Temperament VIII: Analysts. Challenges and Opportunities

In this series of blogs I have been presenting “temperament theory,” namely the understanding of personality in terms of what has been called “temperament” for many centuries. My own terms for the various temperaments are mine alone having been developed over the 50-odd years that I have been in practice. I readily admit that I have learned much from others in the field of personality, psychology, and other diverse fields, information that I have integrated into my own understanding of a four-part temperament system. Readers may wish to peruse my previous blogs on temperament for specifics of the other temperaments. The system I propose is composed of “lovers,” “caretakers,” “players,” and “analysts.” Importantly, everyone has elements of all of these temperaments, but there is a tendency for people to primarily reside in one of these four and perhaps secondarily in another one, or even two, often leaving one of the temperaments to the side.

Our current discussion is in regard to the “analyst” temperament. In my previous blog on analysts I identified them as problem-centered, namely problem-preventing and problem-solving. They are the people who seek to make the world a better place by finding problems and preventing possible problems. Theirs is a life directed towards truth in all that it means, namely some kind of absolute truth based on fact, theory, and deduction. Some of the most important people in the world have been analysts, namely those who have found it necessary to figure out how the world can be understood and improved in one way or another. Often they turn out to be scientists who have the privilege of analyzing and improving the world in very theoretical ways or in very practical ways. More often than not, however, analysts are simply just folks who work a “day job” in some way but really have passion for making things better. The result of this passion to improve the world often leads to difficulties, particularly social difficulties, but there are an equal number of opportunities that analyst have if they can find ways to avail themselves of these opportunities:

The challenges that analysts face in life

The social aspect of life is the greatest challenge. Analysts are not particularly likable for the most part. Part of this is due to the fact that social engagement has never been a central theme for analysts. In this way they have often not developed a social skill, much less a social ability to talk and listen to what people want to talk about. So they tend to be less versed in what we might think of as simple talk about the weather, or how a sports team is doing, or some off-handed comment about the current political situation. They actually don’t care much about such things because they don’t care much about trivial facts, and care even less about feelings. But most social conversation is comprised of about an equal amount of facts and feelings, neither of which intrinsically is interesting to the analyst. Analysts are not so much disliked as they are tolerated. They can speak, and can speak with aplomb, but if they speak, they tend to dominate the conversation relating information or theory, or perhaps what is wrong with something.

It is in the speaking of “what is wrong about something” that makes for some of their lack of social development. While their analysis and problem is based on their desire to make the world a better place, they often sound critical. They sound critical because they tend to say much more about what is wrong than what is right about something. Think of it this way: they are always looking to solve problems, problems to solve, so they look for what is wrong about something and comment on it, often with some kind of solution to the problem that they see. These comments can be about a sports team where the coach that didn’t do the right thing, a politician didn’t do the right thing, or a friend who didn’t do the right thing. The sports team coach might not hear, or even care what the “Monday morning quarterback” might say about how he coached his team, and the politician is even farther afield from his analyst constituent. But the friend, spouse, or other family member might not take kindly to the analyst’s analysis of him or her. It bemuses, and to some degree confuses the analyst when his/her analysis of someone is taken “the wrong way,” i.e. become offended. Why should someone be offended when you are simply trying to make life better for your friend or family member? Again, the disregard of feelings, particularly feelings of hurt, sadness, or fear, seems to elude the analyst who might be right in what he/she has to say, but wrong in the timing or the words chosen in the analysis. All of this lack of social development can lead to a good deal of loneliness on the part of the analyst.

Indeed, analysts are often lonely. When asked who their friends are, analysts often say something between zero and one, and then add that “the one” is not really a friend. Because their orientation is towards making the world a better place, they often lead a life that is solitary. Solitary not always by choice, but as a result of having never developed a good enough social ability to be able to make, keep, and enhance friendships. So how can they successfully engage the world with this social baggage?

