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The Six Domains of Functioning

Personality influences six fundamental areas of life: Self, Relationships, Work, Emotions, Self-Control, and perceptions of the Real World. These six domains are essential in assessing personality patterns. Although each of the 14 personality styles is associated with a characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving in each of the six domains, particular domains dominate each style.

These are the style’s Key Domains, and they color the expression of the other domains as well. For example, Work is the Key Domain for the Conscientious style. Thus, self-esteem and self-image (the Self domain) would be strongly influenced by success or failure in jobs, tasks, and assignments.

See the Key Domains chart to identify the Key Domain(s) for each style. The following discussion provides a brief description of each domain and then focuses on the personality styles for which each is key. Strategies for making the most of your personality style are included as well.

For a more detailed discussion of how personality styles influence the six domains of functioning, consult The New Personality Self-Portrait book.

KEY DOMAINS chart here


This domain includes our sense of self, self-esteem, and self-image–the way we see, think, and feel about ourselves and our place in the universe, and how we think others see us. This domain has the greatest impact on individuals whose personality is strongly characterized by the Self-Confident, Solitary, Leisurely, Idiosyncratic, or Adventurous style.

Self and the Self-Confident Style

Self-Confident types possess a sense of entitlement and a feeling of personal destiny–which explains their sureness of purpose, their drive, and their ability to succeed despite obstacles. The Self domain gives this style its special character and power, and all the other domains fall under its sway. Self-Confident types believe in themselves and are prepared to work hard, to plan, and to endure hardship to get what they feel they deserve, which usually involves status, image, and/or power.

They are generally aware of and comfortable with their strengths, but are less aware of their shortcomings. They don’t take even the most constructive criticism well. They may need to be reminded to pay attention to the needs of other people.

As a Self-Confident type, you may need to develop a more realistic sense of your shortcomings. Ask yourself, “What’s not totally great about me?” Try to see yourself as others see you and observe your reaction to criticism. Try to improve your relationships with others by focusing on them as individuals during conversations.

Concentrate on their way of talking, facial expressions, body postures, tones of voice, mannerisms, emotions, clothing, jewelry, eye color, facial hair, tattoos, and so on. Try to find out what matters to them. Paint a rich portrait of and take an interest in the lives of the people in your life, just for their own sake.

Self and the Solitary Style

Solitary individuals are self-contained. They are their own truest, most trusted companions. They require no one else to guide them, to admire them, to provide emotional sustenance, to entertain them, or to share their experiences. They prefer their own company and can be remarkably free from loneliness.

As a Solitary person, find ways of enriching your relationships; take note of details and paint a rich picture of individuals you encounter frequently. Practice endurance; don’t retreat when you feel pressured by people; tolerate your discomfort a little longer. Negotiate with others to do things your way without affecting the cooperative effort.

Talk about your need to be alone and tell others that this need has nothing to do with them, so that others won’t take it personally and feel rejected. Learn to say things that please others. If you are refusing to commit to somebody, think about how much you hold yourself back because of your Solitary personality style.

Self and the Leisurely Style.

Independence is the first priority for Leisurely types. These individuals strongly believe they have the right to be who they are, to feel good, and to pursue their own pleasures however they choose. Although they can operate within family, workplace, or community systems, they do not identify with authority. After meeting their obligations, they pursue their private pleasure in life, be it sports, art, contemplating nature, or watching TV.

They see themselves and others as small cogs in the cosmic wheel, but even small cogs are entitled to lucky breaks– which is how they perceive the difference between the haves and the have-nots–and they dream of such things as winning the lottery. Most important to Leisurely individuals is their entitlement to happiness, and they claim this right vigorously.

As a Leisurely person, try to improve your relationships with others by doing what they ask of you, even if it interferes with what you want to do at that moment. If you ‘re angry, express it directly rather than by not cooperating.

Because you are the Leisurely type, your Self-driven style leads you to look inward more than outward. Focus on broadening your perspective to make the most of your Leisurely personality style. Ask others to join you in your leisurely activities and double the fun.

Fight procrastination: Try to look at the pleasure you’ll feel when finishing instead of groaning about the task before beginning; separate large tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces, and do them one at a time, scheduling the next piece for a definite time; be proud of yourself for sticking to the schedule and meeting your goals–and now reward yourself!

