The Difference Between Type A & Type B Personalities, According To Experts
You've probably heard someone describe themselves as "type A," but what does that really mean? And how does this personality type differ from type Bs? Here's a breakdown of both, what makes them different, and what the research says.
What is a type A personality?
The term "type A," or type A behavior pattern (TABP), refers to a personality and behavior pattern with high degrees of achievement, impatience, ambition, and competition. According to doctor of clinical psychology Perpetua Neo, DClinPsy, these people tend to be go-getters with lots of goals, with a tendency to overbook and overstretch themselves.
"They have extremely high standards, [and] they can be competitive with other people and themselves," Neo says, adding that type A people tend to also be rational and organized. "And because of their incredibly high standards, nothing's ever good enough—the goal posts are always moving for type A's," she adds.
According to licensed therapist De-Andrea Blaylock-Solar, MSW, LCSW-S, CST, the main thing to understand with type A people is that they have a "take charge" spirit, which lends itself to that competitiveness, strong work ethic, and yes, impatience. "They do often have a self-starter within them, where they're able to run businesses effectively—or if they work within companies, they're able to work independently and work very efficiently," she explains.
Type A personality traits
Benefits of being a type A personality
Blaylock-Solar notes that type A folks are ambitious, independent, and can be very passionate when committed to a cause. They're also good at multitasking, organizing, managing projects, and taking the lead in general, she adds.
Type A people can be inspiring and motivating forces to the people around them because they're so motivated themselves—and they're not afraid to push the envelope in the name of getting something done.
Of course, whether you consider these qualities a strength or a weakness is a matter of perspective. Some may find type A people aggressive, overly competitive, and impatient, while others may find them to be hard workers, driven, and reliable.
Neo adds that when it comes to type A's, they need to "reward themselves along the way, rather than wait for a big goal to be fulfilled many years later, and still move the goal posts."
What is a type B personality?
Type B people are more flexible, fun-loving, and friendly, relative to their type A counterparts. As Blaylock-Solar explains, "They can be seen as pretty charismatic and just very outgoing and energetic. They, too, can do well—but there's just a bit more flexibility with type B's."
And as Neo adds, consider your type B's the peaceful Zen people who don't sweat the small stuff—or even the big stuff. "They are not quick to anger and give people a warm and fuzzy feeling, so people like being around them—they're a bit of an energetic retreat from the world," she says.
If type A people are competitive, impatient, and achievement-oriented, type B people are the opposite, showing high degrees of relationship orientation, a generally relaxed attitude, and a go-with-the-flow attitude.
Type B people tend to take things as they come and don't worry too much about planning things out or having a regimented structure to their lives. Flexible and friendly, "They can be seen as pretty charismatic, very outgoing, and energetic," Blaylock-Solar notes.
Type B personality traits
- Slower paced
- Lacking urgency
Benefits of being a type B personality
Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, and according to Blaylock-Solar, type B's thrive when they can be engaged with other people, collaborating, and helping to keep the peace. Their strength is in their even temper, their patience, and their ability to adapt to different situations.
"I would say a big strength is that they're great relationship builders," she says, adding that they're also creative and can come up with great ideas.
However, depending on who you ask, some might say certain type B traits can be weaknesses. While they are laid back and low stress, they can procrastinate, place others' needs before their own, and may even come off as lazy.
"The challenges and areas for growth could be the procrastination—and also making sure that they're prioritizing their own needs, as opposed to only working for fulfilling the needs of others," Blaylock-Solar says, adding, "If they are constantly putting the needs of others in front of their own, then their needs may not be met, so they definitely have to find a balance with that."
5 key differences:
Type A people tend to take themselves and the goings-on of their life very seriously. They could be described as high-strung and high stress, while type B people tend to have a much more lackadaisical approach to things. Type B's do not sweat the small stuff (or the big stuff), which can make them less stressed but also less motivated than type A's, but the type A's sense of urgency is what helps them get things done.
Type B's are going to be the ones who just want everyone to have a good time. Meanwhile, type A's are focused on winning the top prize. For type A's, competition motivates them and pushes them to do their best—they want to come out on top. For type B's, they're just happy to be along for the ride and don't mind if there isn't a reward at the end.
Type A's tend to be more independent and focused on individual success and achievement than type B's, who place more importance on fostering their relationships and accommodating the needs of others. As such, they approach relationships differently, with type A's showing more controlling and/or independent tendencies in relationships, and type B's sacrificing their own needs for others.
As you might imagine, the pace alone of these two personalities' lives are very different. Type A's move fast—they want results and they want them yesterday. Type B's, meanwhile, are prone to procrastination and generally go with the flow, which means they might be the ones showing up late to their appointments or missing deadlines. Again, this relates to that sense of urgency, which type A's have plenty of and type B's tend to lack.
Lastly, type A people typically prefer structure to their lives, implementing different processes and routines to help them achieve all their goals. They thrive on that structure, while type B's tend to feel boxed in by it. For a type B, they'd much prefer to let the day unfold on its own, while that lack of a schedule would make type A people feel disorganized or chaotic.
What does the research say?
Namely, according to the American Psychological Association's definition of TABP, "Epidemiological studies have failed to confirm that connection, but evidence does suggest that one Type A feature in particular—hostility—does contribute to the pathogenesis of heart disease."
In additional research on type A versus type B personalities published in 2019, researchers wanted to understand how these personality differences impacted academic performance. They found that both personalities had strengths and weaknesses that impacted performance, such as type A's who are hardworking but can be hostile, and type B's, who are patient but tend to procrastinate.
The good news is, that research suggests both types A and B can achieve success in school, with the study authors concluding that "deficiencies in personalities may be taken into consideration by teachers, administrators, educators, curriculum developers, and policymakers for improvement in academic achievement."
How do I know if I am type A or B?
You are likely type A if you display high levels of success orientation, impatience, and competitiveness. You are likely type B if you are laid back, placing more importance on relaxing, having fun, and fostering relationships.
What is type D personality type?
Sometimes called depressive types, type D's are introspective, wise, philosophical, observant, sensitive to other people's emotions, and internally anxious and isolated.
Is there a type C personality?
Type C's are perfectionists who tend to focus on tiny details and like routines and a set schedule. They can be creative and dependable, even if they seem introverted or disengaged, and are also organized and analytical.
Do type A and B personalities get along?
Yes, type A and type B people can get along, so long as they appreciate and balance out each other's differences without judgment or criticism for the other's way of doing things.
Type A and type B personalities might seem entirely different, and in some respects, they are. But according to Neo, what's important to remember is that most people will be a combination of these types, and it's ultimately about understanding your own unique blend and how you can harness the different parts of yourself based on any given situation.
"It's not about what's good or what's bad but rather how can we make use of the way we are wired to serve us in different situations, with different people," Neo says, "and generally to find a sense of peace, mental wellness, and mental fitness."
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.