The Four Most Common Temperament Styles

By Dylan Buckley|Updated April 6, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Kay Adkins, LPC

Many people believe that the development of our personalities could be based on the people around us, affecting our career paths and life experiences. Every seemingly minor or major experience could alter how we think and act; plus, how we represent ourselves may change over time as we meet new people and say goodbye to loved ones and friends. This article will discuss four styles - choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic.

personality

What Are The Different Types Of Temperament, And Which Type Do You Belong?

Understanding Personality And Personality Development

A person's temperament is how they behave and represent themselves based on personality traits and impactful experiences. Temperament remains constant and serves as a means to help you determine how you will react to situations. It's a way to recognize consistent personality traits.

One study indicated that brain-stem processes determine temperament. Each person has a unique brain stem that cannot change throughout their life. Although the brain stem does not change, this does not mean that people are incapable of change. 

Rather, people can introduce new types of behavior to their temperament as they see more of the world and evolve their behavior. No matter your temperament, you always have the potential to improve your life while remaining proud of your own unique identity. Simply existing in this world is a miracle, so try to make the most of it.

Can You Change Your Personality?

While your underlying temperament is permanent, you can change how you behave as you get older and continue building your experience based on how you see the world. You have the power to change your outlook. If you felt like you acted unfairly in the past, you can improve your disposition by recognizing the four temperament types. 

Personality Styles

Psychologists recognize four primary temperament types. The names of the types were originally names of humor in more distant times. In this case, humor does not mean what you find funny! This is the basis for an antiquated concept of medical science.

Humorism refers to the fluids believed to be present within an individual’s body. Since different people have different amounts of fluids, people thought that a dominant presence of one fluid defined a person’s temperament. Although modern medicine rejects humor’s role in temperament, the names of the four temperament types stuck.

Someone will likely have both primary and secondary temperament types. A person can have any combination of temperament types to make up their personality. Remember that the following descriptions summarize common traits that people with these temperaments may exhibit, and it is not an exhaustive or diagnostic list. Many people will identify with a mix of the types or some aspects of the descriptions.

Sanguine 

People with sanguine temperaments are people-oriented, exhibiting traits such as outgoing and extroverted. Moreover, they emphasize people are working together and trying to do good for one another,  generally being helpful overall. It is the most common type of temperament and is typically either a primary type or secondary type.

This temperament type is just as likely to be found in men as it is in women. Some people are considered "super sanguine" because they are so overly talkative and active that it can be overwhelming to be around them.

Sanguine Characteristics

People with the sanguine temperament type have a wide range of emotions and a wide range of behavior. They are the most versatile of all the temperaments. Depending on their secondary temperament, they might be involved in nearly any human activity. However, they enjoy occasions when they can interact with or change their environment.

People with a sanguine temperament are playful and impulsive. They are constantly active and always optimistic. They have a good sense of humor, are entertaining, and are easily amused. They are also expressive and affectionate. They build relationships easily and are trusting of others.

Sanguine Traits

When you first meet someone with a sanguine temperament, you're likely to feel you've known them for a long time. They are comfortable to talk to and get to know. They are extremely friendly, talkative, and social. They will frequently get caught up in conversations and lose track of time. However, if they get bored, they can lose attention quickly. Their attention span is directly related to how much they enjoy the conversation or what they are doing.

Sanguine temperaments are also highly dynamic. If they think it or feel it, they will say it. They have no filter. Their hyperactivity often leads to forgetfulness and being disorganized. This temperament type is extremely competitive. They dominate sports, politics, and the business world. They also fear making a bad impression and rejection. They want most to be accepted but also to be the best they can be.

Phlegmatic

Phlegmatic temperaments are also common, but they can be seen as almost the opposite of sanguine temperaments. People with this temperament type are service-oriented, exhibiting introverted personality traits, but will work with others to achieve a common goal. These people may seem passive and lack general ambition or specifically to accomplish a goal or milestone. However, it is also possible to have a sanguine type primarily and a secondary type of phlegmatic, or the other way around.

Phlegmatic Characteristics

The passiveness of the phlegmatic temperament type leads to a distinct set of characteristics. They are easy-going, calm, and unemotional. They can be indecisive and agreeable and are usually happy to allow others to make decisions for them.

Phlegmatic temperament people are slow to warm up to others but will make friends fairly easily. They are one of the easiest temperament types to get along with because they are so agreeable and patient. However, they stick closely to their routines and resist change.

