Please Understand Me: Unpacking Character & Personality Temperament

Understanding ourselves and the people around us can be a complex but enlightening journey. “Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types” offers a compass for this journey, exploring the rich landscape of human temperament. This insightful book, authored by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, taps into the ancient roots of temperament theory, which has evolved over centuries to help us comprehend the predictable patterns in our behaviors and preferences.

The book presents a structured way to identify these patterns through the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, a widely recognized personality inventory that categorizes individuals into one of four temperament types. These are the Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, and Rationals.

Each type reflects distinct characteristics and ways of interacting with the world. By providing detailed analysis and examples, the book aims to foster better self-understanding and enhance interpersonal relationships. Understanding your temperament can illuminate why you gravitate towards certain activities or people and how you can thrive in various life aspects.

Key Takeaways

  • “Please Understand Me” provides a guide to understanding temperament types and personality.
  • It utilizes the Keirsey Temperament Sorter to categorize individuals into four distinct types: SPs, SJs, NFs, & NTs
  • The book offers insights on leveraging one’s temperament in personal and professional life.
  • You can purchase the full text here
Please Understand Me Unpacking Character & Personality Temperament

The Fundamentals of Temperament Theory

Before diving into the specifics, it’s important to understand that temperament theory provides a framework to appreciate the innate patterns in our behavior and character. David Keirsey’s interpretation of Carl Jung’s theory has significant implications in psychology, offering insights into human interactions and personal growth.

Understanding Temperament

Temperament is considered the inborn aspect of your personality that affects how you naturally respond to the world around you. It’s a set of inclinations and dispositions that emerge early in life, remaining fairly consistent throughout. Keirsey’s work categorized human temperaments into four types—Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, and Rationals. Each group has distinct characteristics and values that influence their actions and outlook on life. For instance, Artisans are perceived to be spontaneous and skilled, whereas Guardians are seen as dependable and hardworking.

Keirsey’s Adaptation of Carl Jung’s Theory

David Keirsey expanded on Carl Jung’s psychological types by linking personality to temperament. Where Jung focused on cognitive functions such as thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition, Keirsey aligned these functions with concrete behavior patterns. He reframed these into temperament categories that define how individuals use their abilities rather than simply positing the abilities themselves. Your temperament, according to Keirsey, strongly influences your self-image, values, and the roles you are most comfortable with in your personal and professional life. By understanding this, you gain clarity on why you might gravitate towards certain careers or relationships, and how you can interact more effectively with different temperament types.

Keirsey Temperament Sorter Explained

In the book “Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types,” you’ll find the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, a pivotal tool that categorizes personality traits into specific temperaments. This methodical approach helps you to better understand both yourselves and others.

The Basis of the Questionnaire

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is a self-assessed questionnaire designed to help you identify your personality type. Created by Dr. David Keirsey, the questionnaire consists of 70 questions, which focus on your preferences in various situations. Your responses categorize you into one of four temperaments: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, or Rational. These categories are further split into roles and subtypes, outlining a rich framework for understanding personality differences.

Differences in Temperament

Understanding the differences in temperament is crucial to applying the insights from the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Dr. Keirsey has observed that different temperaments correspond to sets of characteristics and behavioral patterns. For instance:

  • Artisans or “SP” types ( ESTP, ISTP, ESFP, ISFP) are typically spontaneous and skillful
  • Guardians or “SJ” types (ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, ISFJ) are often focused on duty and responsibility
  • Idealists or “NF” types (ENFP, INFP, ENFJ, INFJ) are recognized by their empathy and concern for personal growth
  • and Rationals or “NT” types (ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, INTP) are known for their strategic thinking and pursuit of knowledge

Recognizing these temperaments in people can improve communication and foster better relationships, both personally and professionally.

Detailed Analysis of the Four Temperament Types

In Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, you will discover four distinct personality groups that help explain human behavior and preferences. Each temperament represents a suite of traits and tendencies that influence how individuals interact with the world around them.

Detailed Analysis of the Four Temperament Types

Artisans (SP)

If you are an Artisan or SP type, you live for the moment and thrive on spontaneity. Your temperament prizes freedom and the ability to make an impact on your immediate surroundings. Personality types such as the ISFP or ESTP are typically action-oriented and artsy, with a unique flair for aesthetics and craftsmanship.

Guardians (SJ)

Guardians, or SJ types, are the societal cornerstones that value security, tradition, and responsibility. If you fall under this category, you likely excel in logistics and uphold social institutions. Specific SJ personality types, such as the ISTJ and ESFJ, are known for their meticulous attention to detail and community-driven ethos.

Idealists (NF)

As an Idealist or NF type, your temperament is governed by a quest for self-discovery and meaningful relationships. You are often empathic and passionate, with a focus on personal growth. Those who are INFP or ENFJ are usually advocates for change, longing to make the world a better place through their vision and values.

Rationals (NT)

You, as a Rational or NT type, are drawn to knowledge and competence. Your temperament is characterized by strategic thinking, with a natural bend towards innovation. Types like the INTJ and ENTP are often driven to understand complex systems and are not afraid to challenge the status quo to achieve efficiency or improvement.

