You’ve Got Personality

I had no idea what I was going to write about today until I read Alex’s blog yesterday.

Then it came to me. On-line personality tests. Why not just dump out my strengths and weaknesses for the world to see?

There’s so many of these things out there, I don’t know where to begin. They are hardly scientific—at least, most of them seem fairly simplistic. For example, I’m right brained. Woo woo, big surprise there. (But you may be surprised that I’m not extreme right-brain–only 62%.)

There’s the “big five” test.

And one of the many ennegram tests. (I’m #3: The Achiever.)

About ten years ago, I worked for a guy who was a big proponent of the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Greg had married into a large, close-knit family that had a family run business in the agricultural area. They hired a management consultant to help solve some problems inherent in running a family business. You can just imagine, right? Growing up with the same people, working with the same people, living in the same town with the same people, bringing in spouses to help with the business, and kids were being born—arguments are inevitable, but when you’re family there is no firing or quitting.

The consultant suggested they each take the Keirsey test (based on the Myers-Brigges personality types) so that they could understand the other people in the business/family. Apparently, the results were accurate and helped the family members see how the other people thought, resulting in more patience and ultimately fostered a better working and living environment.

So Greg was big on the test and suggested that all of us on staff take it.

I was surprised at my results, but when I read the book cover to cover (Greg gave it to me), I realized I definitely fit about 80%+ into my “temperament.” 

According to the Keirsey website:

Each temperament has its own unique qualities and shortcomings, strengths and challenges. What accounts for these differences? To use the idea of Temperament most effectively, it is important to understand that the four temperaments are not simply arbitrary collections of characteristics, but spring from an interaction of the two basic dimensions of human behavior: our communication and our action, our words and our deeds, or, simply, what we say and what we do.



As a writer, and someone interested in human nature in general, I’m very interested in why people do what they do. As someone who likes to get along with others, understanding they whys and the hows of people’s thought processes and where they are coming from, helps to keep a modicum of peace, especially in a work environment.

I know many writers who use the Temperament Sorter to help them with their characters. I’m not one of them. But hey, if you like to ask your characters questions, go for it! As a personality test, I think this is one of the most accurate I’ve seen based on people I’ve worked with.

So for fun–because I’m on deadline (again, surprise) I’m going to run another contest. Guess which of the 16 temperaments I am and you get a copy of any book in my backlist. I’ll give up to five books away, randomly, to those who guess right.

More about the Myers-Briggs/Keirsey Temperament Sorter:

There are four basic temperaments, and each temperament has four parts. Click on the temperament for more information. First, a run down of what the Myers-Briggs letters stand for. (pg 12 in the book PLEASE UNDERSTAND ME II.) Everyone is one or the other:

E= Extraverted            or            I=Introverted

S= Sensory                        or            N=Intuitive

T=Thinking                        or            F=Feeling

J=Judging                        or             P=Perceiving


From the website (and you can click through for more detailed information)


All Artisans (SPs) share the following core characteristics:

Artisans tend to be fun-loving, optimistic, realistic, and focused on the here and now

Artisans pride themselves on being unconventional, bold, and spontaneous.

Artisans make playful mates, creative parents, and troubleshooting leaders.

Artisans are excitable, trust their impulses, want to make a splash, seek stimulation, prize freedom, and dream of mastering action skills.

Artisans are the temperament with a natural ability to excel in any of the arts, not only the fine arts such as painting and sculpting, or the performing arts such as music, theater, and dance, but also the athletic, military, political, mechanical, and industrial arts, as well as the “art of the deal” in business.

The four SPs:

ESTP (Promoter)

ISTP (Crafter)

ESFP (Performer)

ISFP (Composer) 


All Guardians (SJs) share the following core characteristics:

Guardians pride themselves on being dependable, helpful, and hard-working.

Guardians make loyal mates, responsible parents, and stabilizing leaders.

Guardians tend to be dutiful, cautious, humble, and focused on credentials and traditions.

Guardians are concerned citizens who trust authority, join groups, seek security, prize gratitude, and dream of meting out justice. 

Guardians are the cornerstone of society, for they are the temperament given to serving and preserving our most important social institutions. Guardians have natural talent in managing goods and services–from supervision to maintenance and supply — and they use all their skills to keep things running smoothly in their families, communities, schools, churches, hospitals, and businesses.


The four SJs:

 ESTJ (Supervisor)

ISTJ (Inspector)

ESFJ (Provider)

ISFJ (Protector)



All Idealists (NFs) share the following core characteristics:

Idealists are enthusiastic, they trust their intuition, yearn for romance, seek their true self, prize meaningful relationships, and dream of attaining wisdom.

Idealists pride themselves on being loving, kindhearted, and authentic.

