Adapted from Dario Nardi, Multiple Intelligences and Personality Type: Tools and Strategies for Developing Human Potential (Telos Publications, 2001) *Used with permission
What comes to mind when you hear that someone is "intelligent"? Many people think of a person who is "smart" or "brainy." Very quickly, however, they add that the person can't be just book smart; he or she also has to be "sensible," "productive," or "insightful." Humans can be intelligent in many ways: creative, ingenious, perceptive, original, organized and responsible, impactful and skillful, witty, smooth and persuasive, self-reflective, and self-aware. Perhaps best of all, when someone introduces us to a new way to perceive or make decisions and solve a previously unsolvable problem-when someone helps us feel intelligent-that's intelligence as learning!
Human beings, while simple in some ways, are for the most part very complex. Real people are not mere mechanical composites of various themes, factors, strategies, values, and traits-or intelligences. These are generalized ideas about human nature. Using a theoretical model to understand our nature is a convenient shortcut. Given a particular job setting, personal conflict, or goal, we narrow the scope of possible actions or interpretations by selecting a "tool." This tool might be words to use, actions to take, a model to analyze a situation, or a lens to see through. Then when we use our tools to make a change in ourselves or a situation, we hope to achieve a desired outcome. However, many times, we are not consciously aware of our tools-that is, the assumptions behind our observations and choices or the full scope of the consequences of change. We operate with only one eye open. We are unconscious of many of the interrelationships in a situation and may or may not have competence in handling the situation. Sometimes we may in fact do more harm than good. Thus, we want to use positive tools that work.
People come in many varieties-many voices and faces-and each of us, underneath the surface, has patterns. These patterns influence our outward behavior and also help us to fulfill our inner core needs and uphold our values. Personality theories such as temperament describe different aspects of our inborn inclinations. Other theories, like the notion of internal strategies, describe in detail how behavior helps fulfill these inclinations. Our personality patterns are the themes that motivate us and weave together the puzzling pieces of who we are. And ironically, when we know our core needs and values, we are freer to explore and develop new parts of ourselves.
People in each category of the four temperaments view intelligence through a different lens. Here are some typical responses to intelligence:
Intelligence is a lot about self-reflective awareness, conscious thought, and empathy. Self-reflection helps Idealists grow by illuminating who they are, as well as revealing new perceptions and possible futures. Keeping a journal or writing, reading, talking, theorizing, or doing meditation or dream work helps them see and understand the abstract significance between things and is cathartic, therapeutic, and inspiring. They don't want to unconsciously keep making the same mistakes over again. Intelligence also means seeing from other people's points of view-getting inside their heads and feeling where they're coming from to help them. Reality depends on the observer as well as the observed! Sometimes Idealists' intelligence is overlooked because it often involves helping others fulfill their full potential, shifting the focus away from them. They very much like when people really understand their unique intelligence because then the connection is better.
Intelligence is a lot about preparation, being educated, and knowing how to give people what they need. These often involve parsing what people are saying, breaking something into its component parts, and observing the details of how to get from one place to another. When hitting a roadblock where no one knows what to do, Guardians want to stop and say, "This is what we're talking about," and they want to be able to look at things with a logical sequence in mind. It's important for them to think matters through, ensure what's said is "correct," and not stray from the matter at hand. Understanding and being able to explain situations in terms of examples and precedents is very important. Guardians admire someone who is informed on important issues, is aware of others' needs, and knows what others expect to hear. Many Guardians also feel they do a lot of "in the box" thinking, so when they see someone doing "out of the box" thinking in different useful ways, that certainly implies intelligence.
Intelligence is a lot about thought processes, experimentation, and problem solving. For Rationals, it's a mixture of knowing one's own learning style and being able to apply that knowledge to learn better and understand enough to apply ideas beyond what's learned. Intelligence is also genetics, the brain, education, and experiences. And it appears multifaceted to them, such as thinking, defined as organizational skills, analytical skills, or self-reflection. At a deep level, Rationals wonder, Is intelligence about identity or behavior? Is it something one has or something one does? Knowledge is clearly more than facts-it is understanding the principles behind the facts. Sometimes Rationals don't recognize their own intelligence because others insist on obvious evidence of the effect of their knowledge. And then there are quick answers versus deliberation or hypothesis with experimentation. So, many Rationals ultimately see intelligence as situational and hard to define.
Intelligence is a lot about practical smarts, thinking on one's feet, and getting the gist of things. Intelligence can be an abundance of book smarts, street smarts, analytical ability, charisma, or discipline-ideally, someone who is intelligent speaks articulately, is interesting and well-read, makes quick decisions, and solves problems. Artisans admire someone who can quickly learn a new concept or technique and apply it to a variety of situations. Many Artisans "get" an idea quickly, are bored with elaborate explanations, and just want to get on with implementing the real-world application. The world is so detailed and they know they can't possibly know it all, but they make the effort by getting the gist of it all-how the details fit and what to do next. Also part of being intelligent is not flaunting one's intelligence, giving away one's hand, or alienating people. Sometimes Artisans joke that being intelligent requires a "swift kick in the pants" now and then to keep them focused on reality.