Phlegmatic Traits

People with a phlegmatic temperament tend to live quiet lives centered around home and family. They don't get involved in the world around them or with other people. However, they are fiercely loyal to their friends and will stick with a relationship regardless of what the other person does or says. However, once a relationship does break, they are not likely to return to it.

What Are The Different Types Of Temperament, And Which Type Do You Belong?

This temperament type is content to let things happen. They are not quick to make decisions, and they are not ambitious. However, they resist change. They may need quite a bit of time and patience to adapt to change, especially sudden.

Melancholy

When most people hear the word melancholy, they think of depression. However, the melancholy temperament type is not necessarily depressed so much as they are cautious. Those with melancholy temperaments are detail and quality-oriented, obsessing with understanding what is right.  Also, they might be seen as paying strict attention to detail, which could make them out as perfectionists. This is another common temperament type.

Melancholy Characteristics

The melancholy temperament is a rule follower. They can be cautious and tentative in unfamiliar environments, but they can also become aggressive when faced with an unfavorable situation. They are private and introverted. This temperament is factual, logical, and analytical. To function without anxiety, these people need to have a solid action plan and follow it to the letter.

Melancholy Traits

The melancholy temperament may show symptoms of being anxious. They might worry about the future and what others think. They may also worry about how things might have been done differently in the past. As such, they may seem like they resist living in the present.

This temperament is generally well organized, even if they become cluttered. They are usually on time for appointments and expect others to be as well. Before making decisions, they will gather as much information as possible and ask specific questions to make sure they are making the right decision.

People of the melancholy temperament are also suspicious and conscientious. They are slow to trust others until they are sure of their intentions. It is difficult for them to form relationships, and they have high standards for their relationships.

Choleric

The choleric temperament is the rarest of the four primary types. Those with a choleric temperament are results-driven by making goals and sticking with them until they are completed. Thus, they exhibit a positive demeanor and are constantly moving forward. Despite any opposition, they face everything with the mindset of getting results and achieving their desires. It is more common for choleric to be a secondary temperament, although this is not as common as other combinations.

Choleric Characteristics

People with a choleric temperament are extroverted and exude self-confidence. They are independent and strong-willed. They have quick minds and are generally active and practical in their activities. Their communication style is assertive and direct, often brief, almost to the point of rudeness.

This temperament type enjoys taking risks and gets bored easily. They can be domineering and opinionated. They find it easy to make decisions, not only for themselves but for others as well. They can be somewhat controlling in relationships. Choleric types also tend to require less sleep than other temperament types.

Choleric Traits

People with the choleric temperament are creative. They never seem to run out of ideas or plans, all of which tend to be practical. They are steadfast in their ideas, however, and will not give in to peer pressure.

While they can be compassionate and rally for social causes, they are slow to build relationships in their personal life. They likely only have a few close friends, even though they are not afraid to meet and talk to new people. They don't tend to empathize with others. However, they are also very slow to anger, though their domineering personality and direct manner of speaking can be misconstrued as anger.

Navigating Personality Differences

The different temperament types don't always mesh well. It is possible that two people of very different temperaments could experience related relationship issues. You can learn to understand each other and learn ways to cope with each other's needs. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Understand How Your Temperament Affects Your Life

The way you perceive the world around you has a direct impact on how you interact with it. Armed with more knowledge about your temperament, you can cultivate more awareness of this personality and what it means for you in your daily life. Awareness is always the first step in cultivating change.

A More Positive Outlook Can Help

You can better manage your temperaments by finding ways to help you create a positive outlook on your life, including being grateful for your friends and loved ones. Trying to be more positive can give you the ability to thrive without fear holding you back from fully experiencing or enjoying the world. Also, it’s important to set goals that you can realistically achieve and give yourself whatever time you need to achieve them. Think of living a more positive life as a journey more than a destination. For example, if you want to move out of your house, make small subgoals to lead you to that point, such as saving up a certain amount of money each month or buying useful miscellaneous items for the future home. 

Set Solid, Achievable Goals

We can't get anywhere without goals, which is true even when it comes to your personality. What type of person do you want to be? Does it differ from who you are now? What changes can you make to alter that path? Despite the vagueness of the question, being a better person may involve being attentive to others and trying to earn the respect of the people you genuinely like. Although goals imply work, you can get to where you want to be with the proper willpower and work ethic.

