Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey
If you do not want what I want, please try not to tell me that my want is wrong. Or if my beliefs are different from yours, at least pause before you set out to correct them. Or if my emotion seems less or more intense than yours, given the same circumstances, try not to ask me to feel other than I do. Or if I act, or fail to act, in the manner of your design for action, please let me be. I do not, for the moment at least, ask you to understand me. That will only come when you are willing to give up trying to change me into a copy of you. ~ David Keirsey
Have you ever heard people talk about their MBTI type or their four-letter combinations like ESTJ or INFP? And then wonder what these mean?
American Psychologist David Keirsey puts all those four-letter combinations into laymen’s terms, and gives some practical advice on how to put this knowledge to good use – particularly in terms of inter-personal relationships. Please Understand Me II begins with a test which will identify the MBTI type of the respondent. (By the way, you don’t need to read the earlier version, Please Understand Me – in fact, there is no reason why you should. Please Understand Me II is not a continuation, but an updated and expanded version.)
Keirsey’s work builds primarily on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as developed by Isabel Meyers and Katherine Briggs (daughter/mother), whose work in turn expanded on personality type theory developed by Carl Jung. I’m no expert on MBTI, but it is beyond theory, more accurately described as science, and probably the most widely accepted “science” of describing and categorizing personality types.
According to MBTI we all fall into one of sixteen personality types – which are represented by the four-letter combinations of: Extrovert or Introvert (I or E), iNtuitive or Sensing (N or S), Feeling or Thinking (F or T), and Judging or Perceiving (J or P).
Keirsey sort of steps back from the 16 types though, and groups them into four broader types or temperaments that he labels: Artisans or SPs (ESTP, ISTP, ESFP, ISFP), Guardians or SJs (ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, ISFJ), Idealists or NFs (ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP, INFP), and Rationals or NTs (ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, INTP). (Note: Four temperaments have been posited by numerous scholars over the centuries, starting with Hippocrates’ personality types of: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic.)
But I’m getting more technical than I intended.
If you really want to study MBTI, there are books that go into each of the 16 types in great detail (there are probably entire books devoted to each one).
The value of Keirsey’s research is helping us to understand ourselves first, and then others, and most importantly, to understand that it is neither practical nor desirable to try to change others into versions of ourselves.
That’s a gross oversimplification. I highly recommend the book. It offers insight in how each of the four temperaments best interacts with a spouse of each type, with children of each type, and in leadership roles, as well as the pitfalls in these relationships – such as the Pygmalion project or trying to turn these others into versions of ourselves. It just doesn’t work. There’s good news here too. There are no doomed pairings. Any type, can mate with, parent, or work with any other type. There are some pairings that are quite common and/or optimum, but none that have no chance.
So let me wrap it up with something a little more fun. As I said, I’m INTP, which also means I am a Rational. Some excerpts from Please Understand me II about INTPs or Rationals that should – if you are a careful reader of this blog – sound exactly like the Once Lost Wanderer.
Rationals are usually exacting about definitions. Ever read me rant about quotation vs quote, about blogoversary, about personal canon?
[Rationals] …enjoy playing with words, finding pleasure in puns and paradoxes.
NTs tending to qualify their statements with modifiers such as ‘likely’, ‘probably’, ‘usually’, ‘occasionally’, and ‘in some degree’.
[Rationals] not socially or politically correct
They’re problem solvers, one and all.
…eager to provide information…but not at all eager to tell others what to do.
Rationals regard social custom neither respectfully nor sentimentally, but, again, pragmatically
Rationals are easily the most self-critical of all the temperaments…
INTPs will retreat into the world of books and emerge only when physical needs become imperative.
Rationals generally have a well-developed sense of humor, although the amusing and humorous is usually subtle and, more often than not, based on a play on words. NTs especially enjoy humor which is ironical, or which contains an unexpected double meaning.
You get the idea. It’s a very informative and accessible book. I recommend it to anyone who has to interact with other humans.