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Book Review: “Please Understand Me” by Kiersey and Bates

March 20th, 2012

Personality is one dimension of psychology that is both interesting and practical. In the classic book “Please Understand Me” by Kiersey and Bates, there is support for the research conducted by Myers-Briggs. One immediate gain you will get is a self-test (non-computerized) that is easy to grade. Once your ‘type’ is identified, you can read about your tendencies and preferences.

This book is recommended for:

  • Improving family relationships
  • Getting along better with the opposite sex
  • For sales / business people who would like  to learn how to influence others

This is the book that popularized the term “extrovert and introvert.” Most people believe that an Extrovert can be identified as a social person. That is a tendency of an extrovert, but the real way to understand either an Extrovert or an Introvert is to understand how they recharge their batteries. “The person who chooses people as a source of energy probably prefers extraversion, while the person who prefers solitude to recover energy tends toward introversion.”[1] A very common misconception is that introverted people do not enjoy people or socializing. In my family, we have two extroverts and two introverts.  All four members of the family enjoy friends, family and parties. Each member of the family mixes at a party; engages in conversation and would be described as friendly. The two introverts are drained after hours of interaction and need time alone to get recharged. The two extroverts have 100 % battery power! But extroverts get drained as well by having long periods of solitude, paperwork or individual assignments.

By taking time to understand (and discuss) our differences, you can be more considerate. As an extrovert, my adjustment would be to tame the socializing and leave the party at a decent hour. The very fact that you have taken an effort to learn and adapt to family members is a goodwill gesture. A great application of “Please Understand Me” is taking the Myers-Briggs personality test and comparing types. For instance, my wife and I have opposite characteristics. The section on potential clashes in personality between our two types was both fascinating and eerily accurate.

There are many more dimensions to the Myers-Briggs personality studies. Some of the topics include:

  1. How We Learn (and Teach!)
  2. Decision Making dynamics
  3. Task vs. Relationship orientation

Displaying the book on the kitchen table normally generates curiosity and spurs conversation. When someone in the family asks ‘what are you reading?’; Just reply “Oh, I’m reading about you!’ (then make eye contact and smile!) You can put the book down and in about 15 minutes, someone is looking at your copy trying to see what you are learning! That is the chance (the opening) to read (out loud) the passages that relate to your family and friends. Don’t miss this opportunity – it’s why you got the book!

Imagine if you could extend that positive energy towards co-workers and customers. So there are several pay-offs for reading “Please Understand Me.” That’s good because while the first third of the book is easy reading, you will have to be motivated and persistent to get through the middle section of type comparisons. I’ve read this book four times and still find nuggets in different sections. But building better relationships is hard work, right? My prediction is that you will get years of enjoyment out of the knowledge and skills gained by reading this fundamentally sound book about the Myers-Briggs personality research.  If you apply it in business, it should improve your ability to positively impact people and get more profitable results. Challenge yourself to purchase, read and apply “Please Understand Me.”

Please Understand Me. Kiersey and Bates. 1984. Promethetheus Nemesis Book


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