By understanding these four temperament types, you can gain deeper insights into your personal preferences, career choices, and interpersonal dynamics.

Temperaments in Various Life Aspects

Understanding your temperament can significantly influence how you interact in personal relationships and perform in roles that require teaching or leading. Your temperament affects your approach to bonding with a mate, connecting with others for acceptance, and the methods you employ to guide or instruct.

Temperament and Personal Relationships

When it comes to personal relationships, your temperament steers your preferences for communication, conflict resolution, and emotional intimacy. For example, if you have a temperament that values spontaneity, you might seek a partner who appreciates impromptu adventures, leading to a vibrant mating dynamic. Conversely, a more methodical temperament might lead you to prefer a spouse who values structured plans and stability. Understanding these aspects is critical for mutual acceptance and building a lasting bond with your significant other.

Temperament in Teaching and Leading

In the context of teaching, your temperament informs your pedagogical style. If you are naturally patient and detail-oriented, you may excel at breaking down complex topics into manageable chunks for your students. Should your temperament lean towards the charismatic, you may be better at inspiring and motivating students through more engaging and energetic instruction.

As for leading, your temperament impacts how you manage teams and inspire people towards a common goal. A leader with a commanding presence might boldly take charge in crisis situations, whereas a leader who is more collaborative may excel at building consensus and fostering an environment where team members feel valued and heard. Your temperament shapes not only the vision you set as a leader but also the strategies you employ to achieve that vision.

Further Insight and Resources

The book “Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types” has laid significant groundwork in the realm of personality psychology. It has become a resource not just for psychologists but also for educators and professionals seeking to understand individual differences.

Impact of ‘Please Understand Me’ on Psychology

“Please Understand Me” was co-authored by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, introducing the Keirsey Temperament Sorter to a broader audience. This personality typing system has influenced how you might understand interpersonal dynamics and learning preferences. The theory elaborates on Jungian cognitive functions, offering insights into four main temperaments which divide the 16 personality types: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, & Rational. Each type comes with its detailed characteristics that help you comprehend natural propensities and behaviors in both professional and personal contexts.

Prometheus Nemesis Book Company and Later Works

The success of “Please Understand Me” eventually led to the establishment of the Prometheus Nemesis Book Company, which is responsible for publishing David Keirsey’s subsequent works. Notably, “Please Understand Me II” continued to build upon the foundations of the first book, delving deeper into the temperament theory. This sequel aims to refine your understanding of the 16 personality types, providing even more nuanced descriptions and applicability in various aspects of life, including careers, relationships, and education processes.

How The Book Relates To Personality Typing

How The Book Relates To Personality Typing

“Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types” serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding the framework of personality typing based on the theories of psychologist David Keirsey. You will discover that the book adapts and expands upon the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) methodology, resulting in the Keirsey Temperament Sorter.

Here are the key points you’ll uncover about how the book addresses personality typing:

  • Personality Matrix: The text further categorizes the 16 personality types into 4 quadrants, each with distinct characteristics.
  • Four Temperaments: Keirsey simplifies these into four broader temperaments—Artisan, Guardian, Rational, and Idealist—which he believes are the core of one’s character and behavior.

As you delve into the book, you will notice that Keirsey’s approach emphasizes the underlying temperament over the individual traits that MBTI often highlights. This focus provides a different lens to understand how personality impacts all facets of your life, including career choices, relationships, and communication styles.

Each section of the book relates directly to your self-discovery. The text guides you through identifying your temperament and then maps out the behavioural patterns and predilections of your personality type.

  • Self-Assessment: An integral part of the book includes a self-administered questionnaire, nudging you towards self-understanding.
  • Interpersonal Dynamics: Keirsey also explores the dynamic between different personality types, which can be vital for your interpersonal relations.

By aligning with Keirsey’s temperament theory, “Please Understand Me” offers a practical approach to personality assessment, making it accessible whether you’re familiar with psychological theories or new to personality typing.


In the exploration of “Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types,” the significance of temperament diversity has been highlighted, demonstrating the enduring influence of David Keirsey’s insights into personality assessment. These contributions facilitate a better understanding of oneself and others, encouraging a more harmonious coexistence.

David Keirsey's insights into personality assessment

Embracing Temperament Diversity

Understanding temperament diversity is vital in cultivating strong personal and professional relationships. You may find that this knowledge can act as a bridge to communication and empathy, allowing for more effective collaboration whether you identify as judging or perceiving. By recognizing that no two individuals are the same, you open the door to appreciating the varying approaches to life and work.

The Legacy of Keirsey’s Work

The theories presented by David Keirsey in his influential work offer a framework for assessing personality and modifying expectations and behaviors accordingly. His legacy lies in the recognition that personality isn’t a static trait but rather a spectrum that’s subject to evolution and change. To gain a comprehensive perspective on Keirsey’s models, obtaining the full text can be beneficial.

For those keen to delve deeper into temperament theory and its application, securing a copy of the book can help solidify your understanding. If you want to explore the complete spectrum of character and temperament types in detail, consider obtaining your copy of the full book.

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