Self and the Idiosyncratic Style

Idiosyncratic types are sustained by their rich inner worlds. They may not be successful by other people’s standards or fit comfortably into the social order, but to them the greatest reality comes from their internal worlds. If they believe in something, it exists, and they don’t need scientific proof.

Their self-esteem is not based on following protocol or being correct. They can break with tradition without worrying what others might think, and they tend to lead eccentric lifestyles. Though others may perceive them as strange, they are indifferent to others’ opinions.

The degree to which their Idiosyncratic nature will be a problem for them depends on the setting, the prevailing culture, their successes or talents, and the degree of support and acceptance they need from others during times of extreme stress (e.g., the death of a loved one). The Idiosyncratic tendency to continually reinvent the universe can lead to crises of doubt and disillusionment.

Because of your uniqueness as an Idiosyncratic type, you may pay a price in both your personal and professional relationships. To help recognize your differences from others, make a list of all the ways in which you differ from the important people in your life. Look at your list and visualize a world in which everyone, including you, is capable of accepting all these differences.

Try to make compromises and learn to detect the needs of others by painting rich pictures of them in your mind and imagining what it feels like to be them. Do something that someone else wants you to do, regardless of your own interests. Instead of buying your child an exotic knickknack from your travels, buy a bicycle or comic book, something from his or her frame of reference.

Self and the Adventurous Style.

Self and Self-Control both dominate the Adventurous life. Adventurers are action-oriented extroverts. If their Adventurous style is coupled with the Self-Confident style, they are ambitious to break records and make a name for themselves; otherwise, the rush of adrenaline that results from triumphing over danger may suffice.

They do not need others to fuel their self-esteem or to give purpose to their lives, and they don’t easily make sacrifices for other people; they ‘re in it for themselves. They have a definite sense of what’s right and wrong for them and little respect for authority, and if something is important to them, they’ll do it no matter what anyone thinks.

As an Adventurer, your strong points include your spontaneity, your ability to act, your fearlessness, your ability to experience pleasure, and your tendency to live life to the fullest. Occasionally, make a point of worrying about others, and observe your interactions with them, noting all the possible ways in which your behavior or decisions put them at risk. Safeguard them from the risks of your behavior.


This domain is dominant in more than half of the personality styles. It defines how important other people are to us and it determines how we lead our lives in relation to them. Besides being individuals, we are members of families, couples, friendships, school classes, communities, business organizations, even crowds of strangers. The nature and style of our reactions and involvement with other people reveal a great deal about us.

Relationships and the Dramatic Style

Dramatic types often function poorly when they are alone. Highly social, they need to be surrounded, admired, and applauded, and they have the ability to rouse, energize, and charm others. They genuinely like others and are extremely skilled at reading other peoples’ feelings through their gestures, tones of voice, and body language.

They know how to draw others to them and demonstrate a willingness to respond to their ideas and activities. Because they require a great deal of excitement, Dramatic types may have difficulty sustaining relationships in dull periods. They may plan vacations, parties, and other entertainment to keep life at a high pitch. Life with Dramatic types is never dull; however, it can be quite stormy due to their strong emotional reactions.

Stress can arise when they do not receive sufficient attention or cannot establish a routine that compensates for their inability to handle mundane details, such as managing the bills. As parents, they’ll encourage creativity but may become disorganized and let slip important kid-centric details, such as sports-participation schedules.

Their longest-lasting relationships are those with individuals who balance and ground this personality style, as do Conscientious types. They do best with a partner who will back off and let them have their emotional way. Adventurous types appeal powerfully to the Dramatic ‘s love of excitement, but these two fun-Ioving and sometimes irresponsible types can be bad influences on one another.

As a Dramatic style individual, you are very intuitive about other people, but you lead with your feelings. When you are powerfully attracted to someone, you may lose track of your judgment. Stand back and collect objective information about them aside from your feelings. Balance your impulsiveness by working on restraint, and try to resist throwing yourself blindly into new relationships. Finally, pay attention to how often you need other people’s feedback to feel best about yourself. Affirm yourself before seeking others’ approval.

Relationships and the Vigilant Style

Vigilant types are cautious and careful with others. Acutely aware of power and authority in relationships, they must be in charge of their own destiny and are at their best when they feel in control. They are gifted people-watchers. They take their time getting to know someone before they move close. Although they may be uneasy among strangers and slow to warm up, they can be comfortable among people once they get to know them.

