The Rational Personality

Less than six percent of all men and women are rational personalities. They speak of what is seen by the mind’s eye. Pleasing others and obeying rules is secondary to determining whether intended means will work in achieving their ends. Their thought and speech go from general to specific. Rationals enjoy puns, paradoxes, and word play. They abhor repeated errors, especially their own. Concerned with events, they lose track of time. Ingenuity, autonomy, and resolve govern their self-image.

Rationals keep their emotions in check, are closet romantics, value reason and logic, are goal driven, pursue knowledge relentlessly, relish chances to explain their achievements, and aspire to predict and control events, understanding and explaining their contexts. They are mind-mates as spouses, individuators as parents, and visionaries as leaders.

Notable examples are: Napoleon, Grant, Sherman, Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Lincoln, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Einstein, Schrödinger, Tesla, Howard Hughes, Francis Bacon, Descartes, Kant, Dewey, Twain, Shakespeare, and William F. Buckley, Jr., and in fiction: Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty, and Spock.

Rarely will you meet anyone that fits this description. However, they are found as leaders in government or the military, scientists in laboratories and universities, engineers in industry and startups, philosophers, authors, and renown fictional characters.

This is one of the personalities that is especially important for writers to recognize and portray. David Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me is a useful reference for writers who want to fully flesh out their characters.

Keirsey says Hippocrates and Galen observed that there are four personality types. Later scientists refined their observations by identifying four distinctions within each type.

Keirsey defines the rational personality as abstract in their word use and utilitarian in their tool use. They speak about imaginative, conceptual, or inferential things. Their conversation appears unemotional and avoids the irrelevant, trivial, and redundant.

Rationals fall into four subcategories, each containing one to two percent of the population. Two are characterized as directive coordinators: the expressive field-marshal and the reserved mastermind. The field-marshal harnesses people and resources to lead them toward their goals with minimum wasted effort and maximum progress. The mastermind makes efficient schedules with contingencies, interested in moving an organization forward rather than dwelling on past mistakes. Their single-mindedness can lead to ignoring others wishes and points of view to their detriment.

The two other subtypes are informative engineers: expressive inventors and reserved architects. The outgoing inventor makes sure prototypes work under real world conditions. They display a charming capacity to ignore the standard, the traditional, and the authoritative. The highly attentive architect, often working alone, strives for design coherence and configuration elegance as masters of organization.

Rationals possess lifelong curiosity in logical investigation, critical experimentation, and mathematical description. They are preoccupied with the logic of building (i.e., technology) and are intrigued by complex systems, both machines and organisms.

They maximize efficiency of means and anticipate consequences of ends before they act. Rationals regard custom or tradition neither respectfully nor sentimentally, but as useful for deciphering the errors of history. All is uncertain and vulnerable to mistakes. Events aren’t of themselves good or bad, favorable or unfavorable. Only events possess time, all else is timeless.

They see themselves as inventive. Self-directed and self-determined, rationals live independently, free of coercion. They scrutinize other’s ideas for error before accepting them. They have an unwavering strength of will that they can overcome any obstacle, dominate any field, conquer any enemy — even themselves. But they never take will power for granted.

Rationals are unflappable in trying circumstances, reluctant to express emotions or desires. They listen carefully to ideas that make sense but reject illogical ideas or arguments. They have a gnawing hunger for achieving goals that is never fully satisfied. They live through their work; even play is work. Rarely do they measure up to their standards and are haunted by the feeling of teetering on the edge of failure. Relentless in their search, they want to know about the world and know how the world works.

They share abstract ideas with their mates. Marriage, itself, requires careful empirical study since there is no room for error. If they do err, they do their best to reduce underlying values conflict. Each child must become more self-directed and self-reliant, developing their individuality and autonomy. As strategic planners, they usually have a vision of how an organization will look and fare in the long run.

As we wrote in “Why Are There Four Gospel Accounts?,” an earlier blog posting, these traits describe some peoples’ predispositions. Their experiences can mold them, as far as they are willing and able, so that they acquire attributes of the other personality types. These attributes in sum could be said to be their overall dispositions.

If you are a writer, I heartily recommend reading Keirsey’s book for yourself. I created detailed outlines for my personal use. You may profit from the same effort. We’ll review artisan, guardian, idealist, and rational personality speech characteristics and mannerisms the next few weeks.

William Shakespeare Mini Biography, via Bio.