Different People, Different Cares

My Favorite Personality Framework

People are fascinating to me. They’re especially interesting because every single one is different from me. We’re all constrained—at least for the moment—to our own thoughts and feelings. We may get to know others extremely well, but we’re just not able to experience another’s thoughts and feelings the way they do. That’s why even those closest have the capability to surprise us. I’m not content to be simply fascinated, I want to understand as much as possible about people in general and those in my world in particular. I’ve found a particular framework especially helpful in understanding my motivations and how they’re the same and different—at a fundamental level—from others who are important to me.

Meyers-Briggs (please follow the link and note the “Four dichotomies” section if this subject is new to you) is maybe the most widely known psychometric assessment. I think David Keirsey (blog) improved upon it significantly, getting to motivations rather than just descriptions. Like thinkers back to antiquity, Meyers-Briggs is based on four somewhat independent personality characteristics which define 16=4×4 personality types. Keirsey uses some of the same terminology but combines pairs of characteristics in a more elegant and predictive way. Now quickly to the chase: using Keirsey, there are only two questions to ask yourself about a person to get a good empirical, effective understanding of what’s important to that person. From there, use that information as you see fit…

Internal question #1: does this person talk mostly about (and therefore care more about) day to day events and activities or more about thoughts, future plans, dreams, and theories?

Internal question #2: does this person work within “the system” almost always, or do they often find their own way and write their own rules?

Question #1 defines a person as “concrete” or “abstract” respectively, question #2 defines him as “cooperative” or “pragmatic”. Those two measures define four fundamentally different temperaments that Keirsey strongly believes are strong descriptors and predictors. These four temperaments are further divided in 16 total personality types, but if you get the “temperament” bucket right, you’re most of the way to understanding. I heartily agree through much personal experience. The first thing I learned after playing this game seriously for a while years ago, was that other people are really different from me. In fundamental ways I hadn’t considered. If this is the only lesson learned, I feel this stuff is worth it!

For the purposes of a readable-length post, in this first post on this topic I’ll mostly limit to one type: mine. I measure out more “abstract” and “pragmatic” which lands me in the Rational (NT = iNtuitive-Thinking in Myers-Briggs terminology) temperament bucket. [For the more abstract people out there: the two questions above don’t individually map directly to any of the four measures defined by Meyers-Briggs. But the two questions together map to four unique pairs of Myers-Briggs characteristics]. Only getting a quick mention here are the other three: Idealist, Artisan, and Guardian. I believe the names are excellent and highly descriptive. If you just remember the names, you’ll have a picture of the four different fundamental types of people.










Some Observations and Extensions

Top Executive-Search-Los Angeles  - Different People, Different CaresExecutive Search Those are the basics. Here are some points about this that I find most interesting

  • If you’re not at all interested in this, you’re probably either “concrete” or “pragmatic” or both!
  • Like quantum physics, what is learned is based completely on what you choose to measure. If your measurement choices lead to good predictions, you’ve probably chosen well. These personality characteristics work well for me, so I believe this framework taps into something “real.”
  • I’ve found in everyone I know very well that there is a significant secondary personality type that shows up frequently. The “primary” type is the one that’s measured by Keirsey’s test and that governs maybe 60% of the time. The secondary type is in charge maybe 30% and the last 10% is wonderfully unpredictable! Using myself as an example: I’m in “work mode” most of the time and my natural mode is abstract and pragmatic as mentioned above. When away from work, the abstract lightens up(!), becomes concrete and the Artisan (concrete, pragmatic)
    bits of me shine through. I’ve never heard or read of this secondary mode before, so as far as I know it’s original. Therefore, it’s more likely to be completely wrong than anything else here! The rest of this is good social science—inexact as that always is.

As you see, I made no attempt to spell out all the terminology and all the types in this first post on this topic. You can get a little wider background by using some of the links in this post.. I thought I’d share the most practical and relevant parts, which is a jumping off point for future posts about how this applies to sales, marketing, and team building in general.

On this topic especially, I look forward to seeing some comments, questions, and challenges. I’ll answer every one, so speak up in the comment section!

2 replies
  1. Larry Logan
    Larry Logan says:

    your posting is pretty thorough, so no attempt here to add — other than support
    your theme on the importance of personality types. My own type is challenged in
    marketing roles, from the various studies done. Doesn’t mean I can’t be
    successful, as indeed I have. However, I do consider type in both hiring and
    also in day to day department performance. Having team members who are the
    opposite of me on the 4 key axis has been a godsend, as their observations and
    counsel give me important input for consideration.

    • Scott Thompson
      Scott Thompson says:

      I agree that different types will certainly have mismatches with their chosen career sometimes, but if you have some awareness, pretty much they can all be overcome. Maybe someone with my personality type would make a good nurse…but he’d have to be constantly working at it!!

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