Appreciating Differences - Jack Falt - Ottawa area, Ontario, Canada

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Book Review by Jack Falt

Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey, Prometheus Nemesis Book Co., ISBN 0-9606-954-7, 1998, 350 pp

Back in 1978 Keirsey and Bates wrote Please Understand Me. It was one of the first books to popularize the Jung/Myers theory, and it included "The Keirsey Temperament Sorter" so people could get a sense of what their psychological type was. However, Keirsey and Bates main interest in Jung/Myers theory was to use it as a way to determine temperament. They saw that the SP, SJ, NF and NT grouping of types fit the four temperaments that Hippocrates had written about twenty-five hundred years ago.

Keirsey had long been interested in the concept of temperament, and while he does discuss the Jung/Myers preferences, both books focus mainly on temperament. Unfortunately, in the first book he labelled the four temperaments with the names of Greek gods, Dionysus, Epimetheus, Apollo and Prometheus. I found these names really difficult to work with when I first read the original book, and had to have a dictionary in my hand to make any sense out of some of the material. In the intervening years Keirsey (Marilyn Bates has since died) renamed them: Artisan for the SP, Guardian for the SJ, Idealist for the NF, and Rational for the NT, which made for easier reading.

In the revised edition "The Keirsey Temperament Sorter II" has been updated with some different questions, and this can still be used to determine your type. He has added "The Keirsey FourTypes Sorter" which determines only your temperament. Both of these quizzes are also on his web site:

The book discusses in detail the similarities between temperaments and Jung/Myers theory, and also how they are different. Jung/Myers theory bases psychological type on internal mental functioning. Keirsey finds it more useful to stick to what can be observed or people's behaviour: how people use words and tools. Words are either abstract or concrete, and tools are used in a mainly cooperative or utilitarian way. Thus, SPs use mainly concrete words and use tools in a utilitarian way; SJs are concrete and cooperative; NFs are abstract and cooperative; and NTs are abstract and utilitarian. According to Keirsey, temperament determines behaviour.

Keirsey devotes a chapter to each temperament, including a description of each of the four psychological types included in that temperament, e.g. Rationals include: INTJ, INTP, ENTP and ENTJ. As would be expected the descriptions focus more on behaviour than on internal thought processes. Each temperament is described in terms of language, intellect, interest, orientation, self-image, values and social role. The book is well set up as it has numerous charts, and while emphasizing a specific temperament, it also shows the corresponding entries for the other three temperaments.

Having given a basic description of each temperament, the book then devotes a chapter to the three main areas of life: mating, parenting and leading.

In mating styles the Artisan is the Playmate, the Guardian is the Helpmate, the Idealist is the Soulmate, and the Rational is the Mindmate. While any temperament can and does marry any of the four temperaments, Keirsey finds that people tend to be attracted to their opposite: Artisans to Guardians, and Idealists to Rationals. He further describes how each temperament is likely to get along with each of the other temperaments and then gives further detail into how the temperament is likely to interact with each of the four types within the opposite temperament, e.g. an Artisan with a Guardian (ISTJ, ISFJ, ESTJ and ESFJ).

In the Parenting chapter, Keirsey describes children with each of the four temperaments and describes each of the combinations of temperament of parent and child. The Artisan parent tends to be the Liberator and is very tolerant of the child's behaviour. The Guardian parent sees the job of parenting as one of socializing the child. The Idealist parent wants to harmonize all relationships the child has. The Rational parent wants children to become individuals. The main task of all parents is to stimulate children to help them develop their potential.

There are also descriptions of how each temperament learns best. In his work as a school psychologist, Keirsey found that many behaviour problems were the result of poor instruction techniques rather than problems such as ADD or ADHD. The Artisan child needs lots of hands-on learning. The Guardian is more willing to do what he is told. The Idealist wants to be authentic and get along. The Rational just loves to soak up information, but quickly spots the teacher who doesn't know the material.

The final chapter looks at leadership. Keirsey sees leadership as a function of intelligence. He sees that each temperament has a main intellectual skill with lesser ability in the other forms of intelligence. Artisans are best at tactics, Guardians at logistics, Idealists at diplomacy, and Rationals at strategy. Churchill was a good example of a tactician. He could quickly accesses what was happening and knew what to do next. Washington was the man to lead the new nation with his ability to organize all of the details needed to bring the country out of the chaos of war. Gandhi used his example of passive resistance as the diplomatic way to bring about the end of British rule in India. Lincoln, the Rational, used his skill at strategy to give the leadership required to win the civil war. Keirsey makes the point that each of these intelligences are needed in society. As such, each intellectual skill is equally valid. Unfortunately, most intelligence tests do not measure these traits.

This updated version of Please understand Me II is almost double the size of the original. In the intervening years Keirsey has accumulated a lot of additional material that he has included in his latest book. There is a great deal of useful information for those who prefer Jung/Myers theory, and you might find that the concept of temperament is well worth considering and another useful tool to add to your psychological tool bag.

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