Irrational Rationals

Continuing on with Keirsey's Four Temperaments, I'll do one post each going into the details of each temperament. I'll start with the Rationals, just because that's what I am (barely).

Recall that Rationalists - or NTs - tend to be abstract in their thinking and communication and utilitiarian in their use of tools. As a result, they tend to excel at strategy. The Rationalist bucket contains a smaller bucket for each of the four MBTI NT variants:

  • Coordinating Fieldmarshal (ENTJ), mobilizing their forces to achieve a goal, grabbing whatever resources they need along the way, and doing so through a chain of command. Napoleon and Eisenhower were premier examples of this personality type, but Fieldmarshals can be found commanding any undertaking, be it military, commercial, or even educational.
  • Coordinating Mastermind (INTJ), engaged in the detailed research necessary to come up with the contingency plans they excel at forming for every conceivable failure point.
  • Engineering Inventor (ENTP), focused on creating prototypes of their technological advances. Dreaming up nifty things is all well and good, but this type is not happy until their dream has been reified and proven to work.
  • Engineering Architect (INTP), bent on designing models, blueprints, and plans that reify their ideas just as much as the Inventor's prototypes but on paper rather than in reality. This type cares intensely about the elegance and coherence of their design.

The judging or scheduling half are coordinators who think about the order in which things should be done whereas the probing and perceiving half pay more attention to how things are organized. Then comes the introvert/extrovert separation, with the extroverts naturally taking on roles that entail interaction with other people while the introverts tend more towards solo roles.

Just as each temperament has a predisposition towards or against strategy, tactics, diplomacy, and logistics but have greater or lesser skill in the areas as well, each of the four Rational variants have some facility with the roles of the other variants. The introvert and extrovert roles can fairly easily switch sides, but it tends to be much harder for a scheduler to swap over to a probing role, and vice versa. Even so, Rationals are likely to be much better at all four roles than they are with logistics, diplomacy, or tactics.

When you look at the types of things that interest a Rational, they usually align with the sciences much more than the arts, business, or the humanities. Technology is of keen interest, techniques, morality, and morale much less so; also systems (especially in the form of machines and organisms), but not so much equipment, materiel, or people.

Rationals tend to be very pragmatic in their view of life, always thinking about how they can get the most results for the least amount of effort. They are happy to follow along with custom where doing so meets their goals, but they are just as happy to brush custom aside when they believe it obstructs those goals (much to the abhorrence of Idealists and Guardians, focused on cooperation as they are).

Rationals are very skeptical when they look ahead. They know how often they themselves make mistakes, after all, and don't expect others to do any better. This is one reason they are so good at strategy - it's exactly because they know how likely it is that everything will go wrong that they put so much effort into determining how to best get or do where they need to go or do. And when Rationals look at the past, they don't see good or bad but rather a vast collection of lessons for them to mine. They do not see time as a line, either, but rather as an interval in which they are engaged in a certain thing. This is very true for me - when I become focused on a task, I step out of time, lose track of it. My task creates its own period of time, its own temporal interval.

Rationals' self-image is based upon being ingenious, autonomous, and resolute. Fun for Rationals - for me certainly (which mystifies my Artisan wife to no end) - is to actively work to get better at something. Preciseness is important - in the words they use, the things they do, the manner in which they criticize themselves. They could care less about a person's title, but the merits of a person's idea is of utmost importance. Rationals place high value on being calm, which other types can mistake for not caring. Reason they trust implicitly and without condition. In both work and play their aim is to achieve - not necessarily to be recognized (although that is of course appreciated) but to reach their goals. And once they do, they do not stop but rather set a higher goal and work towards that. One cause of this drive is an intense desire to understand how things work. Problems which they aren't sure they can solve are especially appealing. And they are quite pleased when their hard work is noticed and they are asked to explain why they solved a problem the particular way that they did.

When it comes to leading, Rationals (as you might expect from their strength with strategy) are focused on the long-term. They have a long-range plan for where things are going, and they have considered everything that might go awry and know how to adjust. And they tend to be quite good at selling this vision to their colleagues and getting them to willingly sign on for the ride.

Pretty much all of this applies to me. I am a mild N and a very strong T. I am also a mild J, so I am almost as strong an Architect as I am a Mastermind. Interestingly, being almost on the cusp between Sensing and iNtuitive and between Judging and Perceiving means I show strong signs of Artisan and Guardian as well. This holds constant across every personality typing scheme I have come across - even in cases where a person is only ever exactly one type (like Human Dynamics), I come up pretty strongly as two or more types. Which I guess makes me a complex, interesting individual, but sometimes just seems to mean that I have to read every section of the book instead of just one! <g/>

*** 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.

Comments (1)

  1. alanpa says:

    I took a long form MB test a few years back, and I’ve found it fascinating ever since. After I got my results, I was given a copy of the Isachsen / Berens book. I laughed (and was also a little creeped out) when I read the descriptions and characteristics of my "type" (INTP), as they were uncannily accurate.

    I could go on, but I won’t.

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