By Terry Carter

Would you understand me better if I told am a choleric-sanguine or a phlegmatic-melancholy? With these four major personality strengths — and yes, all are strengths at times — each of us can have our actions and behavioral tendencies explained.

Personality experts across the globe have their own terminology for the eccentricities of human behavior and thought. Florence Littauer’s Personality Plus coined these terms, but can you identify them in yourself and your friends/family? 

When you are working with someone toward a solution, it means a great deal to know what drives your counter part. Are they all about the numbers of a project (melancholy), or would an emotional appeal work better than logic?

All of us are a mix of two primary personality types like Sanguine and Choleric, for example. Such a person who is primarily sanguine has fun in nearly all situations. They can be the life of the party, and they are fun to be around. The choleric trait can make they fun to follow to success in the office. Turned the wrong way, however, the same person can organize and throw their own parties where they are the life of the event and everyone else is just a bit player.

Here are the basics to the four key ingredients in Littauer’s Personality Plus:

Choleric is the leadership trait in people. Most of us have it, but we don’t use the “bossy” tone unless it’s an emergency — or the kids forget their chores. if you are primarily choleric, you would excel as a supervisor, police chief or paramedic, but some may find you demanding or even a tyrant if you don’t blend in some people skills. Cholerics take charge and give orders. Others listen and obey them because of who cholerics are.

Is this you most of the time? Are you Mr. or Miss Bossy? Some of us are very dictatorial in business and personal affairs until we hit a stone wall — or meet a bigger dictator than we are. Then bossiness gives way to more subtle strengths. 

Phlegmatic is a more passive personality. Some see phlegmatic so as the polar opposite of choleric, and in some ways that is true. However a  peaceful approach is often more helpful than an arrogant attack. Phlegmatics tend to favor calm solutions and defuse situations. It takes great talent and discipline to do this just as it takes energy and boldness to effectively lead every meeting in your office through aggression.

If you sit in a crowded room and let others offer suggests, you may be phlegmatic. When asked for your opinion and you reply, “I don’t know…” you may be phlegmatic. When you give away your money and car to maintain peace between your bickering children, you are undoubtedly phlegmatic.

Choleric and Plegmatic personalities are rarely found in the same person because they contradict each other in all but the rarest person. It’s a mature, disciplined. The same can be true for the next two traits, Sanguine and Melancholy.

Melancholy is a deliberate, analytical, planning personality. They are careful to study and learn, but often slow to act. Melancholy is opposite of the Sanguine, which is fun and aims to have fun in all situations. They are spontaneous, sometimes careless, and chasing fun.

A melancholy can also sit in the back of a room, but he or she is studying each person entering the store. What are they wearing? What do they buy? What this item instead of that? What kind of work do they do? What influences them? This person is the spreadsheet King/Queen. Numbers convince this person to take action.

A young man I admire (my sanguine side favors his journey in life) graduated from high school and moved to Hawaii where he has lived for several years. He moved there for freedom, of course, but the Hawaiian landscape and its laid-back lifestyle bristle with peace and happiness that cannot be found in the continental United States. Hawaii makes you smile and offers a natural joy that is not found elsewhere.

Sanguines love a party and trend toward the next great thing like SnapChat or the Apple iWatch. Give a sanguine the leadership of a choleric, and they will throw the biggest party since the Super Bowl. A sanguine phlegmatic, however, would be attending as many dances and parties as possile. He may even try to sneak in — until he creates a scene or gets caught. 


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