on November 10, 2000
I almost didn't buy this book because I thought it was just a new version of Keirsey and Bates' "Please Understand Me." The appeal of Keirsey and Bates' original work was that it covered much of the information upon which the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based is a very readable manner. Rather than reading like a psychological treatise, it read like a book written for the general public. I am glad that I bought "Please Understand Me II." It exceeded my expectations. Keirsey's new book is much better than the original Keirsey and Bates book. I had read Keirsey and Bates at a time when I was taking an MBTI qualifying course, and I found it had value to me because it brought the concepts of personality type more alive than the text from the Consulting Psychologists Press. Although we were also using Kroeger and Thyssen's "Type Talk" and "Type Talk at Work," Keirsey gave me an added dimension. I liked it so much that I purchased Stephen Montgomery's "Pygmalion Project: Love and Coercion Among the Types : The Guardian," to get more information.
The basic appeal of a book on personality type is to gain a better understanding of ourselves, our "significant others," and people with whom we work. You might go so far as to say that it gives us an insight into what makes people tick. However, the real purpose of the study of personality type for the layman is to develop an understanding of what Isabel Myers called the "gifts differing." Each personality type has certain qualities that are unique. An understanding of those values adds dimension to interpersonal relationships, whether they be relationships within a family, significant others, or within a work group. The strengths of some members of a group add value to that group, compensate for weaknesses of other members, and make the group more effective. Rather than work with Myers and Briggs's 16 psychological types, Keirsey emphasizes the four temperaments which he developed from the scholarship associated with the MBTI. That was the fundamental strength of Keirsey and Bates' original book, and Keirsey advances that construct one step more by including information about certain "intelligences" associated with the temperaments.
I found that "Please Understand Me II" is much more than a self-help psychology book. It goes to great lengths beyond the original Keirsey and Bates publication to provide additional depth to the concept of psychological type, both from a historical background establishing the scientific basis for the study of psychological type, but also from the point of view of the scholar in making the study of psychological type much more understandable. I feel that this book has value not just to the general public, but also to students of psychology, personnel and human resources personnel, as well as the clergy and mental health professionals. People who read this book should also read Stephen Montgomery's "Pygmalion Project," Isabel Myers' "Gifts Differing," and Kroeger and Thyssen's "Type Talk" and "Type Talk at Work."
on September 18, 1998
Book Review: Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey, Prometheus Nemesis Book Co.. 1998, 350 pg. By Jack Falt
Back in 1978 Keirsey and Bates wrote Please Understand Me. It was one of the first books to popularize the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI), 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 the MBTI 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 MBTI 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 MBTI, and also how they are different. The MBTI 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 ADHS. 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 the MBTI, and you might find that the concept of temperament is well worth considering and another useful tool to add to your psychological tool bag. < P > - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jack Falt is qualified in the administration of the MBTI . Through his company called Appreciating Differences he gives workshops and presentations on MBTI and True Colors. He is president of the APT - Ottawa-Carleton chapter, and is the membership coordinator for the Ontario Aassoc. of APT. END
on December 15, 1999
Granted, personality tests can never quite be taken seriously; most function like horoscopes -- one-size-fits-all: as long as the test-taker wishes to coincide with the results, they are imaginatively verified. But coming to the Keirsey as a skeptic, I've found it unexpectedly accurate, on each of two very different occasions. When I tried the original version of the Keirsey several years ago, its insights had been interesting and useful; but when it occurred to me recently to take the test again, this time with _Please Understand Me II_, I was really struck by the ways in which the results differed, and how certain differences in my personality had been pinpointed, again, with much accuracy. So, even as I'd never trust an assessment of this format to divine anything like a true self, the test did give me occasion for recognizing some of the fundamental changes I had undergone over the years. (For those who might be trying to pick between the two, this second edition I think is more thorough than the first.) On this purely practical basis I would recommend the book, as a possible aid toward fuller self-understanding. Critical and detailed, it's the only "personality test" I've come across that doesn't abuse one's intelligence.
on November 22, 2000
First off, I'm a skeptic, a scientific thinker in the CSICOP mold. I first encountered David Keirsey's writings on the web site, Keirsey dot com, and thought: A classification system that divides people into sixteen "personality types"? Sounds like astrology -- and I count myself among the firm unbelievers. But I was still curious, and the online questionnaires yielded a reasonably accurate description of me, so I bought the book and dove in. I went straight to the profile of my own type (INTP) to see how much of it I could write off as universal generalities.