Idealists tend to be giving, trusting, spiritual, and they are focused on personal journeys and human potentials.

Idealists make intense mates, nurturing parents, and inspirational leaders.

Idealists, as a temperament, are passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Idealists strive to discover who they are and how they can become their best possible self — always this quest for self-knowledge and self-improvement drives their imagination. And they want to help others make the journey. Idealists are naturally drawn to working with people, and whether in education or counseling, in social services or personnel work, in journalism or the ministry, they are gifted at helping others find their way in life, often inspiring them to grow as individuals and to fulfill their potentials.


The four NFs:


ENFJ (Teacher)

INFJ (Counselor)

ENFP (Champion)

INFP (Healer)




All Rationals (NTs) share the following core characteristics:

Rationals tend to be pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, and focused on problem-solving and systems analysis.

Rationals pride themselves on being ingenious, independent, and strong willed.

Rationals make reasonable mates, individualizing parents, and strategic leaders.

Rationals are even-tempered, they trust logic, yearn for achievement, seek knowledge, prize technology, and dream of understanding how the world works.

Rationals are the problem solving temperament, particularly if the problem has to do with the many complex systems that make up the world around us. Rationals might tackle problems in organic systems such as plants and animals, or in mechanical systems such as railroads and computers, or in social systems such as families and companies and governments. But whatever systems fire their curiosity, Rationals will analyze them to understand how they work, so they can figure out how to make them work better.

The four NTs

ENTJ (Fieldmarshal)

INTJ (Mastermind)

ENTP (Inventor)

INTP (Architect)


It benefits writers to understand basic human temperament, at least from a character point of view. Reading the book (versus the less detailed website) provides insights into character traits you might not even be aware of, simply because they’re not in us. This is particularly helpful when you find your secondary characters all alike or stereotypical. And when all else fails and you need some conflict, try putting an Artisan with a Rational and watch them explode.

I was going to try to guess what all my Murderati partners in crime were, but it was much harder than I thought. I’m pretty sure that Alex is an Artisan Performer, that Alafair is a Guardian, Toni is a Idealist, and Tess is a Rational; I’m certain that Rob and Pari and Stephen are introverts and that Dusty and Brett and JT are extraverts. But when I tried to break it all down, I realized maybe I don’t read people as well as I thought, and rather than embarrass myself, I would just quit here.  But if any of my compatriots want to participate and take the online test and share . . . I’m sure everyone here would enjoy it! You have to register to take the online test, but it’s free.

And again, if you can figure out what I am (and yes, it does fit surprising well and I’ll tell you why at the end of the day) you get a book from my backlist. Enjoy!

27 thoughts on “You’ve Got Personality

  1. Karen in Ohio

    Having taken this test several times over the years I know I’m an ENFJ, or Idealist Teacher. It has come up the same every time I’ve taken it, whether as mandated for a job, or when I took it on my own, so I trust the outcome even though it doesn’t make total sense to me.

    For you, Allison, recognizing that I only "know" you from blogs, I’m going to go with ENTJ, although I have issues with the "Field Marshall" designation.

    What? Everyone else seems to be chicken? Come on.

  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    I took the MB years ago for a job (didn’t get it). I’m an ENFP (Idealist Champion). The book I read on it, PLEASE UNDERSTAND ME, also called this type "puppy like." Yeah, put that on a resume.

  3. Allison Brennan

    Karen, I took the test twice–once in 2000 when I worked for Greg, and then again a few months ago when I found my book unpacking a box that had been sitting in my office. My tests were almost identical each time, which I thought was interesting since I know that I have changed quite a bit in the last nine years, at least I thought I had!!

    PK, hmm, focusing on the negative? ;/ ENFP’s are also warm, enthusiastic, optimistic, excellent "people" people, imaginative and great listeners.

  4. Alli

    OK, totally guessing based on your blog posts and the one time we meet briefly at RWA in Dallas, but I think you might be an ENFP, Allison. But I am also teetering on you possibly being an INFP (talk about hedging bets!). Hmmm…… I have to stick to one, don’t I? OK – ENFP.

    I took the right-brain/left-brain test you linked and I am 61% right brain – no surprises there. The interesting thing is I am Holistic and Intuitive which means I look at the big picture first and then break it down into details. Oh yes, that is EXACTLY how I come up with ideas for manuscripts.

    This was a great post – I love this stuff!

  5. Karen in Ohio

    It’s also useful to know where a person is in the birth order of their family, don’t you think? It can make an enormous difference to be the youngest in the family vs. the oldest. And it’s even more interesting when the birth order is complicated by unusual family conditions, like second, or even third marriages and blended families.

