Please Understand Me II: A Super Helpful Book on Personality Types

I borrowed Please Understand Me II from a friend with every intention of mailing it back to her after I finished it, but because I found it so helpful and filled it with about 2712 tabs to remember where good stuff was, I think I might buy her a new copy and keep hers for myself.  It’s that good.

Like many other books, Please Understand Me II is concerned with Myers-Briggs personality types.  Unlike other books, it breaks the 16 types down into four main segments: the SPs, the SJs, the NFs, and the NTs.  I found this quite helpful, because each of those four segments share distinct qualities so you can figure out how to better communicate with and understand your friends, family, and associates, even if you don’t have time, inclination, or ability to really figure out their entire Myers-Briggs type.

Furthermore, by breaking out the main characteristics of the segment, the author was able to get down into a lot more detail about the specific types associate with that segment.  So, for example, I have taken Myers-Briggs type tests numerous times and come up as an ENTJ, with a borderline J/P distinction.  But in reading this book I was able to see that while I’m strongly NT, I really fit more with the ENTP profile than the ENTJ.

But who cares?  Why does it matter what type you are?  Here are some of the benefits you gain from reading a book like this:

  • Insight into relationships.  I wound up reading about half of this book out loud to Josh as I went through it, and it sparked so many helpful conversations about how we communicate, how we parent, how we perceive the other person’s actions, and so forth.  It’s not really a marriage book, but it is really illuminating about how marriages work between types.  I also thought a lot about my best friends as I read and had aha moments about how we communicate.
  • Insight into parent-child dynamics.  One of the most helpful sections for me was on how to tell which of the four main types your child falls into, and how that should impact the way you encourage, relate to, and communicate with your kids.  It surprised me how easily we pinpointed each of our children, even Sarah who just turned three.
  • Insight into yourself.  I found it helpful to read things and think “why yes, I do that!  I think that!  That’s how I respond in those situations!” because it helped me to think of constructive ways to be myself, rather than looking for solutions that don’t work for me or make me feel like I’m trying to be someone I’m not.

As we read the book, Josh and I also talked about how people change over time, and whether/how people can be the best of their type or the worst of their type.  It was really interesting to consider personality type in light of faith and sanctification.  A Christian SP would look a lot different from other SPs, but he or she would still be an SP – different types bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table but we all benefit from the different perspectives and understanding we have in the body of Christ.

The personality types are not completely diagnostic – at several points I felt like Josh and I and the kids might be borderlines of several different types, and in some cases I thought “gee, this is nothing like so-and-so,” but overall I think the book is helpful, especially if you’re able to take what’s useful and ignore what’s not spot on.  In any case it would be interesting to talk over with someone!

Please Understand Me II is a fascinating book, and I’d be interested in your opinions if you read it!


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

5 thoughts on “Please Understand Me II: A Super Helpful Book on Personality Types

  1. I have used Please Understand Me and its sister books that are filled with activities for years with middle schoolers up to engaged couples and teachers. I’m not as interested in “putting someone in a box” as I am giving people language to express who they are and how God made them. Excellent book! Also, if you get the opportunity to be trained in Myers-Briggs, it is well worth your time and money if you want to use it in training others. Great post!

  2. One of my best discoveries in adult life was Myers-Briggs in general, and my personality type in specific. As a pretty rare personality type (INTP), it was tremendous to learn that there was at least one really good reason that I was different from lots of people I had encountered. Better yet, it meant there were other people like me!

    Having the opportunity to get that view of my strengths and inclinations also gave me perspective into making career choices based on how I’m “built” rather than traditional ideas about what one is “supposed” to do. (I love your phrasing of ‘constructive ways to be myself’.) It also helped me understand and appreciate people from the other temperament groups–in how they perceive, approach, and value things as well as perspective in how best to interact with them. As a consultant, the ability to work that out quickly is important and beneficial. As a spouse/friend/relative, it’s even more important.

    I could go on with Myers-Briggs geekery, but I won’t. I’m happy you got so much out of this book, Catherine!! 🙂

  3. Shortly after we got married, I read a lot of a MBTI book out loud to my husband and we discussed it quite a bit. Several times while reading it he admitted how happy he was to know some of the aspects it mentioned as being common in my personality type (INTJ) – it’s so rare for a female, and so non-typical as to what’s expected from a female in many ways, that he was reassured by it.

    I’ve been wanting to read about it again, as my son is developing a more distinctive personality, because I’m very interested in thinking about it from a parenting perspective, instead of the spouse/friend/coworker perspective I’ve always had previously.

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