I was stunned. Keirsey hit some crucial nerves. There's one passage especially, about the Rational temperament's perception of time, that described me uncannily and does NOT fit non-Rationals I know. It was like cracking open a fortune cookie and finding my suit measurements. This knocked down my resistance, and I began reading other profiles pertaining to people close to me -- which was easy to do, because each type has its own self-contained section with all the relevant details. Now, many personality types have details in common, and as a result, Keirsey repeats himself a lot. This can be understandably irritating if you're trying to read the book cover-to-cover, but it serves well for skipping around, for quick reference -- which is the book's greatest strength. It's not a narrative, it's a reference.
In addition to laying out type and temperament details, Keirsey relates the history of four-element personality theory, starting with the ancients and culminating with Jung, Myers, and Briggs. And he emphasizes the danger of what he calls the "Pygmalion Project," our tendency to interpret others' differences (from ourselves) as faults or misunderstandings to be corrected -- to try to change other people's basic nature, an endeavor which can only cause worse problems.
Personally speaking, I've learned from Keirsey to better understand my wife (and vice versa), my mother-in-law, many friends (and I've learned why I chose these friends), my boss...once you get a feel for this stuff, it illuminates all sorts of relationships. The book has chapters on love and marriage, too, highlighting the special dynamics between particular paired types. (More often than not, one's ideal mate is NOT a carbon-copy, but a contrasting type who speaks the same language.) I've learned to ease off from struggling against people's basic ways of thinking, feeling, working, and communicating. Better to learn to speak their language and to understand their motivations, which may be radically different from yours. It makes a big, positive difference.
Admittedly, Keirsey is a Rational himself -- logical, unsentimental, about as un-Oprah as you can get -- and he unabashedly writes that way, which can make the text a bit dry and technical at times. (No disrespect to Oprah. I understand and respect her a lot more too, thanks to Keirsey.) But I believe it's worth the effort for anyone to read at least selected parts of this book, because the insights are so very useful. Consider it a reference manual for understanding other people. You might like manuals or they might drive you crazy, but when you find that one part that answers your question, the reward is worth the work.
on January 24, 2000
"What Color is You're Parachute?", the ever popular "self-help" book now in its 100 gazillionth printing, was primarily focused on helping an individual identify a career compatible to their personality. "Please Understand Me II", is an interesting, and seemingly accurate, methodology for identifying an individual's temperament.
Are you an NT (intuitive & thinking - Rational), an NF (intuitive & feeling - Idealist)? If you are an "Idealist", have you ever heard/read the Greek mythological story of Pygmalion?
As to the issue of accuracy: A certain curious individual took five different tests, from a variety of sources, all based on this temperament methodology, and arrived at the same conclusion as to temperament every time. I was amazed (oops). Ok, is was me. So what; this is about you anyway. Each time I took the test I was in a different mood, I think, and it was at varying times of day/night. My temperament description it dead-on according to many that have known me for a while. Many issues are discussed, including mating, work, communication, and a thorough overview of the temperament orientation. This is not at all like astrology. The types are carefully defined, and divergent in orientation. And no; it is not all touchy-feely. You may not like some of what you hear. However, I promise you that everyone, in varying degrees of course, will benefit from this book. Use it to understand you relationships; your attitudes; your communication style; and for plain-old fun (and it is great fun). By the way, I am a Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judger (INTJ), a "Rational-Mastermind" temperament (wow, that's a little embarrassing to say out loud). If the book is correct, I would definitely tell you if I thought it was a load of hooey. And I am enjoying it thoroughly.
