Earlier today, I took a personality test that told me what type of man I’m attracted to… based on the type of junk food I most enjoy. How did tests like these become so popular and prevalent in online entertainment? The answer is that websites like Buzzfeed have tapped into their audience’s desires to better understand their personalities and how those traits and abilities are perceived by the society around them. And that should be no surprise: personality testing and typing is a multi-million — if not billion — dollar industry which provides companies with the insight needed to form diverse teams that use the differences in employee personalities to create friction and pursue the next big idea.
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences is the framework for one such method of personality typing. Proposed in 1983, the concept outlines eight types of intelligence that are defined mainly by cognitive ability and personality characteristics. The strengths in being able to spot these styles are similar to the benefits of any other personality tests: It can help you determine where your personality fits, what your talents are, and the styles that describe your coworkers so that you can better collaborate with and lead your peers. Here are the eight types of intelligence and what they say about the above.
1. Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
Someone with this type of intelligence has a skillful control of her body, including an ability to handle objects with enhanced coordination in timing, spatial recognition (spatial intelligence), and physical activity or response. This person may be someone who is a tactile learner or is especially athletic. When using hands-on models or practicing a movement/motion, this person can see and feel their way through an activity, whether it’s practicing a free-throw or using a cadaver to review a surgical procedure.
In the office, the coworker with Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence is the person who just can’t seem to sit still. In the classroom, they are the students with fidget spinners or cubes. Enable this intelligence type by providing objects that the Bodily-Kinesthetic person can use to keep busy, while you keep their attention: bobble-heads, rock gardens, magnetic sculptures, and stress balls are easy, affordable, and fit on your desk. Ask this person to join you for a walk while you discuss the morning meetings, or take a company outing at a golfing range to keep this tactile learner moving.
2. Interpersonal Intelligence
Someone with interpersonal intelligence has a sensitivity to moods and temperaments of others, which she can use to better work in a team. She is a good communicator who is often active in discussion or debate, but who may not particularly enjoy interacting with the people she so easily understands. This person comprehends the motivations behind another’s decisions and uses this knowledge to manage relationships and negotiate conflict.
In collaborative efforts, the interpersonally intelligent person is the individual you want running the meeting, managing a large group, or teaching a task or assignment to another person. Utilize this person when feedback is needed on a project or presentation, and enable the Interpersonal colleague by putting her in charge of meetings or group activities where the team members are largely responsible for task completion—the interpersonal skillset is most useful when applied to the meeting attendees, rather than the meeting tasks themselves.
3. Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence
Skillful with words and languages, including reading, writing, and memorizing words or dates, the individual with verbal-linguistic intelligence may be described as eloquent, as she is effective at listening and speaking. When describing or instructing how to do something, this person often uses words to explain. She is an auditory learner who asks questions and communicates comprehension by telling stories.
Allow the verbal-linguistic colleague or student to ask lots and lots of questions—this is how she learns. It may take several rounds of Q&A sessions to help this person fully digest the information at hand, but once the verbal linguist understands, she will use her command of language and storytelling to communicate this knowledge to others. When explaining a concept, you can use storytelling to help this intelligence type to remember important dates and details, while the verbal linguist likely uses storytelling as a device to remember important events in their own life.
4. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
Someone with logical-mathematical intelligence understands abstract concepts is skilled with reasoning, numbers and critical thinking, and is especially adept at problem-solving and determining causation, perhaps by root cause analysis. She understands complex problems and interdependent relationships between processes and actions. Organized and systematic action drive this intelligence type to look at every problem as a puzzle—interconnected and complex.
When given the opportunity and authority, the logical-mathematical coworker or employee will use systematic changes to identify and fix problems. To get the most out of this intelligence type, act as a guard or shield to keep others from affecting this person’s work. Typically, diversity of thought is desired, as it can provide a broad range of solutions, but the logical-mathematical person can be easily distracted by the constant addition of information. Encourage the student with this type of intelligence to create and follow an outline; exercise patience with the logical-mathematical coworker who will require time to complete their step-by-step analysis.
