Temperament: Describing Keirsey’s Guardians (SJs)

Describing Keirsey’s Guardians (SJs) is the next in a series of blogs that will look at one Keirsey temperament each week, and then speculate in the following week on how it would be if this temperament ran the whole world.  Today we look at SJs.

Guardians share with Artisian SPs a preference for concrete use of words, and language in general.  They tend to be descriptive factual, and specific in terms of topics.  In many ways this will be similar to the speech of Artisans, but true to their responsible guardian role there will be more talk of problems to beware of and practical actions to be taken.  SPs would be unlikely to discuss practical matters of finance, and the best ways to organize daily life, but SJs may relish this.  Like their SP cousins, though, SJs will have little interest in abstract or hypothetical issues.

Where the SP Artisan is classed as a utilitarian–interested in whatever actions will solve a problem or produce a pleasing or interesting effect,  the SJ  diverges maximally from this and is considered by Keirsey to be a “Cooperative“.  He notes that SJs “believe that we should park on the right side of the street even if the left side is empty, stop at red lights when there is no other traffic, signal when turning even if there’s no one to signal to, and on and on.”  He adds “Cooperation, compliance, conformity, obedience:  these attitudes toward the rules loom larger in the consciousness of Guardians than any other temperament.”

The other side of these drives for compliance and obedience are a need to have all of society equally devoted to cooperation and teamwork  There must be as many rules as a situation calls for, and all should obey them.  As a result they are often busy creating new laws (and the multitude of little rules that we call regulations) and seeing that they are enforced.  Guardians are well named;  they keep society organized and functioning, serving as judges, police, prosecutors, and lawmakers (from the US Senate to the local library committee), as administrators on every level, as teachers, social workers, accountants, and generally as the people who keep our daily world running.  Today, they no doubt are often found in airport security and related areas also.

Not surprisingly, of the four types of intellectual strengths (Diplomacy, Logistics, Strategy and Tactics) Logistics appear to be the number one strength for the Guardian SJ.  Keirsey defines logistics as “the procurement, distribution, service, and replacement of material goods.” Material goods, of course, may or may not have physical bulk, as a well prepared tax report, or a clear bus or train schedule do involve all of these actions.  Planning out ways to carry out these processes well is a major strength.  Because they devote much energy  to maximizing these processes, SPs are often resistant to change, preferring to stay with what works well and what they thoroughly understand and are comfortable with.

SJ interests go hand in hand with their favorite roles in society.  In education they frequently favor majors in business, business administration, accounting, and so forth.  They tend to be preoccupied with moral and ethical issues at a practical level, tending to feel deeply responsible for the well-being of family, friends and community.  This carries over to taking a strongly moral stance about the good and cooperative behavior of others.

Orientation to the world:  By this, Keirsey means how we relate to the present, future and past, what we see as our location in this, and how we relate to time.  He sees SJs as stoical about the present, and pessimistic about the future.  As Guardians they feel that much can always go wrong, and very often does.  In part this motivates their whole role in life–to forsee problems, plan around these possibilities, and alert others as far as possible.  Because this is the nature of life, they neither blame nor excuse themselves for what has happened in the past.  Rather they are “fatalistic”, seeing past problems as inevitable.  Keirsey says that their “place” is the Gateway.  Where SPs simply find themselves at the here and now, Guardians are forever standing guard “keeping a watchful eye on the coming and going of people under their jurisdiction.”  And their (preferred) Time is Yesterday.  That is, they tend to feel that the past is their best teacher, and to see events in the past as always better organized and more effective than the disappointing present.

