Roughly forty percent of all men and women are guardian personalities. They are solid, sensible, follow the rules even when no one is looking, move associatively from topic to topic in conversation, always on the lookout for rule breaking, humbly shoulder responsibilities “no matter what,” and suffer when unappreciated.
Guardians are dutiful, prepare for the worst, suffer bravely and patiently, catch and reprimand trespassers, and keep traditions, customs, and continuity with the past. They are helpmates as spouses, socializers as parents, and stabilizers as leaders. Presidents Washington, Bush (41), Truman, and Nixon possessed guardian personalities.
No doubt you know many that fit this description. The concerned citizens that attend town council meetings and staff polling places, the project manager who facilitates timely production, packing, and distribution, the police officer on the street who shields others from imminent danger, the loan official who goes the extra mile to get you affordable loan terms, and the long-suffering wife and mother next door with the truck driver husband and hellion son who sometimes shakes up the neighborhood.
Two weeks ago, we described the artisan personality. The guardian is another of the four personality types that’s 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 guardian personality as concrete in their word use and cooperative in their tool use. They talk about what’s solid and sensible: commerce, household items, weather, recreation, news items and personalities. They believe that only by establishing and obeying rules and regulations can civil order be maintained.
Guardians fall into four subcategories, each containing approximately ten percent of the population. Two are characterized as monitoring: the expressive supervisor and the reserved inspector. The supervisor enforces standard operating procedures. In the home, it’s not enough that others do assigned duties, they must want to do them. The inspector works behind the scene on products and accounts, is watchful for irregularities from rules, and is simple and down-home.
The two other subtypes are conserving: expressive providers and reserved protectors. The provider furnishes others with life’s necessities, makes others part of their group, and is personable and talkative. The protector shields others from dirt and danger of this world, sees to others physical safety and security, and chats tirelessly with a close circle of friends.
Guardians regard companies and corporations as indispensable social institutions that enable them to earn their keep and provide for family. They feel responsible for the morality of their group, guarding right and wrong.
They give their all from a young age. Pain and suffering are unavoidable and must be faced bravely. They believe: “if anything can go wrong it will,” and prepare accordingly. They keep others in line. They are creatures of habit who faithfully follow routines. They value family and societal history.
They shoulder responsibilities “no matter what.” They feel: “if I don’t do it, who will,” and suffer when they’re unappreciated. They are obligated to do good deeds. But they may feel put upon if help isn’t offered (to be shooed away, of course). Receiving service is blow to their self-respect. Modest, unassuming, self-effacing, they crave respect and public recognition.
Concerned about homes, jobs, families, their neighborhood; duties and responsibilities; health, finances, how they dress, whether they’re on time. They worry too much about loved ones and society’s direction. They believe in hierarchical authority structures and are likely to believe in a supreme being. Since the world is going to hell in a handbasket, it’s the institutions that hold people accountable and teach values. They feel appreciated to the degree others are grateful for what they’ve done for them. It is galling when others take them for granted, but they believe responsibility far outweighs entitlement to gratitude. They desire the power to set things straight in light of right and wrong.
They’re ready to roll up their sleeves and work side-by-side with their spouse to build a comfortable, stable family life. Loyal and obligated to stand by their mate in times of trouble and help them straighten up and fly right. Guardians see to it that children are civilized, enculturated, in support of and in step with the community. They carefully administer what is done, how it is done, and who is to do it.
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 Keirsey’s take on the Idealist and Rational personality types in the next few weeks.