However, even within their established relationships, most Vigilant types hold back part of themselves. Because they need to feel firmly in control in relationships, it may be some time before they are comfortable or willing to commit themselves trustingly, which can be a source of stress to all concerned. As parents, they are loyal and protective–sometimes overprotective–and may encourage a mistrust of others in their children.

They thrive in relationships with nonthreatening people such as Devoted, Self-Sacrificing, and Sensitive types, where their mate will be predictable and willing to reach out. Relationships with Self-Confident and Aggressive types, who tend to compete for the number-one spot, can be rocky.

Because the Vigilant mind and senses are always on, monitoring the environment and other people, this state of ready alert can make you physically and emotionally tense. To relax, concentrate on pursuits that shut down your “scanner.” When you find yourself wondering about someone’s ulterior motive, think about or make a list of two other motives that could explain the same action.

If someone really is harboring a hidden motive, don’t worry excessively about it. If someone criticizes you, catch yourself trying to justify your behavior. After an argument, make a list of what you did to contribute to it and congratulate yourself for being so honest. Use this list to avoid future confrontations. Every time you find yourself thinking that what happened is somebody else’s fault, laugh at yourself for being so Vigilant.

Once or twice each week, telephone a friend just to chat. If you are in a relationship in which your mate makes all the social plans, try making them yourself. Finally, practice sharing your feelings with others. In your relationships, concentrate on what you admire about others, not on the negative traits.

Relationships and the Mercurial Style

Mercurial types are never casual about the people they care about. They immediately feel a magnetic attachment and a powerful sense that the relationship is destined. The relationship then becomes the center of their lives, and they pursue it with great intensity. A love affair–or a friendship–with a Mercurial individual is unforgettable. These individuals put their lovers, friends, even colleagues on pedestals; they worship their perfection. As a result, their needs and expectations of others are enormous.

Their reactions are strong and immediate. They need from others exactly what they give: constant, intense passion and attention. Small wonder that relationship problems are the greatest sources of stress for these individuals, especially when they feel they are not being treated as special. They hate being without love and they don’t stay that way for long. They require hot intensity in their relationships, but the heat they need usually burns itself out rather quickly.

The best match for the long haul would be with a sober, steady responsible Conscientious type, although they might grow bored with such a person. Mercurial types need interesting, strong, exciting, passionate romantic partners fully responsive to their demands. Adventurous, Dramatic, and other Mercurial types may prove compatible in the passion and excitement department, but Conscientious, Vigilant, and Sensitive style qualities in someone will provide more steadiness for the long haul.

As a Mercurial person, you should work on developing some detachment and restraint. Try to imagine what it would be like to be more Solitary–your style’s opposite. Recognize and resist sudden shifts of feeling about others and try to disown negative feelings as they arise. Do not act on your negative feelings or even your extremely strong attraction.

Observe the degree to which you polarize people into categories of all-good and all-bad. For the former, try to think of and accept some of their less likable traits, and for the latter, identify some of their more admirable qualities. Each time you find yourself becoming angry or disappointed with someone, ask yourself whether you are reacting unfavorably to what you perceive as flaws; now try to disown or lower the intensity of that feeling.

Finally, take attention off yourself and focus on other people in your life. Identify their feelings and needs and how those needs differ from yours. Again, if you start to react negatively or are disappointed with these differences, try to distance yourself from these feelings.

Relationships and the Devoted Style

For Devoted types, other people are their reason for being. They feel incomplete unless they are strongly committed to someone. They form relationships easily and devote themselves to pleasing the principal people in their lives. They’re they ones who always remember birthdays and anniversaries. They are gifted hosts and hostesses, careful that their guests match up well, that the food is catered to everyone’s tastes, and that conversation never lags. They anticipate others’ needs, will endure discomfort or hardship to make sure that those close to them do not, and readily make sacrifices to keep a relationship going. They rarely tire of their mates and experience great stress in the event of a breakup. They make very nurturing parents, exquisitely sensitive to the needs and feelings of their infants, but they must be careful not to overprotect them as they grow older. The best match for Devoted types may be with Conscientious individuals, who like to take control and do the right thing. Vigilant types will also appreciate the Devoted individual’s deference. Aggressive-Devoted matches are common and workable if neither style is extreme and the Aggressive person does not take advantage of the Devoted’s compliance. Relationships with Serious and Self-Confident people usually work too.