5. Naturalist Intelligence
Someone with naturalist intelligence recognizes the flora and fauna in the natural surroundings and is able to classify geological structures, like rocks and land features, while nurturing plants and animals. She shares her abilities with the hunters and gatherers of humanity’s evolutionary past as well as with the farmers, life scientists, and chefs of today, and understands the effect of human existence on the natural world around her.
In the workplace, the naturalist person has the “big picture” perspective. While their peers are focused on the details, this intelligence type sees situations and processes as an interwoven ecosystem where each element must work together. Allow the naturalist to use this trait to keep team members organized and focused on the end goal. In the classroom, the naturalist will perform best in tasks where they observe and record data. Whether this is work on a dichotomous key or on a recipe, the naturalist will understand both the distinct parts and how they make up the whole.
6. Intrapersonal Intelligence
In opposition to the “interpersonal” intelligence type, the intrapersonal intelligence type is introspective with a broad knowledge of one’s own strengths, weaknesses, traits, and capabilities. Because this person is keenly aware of her own limitations and abilities, she is especially skilled at goal-setting and self-management as keys to excel and succeed.
Often, intrapersonal intelligence types are people who are “overachievers,” who immediately identify failures and shortcomings after completion of a project and propose milestones to correct any flaws. To clearly set expectations, overcommunicate with the intrapersonal person, and this person will hit the mark every time. Coworkers with this intelligence type can be trusted to self-manage—they are their own harshest critics and will appreciate peer and manager help to prioritize goals, which minimizes stress and maximizes efficiency.
7. Visual-Spatial Intelligence
Someone with visual-spatial intelligence has a superior ability to visualize an object or situation in the mind’s eye and can picture the spatial positioning of a project, design, or craft and see how physical items will fit together. Sometimes referred to as a visual learner, this person will have colorful visual systems for organization or use images and doodles to remind her of important notes and ideas.
To engage visual-spatial students, include images in lecture presentations. Visual-spatial professionals are also skilled engineers and chemists, since they can visualize in their mind how a factory tool might fit in a preexisting space or how the atoms could be arranged in the molecular structure of a large pharmaceutical drug. Engage coworkers with this intelligence type especially when you are dealing with a large physical problem, because the visual-spatial person can plan out and visualize the solution.
8. Musical Intelligence
The person with musical intelligence has a sensitivity to sound, rhythm, and music and tends to be especially musical, with good pitch and ability to sing, play an instrument, or compose. She may be particularly skilled at using music to learn: by playing a song or piece of music while studying, she is able to recall that knowledge when they hear the same music played. She uses rhyme or song to memorize material.
If you are a teacher or professor, you can access these abilities to engage your students by softly playing an instrumental song or collection of sounds during your lecture. When it is time for a test or quiz, you can make a playlist containing all the tracks you played for the relevant material and play them again during the test. As an employer or coworker, support your peers by messaging the Musical person on Skype, Slack, or another app to see “if this is a good time to discuss.” This way, you can avoid having the musical person remove her headphones and interrupt their musical immersion while working.
There are many personality and intelligence tests available, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Stanford-Binet Test. It’s important to remember that no one test has been determined to perfectly describe all personality or intelligence types. For the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, for instance, it has been suggested that the eight types be expanded to 10 to account for spiritual and ethical intelligences not covered here. In general, your style may change as you get older and have new personal and professional experiences, or you may share characteristics across multiple intelligence types. Use this article as an introductory guide, and you’ll have a good foundation to explore more sophisticated concepts for personality.
Dr. Amanda G. Riojas is a freelance writer and computational chemist living in Austin, Texas. She is the recipient of the 2018 David Carr Award, for her writing on the intersection of life and technology, and her articles about life as a working mom have been featured at Motherly and SheKnows. When she’s not advocating for women and minorities in STEM, Amanda enjoys spending her time traveling and cooking.