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Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types Paperback – January 1, 1984

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Editorial Reviews Review

Does your spouse's need to alphabetically organize books on the shelves puzzle you? Do your boss's tsunami-like moods leave you exasperated? Do your child's constant questions make you batty? If you've ever wanted to change your mate, your coworkers, or a family member, then "Put down your chisel," advise David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates in this book of personality types. We are different for a reason, and that reason is probably more good than bad. Keirsey and Bates believe that not only is it impossible to truly change others (which they call embarking on a "Pygmalion project"), it's much more important to understand and affirm differences. Sounds easier than it is, you might say. Well, this book is a guide for putting an end to the Pygmalion projects in your life and starting on the path to acceptance.

For anyone acquainted with the ubiquitous Myers-Briggs personality test, Please Understand Me will be familiar territory--but gone over with a fine-toothed comb. And for the uninitiated, this book will be a quick introduction to personality typing the Myers-Briggs way--with a Jungian accent. After presenting a brief rundown of 20th-century psychology movements, Keirsey and Bates encourage you to take the 70-question "Keirsey Temperament Sorter," a sort of mini-Myers-Briggs test that places you in 1 of 16 personality types. Like the Myers-Briggs system, this test sorts your personality into groups of extraversion/introversion (E/I), sensation/intuition (S/N), thinking/feeling (T/F), and perceiving/judging (P/J). Unlike the Myers-Briggs system, Please Understand Me also presents four easy-to-remember temperament types--Dionysian (freedom first), Epimethean (wants to be useful), Promethean (desires power), and Apollonian (searches for self)--that underlie the 16 possible personalities identified by the test. The book then delves into a detailed analysis of each type, with sections on mates, children, and leaders. An appendix paints portraits of the 16 possible personality types.

Unless you're already a true personality-typing devotee, this book may seem a little esoteric, especially the somewhat "in" references to psychological theory that few laypeople will be likely to understand. But give it a chance and you may find that you'll begin to understand why you always know where to find Anna Karenina on the shelf (you have an ESTJ husband), why your boss is sarcastic one day and praises your achievements the next (she's an NF), and why knowing the reason that the sun comes up in the same place every day is important to your little one (he's Promethean). You may even find that once you accept quirks and ticks in others, they will understand you a little better, too. --Stefanie Durbin


Product Details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company; 5th edition (January 1, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0960695400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0960695409
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

118 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Baby Strange on July 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
I tend to be very skeptical of any book that smacks of 'self help,' but "Please Understand Me" has been one of my most frequently referred-to books ever since I bought my first copy five years ago. I don't ordinarily push books onto friends and family, but somehow or other I can never keep myself from INSISTING that others read--and, most importantly--USE it.
I've always known I'm a kook, but never really understood why. I took the Kiersey Temperament Sorter in the front of the book, and found that I am split between INTP and INTJ, two of the rarest personality types. Most of my family members are SPs and SJs--small wonder they think I'm a wacko! And no wonder I kept thinking they were uptight, or lacking in imagination. No wonder they don't get my jokes (which are not really jokes--and if you don't get that, you need to read this book <laughs>).
The light "Please Understand Me" has cast on my relationships with my family and friends has been of inestimable benefit. Sure, my ESTP father drives me nuts, but now I understand why, and it allows me to step back and say, "that's how he is--consider this before tearing off on a rant, will you?" It also helps me understand why I am so close to my INFP kid sister, but fought constantly with an ISTJ ex-boyfriend. By understanding how the different types relate to the world and the people around them, it is easier to understand why they behave as they do. It becomes easier to be more compassionate. Rather than lashing out in irritation and frustration because I assume I know why someone is acting the way he or she does, I can use what I know about the Myers-Briggs types and try to see the world through that person's eyes.
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53 of 54 people found the following review helpful By S. Forrester on January 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Keirsey's explanation of the different temperaments was a real eye-opener for me. Finally I understand why people get upset with certain of my character traits, and why I always felt so misunderstood by some people. It was a big relief to know that after all, I'm "normal", and so are the others. Where there used to be resentment on my or the others' part, we now knowingly smile at each other, saying "ah, there shows your J again, can't help it, can you?"
Keirsey introduces us to four basic opposite tendencies in temperament, then describes the temperaments, and applies this to the areas of relationships, work, children, and learning.
The book starts with a questionnaire that you can take to determine your type. I would strongly advise not to just read the part about your own type, though. The real aha effect comes when you read about the others, too. You won't even need everyone to take the test, you'll know just by what you've read what types you're dealing with. It's fun to realize our differences and see them in a new light.
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68 of 72 people found the following review helpful By D. Bodenheimer on October 30, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am an INTJ, and always wondered why everyone wasn't like me. Well, it turns out that I make up less than 1% of the population, and this book was a great help in helping people to understand me, but also in giving me the information I need to realize that everyone is different, and everyone needs to be understood in a different manner. What might make total sense to an INTJ, might really hurt someone else's feelings. And getting passionate about an illogical point in an arguement completely backfires when dealing with someone like me.
Everyone is different, and this books helps to at least start defining those differences into 16 general personality types. Now, there is still a ton of differences within a single type, but getting to 1 of 16 is a great start at dealing with those around you, as well as giving them some insight into your personality as well.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By gina bryant on January 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'll try to keep it short- the negative reviewers must not have really read this incredible book. I read it in 1980 while in college and found out the reason why I always felt like an "alien" in grade school even though I was popular. Reading about my ENTP temperament finally allowed me to appreciate parts of myself and not compare myself to all my SJ and SP friends! It even made me appreciate a family member that before I thought I'd never get along with. I mistook her non-verbal personality as hostile- then she took the test and I found out she was an ISFP- I felt like I was looking into her very (artistic) soul as I read the words that described her exactly. Now I value her deeply. I've given this book to many friends who all agree with me that above any other "self helper" none other even comes close to the insight this offers. I'm using it with my high school students this spring. (Thanks Xerox!)
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ursula on November 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Please Understand Me" is a clear description of the 4 variables in Briggs-Meyer personality types. It is fairly simple to understand. One is either introverted or extroverted. One looks at the world through one's senses, or through intuition. One evaluates the world through thought, or through feelings. One prefers the world either structured, or open-ended. Each of these preferences can be mild, moderate, or intense, and the way the four preferences can be combined creates 16 personality types. Yet, with variations in intensity, there is ample room to understand the true range of human personality.

"Please Understand Me" and "Please Understand Me II" are two completely different books, not an original and updated version of the same book. "Please Understand Me" covers the basics, understanding what each letter means, and the way they combine. "Please Understand Me II" is a detailed description of each of the 16 personality types, carefully structured to allow easy comparison. It would be difficult to understand for anyone not already familiar with the Briggs-Meyers personality type system from "Please Understand Me" or another basic book.

While the "Please Understand Me" system can be interesting as a means of self-analysis, it is most useful when turned outwards, as a way of understanding the people around you, and as a way of planning your actions for maximum effectiveness.

For example, when planning a party, it can be easy to slip into planning only the types of activities that you like. But your guests will be of all personality types. So consider - the extrovert's may love a loud dance floor, but the introverts will need a quite space to recharge now and then. Sensing types will love the stimulation of good food, good music, etc.
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