As a Devoted person, you know how to love and to give. You are keenly aware of others’ needs and feelings. Turn your attention to yourself. Whenever someone asks you for your opinion, say what you honestly think. Express your anger directly; tell others why you are angry instead of allowing anger to distort your behavior. Practice decision-making. Concentrate on developing your interests. Develop the life skills you lack and for which you have become dependent on your spouse (e.g., find out how to buy a car, claim insurance benefits). Finally, try to resist throwing yourself blindly into a new relationship when one ends. Take it slowly and experience yourself as independent.

Relationships and the Sensitive Style

Sensitive people flourish in the company of a small group of friends or within their families, but they are uneasy in large groups or among strangers. When they know the people around them and are sure of their affections, Sensitive types are relieved of their social anxieties and their self-confidence peaks, letting their personalities shine. Sensitive types usually build their lives around only a few people with whom they’re comfortable.

They are loyal, devoted, and caring individuals who often marry for life, but because they are so reticent with new people, they may have trouble establishing a truly intimate relationship. They make good parents, attentive to their children and watchful of their safety, but they must take care not to impose their anxieties on their children and make them fearful of taking chances.

Stress for Sensitive types comes from criticism and from having to brave the unfamiliar. They care so greatly about how people react to them that disapproval and criticism are deeply wounding. Since Sensitive individuals count on having one close person in their lives to rely on, breakups are highly stressful. To cope, they seek familiar faces.

Reluctant to get out and meet new people, they often try returning to former relationships. They are best off with people who are family-centered, such as Leisurely, Devoted, and Self-Sacrificing types, as well as those who take the lead socially and help their mates enjoy an easier social life. People who have a balanced combination of Conscientious and a socially comfortable style, such as Self-Confident or Dramatic, have much to offer a Sensitive person.

As a Sensitive type, your love of the familiar allows you to build a comfortable personal environment, but it could also get you into a rut, so practice some preventative medicine. Begin by changing one little thing in your usual pattern. Show people who you really are; your imperfections give you character and make you interesting and appealing. It’s your efforts to hide your human imperfections that make you stiff and uncomfortable. Try not to focus on what you think others are thinking about you.

When talking to others, look them in the eyes. And, finally, if you rely heavily on your partner to help you through unpleasant experiences, ask yourself whether you ‘re unwittingly imposing a burden.

Relationships and the Self-Sacrificing Style

Self-Sacrificing individuals derive meaning in life through giving to others. They are gentle, kind, good-deed doers, who often sacrifice their own needs in the act of service and who find meaning in laboring to make others’ lives better. They’re active, vigorous, energetic, and highly motivated workers. Although they don’t feel right standing on a pedestal, they need to be loved and appreciated for their efforts.

For many Self-Sacrificing types, it can be very difficult to know where to draw the line between giving and asking nothing in return. They make good parents because they are willing to sacrifice for their children. However, they must be careful not to become martyrs and lay a burden of guilt on their offspring. As well, they must remind themselves to set good examples of self-assertion–to show it’s okay to stand up for oneself. Self-Sacrificers get so tuned in to what others need and want that they can become involved with almost anybody.

They do best with those who enjoy being taken care of and who like being lavished with attention. Self-sacrificers run the risk of hooking up with people who take advantage of their helpful, gentle, giving, submissive nature.

As a Self-Sacrificer, you are naturally unselfish, generous, and giving. You work hard to please, even when no one asks or thanks you for it, but you may deny your own needs and pleasures more than you realize. Work on establishing a firm balance of give-and-take. Focus on yourself for a change. The next time you are with others, try to imagine what you would like for yourself from them.

Keep a list of all your desires–things you wish others would do for you. Learn to ask; make your desires and expectations known. Choose one of the items from your list and ask someone to do it for you. When someone offers to do something for you, accept. Speak up when you feel that you are being treated unfairly. Listen for the number of times a you say, “Sorry!” If you find you apologize frequently, ask yourself whether you worry too much about pleasing others.

When you are about to offer to do something for somebody, ask yourself whether it’s in your best interests or whether this person even wants you to do it. Devote at least 15 minutes per day to absolutely nothing but relaxing. Finally, every time you find yourself feeling awkward about having a good time, tell yourself “it’s good to feel good.”

Relationships and the Aggressive Style

Aggressive types have to be one step ahead in all their relationships. They have an instinctive gift for leadership and a driving need to dominate. This principle is evident in all their relationships–at home, on the sports team, and especially in the workplace–but their instinct to direct and dominate need not be seen as hostile. Individuals who are comfortable with power and who want to bear the weight of responsibility are necessary and welcome in any group.

