As I've talked about before, one of my current areas of study is personality types. In particular, of late I've been reading up on the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator and Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Isabel Myers herself noticed large similarities between sets of the sixteen MBTI types: the iNtuitive Feelers, iNtuitive Thinkers, Sensing Perceivers, and Sensing Judgers. David Keirsey terms these four groups "temperaments" and thinks of them as one-half of a person's personality, the other half being character. Think of your temperament as your particular set of inclinations, whereas your character is your particular set of habits. Or temperament as your hardware and character as your software.
The big difference between Myers' four groups and Keirsey's four temperaments is the rationale behind the groupings: Keirsey sticks to things that can be observed - words and tools (note that just about every part of civilization is tool, from the hammer you use to build a house to the building codes that house must meet) - whereas Myers felt the most fundamental difference between types was a person's introversion or extraversion. Keirsey grouped the types like this:
Artisan SPs are concrete utilitarians. The words they use tend to be very descriptive, they tend to focus on what is happening Right Now, and they talk about what they can see and touch and feel much more than they do things they can only visualize in their mind. Artisans consciously craft their dialogues to have a specific form and feeling and flow. They use their tools in a very pragmatic fashion; rather than searching around for exactly the perfect tool, they will take whatever is at hand and modify it to work well enough. Artisans are master tacticians, so-so at logistics and strategy, and not so hot at diplomacy.
Guardian SJs are concrete cooperators. As with the Artisans, Guardians lack interest in fanciful subjects of conversation. Guardian conversation is quite associative, with one topic reminding them of something else, which reminds them of something else, and so while you may have started out talking about the upcoming beta release you may find yourself discussing penguins being shot into space. Guardians full-on believe that rules should be followed because they exist for the greater good. Guardians are top-notch logisticians, okay with tactics and diplomacy, and generally poor at strategy.
Idealist NFs are abstract cooperators. They are much more interested in topics which must be imagined - love and hate, heart and soul - than items which can be seen and touched. They seem to always being reading between the lines or acting on hunches as they zoom from a few particulars to what may seem to others as premature generalizations. Like Guardians, Idealists are cooperative in their tools, but whereas Guardians focus more on doing things the way society has decided they should be done, Idealists follow the rules because that's what everybody else has decided to do. Idealist place much more importance on their tools being acceptable to everyone than being exactly right for the job. As you might expect, Idealists are born diplomats, fair at strategy and logistics, but often struggle with tactics.
Rationalist NTs are abstract utilitarians. They talk more about ideas than objects, and tend to be rather parsimonious in their conversation, but they pick the words they do use very carefully and intentionally. Rationals approach topics quite opposite from Idealists, moving from generalities to specificities rather than the other way round. Rationalists care more about the usefulness of their tools than their social acceptability. They aren't opposed to following the rules, so long as doing so doesn't prevent them from doing their work in the most efficacious manner possible. Rationalists are premier strategists, acceptable at diplomacy and tactics, and mostly stay as far away from logistics as they can.
Me, I'm a Rationalist. But I'm also close to being a Guardian and an Artisan. And pretty far from being an Idealist - I'm about ninety percent thinking, and that ten percent feeling part of me has a tough time making itself known.
All this matters because people tend to assume that other people are just like them, but of course most people are very not just like them. Rationals and Guardians are polar opposites and thus are likely to be mystified and/or offended by the very different way the other person thinks, the words they use, and the general approach they take to life. Even a basic understanding of these four distinct temperaments - let alone the many dissimilarities between the full sixteen MBTI types - can reduce misunderstandings and help you get decisions made and work done.
Let me know if you'd like more details about all this! David Keirsey wrote entire books on this subject; I promise to keep it to rather fewer posts. <g/>
David Keirsey's book Please Understand Me II is my primary source for all this. I highly recommend it.
*** Want a fun job on a great team? I need a tester! Interested? Let's talk: Michael dot J dot Hunter at microsoft dot com. Great coding skills required.