4 Most Common Temperament Types

Updated November 29, 2021
Medically 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. 

Personality development is largely a mystery, but it seems clear that our experiences contribute in some meaningful way.

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

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What Is a Temperament?

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 Your Temperament Be Altered?

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. 

The Four Types of Temperament

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.

  1. 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 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.

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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.

  1. 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?

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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.

  1. 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.

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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.

  1. 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.

Managing Different Temperaments

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 around 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.

Receiving Extra 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 throughout your day. You can see the impact BetterHelp counselors have made from the testimonials below.

Counselor Reviews

"I am a 42-year-old female, 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 in 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 let 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."

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