However, when the Aggressive style grows extreme, the need to dominate can become more important than concern for others, and they may disregard their own moral and ethical values. In all their relationships, they reach their full potential when in charge, and they have great difficulty tolerating challenges to their authority.

As parents, they provide strong, capable role models for their children. The most natural matches for Aggressive individuals are with moderately Devoted, Self-Sacrificing, and Sensitive types. Conscientious or Serious qualities in a mate may also contribute to a lasting match. In general, Aggressive types do best with trusting, accepting, deferential mates who nonetheless maintain their autonomy, inner strength, and self-esteem.

As someone with Aggressive style, you have enormous potential for success, especially in the Work domain, but you need to smooth your sometimes overbearing side and make all parts of your life similarly rewarding. The authoritarian style that gives you control at work may cause conflict at home.

Practice leaving this trait at work. Realize that many people do not appreciate being ordered around. Allow others to make mistakes; you run a tight ship and get things done extremely well your way, but others, especially children, need to gain experience and learn for themselves. Learn to compromise; practice doing things someone else’s way. At least once a week, ask the people who are closest to you what you can do for them. Be open to emotional requests such as “I really wish you would show that you care for me a little more.”


This domain encompasses our style of “doing”–in play, school, career, housework, child care, chores, and hobbies. Personality style is revealed through how we complete tasks, take and give orders, make decisions, plan, handle external and internal demands, take and give criticism, obey rules, and cooperate with others. The Work domain is key to Conscientious, Aggressive, and Serious style individuals. For everyone, of course, what we choose to do in our lives and how we deal with Work domain difficulties (including being out of work or having to work two jobs) reveals something about our personality style.

Work and the Conscientious Style

For the Conscientious person, Work is the ruling domain. These individuals are always busy doing something, even in their leisure time. Their tasks define them and makes them comfortable in life. They are competent, organized, thorough, and determined. They try hard at everything they do. They particularly enjoy intense, focused, detailed activity.

Conscientious individuals set very high standards for themselves and need the challenge of working to perfection, no matter how much time a task requires. Because they are willing to devote so much time and hard work, Conscientious individuals tend to move toward the top of many professions. They are loyal and respect authority but sometimes lack skills required for top managerial positions, such as making quick decisions, setting priorities, and delegating responsibility.

This is why they make good behind-the-scenes individuals who can be counted on to do the detail work. One of their pitfalls is that they expect the same thoroughness and devotion from others, which may not always be appropriate. Career-wise, their mind for facts, categories, and technical detail makes them ideal for work in science, medicine, research, business, accounting, law, technology, as well as many skilled crafts or in the technical side of any profession.

Your Conscientious personality style makes you a great organizer and diligent worker, but you need to concentrate on relaxing and enhancing your leisure time. Make a list of leisure activities and pursue them on weekends . When you have difficulty making a decision, always keep in mind that it often makes no difference which decision you make, as long as you do something.

To manage your time more efficiently at work, aim for results that are good enough and not necessarily perfect. Occasionally, take a time-out: turn off your brain and imagine your mind as a calm, blank screen. Allow yourself to make mistakes and make an effort to compliment friends, family, and coworkers whenever possible.

Work and the Aggressive Style

Aggressive types can best make use of their need to dominate and their gift of leadership in the Work domain. These individuals are intensely purposeful and will get ahead. They devote themselves thoroughly to the job. They are not deterred by their family lives or a need for sleep or relaxation. They are influential and powerful individuals who thrive in competitive environments as political power brokers, corporate raiders, department chairpersons, and CEOs.

For Aggressive individuals, work is strategic combat, a struggle to get and to keep power. Unless their personality patterns include strength in the Conscientious style to govern their ethics and honor, they may act unscrupulously or vindictively. Their goal is to find a practical, effective solution regardless of others’ feelings. They are not squeamish or sentimental, and they never identify with the underdog. Though insensitive, Aggressive individuals can be successful managers and administrators.

They create structure and organization, perceive short- and long-term goals, and plan effective strategies with unflagging energy. They will not tolerate disloyalty and cannot deal with boredom; they must function at high stimulation levels at all times. Lack of power, serious competitive threats, and defeat or failure are the greatest sources of stress for Aggressive types. The Aggressive individual should seek out power careers in government, the military, academics, or corporations where climbing the power structure is key.

