Have you ever asked yourself the question – why is this person not like me? I have…LOTS! When you’re a kid it doesn’t matter so much, but as you get older and move into more serious relationships like dating and marriage or the change that comes with adult children interacting with their parents, these things take on a magnitude they didn’t have before. These are the areas that create conflict, miscommunication and misunderstandings which if left unchecked lead to broken relationships, divorce and a lot of loneliness.
My husband and I started dating when I was quite young (he was a few years older) and at first everything was blissful. I loved that infatuation time. Neither of us hurt each other, everything was so new and exciting and we loved everything about each other….then reality hit. As we moved into a more serious, long-term dating relationship we started finding niggly things that just bothered us about each other and then there were some more serious things that had us questioning, should we even be together?Around that time we discovered a book that helped us hugely – Personality Plus by Florence Littauer.
Through reading her book we discovered that there are different temperaments, each with strengths and weaknesses which contribute to the dynamics of a relationship. As we began to understand each others strengths (and weaknesses) we began to see that the other person was not our enemy, but rather someone who just approached life differently and that was ok. We were able to give more grace when we understood the WHY – why they acted they way they did, or talked the way they did. Personality Plus saved our relationship and we’ve now been married 23 years and together 26 years.
Basically Florence describes the four temperaments as discovered by Hippocrates the
“Father of Modern Medicine”. He discovered that people tended to fall into four groups which he believed came from the amount of each of the four “humours” found in the human body so the names reflect that belief – Sanguine (red blood), Choleric (yellow bile), Melancholy (black bile) and Phlegmatic (phlegm). Now, we know better nowadays, but we still use these words to describe the four temperaments.
The first is the Sanguine – this is an extroverted, people-oriented temperament. These people are fun, exuberant, enthusiastic, love being with people, energised by groups and parties, talkative, vibrant, child-like, talk with their hands and love telling stories. Every party needs a Sanguine. The basic desire of the Sanguine is to have fun whether it be work or play and their basic emotional need is for approval and attention. The Sanguine has some corresponding weaknesses as well. As they are a talker, they can dominate conversation, become repetitive in their story-telling and be overly loud whether in speech or laughter. A Sanguine is generally not very organised, spontaneous and struggles with personal discipline – all gung-ho at the beginning and then peters out halfway through. Sanguines can appear to be insincere as they are very much “out of sight, out of mind” kind of people. When they are with you, they are very focused on you, but once you’ve left, they’ve moved to the next person. A Sanguine is often very driven by their need for approval and often become overly concerned with how they are perceived, whether physically, in their home life and other areas of their life. This drive can lead to conflict avoidance and paranoia about what others think of them. So, that’s the Sanguine!
The second of the temperaments is the Choleric. Like the Sanguine, the Choleric is an extroverted temperament, but different in that the Choleric is task-oriented. The basic desire of the Choleric is for control. They are the temperament that loves to lead, thrives in leadership positions and excels in reaching goals and targets. They love to get things done, produce and work hard. The Choleric is very efficient, highly intelligent and very decisive. Cholerics are the achievers of the temperaments. They are initiators and are outgoing, though this will look different to the Sanguine out-goingness. The Choleric’s basic emotional need is acknowledgement of achievement and appreciation. They love awards and certificates and need to have appreciation expressed for tasks they have done. The Choleric is a strong temperament and because of this their corresponding weaknesses are also strong. As the Choleric desires control this can lead to controlling behaviours like bossiness, dominating, argumentative, lack of empathy and insensitivity to the needs of others. They can be workaholics as they are so driven to accomplish tasks, often struggling to relax or just take a break from their tasks. A Choleric wants the credit, is impulsive and is more likely to experience angry outbursts or become impatient and frustrated. These behaviours can make the Choleric difficult to live and work with, but once they understand who they are and others do as well, the Cholerics are high achievers and very interesting people.
The third temperament is the Melancholy. The Melancholy is an introverted temperament, but like the Choleric is task-oriented. The Melancholy’s basic desire is to be perfect. The Melancholy is an organised, detailed, methodical personality that enjoys things being done well and to a very high standard. They enjoy lists, spreadsheets and charts and routine is their best friend. They like things to be as perfect as possible. The Melancholy tends to be the artistic temperament and loves art, music and beauty. They are loyal, sensitive, thoughtful and deliberate in whatever they do. They don’t need many friends, but the ones they have they are very committed too. The basic emotional need of the Melancholy is for order and sensitivity. However, many of the Melancholy’s weaknesses stem from their desire for things to be perfect. They have high standards and become extremely disappointed in themselves or others if those standards aren’t met. Often their friends and family have no idea of the standard they are being measured against. This perfectionism can drive the Melancholy into moodiness and if left unchecked to depression. That feeling of never being good enough permeates the Melancholy world. Because people disappoint them, the Melancholy is very selective in relationships and tend to bear grudges when wronged. They naturally look on the negative side of things and struggle to believe the best of people. They are easily wounded when they feel that they have not been treated with sensitivity. However, the Melancholy has a big advantage over the other temperaments and that’s their self-discipline. Out of all the temperaments, when they understand their personality and their weaknesses in particular, they often experience the most personal growth.
The last of our temperaments is the Phlegmatic. The Phlegmatic is an introverted temperament like the Melancholy, but is people-oriented like the Sanguine. They are not outgoing, but love hanging out with people and being in social situations. They are easy going, kind, caring, consistent in their emotions, relaxing, gentle, good mediators and very soothing to the other temperaments who struggle more emotionally. The Phlegmatic’s basic desire is for peace. They’re ideal environment is one that isn’t too chaotic, is stress and conflict-free and has people in it. They aren’t the initiators, but do enjoy talking and sharing with others when asked questions or have a particular interest area. The basic emotional need of the Phlegmatic is for respect and self-worth. The Phelgmatic is not a high-achieving temperament as they are very deliberate and can be hard to motivate, so their emotional need reflects their need to be appreciated for who they are, not what they do or accomplish. The Phlegmatic is very easygoing, but that can lead to a “laissez-faire” attitude, and to laziness and procrastination. As the Phlegmatic doesn’t like conflict, this can lead to conflict-avoidance which is not healthy in relationships whether home or work. The Plegmatic tends to be unenthusiastic which is frustrating to the other temperaments and tends to not show a lot of emotion for anything – good, bad or otherwise. When pushed the Phlegmatic can get very stubborn and is incredibly hard to get them to do something they’ve decided they won’t or can’t do which can lead to conflict with other temperaments.
Well, that is a quick summary of the four temperaments. I hope you learned something about yourself and others around you. It is really important to remember that understanding the temperaments is not about putting someone in a box or trying to “tell” people what they are or should be. Rather, it is an opportunity to get to know yourself better in order to have better relationships with others. If you understand the temperaments it becomes easier to adjust how you interact with someone based on their temperament. It’s a great tool to have.
Get a copy of the book (or borrow one from Fit 4 Life) and ask us for a copy of the test. We’ve been given permission to distribute the tests by Florence Littauer so no need to worry about that (if you were )
Have fun and feel free to contact us if you want more information.
Christy – Fit 4 Life Staff