on June 4, 2000
This book is interesting but also somewhat esoteric and opinionated. A much more useful book to start out with is LIFETYPES by Sandra Krebs Hirsh and Jean Kummerow. They also cover Myers-Briggs temperament preferences but in a more straightforward, readable, and immediately usable way. I am a psychologist and I have found LIFETYPES to be perhaps the most personally and professionally useful book I've ever found. If, after reading it, you want to explore different approaches to temperament and explore the topic in greater depth, then David Keirsey's work would be of interest.
on May 26, 2001
Keirsey is sort of the Adam Smith of Social Psychology. Please Understand Me II (different and better than Please Understand Me) synthesizes and draws out what Western Civilization has known since at least the time of the ancient Greeks. All of us possess one of four general and distinct temperaments, and in turn also possess one of four specific and distinct temperaments from within one of the general groups. If such a thing as a "handbook" regarding human nature exists, Keirsey's book is it.
Please Understand Me II gives a few chapters of background at the beginning (most importantly, the propensities for tool usage and communication, resulting in a simple 2x2 matrix illustration), and then the next four chapters are devoted to each different general temperament: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, Rational. The rest of the chapters build on the former, covering Parenting, Childhood, Leadership, inter alia.
It's difficult to emphasize how essential this book is to your personal library. The book is very approachable to the interested and intelligent reader (and according to Keirsey, who WOULDN'T that be...), especially considering Keirsey's rigorous treatment of an important and perhaps even previously neglected area of Social Science.
The book may seem mostly theoretical to some, but after reading the book you will probably have no choice but apply the theory you learned to your interactions with others. Not only is the book helpful as a guide to observing and "reading" people, it also is an excellent tool for self-understanding (and even includes tests to help you determine your specific type).
Excellent resource...fascinating topic...masterful treatment of the subject matter. I wholeheartedly (and thoughtfully, and excitedly, and steadfastly) recommend Please Understand Me II.
on June 7, 1999
After reading Please Understand Me II, I found myself suspending harsh judgment toward others in favor of accepting and understanding why and how habits, behaviors, and preferences differ from mine. My ENTJ type is only 2% of the population and this book not only explains how this type fits in with all the others, but also how to apply this to both dating and leadership. Unlike arbitrary constructions like astrology, you can test and retest this science and find that it works over and over again! If you are concerned with putting people "in a box," keep in mind that the personality inventory accounts for preferences and motivation, not necessarily actions. I found this refreshing after studying a concrete business model that types people according to what they do behaviorally without considering their inherent motivations and preferences. I would highly recommend this to anyone who has ever tested as an intuitive "N", for anyone who wants to understand team dynamics in any environment, and for those of you who feel like your significant other just doesn't understand where you are coming from...
on August 18, 2002
David Keirsey's "Please Understand Me II:..." is as good as his other work. Great book! And, to get the maximum benefit out of "Please Understand Me II:..", please understand that you should also read "Please Understand Me I..". And, yes, it helps to understand the philosophy behind "Please Understand Me I" and "Please Mnderstand Me II:.." by reading, as others have recommended, "West Point: Character Leadership Education.." by Remick. Please understand how important it is to understand. And, in fact, if you're a little short this week, you're better off skipping the first two and just buying the latter.
on March 5, 1999
Please Understand Me II covers much of the information found in the original Please Understand Me. However, the style has changed and the concepts conveyed in a more academic fashion. Keirsey admits to being an NT and it shows. He assumes understanding which means the message fails to be clear. Perhaps Ms Bates (co author book 1) was the correction to this problem.
However, if you have read book one, the bulk of the book has been already understood. You are then left to consider his thoughts on temperament and the Strategic, Diplomatic, Logistic and Tactical methods of operation of the type NT,NF,SJ and SP. From my perspective this can be parahprased in a fraction of the verbage offered by Keirsey.
Finally, the acid test is that I still find myself reaching for book one when I want to refer to a person's type. In fact I came on here today to order another book 1 as they are becoming hard to find.