  6. Karen in Ohio

    Allison, thank you for the link to the test for right/left brain tendencies. I’ve always suspected I was pretty balanced, as opposed to having a marked preference, and that’s exactly what the test results showed: 45% left brain, 55% right brain. Very interesting.

  7. jim duncan

    Well this is mostly a guess. You speak at conferences on a regular basis=Extrovert.
    I’m going to have to fall back on stereotypes here and go with=Intuitive.
    Given you write about crimes=Thinker
    Last could easily go either way. You teach but you write romance as well. Going with=Perceiving

  8. Allison Brennan

    Karen, I think birth order plays a part in our learned personality, but not our core personality. I’m an only child. I’m pretty much how only child are judged in the birth order analysis. My son, who is a middle child but also five years younger than my #2 exhibits both oldest child and middle child "traits"–for example, he’s confident and an over-achiever like many first borns; he’s also a mediator and extremely sensitive like many middle-children. He’s the first to give in when there’s conflict between his younger brother and sister, and he absolutely hates it when his two older sisters (both teenagers) fight. He used to go to his room and hide in his bed if they were arguing too loudly. But he’s stubborn, almost to a fault (like my firstborn!) But whether you are introverted or extraverted, or how you perceive things, I think is more your core personality–how it manifests itself in your interactions and life choices probably has more to do with birth order and blended families. But, I’m not a shrink so it’s just a guess.

  9. Allison Brennan

    I’m almost positive that my oldest is a Guardian (extravert) and my second is an Artisan-Composer (an introvert) and my #3 is a Rational, no doubt in my mind. The two little kids are harder–my youngest, five, I would probably say leans Artisan, an extrovert, because he’s a daredevil and extremely charming and knows how to use the puppy dog eyes to get what he wants. My #4 is probably a Guardian (introvert) because she likes order and fairness. I might give my two oldest the test and see what comes up . . .

  10. Louise Ure

    Allison, I wound up as 54% Left Brain and 46% Right Brain in that first study. They said I’d make a good skating judge.

    Looks like I have a career change coming.

  11. toni mcgee causey

    hmm. My brain is more balanced than I would’ve thought. (oh, hush) It’s 44/56 left to right. And yep, I am in Idealist, INFJ (Counselor). As much as I think I’ve changed over the years, it still shows up as introvert. (I have to truly work hard to be extroverted on blogs and at conferences. If it weren’t for the internet, I’d probably be a hermit.) It’s amazing how right that description is. Kinda annoying how right that description is, actually.

    I know you are extroverted, and for as much as you resemble a Guardian, I’m betting you’re a Rational. 😉 Nobody dissects systems or problem solves better than you. Heh.

  12. Alli

    Allison, I just did the test and found out I am an ENFP – which is what I guessed you are! Perhaps I was seeing ahead and got my results mixed up with guessing what yours were. 🙂

  13. Allison Brennan

    Toni, OMG, maybe I’m better than I thought because in my notes when I was writing the blog I have that you are an INFJ Counselor. I know that you’re introverted, and something that people really don’t get is what introverted and extraverted really mean. My old boss, Greg, was a mastermind, but he was a terrific public speaker and he knew how to talk to anyone. He explained that he’s truly introverted, that the difference is that introverted people MAY act like an extravert in public, but it is exhausting. It’s stressful and they tend to hole up for long periods of time after. It’s draining. They get recharged by their alone time, their quiet time. He would often go to bed right when he got home from an event, completely drained. Extraverts may not even be totally gregarious, but they sort of feed on the energy created when around a lot of people. They usually are talkative, but it’s not that they talk alot. It’s that after being around a lot of people, or at a party, or in a productive meeting, they are recharged and energized. They are "up" after being in crowds, while introverts tend to be "down" after being in crowds. I’m definitely an extravert, and while I do just fine on my own, I don’t do well in complete silence. This is why I think I have to listen to loud rock-n-roll when I write, and why I write better at Starbucks than I do at home. It’s the energy. But I remember going to conferences with you Toni and while you are open and friendly and talkative, you desperately need to decompress after.

  14. JT Ellison

    I’ve been doing these tests for years too, and you may be surprised that I am a classic INTJ – Rational Mastermind. I even took the test again just to be sure. I’m with your old boss Greg, exactly. I’m an introvert, I love my alone time, my recharging time. I can be extroverted, but it’s terribly draining. I know that doesn’t match at all with what I project, but there it is.

    Great post today!

  15. Allison Brennan

    I was wrong about my daughters! Katie, nearly 16, is an Artisan-Promoter. When I read it, I thought . . . yep, absolutely, it’s about 90% accurate. And Kelly, 13, is an Idealist-Healer. It fits her about 80%.

    My husband cheats. He’s taken it three times and each time is completely different. I’ve taken it twice in ten years and am exactly the same.