Opportunities for a successful life for analysts

The primary way analysts need to approach life is to first and foremost affirm their analytical nature, namely their desire to make the world a better place and make people better. This is a true noblesse oblige, which is the heart of being altruistic. In fact, I think that despite their rough social appearance, analysts are the most altruistic of the four temperament, even more than the lovers that we have studied who are always looking for “connections.” Analysts don’t look for connections because that probably seems selfish, but rather they look for improving things even if they do not see the improvement. I once heard from a physicist researcher who has been working on controlling nuclear fusion for 20 years, expected to work on it for another 30 years without every controlling fusion, and depending on people 50 years hence to finish the work. This guy is truly altruistic with no visible financial or personal reward, much less any kind of social reward. So, if you’re an analyst, realize you are a good person trying to make the world a better place.

Analysts need to know that most of people’s lives revolves around relationships, and that these relationships revolve around feelings, particularly the joys and sorrows that come from loving something. So, analysts need to take notice of the centrality of feelings in most people and find a way to relate to people’s feelings. Along the way, hopefully, the come to recognize their own feelings and slowly find ways to express these feelings. Know this, all you analysts out there: you won’t be very good at the whole feeling thing, and you won’t want to do it, wanting as you do, to stick to facts and theory. But learning the whole realm of feelings can slowly become a meaningful part of how you operate in the world, especially with people, but also when you are alone in your thoughts…and feelings.

Finally, analysts need to find a vocation that serves their analyst nature if at all possible. Sometimes, this is not possible because of financial, geographical, or family necessities, but analysts should look for work where their analytical nature can be valued and used effectively. Some analysts are able to tailor their work and professions into more of an analytical sphere, like being a teacher who works more on creating new teaching techniques than actual teaching, or a brick layer who finds her/his way into some kind of creativity for the company possibly bringing in new business because of his/her new ideas.

The very hardest thing for analysts to do is to establish friendships. Most analysts that I know, especially if there are also introverted by nature, have zero friends and get by with their own research, problem-solving, and analysis. This might be good enough for some people, but it isn’t good enough for most people. So, thinking about friendship is the beginning, and then the finding and perhaps even creating friends is the work of a lifetime, but a work that is really valuable, and in most cases necessary.

Temperament III: Analysts

This is the third in a series about “temperament” after Temperament I where we discussed the idea of temperament in general and Temperament II where we introduced the temperament of “player.” In short review, and acknowledging that there are many shades of personality assessment, we propose that there are four primary temperaments that give us a general orientation to the world, e.g.:

  • Players: seek experience, often excitement, adventure, and tend to take a rather physical engagement to the world
  • Analysts: whom we will discuss herein
  • Lovers: seek human connections
  • Caretakers: take care of things, both property and people

We admit to the obvious, that no one falls completely into one of these categories and that many people have perhaps two dominant temperaments, although our experience is that such is rare. More often, people have found ways of accommodating to the world that is outside of their basic life orientation and temperament. E.g., players perhaps have the most difficult time adjusting to life in America because this country tends to be caretaking first based on production, business, and the Protestant work ethic. So players often find ways of skirting these things and fail in life, or give into a caretaking way of life and end up unhappy. In Temperament II we discussed our daughter, Krissie, who operates primarily as a caretaker because of her profession at an insurance company and as a mother of two young children. She has accommodated to these seeming necessities of life. We also mentioned Kevin who was actually the stimulus for our understanding of the player personality 40 years ago. While distinctly a player, his profession is actuarial science. Now how does that sound as a fit for a player? Not particularly good. So he has also accommodated.

Accommodation is good but better is adaptation, which is primarily a Jungian word for a more positive and self-enhancing way of adjustment. The difference here is that accommodation tends to be a kind of giving in to something that is not particularly good for someone, while adaptation is a means of adjusting to the environment while not losing one’s life orientation. Adaptation also helps a person mature beyond his or her temperament while not losing the foundation what is one’s personality structure. True maturing is remaining foundational in one’s nature, which is one’s perspective of life, and then adding profitable means of operating out of one’s foundation. Jung referred to this kind of adjustment as adaptation, which we might also call developing one’s shadow, or one’s secondary nature. It is also important to mature beyond one’s foundation because it is impossible to be successful, happy, and productive in life without such maturing. If one does not mature beyond one’s foundation, one will tend to find an accommodation that is not valuable, which could be some kind of addiction, or more commonly doing something to a fault. As a caretaker myself (Ron), I spent many years working, fixing, and other doings to a fault. It is yet hard for me to just “hang out,” or dolce far niente as the Italians say, which is quite easy for my other daughter. So as we continue to study the four temperaments as an important way we have come to understand and value people, know that no one is any one thing, and that is important to “know thyself first” and then mature beyond ones’s basic foundation. Now, let’s look at the analyst temperament.

