is someone who is basically a fake introvert--clammed up, but being extroverted as a party of one. They talk to the flight attendants, making special requests. They sing-along to their own music. They get up and start barking about the long line to the bathroom. And yet, this person is also in a cocoon and doesn't really bother to get to know anyone or help people out as they board or disembark. Set down the iPad once in a while, maybe?
4. Empathetic Emily
My wife fits this personality type perfectly. When she flies, she seems more aware of what other people are feeling and thinking. And, she outright asks people if they are OK and if they need anything. On a recent flight, she helped by offering to put personal bags up in the overhead compartment and gave away her pillow. She likes to talk to people, but not in a way that's selfish or to clam her own nerves (at least during most flights).
5. Angry Al
Was it a business meeting that went sour or did you just have a bad morning? This personality type gets irritated by everything, from the snack the flight attendants serve to the late departure time. If you poke Angry Al in the elbow accidentally, he or she might erupt. (On one flight, an Angry Al filmed me poking him in the elbow we I typed. He showed me the video after we landed.) What I really don't like about this flyer is that it is all about their needs and their comfort. Maybe they deserve an aisle to themselves, who knows? Rich or famous, it doesn't matter. None of us care. Lighten up--it's just a flight.
6. Nervous Nelly
This personality type needs to take a chill pill. They look worried, nervous, and upset. During take-off, they tend to sit stiffly like they are about to get dental implants. Worse than that, they don't seem to know how to cope with turbulence, annoying passengers, or a flight change. For this personality type, you hope they can start to realize a plane is a flying bus. Air travel is highly routine with few surprises, so why stress out about something so banal? Put Nervous Nelly next to anyone and the stress level seems to rise (along with the 737).
Have any personality types you want to add? Post them on on my Twitter feed.