The Aggressive personality style provides enormous potential for success in the Work domain. To make the most of your Aggressive style and help smooth a sometimes overly bossy side, practice leaving your authoritarian style on the doorstep when you come home. Relax your control over your life and focus on just having a good time. Letting down your iron grip occasionally will prove advantageous to your health.

Learn to control your temper, recognize that people make mistakes, and keep a list of what makes vou really angry. Ask yourself whether these feelings stem from issues of dominance and control and whether you sometimes overreact.

Work and the Serious Style

Life is Work and Work is life for the sober, no-nonsense Serious type. In the workplace or during personal time, everything is a series of chores. These individuals do what is necessary to survive, see no choice in this approach to life, and do not expect to find pleasure in it or achieve their potential. They are particularly adapted to adversity, and they persevere whether or not they like what they are doing or are rewarded for their efforts.

Their ability to endure discomfort enables them to tolerate routine, tedium, and large quantities of work. They are steadfast, loyal, and trustworthy, and take their jobs extremely seriously. Though they may lack overt enthusiasm, they get the job done. They are not eager for authority and thus are unlikely to seek management-level positions. However, if given the opportunity, they can be quite critical of subordinates and will expect them to take on a great deal of work regardless of whether they like or want an assignment.

Since they often lack political skill, Serious style individuals who become managers may not be able to fight for subordinates’ rights, but they do appreciate reliable, hard-working employees. They tend to gripe about how much work they have, but they nonetheless persevere and endure discomfort. They are well-suited to jobs in which they don’t have to compete to stay ahead. Moderately Serious individuals are suitable for investigative journalism, research, law, accounting, secretarial work, and health care.

To make the most of your Serious style, protect yourself from stress and enhance your relationships by developing some flexibility. Make a list of things you would like to have happen in your work life. For each item, write down at least one practical action you could take to make it happen. Sit back, close your eyes, and, step by step, imagine you are taking the action and achieving your goal.

If you get used to rehearsing it in your mind, you may find it easier to approach in real life. As well, keep a daily journal, for at least a month, of positive things in your day. To relax your mind, occasionally practice not thinking. Meditate–take time out and turn off your brain


The Emotions, or feelings, domain includes our usual moods and emotional states, such as happiness, sadness, sexual feels, anger, irritability, fear, anxiety, and sensitivity to praise and criticism. The level of emotional intensity–hot and cold–is also a feature of this domain. For example, while Mercurial types are emotionally “hot,” Solitary types tend to be cool, calm, and relatively unmoved by others’ opinions of them. Dramatic, Serious, and Sensitive styles are also strongly influenced by this domain.

Emotions and the Dramatic Style

Dramatic types are ruled by their feelings. They judge an experience not by what they think but how they feel about it. They are sensuous, seductive, and sexy. Their emotional style can serve them well in their work if they choose careers or environments in which they are encouraged to be intuitive and creative. For Dramatic types, it’s the impact of life that counts. They live in a world of flamboyant color, passion, and exciting tales.

They can transform the ordinary happenings of life into real theater. They tend to display emotions freely and openly; they are sentimental, and they enjoy melodrama, intrigue, and gossip. Emotionally reactive, their feelings can change quickly, and they can become impatient or anxious about details, routines, planning, and finances. They steer clear of weighty conversation, preferring colorful tales.

Since for Dramatic individuals, self-esteem comes from the impression you make on others, locating sources inside yourself will facilitate some inner calm. Make a list of what you like about yourself, and pat yourself on your own back whenever you need reassurance. To balance your natural spontaneity, work on restraint and planning. Stop and count to ten. Try concentrating on keeping in mind all aspects of real life, including unpleasant ones.

Emotions and the Mercurial Style

Mercurial individuals experience the widest range of moods and feelings with deepest intensity. They are moved by emotions, and what moves them is what really counts to Mercurial types. They laugh and weep easily and openly and experience profound sexual excitement and passion. Emotions drive even their thoughts. They are emotional reactors. They experience rapid, sometimes unpredictable shifts in moods. They hold nothing back and take nothing lightly.

They idealize emotion and seek perfect romantic love–infatuation, really. For them, real human imperfections become a dreadful disappointment, and a calm, quiet life with a “regular” person spells boredom.