Characteristics of analysts

The primary element of such people is, as the name suggests, analysis. What is analysis? Analysis is taking apart or even breaking up something for the purposes of understanding, for the purpose of identifying the elements in something and ultimately to make things work more effectively. Synthesis is quite the opposite, namely the bringing together of things for the increased value of how things can work together more effectively. You can see how both analysis and synthesis ultimately have the goal of making things work more effectively. People with an analyst temperament love to break things up and see how they work, or perhaps not don’t work, to make things work better.

The second element that analysts have is problem-solving. They love to see problems in the sense that they are intrigued as to why something doesn’t work because it stimulates their interest in making them work. The “things,” by the way, could also be people, namely working to have people live more efficiently or effectively. They not only like to solve problems, they also like to prevent problems, namely for the same reason, to make things (or people) perform better. Analysts are fascinated by problems because they want to make the world a better place. They think, “What better thing to do for the world than to solve and prevent problems?”

There are several other characteristics that evolve out of these two basic elements of analysis and problem-solving, one of which is predicting the future. Because analysts look intently at how things work, or don’t work, they like to suggest how the future might work out with things. They might suggest, for instance, how a sports team might win or lose as they progress in a game, or they might see how a political candidate might succeed or fail after having examined the candidate and the voting populace.

It might seem quite antithetical to our discussion of analysts to suggest another characteristic, which is uncertainty. Analysts know a lot, usually much more than the rest of us, but they also know that they don’t know everything, so they fully understand the uncertainty principle that is quite basic to physics. You will rarely hear an analyst suggest some future event without a qualifier like, “it is not entirely clear to me.” So, they hedge their bets, knowing that they might wrong or inadequate in their analyses.

The value that analysts bring the world

Much. The obvious value that analysts bring us is their seeking to understand how things (again, also people) work and how they don’t work. So, their primary contribution to the world is to solve problems and prevent problems. We just spent three hours with our IT guy who helped us analyze some problems we were having with our emails, contacts, and other Internet challenges. Although Chris is not primarily an analyst by temperament (he is a “lover,” our discussion in Temperament IV), he was able to solve a myriad of problems that resulted from a breach in our email account.

Chris helped us solve our IT problems, but he also helped us prevent future problems. He gave us some ideas of how we could better utilize our computers, social media, and general maintenance of all the IT that is so central to doing business.

While analysts are primarily interested in preventing and solving problems, some analysts are truly investigative; they think about what could happen, what could be invented, and what could be discovered. Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and the like were most certainly analysts at heart as they discovered various elements of the universe. We are indebted to such people who are scientists at heart, but we are also indebted to people like Martin Luther King of the world who have seen possibilities like, “white children and black children on the mountaintop.” Might it be profitable for all for nations to have analyst leaders who were able to foresee potential problems and current problems with an eye for making the world a better place?

I will close this third edition of Temperament by noting two things. The first is this: analysts are my favorite people, and that would include my wife, consummate analyst that she is. Secondly, as with players and people of all stripes and colors, have challenges, which we will discuss later in this series.

Further Reading

Bates, J.E. and Wachs, T.D. (1994). Temperament: individual differences at the interface of biology and behavior. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Johnson, R. and Brock, D. (2019). Watch your temperament. Prepublication manuscript available in our office.

Jung, C.J. (1971). Psychological types. Princeton, NJ: Bollingen Press.

Keirsey, D. and Bates, M. (1978). Please understand me: character and temperament types. Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company.