The four temperaments

I’ve decided this month’s theme will be more radically different than the last because I’m actually going to try and inform, rather than ramble about my life, my writing or the strange things that happen in my head. Actually, scratch that last point. I’m hoping to explain a way of understanding what happens in many people’s heads and why. Without further ado let me begin with…the four temperaments.

The temperaments system was originally an old-fashioned way of exploring personality, based on traits and motives. Your temperament could be seen as the base of your personality, yet your interests, beliefs, education, background, etc. could make you and another person with the same temperament as different as chalk and cheese. I first read about it in a psychology book that had been gathering dust for months after purchase. I was fascinated, and soon found various websites that gave more detail on the subject. My favourite one, which I frequently refer to, is this website:, which is the main inspiration for this month’s blogging theme.

So what exactly are the four temperaments?

To begin with, there is the choleric temperament. Ever come across someone who is clearly a born leader, a doer who seems unshakable when it comes to getting things done? If so, you are already familiar with at least one choleric. Cholerics are the task-oriented extroverts, whose main subconscious motive is “to lead”. Despite the potentially negative implications, this is not necessarily a bad thing; these people are simply pre-programmed to achieve, to get things done and to just make their point. If ever I have needed a choleric on my side, it would have to be whenever I have had to go out on a journalism-based mission that is not built for introverts who do not like approaching people…Having said that, the above choleric traits mean that this temperament’s main weakness is anger. In my experience, if these people feel rivalled, impatient or undermined in any way, you will certainly know about it!

Then you have the super-extroverted, people-oriented sanguine temperament, who love to socialise and have fun. Sanguines are arguably the easiest temperament to identify, simply because they tend to be outgoing, open and very quick to make friends. It is easy to feel like a sanguine is your friend because, chances are, they warm to you instantly, while you may be drawn to their natural charisma. They are generally friendly and excitable – they can gain and lose interest in anything at the drop of a hat. This leads to the concept of sanguines being flighty and shallow. I have met plenty of sanguines who have a lot more going for them than that, and a minority who, though often well meaning, sometimes come across that way. Again, this is simply a trait they are predisposed to, not one that describes them all over.

Then there are the task-oriented introverts, the melancholic temperament. These people are the most uncomfortable around other people – their motive is “perfection”, which leads to them being discontented by their own and others’ shortcomings. Melancholics may be life’s thinkers, and are more analytical and introspective than most. This can lead to them being emotionally intelligent with a deep understanding of themselves, but it does mean they are more prone to dwelling on the negatives, which at worst can lead to a long-lasting dislike of themselves and/or anyone else. Their perfectionism often means that they are studious and highly skilled in their area of expertise. As friends, they may be hard to bond with, but their depth and their serious, careful approach could make them the longest lasting.

And finally, the phlegmatic temperament. A people-oriented introvert, a phlegmatic person’s main inclination is inoffensiveness. They are the low-key types who sometimes have the most trouble standing out; this is more due to their quiet, “slow but steady” approach to life, rather than lack of any ability. Phlegmatics are the slowest to show emotion, because they can take a while to experience it and don’t express themselves naturally anyway. They can be slow to get moving, but they usually do what’s expected of them because this is easier than risking making a mistake and causing trouble. This may show in their relationships with others: they may not be the most dynamic company, but they are gentle and dependable, if their slow and hesitant nature doesn’t cause exasperation.

So there you have the four temperaments! Now, to complicate things further, on to the temperament blends…


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