Nine Primary Personality Types - Discovering Yours

Don Richard

In this article, we'll take a look at the nine primary personality types outlined by Don Richard Riso in his book, Discovering Your Personality Type. If you're interested in more detailed descriptions of the personality styles, or would like an assessment of your own personality style, you may want to get a copy of this book. It's available at most libraries as well as any bookstore.

Type one: the reformer

A Reformer exhibits these characteristics:

  • Is a perfectionist
  • Favors logic, information, and details
  • Uses words such as MUST and SHOULD
  • Is neat, well-organized, punctual, and exact
  • Has strong control over emotions

Dominant patterns:

  • Moves toward the ideal and perfection
  • Likes details and facts
  • Has a strong sense of right and wrong
  • Loves rules and policies because they clarify right and wrong
  • Compares everything to the ideal
  • Notices what's wrong or what's missing
  • Sees everything as black and white

Hillary Clinton is an example of a Reformer. Fictional characters include Monica from FriendsThe Mary Tyler Moore Show. and Murray from

Type two: the helper

A Helper exhibits these characteristics:

  • Puts others' needs above their own
  • Is a good listener
  • Can be a slow talker
  • Places a lot of importance on people and relationships

Dominant patterns:

  • Moves toward acceptance, freedom, and helping
  • Likes people
  • Can be passive or quiet
  • Compares everything to the ideal
  • Observes and hones in on the problems of others
  • Prefers the big picture, not details
  • Has a slow tempo
  • Has an external frame of reference and seeks acceptance from others
  • Empathizes towards others' feelings

Barbara Bush and the late Princess Diana are examples of Helpers. Fictional examples include Mary from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Dr. Greene from ER.

Type three: the motivator

A Motivator exhibits these characteristics:

  • Is highly motivated and success-oriented
  • Tends to be well-groomed, well-attired, and attractive
  • Is hard-working and image conscious
  • Is a good planner and self-promoter
  • Asserts oneself and is a go-getter

Dominant patterns:

  • Moves toward accomplishments, success, and looking good
  • Sorts according to activity (rather than people or details)
  • Is goal-oriented
  • Is future-oriented
  • Prefers visual mediums
  • Has a medium to fast tempo
  • Packages oneself and does things that get attention

Bill Clinton is an example of a Motivator; Tony Robbins is perhaps the most glaringly Type Three person on the planet! Fictional examples include Jerry McGuire and George Jefferson from The Jeffersons.

Type four: the artist

An Artist exhibits these characteristics:

  • Has a unique or outstanding style (i.e., clothing, style, manner)
  • Can be dramatic, moody, sensitive, and somewhat withdrawn
  • Thrives on intensity
  • Can be envious of other people

Dominant patterns:

  • Moves toward being unique or authentic and creative
  • Responds to opinions
  • Compares oneself to others
  • Has a highly developed visual sense
  • Is highly emotional
  • Can be passive
  • Focuses on the past and very little on the future

As you might expect, many real-life artists fall into this category. Madonna and Michael Jackson are two that come to mind. The best fictional examples are Ted from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Phoebe from Friends.

Type five: the thinker

A Thinker exhibits these characteristics:

  • Has expertise in some unique or specialized field
  • Covets privacy
  • Loves knowledge and is information-oriented
  • Can be uneasy in social settings
  • Is a minimalist and never trendy
  • Has a disorganized desk

Dominant patterns:

  • Moves toward knowledge and solitude
  • Sorts by information
  • Is often out of touch with feelings
  • Has an internal frame of reference
  • Takes a long time to make a decision

Bill Gates is the most striking example. The best fictional example is Frasier from Frasier.

Type six: the loyalist

A Loyalist exhibits these characteristics:

  • Prefers established rules, guidelines, or philosophies
  • Focuses on worst-case scenarios
  • Is indecisive and frequently flip-flops
  • Can be contradictory in nature
  • Places a high priority on loyalty and trust

Dominant patterns:

  • Moves toward security and loyalty
  • Moves away from conflict
  • Sorts by information and scans for "danger signs"
  • Can be passive
  • Has an external frame of reference and prefers to align oneself with someone stable and seemingly greater

The late Richard Nixon is an example of a Type Six, or the character of Cliff from Cheers.

Type seven: the generalist

A Generalist exhibits these characteristics:

  • Is optimistic, full of life, and fun-loving
  • Tends to be outgoing, spontaneous, and aggressive
  • Is witty, charming, and charismatic
  • Is multi-talented, knowledgeable about many things, and has many interests
  • Loves attention and hates boredom

Dominant patterns:

  • Moves toward pleasure and choice
  • Moves away from commitment
  • Sorts by activity and searches for new or exciting experiences
  • Looks at the big picture
  • Has a medium to fast tempo
  • Is proactive and aggressive about getting their own way
  • Has an internal frame of reference and internally decides if something is worth their attention

Bill Maher, the late John F. Kennedy, and George Clooney are examples of Generalists. From the fictional world, an example is Dharma from Dharma and Greg.

Type eight: the leader

A Leader exhibits these characteristics:

  • Is strong-willed, confident, dominant, bossy, or a leader
  • Prefers straight talk and getting to the bottom line
  • Has a short fuse and is quick to anger
  • Can be intense and may love a good fight
  • Is very aggressive and persuasive about getting their own way

Dominant patterns:

  • Is in control, power-focused, and fears losing power
  • Is proactive
  • Has a strongly developed internal frame of reference
  • Sorts by people, information, and activity
  • Moves toward desires

Donald Trump and Elizabeth Taylor are typical Type Eights. Fictional examples include Bobby from The Practice and Dirty Harry.

Type nine: the peacemaker

A Peacemaker exhibits these characteristics:

  • Has a gentle attitude and a soothing quality
  • Is very agreeable
  • Can be a slow talker
  • Is optimistic and always sees the good in people or situations
  • Can be somewhat withdrawn or has trouble asserting oneself or addressing their own needs

Dominant patterns:

  • Moves toward union, peace, and harmony and away from conflict
  • Sorts by people
  • Is kinesthetic and emotional
  • Has an external frame of reference and lets others' opinions supercede their own.

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