Type A Versus Type B Personalities: The Key Wins (and Challenges) for Each

Photo: Getty Images/DjordjeDjurdjevic
The battle of type A versus type B personalities is a classic clash: Type As popularly pride themselves on being meticulous, ambitious, driven, and organized. And type Bs mostly pride themselves as being way effing chiller than type As. Stereotypically, the two operate in life with totally opposite demeanors—but, while rooted in bits of truth, those stereotypes aren't hard and fast rules, nor are they inclusive of the range of components that add into these variant personalities. With that in mind, consider thinking about the differences between types A and B as behavioral, rather than all-encompassing states of being.

Experts In This Article

Next, consider that the origin story of type A behavior patterns (TABPs) comes down to a matter of heart—seriously. In the1950s, cardiologist Meyer Friedman, MD and Ray H. Rosenman, MD, investigated how differing behaviors might impact cardiovascular health, culminating in the 1974 book, Type A Behavior and Your Heart. The gist is that TABPs tend to showcase high-peaking stress levels, compared to their more relaxed type B counterparts.

Intrigued? Below, get familiar with what makes each behavior unique, and how you can learn where you fall between type A and B.

Type A versus type B personalities: Basic traits to know

Type A

TABPs are known for being highly organized, analytical, rule-following, and ambitious. They have a Hermione Granger vibe, where everything must be just-so, and that hyper-focus on success drives them. These are people who are hugely productive and tend to thrive in the systems they choose to occupy, moving through goals like they're on the escalator of life.

That said, Dr. Friedman and Dr. Rosenman also characterized these high-achieving folks as impatient, easily irritable, and (oof) hostile. (You can imagine the gritted teeth emoji right now.)

Type B

Type B personalities tend to be less clearly defined than type A, and are generally understood to be looser than their counterparts. Type B personalities are perceived as more laid-back, slow and steady in their way of life, and that disposition may leave more natural room for creativity. Type Bs tend to have a far less competitive or socially aggressive way of being than type As, and while they're interested in achievement, they may be less so fixated on it.

Strengths and weaknesses of a type A and type B

Type A

The core strengths of TABPs is that they're built to succeed: They're determined, self-sufficient, and have a clear vision of where they want to go, and how they plan to achieve it.

"People with a type A personality typically want to see progress, check the boxes, and are time urgent." —Gabrielle Morse, LMHC

"People with a type A personality typically want to see progress, check the boxes, and are time urgent," says therapist Gabrielle Morse, LMHC. "They tend to be very achievement-focused, you may be likely to see competitiveness and perfectionism in some."

Interestingly enough, research supports that their bent for rivalry tends to not happen alongside type Bs; rather, it's more likely to happen against those they consider their competition. That is, other type As.

Type B

While type B behavior patterns (TBPBs) feel less clearly defined than TABPs, a large asset of theirs is an inherent malleability. "People with type B personalities take a more relaxed and easygoing approach to things," says Morse. "They tend to be flexible and adapt well in situations." TBBPs rarely fear newer ways of thinking and doing, and they have strong artistic sensibilities. But while they're even-tempered and patient with others, Morse adds that they're often prone to procrastination.

Professional benefits for each type

Type A

"People who are type A tend to be great at keeping details together, dialing in on logistics, and managing large groups of people," says life and career coach Kimberly Lucht. "As such, they make great entrepreneurs, analysts, and leaders in any office setting."

If you're type A, you may want to seek structured work settings where you can hold some sort of clear leadership role. Rising in the ranks is a priority for you, so it's good to have a path with room for growth. If you want to get more specific, a few roles that can use your sharp, critical eye and sense of order include the following:

  1. Marketing manager
  2. Social media curator
  3. Event coordinator
  4. Data analyst
  5. School administrator
  6. Statistician
  7. Engineer
  8. Lawyer
  9. Editor

Type B

"If you're more of a type B personality, helping people and handling stress well is your strong suit," Lucht says. "So anything that has to do with teaching, counseling, or supporting people is best."

Regarding "supporting people," career coach Maggie Mistal previously told Well+Good that type Bs also typically have thoughtful, meaningful, and empathetic relationships with their co-workers. "They’re not glazing through the workplace just trying to get things done," she says. "They’re really solid in their work and also in their immediate relationships."

Type B personalities will likely thrive best in spaces that allow for a lot of flexibility (and far fewer deadlines). For a few specific type B-approved jobs, consider the following:

  1. Health coach
  2. Couples therapist
  3. Interior designer
  4. Yoga instructor
  5. Writer
  6. Teacher or professor
  7. Skincare specialist
  8. Psychologist
  9. Sales representative
  10. Nurse

How each type shows up in social relationships

Type A

"As they are known to be the organized planner, someone with a type A personality definitely is the type of friend who arranges the group plans, like dinners, share houses, vacations, and so on," says therapist Michele Burstein, LCSW.

So, for instance, if a type A person makes dinner plans with you for 8 p.m., you can expect them to book reservations and arrive at 7:55, outfit immaculate, ready for fun. Type As also, though, often hold others to the high standards they set for themselves, which can be tricky in friendship. "Type A personalities tend to be very particular in their needs and expectations in relationships and can be the type of people that get upset in a relationship when their expectations are not being met," Burstein says. "This especially comes up as perfectionism, and high standards are a big part of a type A personality."

Type B

"Type B personalities are known to be more relaxed, flexible, and easygoing," says Burstein. "They are likely open to a variety of plans and do not get as easily bothered when a plan does not go accordingly."

"Type B personalities are known to be more relaxed, flexible, and easygoing. They are likely open to a variety of plans and do not get as easily bothered when a plan does not go accordingly." —Michele Burstein, LCSW

That said, the go-with-the-flow approach to social situations may lead type B people to have trouble effectively communicating with the important people in their life. "While type B personalities can be emotional, their emotional responses tend to not be as reactionary compared to type A, as they are not as easily bothered," Burstein says. "Sometimes this can lead to un-reciprocal relationships, as type B people can be less inclined to address and communicate their needs."

What to know about type A versus type B in regards to health

Dr. Friedman and Dr. Rosenman concluded that type A people were more predisposed to cardiovascular issues because their nature is essentially "competitive, ambitious, work-driven, time-conscious, and aggressive" as one study puts it. Likewise, being chronically fixated on achievement can lead to higher stress levels.

Followup research has been done over the years, and the claim about cardiovascular health has been debated and largely disputed. Regardless of the connection to personality type, though, it's undeniable that stress is connected to health issues. It's also worth pointing out that because type A value work wins and chasing that next step, they might be more prone to burnout down the line without effective boundaries put in place.

How to find out your own personality type 

Plenty of online quizzes like this one exist online to help you see whether you skew more toward type A or B. Or, for something a little more detailed, you can check out Truity's TypeFinder personality test, which includes the other lesser-known behavioral patterns, C and D.

And keep in mind that not all type As are ambitious blowhards who will step on their co-workers as they ascend the career ladder and not all type Bs are free spirits who ignore deadlines as if doing so were part of their job description. Type A and B personalities operate on a spectrum. I, a clear type B, can certainly see qualities classically associated with type A in my own personality, for example.

When we categorize people too rigidly, no room for nuance remains. It ingrains that idea of personalities, and forgets the actual person. But perhaps that's just my Type B-ness talking.

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