Mercurial types know how to live and feel and have a tremendous appreciation for excitement–these are among the strengths that infuse their lives. To feel more fulfilled and successful in life, especially in your relationships, work on developing some emotional restraint. Try to experience the difference between thoroughly emotional and thoroughly unemotional.

Observe your feelings. Imagine that you are sitting in a movie theater watching yourself on the screen and pay close attention to changes in your feelings. Keep track of how and when they change. Once you develop some skill in observing your feelings and their changes, try to distance yourself from them; cultivate a steady state inside yourself.

Say to yourself, “It’s only a feeling.” Most importantly, don’t react to that feeling. Practice modulating your feelings; when you have a strong emotional reaction, imagine you are turning a dial to lower its intensity.

Emotions and the Solitary Style

Solitary types tend to be cool, calm, and relatively unmoved by others’ opinions of them. They speak the language of dispassion and do not experience emotions as intensely as do most others. They are not necessarily unhappy, though, as long as others do not demand more of them than they can give.

They are not emoters, but doers and watchers. They often make gifted rational observers of other people and the natural world. When others insist they experience and express feelings, though, they feel a great deal of anxiety.

Learn to speak the language of those around you: observe emotion; watch how others express their feelings in their interactions with you and with one another. Accept that feelings are very important to most people and that they are injured very easily. In private, search for what you are feeling at a given moment.

If you are at a loss for an emotion, think about what you felt the last time you had difficulty with someone, for example, when you were frustrated, sad, or misunderstood. Now express a feeling (pretend, if necessary), such as anger by yelling or sobbing if you want to express sadness. Finally, open up and share something deeply personal about yourself with someone.

Emotions and the Sensitive Style

Tender are the feelings of Sensitive types. They are easily made anxious and self-conscious–so they build their personal and career lives around people they know well and situations with which they are familiar. As a result, they tend to form deeply meaningful relationships and become expert at what they do.

Their homes are their castles, which they make comfortable, personal, and attractive. They are always glad to be home, where they are emotionally free. Outside their secure spheres, they feel vulnerable. In relationships, they take their time getting to know people and are very slow to open up and show their emotions.

They generally prefer to explore the known rather than the unknown . They sometimes deal with this fear by leaping into the unknown, despite their inner anxiety, in an effort to demystify the strange and tame their terror. They’re natural worriers. Because they can’t bear the possibility of surprise, they are always prepared. They’re the type to over-pack when they travel, call home frequently, and carry an umbrella just in case.

The love of the familiar allows Sensitive types to build a comfortable personal environment. To prevent yourself from getting into a rut, change one or more of your routines. Try a new restaurant, take a different route to work, rearrange the furniture. Do things even if you are uncomfortable doing them; the less you expose yourself to unknown situations, the harder it will be to overcome the anxiety in the future.

Try not to focus on what you think others are thinking about you. When you have the feeling that people are looking at you in an uncomplimentary way, ask yourself whether that feeling might actually be coming from you not them. Every time someone criticizes you, stand back from yourself and observe how you react. Imagine that you are turning a knob that will modulate the volume of your inner reaction and turn it down. Relax and have faith that things will work out.

Emotions and the Serious Style

Serious types dwell in a solemn emotional world, and their seeming joylessness is inherent. Not given to levity, they prove better able to handle sobering experiences than most other personality styles. They see the dark side of life in sharp focus and have great difficulty coloring it brightly, and they stay with the dark side even when the intense agony has faded.

They are naturally pessimistic and may be quite satisfied with their dark view of things. Reality is the best medicine for these individuals. When they want to relax, they read or watch the news to find their view of life affirmed by the latest unemployment statistics, disasters, and political corruption.

In order to protect yourself from the stress involved in your sober style, you need to develop some flexibility and enhance your relationships. Make a list of five things you would like to have happen to you in your relationships. For each item on your list write down at least one action you could take to make it happen.

Now, imagine that you are taking action and achieving each goal. Again, relax and close your eyes. Now, one by one, imagine that you have achieved your goals. What does it feel like? Try to visualize as many details as you can. Write down five things you like about yourself. Then think about five things you like about others in your life.

When you are about to criticize someone, think of something favorable to say first. Make an effort to compliment the important people in your life and do something just to please them. Finally, if you have difficulty putting yourself forward socially, when seeking employment, or at work, take an assertiveness training course to master these skills.


