Keirsey: The Four Temperaments

Keirsey - The Four Temperaments

“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In yesterday’s post, we learned about the basic principles underlying the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS-II).  Dr. David Keirsey, educational psychologist and creator of the KTS-II, defines temperament as “a configuration of observable personality traits, such as habits of communication, patterns of action, and sets of characteristic attitudes, values, and talents.”  Since our individual temperaments deeply affect the ways in which we perceive ourselves and others in the world, the way that we choose to communicate with others, and the strategies that we employ to meet our goals, it is a worthwhile endeavor to understand this concept.

Four Temperaments

Through an assessment and understanding of our own temperament and the temperaments of our loved ones, we can learn more effective ways of communicating with others and reaching our dreams and aspirations.  There is great power in increasing self-knowledge/self-awareness and sensitive understanding of important people in our lives. With this in mind, let’s explore the basic differences between the four temperaments described by Keirsey:

The SPs – (Sensing/Perceiving)

This temperament is also known as the “Artisan” due to their natural ability/tendency to excel in the arts.  This can include fine arts, performing arts, military, political, and industrial arts.  They usually take great pride in being unconventional, bold, and spontaneous.  Keirsey explains that “having the freedom to act on the spur of the moment, whenever or wherever an opportunity arises, is very important to SPs” (Keirsey, 1998, p. 18).

Some common terms that both Myers-Briggs and Keirsey use to describe SPs are:

  • Adaptable
  • Artistic
  • Stimulation-seeking
  • Excitable/playful
  • Able to see the needs of the moment
  • Wanting first-hand experiences
  • Tolerant/unprejudiced
  • Easygoing

The SJs – (Sensing/Judging)

People with this temperament are referred to as “Guardians” because of their proclivity to serve and protect important social institutions.  They are naturally talented with the management of goods and services.  These people tend to pay close to attention to their surroundings because they are concerned with scheduling their own and others’ activities in order to make sure that everyone’s needs are met.  Keirsey views SJs as needing “everything [to] be in its proper place, everybody [to] be doing what they’re supposed to … and all legitimate needs promptly met” (Keirsey, 1998, p. 19).

Some common terms used by Myers-Briggs and Keirsey to describe SJs are:

  • Conservative
  • Stable
  • Consistent
  • Routinized
  • Sensible
  • Hard-working
  • Detailed
  • Persevering

The NFs – (Intuitive/Feeling)

NFs are considered to be “Idealists” because they tend to be passionately concerned with personal growth and development.  This quest to reach their full potential through self-knowledge and self-improvement acts as a motivating force for their actions and their imagination.  They are concerned with ways to provide meaning and wholeness to people’s lives and they usually experience interpersonal conflict as being very painful.  Keirsey states that “all NFs consider it vitally important to have everyone in their circle – their family, friends, and colleagues – feeling good about themselves and getting along with each other” (Keirsey, 1998, p. 19).

Common terms that Myers-Briggs and Keirsey use to describe NFs are:

  • Humane
  • Sympathetic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Religious
  • Intuitive
  • Creative
  • Insightful
  • Subjective

The NTs (Intuitive/Thinking)

The NTs are known as the “Rationals” due to their inherent problem-solving nature and interest in understanding systems and how they operate.  They tend to pride themselves on their logical natures and value objectivity and reason in others.  There is a tendency to place greater value on being just over being merciful.  NTs are usually introspective, but are “tough-minded” in the way they usually go about solving problems.  Keirsey explains that “all NTs insist that they have a rationale for everything they do, that whatever they do and say makes sense” (Keirsey, 1998, p. 20).

Common terms used by Myers-Briggs and Keirsey to describe NTs are:

  • Analytical
  • Efficient
  • Systematic
  • Independent
  • Scientific
  • Competent
  • Inventive
  • Logical

Our individual temperaments largely define our values and self-image.  Temperament predisposes us to see the world and understand others in certain ways.  When we are able to understand our own temperament better and the temperaments of important people in our lives, we can ascertain the most effective ways of communicating and relating to others.

No temperament is “better” or “worse” than any other.  We all have strengths and limitations that affect the way that we see ourselves and choose to engage in the world.  Increasing self-knowledge and self-awareness through understanding your own temperament can serve to enrich your self-concept and your relationships with others.

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If you are interested in taking the official Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS-II), you may take it for free at Keirsey.com.

If you are interested in taking the official MBTI personality assessment, you may take it at MBTI Complete for $59.95.  For an unofficial version of the Jung Typology Test, you may take it for free at HumanMetrics.

Keirsey, D. (1998). Please understand me II: Temperament, character, intelligence. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company.

Keirsey Temperament Sorter. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.keirsey.com/

Featured image: Four Seasons – Longbridge Road by joiseyshowaa / CC BY-SA 2.0

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