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Your temperament and using communication skills

Formed before we are born, temperament has four independent dimensions: people, data, emotions/reactions and organization/time that all run along a continuum. Some couples research has indicated that the more dimensions on which you and your partner are similar, the more likely you are to stay together. One of the main reasons for this is that we tend to figure that what we prefer is what our partner prefers. On special occasions, I want to have parties...large ones. Having one or two couples over for dinner is not a celebration in my mind, but it is in his. After a couple of years, I finally figured this out and quit trying to throw him birthday bashes and he learned to try to start throwing them for me.

If both partners are educated about each other's preferences, being different can work to your advantage because you can keep each other balanced.

Using a blue pen, mark all of the statements below that best describe you and using a black pen, mark all that best describe your partner. When you finish you will be able to see ways in which you are alike and ways in which you may have to make some allowances and learn to appreciate differences. I strongly suggest doing this worksheet for your children, your boss and anyone else with whom you frequently interact.

You can also read Dr. David Keirsey's book "Please Understand Me" and Alice and Lisa Fairhurst's book "Effective Teaching, Effective Learning" and visit my website http://www.police-counseling.com for more detailed information.

The people dimension is concerned with how we relate to others and interact with the world in general. Understanding people's preferences in this dimension will help you understand what sorts of environments and situations they will prefer and what will cause them stress.


  • Are expansive and less passionate
  • Are generally easy to get to know
  • Like meeting new people, have many close friends
  • Would rather figure things out while they are talking
  • Often enjoy background noise such as TV or radio
  • Know what is going on around them rather than inside them
  • Often do not mind interruptions
  • May think that introverts are standoff-ish
  • Are often considered good talkers
  • Love being the center of attention


  • Are intense and passionate
  • Are generally more difficult to get to know
  • Have to exert effort to meet new people
  • Have only a few close friends
  • Would rather figure things out before they talk
  • Prefer peace and quiet
  • Are more likely to know what is going on inside them rather than what is going on around them
  • Dislike being interrupted
  • May think extraverts are shallow
  • Are often good listeners
  • Prefer to observe and not be the center of attention

Sensing/Intuitive, this is the data dimension. It roughly translates into how people approach life. In work-life these two temperaments often work together wonderfully. In relationships it can cause chaos.


  • Are practical, grounded and realistic
  • Prefer facts and live in the real world
  • Seek enjoyment and experience
  • Are often pleasure lovers and consumers
  • Content in general
  • Would rather do than think
  • Focus on practical, concrete problems
  • See the details and may ignore the big picture
  • Want specifics and tend to be very literal
  • May think that intuitive people are impractical
  • Believe "if it isn't broken, don't fix it"
  • Focus on the present and reality


  • Are imaginative dreamers "head in the clouds"
  • Prefer abstraction, inspiration and insights
  • Are often initiate or, inventors, promoters, and restless in general
  • Like to live in the world of possibilities
  • Would rather think then do
  • Focus on complicated abstract problems
  • See the big picture but may not notice the details
  • Love word games
  • May think that those who are sensing are boring and lack inspiration
  • Believe anything can be improved
  • Focus on the future and possibilities

Thinking and Feeling refers to how you interpret and react to life. For those of you Trekkies out there it is sort of a Commander Data vs. Counselor Troi.


  • Like words such as principles, policy, firmness, justice, standards or analysis
  • Respond most easily to people's thoughts
  • Want to apply objective principles
  • Value objectivity above sentiment
  • Are analytical and logical and can assess logical consequences
  • Believe it is more important to be just than merciful
  • Assess reality through a true/false lens
  • May think that those who are sentimental or prefer feelings take things too personally
  • May argue both sides of an issue for mental stimulation


  • Like words such as care, compassion, mercy, intimacy, harmony, devotion
  • Respond most easily to people's values
  • Want to apply values and ethics from multiple perspectives
  • Value sentiment above objectivity
  • Are people oriented
  • Are good at assessing the human impact
  • Believe it is more important to be caring/merciful
  • Assess reality through a good/bad lens
  • May think that those preferring objectivity are insensitive
  • Prefer a to agree with those around them

The biggest stumbling block for people here is that feelers want their feelings acknowledged. It does not matter what they are upset about, what matters is that you acknowledge that they are upset. It does not matter what they are upset about, what matters is that you acknowledge that they are upset. (Yes, I repeated that sentence intentionally. It is that important) Until you do, you will find yourself at an impasse. Thinkers and feelers experience things with similar intensity, and are both quite adept at problem solving, They differ in the way they express themselves. When interacting with a thinker, do not try to normalize their emotions or talk a lot about how they are feeling. Talk about what they are thinking and their reactions. When interacting with a feeler, do not problem solve. Focus on feeling words and helping them know that you hear where they are coming from.

Have you ever been with a person who just will not do something unless it was on their calendar for at least 24 hours? Or a person who you can call at 4:30 to make plans for 5? Judgers and perceivers approach time and organization in very different ways.


  • Plan ahead
  • Are self-disciplined and purposeful
  • Like things finished and settled. Thrive on order
  • Get things done early. Plan ahead. Work steadily.
  • Define and work within limits
  • Want closure
  • May be hasty in making decisions
  • Time and deadline oriented
  • Dislike surprises
  • Thinks those preferring spontaneity are too unpredictable
  • Usually make effective choices but may not appreciate or make use of things which are not planned or expected


  • Adapt as they go
  • Are flexible and tolerant
  • Prefer multiple options
  • Thrive on spontaneity
  • Usually get things done late or at the last minute depending on spurt of energy
  • Want more information
  • May fail to make decisions
  • Always think there's plenty of time
  • Love surprises
  • May think that those who are not spontaneous are too rigid
  • Are quite adept at handling unplanned events, but may not make effective choices among the possibilities

Judgers and perceivers can live in harmony if they compromise. For example, I am an extreme judger, hubby is not. Therefore, I plan ahead so on the days he is off (as long as I can workout in the morning) we do what he wants to do the rest of the day no matter how spur of the moment. This way I still get to plan and get in the correct mindset and he does not have to follow my schedules, lists or routines. Many of my clinicians are also perceivers. I have learned that since they usually get things done late or at the last minute depending on spurts of energy, I give them plenty of advance notice and set the deadline for a week before it is really due.

In the end it is all in how you approach it. If you are open to appreciating that other's strengths and preferences can work to compliment yours, you will be able to make most relationships work. If you try to pigeon hole people and make them act, respond and live like you prefer, you are going to be fighting a losing battle.

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