The Self-Control domain–control of impulsiveness–rules our level of spontaneity and ability to act on impulse, risk-taking behavior, ability to forestall rewards and fulfillment, planning skills, self-discipline, frustration tolerance, and ability to stop and think before we act. Issues of Self-Control are key for the Adventurous and the Mercurial styles. As in the other domains, there is no “right” or “wrong” way of behaving, unless the style of functioning brings harm to oneself or others.

Nonetheless, our culture demonstrates strongly mixed feelings about how a person “should” function in the domain of Self-Control, and those whose personalities are dominated by the impulsive side of the Self-Control domain may feel pressured to bridle their natural passions.

Self-Control and the Adventurous Style

Adventurous types love to act in the moment–they couldn’t live any other way. They do not plan for the future or spend much time worrying about the consequences of their actions. They thrive on excitement, thrills, gambles, and risks. Their spontaneity gives their lives meaning and fuels their daring accomplishments.

They don’t tolerate frustration and they resist discipline, especially that imposed by others and society. They live for the present without much thought for tomorrow and are happy to deal with whatever happens when it happens. As well, they are remarkably easy with money. Investing, gambling, spending, even giving it away is stimulating; it makes them feel powerful and exhilarates them.

As an Adventurer, you are spontaneous and fearless, taking great pleasure in living life to the fullest. The trouble you run into results from your impulsiveness and lack of forethought. Think from your head, not from your appetites. Count to ten, concentrate on the thinking part of your brain, and try to experience the difference between that and the feeling, sensation-satisfying part of your brain.

Worry a little each time you are about to take a risk and think of two or more unfortunate consequences that may result. Determine at least one way to protect yourself in advance for each risk you are going to take. Finally, take time out to think about what you want out of life five, ten, or twenty years in the future.

Self-Control and the Mercurial Style

Appetites exert a huge force on the Mercurial life. Propelled by their all-powerful emotions, Mercurial men and women are hungry for and thoroughly responsive to pleasure, sensation, and experience, which may also distract them from any hurt and pain they may be unwilling to acknowledge. Often in creative fields, they’re curious and interested; they love to taste and experiment.

They are alive to the moment and find it difficult to pass up any spontaneous gratification. They are intensely motivated to have a good time and to experience new things, and they make remarkable lovers. They’ll try anything. When a passion comes upon them, they give in to it completely.

For extremely Mercurial types, their impulsiveness may reach the level of reckless self-indulgence; their distaste for goal-directed planning and their tendency to “go for it” immediately may lead them to self-destruct, despite their talents and abilities.

Mercurial types are driven by emotions. Observe your feelings and try to modulate your emotional reactions. Resist sudden shifts of feeling about any person or situation. Ride out an urge, think with your head and not your appetites, and consider the consequences of your actions. To help prevent overindulging, time your pleasures.

If you want one cookie but you usually eat the whole box, carry a stop watch. Take one cookie only and set your timer to go off in one hour. Usually the urge will pass in an hour, but if not, take one more and set your timer again. Same goes for your whole gamut of urges.

Real World

Philosophers have disagreed about the nature of reality since the beginning of civilization. In personality assessment, what’s “true” is less important than how an individual perceives the world and how these perceptions influence his or her behavior. The Real World domain is key to the Idiosyncratic style.

Real World and the Idiosyncratic Style

Idiosyncratic individuals often strike people as strange because they perceive the Real World quite differently from everyone else. They do not necessarily believe in ghosts or experience past lives; they simply do not feel compelled to accept the customary explanations of what’s going on in the world. Thus, they may be viewed as eccentric or weird. They’re willing to consider anything as real, and they’re not locked into accepted explanations and interpretations that seem unequivocally true to most people.

At the same time, they’re not oblivious to what others think and believe. While they’re aware their own belief systems differ from the norm, it doesn’t matter to them what others think. Their own understandings come from inside themselves, not from other people, institutions, books, or news sources. They are true nonconformists and live their lives according to the sensations, feelings, and ideas that spring from inside them.

As an Idiosyncratic type, you are interesting, original, spiritual, and perhaps gifted. However, because of your uniqueness, you may find difficulties fitting in where you must, such as at work or in your relationships. If conforming to a dress code, for example, is important to your employer, see if you can wear what’s required, remembering that your thoughts are your own and you are free to believe whatever you do.

If you are extremely Idiosyncratic, live your life as much as you can in an accepting niche, among people who appreciate you. Remember that other, more conventional types are unlikely to change in fundamental ways, and neither are you. It’s okay to be different–it’s you.


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