  16. Autumn Jordon

    Hi, Allison. I took the test and I’m a ENFP (champion). I work in the family business so …
    For you, I’m going to say ISTP.

    This was a fun post.


  17. PK the Bookeemonster

    Nope, not focusing on the negative; it fits me perfectly. I just prefer some of the other descriptors other than puppy. 🙂

    And I propose that you are the Crafter, ISTP

  18. Charlie

    Great post! I’ve always been confused by these tests in the past, but I just took it and found it to be right on. For you Allison, I’d be tempted to go with some type of artisan, but my instinct says you’re a guardian, maybe a supervisor.

    Thanks for the thougt provoking post!


  19. Allison Brennan

    Okay, I’m shocked (shocked!) that anyone thought I was an introvert. I’m not.

    One person nailed it. Jim Duncan, and I don’t even know him! I’m a Rational-Inventor. I am so "N" Intuitive that I was 19-to-1 "N" over "S." Not even close to being an Artisan or a Guardian.

    I am, however, near the cusp (12 to 8) T to F, so I probably have some Idealist tendancies.

    Jim, email me your snail mail address and I’ll send you any book in my backlist, to you or a friend. And Karen, because you got me with "Rational" I’ll send you a book too (or a friend) just send me the title you want and your address. And my pal Terri–pick a book because you were 100% wrong, you picked the exact OPPOSITE of an ENTP.

    I’m an Inventor and it surprisingly fits me.

    I didn’t quite believe it at first because of the technology and science angles, and of the "building gadgets" designation, but if you replace that with "building stories" then everything else follows perfectly.

    From the Keirsey website: (I added the bold)

    Inventors are keenly pragmatic, and often become expert at devising the most effective means to accomplish their ends. They are the most reluctant of all the types to do things in a particular manner just because that’s the way they have been done. As a result, they often bring fresh, new approaches to their work and play. They are intensely curious and continuously probe for possibilities, especially when trying to solve complex problems. Inventors are filled with ideas, but value ideas only when they make possible actions and objects. Thus they see product design not as an end in itself, but as a means to an end, as a way of devising the prototype that works and that can be brought to market. Inventors are confident in their pragmatism, counting on their ability to find effective ways and means when they need them, rather than making a detailed blueprint in advance. A rough idea is all they need to feel ready to proceed into action.

    Inventors often have a lively circle of friends and are interested in their ideas and activities. They are usually easy-going, seldom critical or carping. Inventors can be engaging conversationalists, able to express their own complicated ideas and to follow the ideas of others. When arguing issues, however, they may deliberately employ debate skills to the serious disadvantage of their opponents.

    Inventors are usually non-conformists in the workplace, and can succeed in many areas as long as the job does not involve too much humdrum routine. They make good leaders on pilot projects that test their ingenuity. And they are skilled at engineering human relationships and human systems, quickly grasping the politics of institutions and always wanting to understand the people within the system rather than tell them what to do. No matter what their occupation, however, Inventors display an extraordinary talent for rising to the demands of even the most impossible situations. "It can’t be done" is a challenge to an Inventor and elicits a reaction of "I can do it."

    I bolded a few things that are particularly true for me, though all of this is pretty accurate. Walt Disney and Benjamin Franklin are "Inventors" and I think that’s pretty good company, LOL.

    Inventors also tend to be untidy (I used to have a sign in my office that said "A clutter desk is a sign of genius." They do not like to prepare anything, even when they have failed in the past. One thing that was SOOO me when I worked in the legislature, and to some extent now (i.e. always writing right up to deadlines) is:

    "If their job becomes dull and repetitive, they tend to lose interest and fail to follow through . . . To stave off routine, ENTPs will try to outwit the system and use the rules and regulations within the system to give themselves room to innovate. They may even work against the system just for the joy of holding the upper hand. . . . they may create an unnecessary crisis on the job, just to give them an opportunity to come up with a solution . . . ."

    And Inventor pegs my mommy skills as well: "Inventors may be very inconsistent in the attention they give to their offspring. Usually, it is feast or famine, wonderful warmth and affection when they are with their children, but also benign neglect when they are engrossed in their many outside interests." Which is sad in some ways, because I do recognize that I do this, particularly when I’m writing–even before I was published.

    Anyway, Jim, Karen and Terri, send me your addresses and the title of the book you want!

  20. TerriMolina

    LOL….Sorry, hope my answer wasn’t insulting.

    To be honest, I don’t quite "get" those tests so I’m not surprised I was so far off I’m on another planet! 😉

    But, hey, on the bright side, I won a book!! =D

    I’ll have to go through my list to see what I don’t have.

    Thanks Allison.


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