Personality Help Online

In these and other situations, it can be helpful to seek out the help of a therapist while you are trying to learn more about who you are. A therapist can help narrow down temperament types and help others understand them more fully, greatly improving relationships and making everyone in the family much happier. One great resource to turn to is BetterHelp.

BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that connects you to helpful, experienced therapists via an online connection so that you can avoid the hassle of having to travel to a local office or try to schedule appointments during busy parts of your day. You can see the impact BetterHelp counselors have made from the testimonials below.

BetterHelp Therapist Reviews

"I am a 42-year-old female, a successful entrepreneur in a loving marriage, and have a bright and healthy four-year-old boy. I shouldn't have anything to complain about. I am generally happy, motivated, and have ample self-confidence. So why in the world would I need therapy? Because I need help with constructive ideas to control my negative attitude. I'm generally not a negative person, but I'm very self-aware that I have vast mood swings of anger and pessimism, and I get that from my dad. I chose Douglas because he counsels using cognitive behavioral therapy and anger management - which is the kind of therapy I need. Douglas comes up with clear solutions, and I appreciate that. I didn't want a therapist to tell me to talk about my day and how that makes me feel, and that it's normal to have these feelings. I know it is normal to feel angry sometimes, but I wanted to understand how to recognize it and address it. So if you need a constructive conversation with fast results for everyday annoyances and (especially effective child-rearing advice!) I think Douglas is your therapist."

"Lenora is an amazing counselor and a wonderful person to talk to; I would recommend her. When I started my sessions, I was still hesitant to open up to someone about the thoughts that were running through my mind, and now after a couple of months, I feel like I would miss talking about my day with Lenora - she is very patient, and understanding and made me feel comfortable from the very beginning. I trust her advice and love her practical tips for the day-to-day stressful things, which changed my outlook on important areas in my life. Throughout our conversations, I never felt uncomfortable like I was being interviewed or analyzed - it just felt like I was talking to a friend who was wiser than me :) And Lenora always made sure she checked in on me frequently while giving me my space and letting me decide the pace at which we were working on some of my issues. My days are not completely ruled by my emotions now, and I think I am more centered than a couple of months ago. Thank you so much, Lenora."

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Personality

How do I control my temperament?

Some may think that one's temperament is impossible to control, as it's a part of them. However, there are ways that you can try to control it. Here are a few ways:

  • Get to know it. Learn what type of temperament you are and list out all of your characteristics. Some may be positive, and you would want to emphasize those. Meanwhile, there may be characteristics you don't like and would want to control.
  • Practice mindfulness. Be aware of your emotions, and when you are expressing something you don't want, find a way to control it or figure out what triggers it.
  • Talk to a therapist. They can help you when you're having trouble changing yourself.

What factors influence temperament?

Like anything, it can be a combination of genetics and how you were raised. Some people may naturally be more optimistic, but they may have a more pessimistic view of life if they live in a poor household. Some things in life can subtly change your temperament, such as who you talk to. Sometimes, temperament can change slowly. If you're married to someone, your temperament may change over time to adapt to your spouse's.

This all depends on how the term "temperament" is used, by the way. Some people will use it in a strictly biological sense.

Can you change your temperament?

For most, their temperament is set in stone. They can be more mindful to avoid problematic tendencies, but to do a 180 on your temperament is usually a hard task. With slow changes, you may be able to alter it.

However, changing who you are is a bit questionable. Do you hate your entire temperament or just some of the more negative traits? As the old saying goes, don't throw away the baby with the bathwater. Learn to take the good parts of your temperament and emphasize them.

What is the difference between temperament and personality?

These two terms are often used interchangeably, making the difference a little confusing. Temperament tends to be associated with the innate parts of our character and can manifest in various traits, including how introverted or extroverted we are. These traits are never learned upfront, for the most part.

Personality tends to be made up of our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. It's how we express ourselves, and it can be added to the temperament. Sometimes, the personality works in harmony with the temperament, and other times, it's a little more complicated than that. Both can be a result of nurture, but personality is more of a result of nurture.

Conclusion

Some parts of ourselves stick with us throughout our lifetime, and there are some parts we pick up along the way. Regardless of what we were given, we can make the necessary changes to adjust our course and help us cope with how we perceive life. If you are curious about what makes up who you are, the guide above will be a great resource to get you started. You can create the fulfilling life you want with the right tools, no matter what temperament you have. Take the first step.

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