Character Temperaments: Idealists

This is the third of four articles about character writing based on David Keirsey’s personality theories. Keirsey was an educational psychologist who invented the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, a personality questionnaire that divides people into four groups with four sub-types in each group. It has much in common with the Myers-Brigs Type Indicator and uses the MBTI letters to designate each of the sixteen sub-types, though there are significant differences in underlying theory and type descriptions.

David Keirsey's Idealists.
Famous Idealists taken from Keirsey’s list. Fictional examples pulled from a variety of sources, including my own opinions.

There is much in Keirsey’s temperament theory that can be useful for writers. For example, Idealists only make up about 15 to 20 percent of the population. If you’re working with a large cast of characters, something will seem off if most of the characters are Idealist-types in the mix. Here’s an article that talks about Keirsey types in literature, if you need more convincing.


According to the Idealist profile on David Keirsey’s website, this personality type shares the following core characteristics:

  • Idealists are enthusiastic, they trust their intuition, yearn for romance, seek their true self, prize meaningful relationships, and dream of attaining wisdom.
  • Idealists pride themselves on being loving, kindhearted, and authentic.
  • Idealists tend to be giving, trusting, spiritual, and they are focused on personal journeys and human potentials.
  • Idealists make intense mates, nurturing parents, and inspirational leaders.

Most Idealists are people-oriented, and very interested in encouraging peaceful relationships between everyone they come in contact with. They prefer a spiritual world of ideas to concrete reality, and are highly moral. Keirsey says “Idealists are the group most attuned to values and seeking the greater good.” Here’s a link to his guide to ideal careers for Idealists.

Teacher (ENFJ)

Teachers consider people their highest priority,” says Keirsey. They have a gift for sharing their knowledge with people and encouraging others to reach for their highest potential. They have excellent communication skill, particularly verbal communication. Teachers tend to like order, and will carefuly organize their lives. They like leadership positions, and will often take on the roles such as minister, social worker, director of a non-profit, and professor or teacher. Think of John Keating in Dead Poet Society.

Counselor (INFJ)

The rarest personality type, Counselors often feel somewhat set apart from the rest of the world. They have “an unusually rich, complicated inner life” which they don’t share with very many people. Even so, they work well with people and encourage harmony in social groups. They are highly imaginative and intuitive. In work, they can be found in the arts (novelist, poet, designer), education (teacher or counselor), and social services. They make good mediators.

Champion (ENFP)

More “bubbly” and outgoing than other Idealists, Champions see “intense emotional experiences as being vital to a full life” and love connecting with people. They are “fiercely individualistic,” good at interpreting the motives of other people, and highly alert. They may have trouble settling into a single career. Options they might consider include teacher, mediator, consultant, journalists, publicists, actors, restaurant owner, or inventor.

Healer (INFP)

Keirsey describes Healers as having a deep capacity for caring and “a strong personal sense of right and wrong.” A good fiction example is Frodo from Lord of the Rings. They spend a lot of time in imaginary mental worlds, and can be even more “dreamy” than INFJs. Highly sensitive to other people’s feelings, Healers may work in counseling, social work, education, or a human resource center. Their imaginations might also lead to artistic careers.


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