Self image:  This is very much tied to SJ actions in being useful in all their roles.  Self-esteem is critically involved in their wish to be seen as dependable and trustworthy.  To the extent that they fulfill the many tasks they take on for home and community, and do this well, self-esteem is high.  Keirsey sees it as an unending struggle, however, in that yesterday’s accomplishments can’t maintain self-esteem if today’s work product lags. Self-respect, which is seen as a somewhat less demanding category, comes from continued acts of kindness and generosity.  That is “SJs are natural Good-samaritans, ever on the lookout for ways to help their fellow man, especially when it comes to matters of food, clothing, shelter and transportation.  SJs do a great part of community and church volunteer work….”  Lastly, Self-Confidence seems to be dependent on achieving the respect of others and is aided by visible tokens such as awards, certificates, plaques, and other formal honors.  Total self-image, then, is a product of a lifetime of jobs well done, an awareness of the good deeds they do for others, and the visible respect of family, friends and community.  It is hard earned and in constant need of renewal.

Finally, the Values of SJs fit perfectly with the visible roles they perform.  Their normal, ongoing mood is that of concern for what is happening each day, and what that means for the long run.  Keirsey says “SJs are concerned about big things, like crime and punishment, school standards, public morality; and they are concerned about little things, like doing the dishes, aphids on the roses, their gas milage.”  This tends to nudge them toward the worried/depressed side.  They trust authority most of all, believing firmly in established lines of command both at work and at home.  Related to this is the SJ respect for established methods, procedures and traditions.  According to Keirsey they long for Belonging, being likely to belong to a number of social and/or civic organizations.  This apparently assuages their sense of concern about the precariousness of life, and about their own self-worth.  Related to this they are classified as the “Security Seeking Personality“.  This is reflected in all that they do to keep life organized and safe, in their need for the visible respect of others, and their special need for belonging.  SJs particularly prize the Gratitude of others, for all that they do.  Keirsey notes that “of all the types, Guardians are least able to ask others to express gratitude”,  yet they long for it. Finally, where SPs long to become Virtuosos–aces in the area of their greatest talents–SJs often aspire to be in positions of high authority.  Keirsey notes “To run the show, to be in charge of things, to direct operations, to hold the reins of power–in a word, to be an “executive” appeals strongly to the Guaradians’ feeling for the rightful exercise of authority.”

IN SUMMARY  The Guardian SJ thinks about the world literally, as does the SP, but is totally different in willingness to shoulder the burdens of the world, and take responsibility for every task and every problem that comes his/her way.  SJs are devoted to a model of community, and believe very much in their own (and everyone else’s) moral responsibility to put common needs before personal whims.  They are the worker bees of the world, enormously involved in all the day to day functioning of human life.  Their primary intellectual strength is considered to be “logistical”, concerned with the movement of goods, services and people, and their interests follow this.  They have a deep respect for authority and for tradition in all forms.  Much of their own self-respect and self-esteem derives from carrying out their duties and obligations very well, and receiving recognition for this.

To those of  other temperaments, the inner life of the Guardian may seem rather sad.  Their dominant mood is said to be one of concern that things will get out of hand if they are not vigilant. Self-esteem is highly dependent on constantly playing their part well. They long for the gratitude of others but shrink from asking for it, long for belonging, perpetually seek for a sense of security, and aspire to positions of high authority so that they may obtain better control over life’s pending chaos.  However, to the Guardian SJ, no doubt this is the only fitting and proper way to interact with the world.

Reference:  Keirsey, David (1998).  Please Understand Me II.  Prometheus Nemesis: Del Mar CA.

COMING UP:  If SJs ruled the world–what then?  (Or do they?)  Readers are welcome to send in any thoughts on this.

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One Response to Temperament: Describing Keirsey’s Guardians (SJs)

  1. Lars says:

    “What if SJs ruled the world?”

    I think they already do. We live in a world that is pretty much SJ dominated.
    Tradition is in many areas more valued than innovation, and achievement more than “having a good time”.

    I disagree with the Keirsey definition that SJs are generally cooperative. They are cooperative when sticking to rules, but especially the STJs are not cooperative in the sense of reaching a consent or cooperating for the sake of getting along, when it goes against their own interests/rules/values.

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