4 Most Common Temperament Types

By Nicole Beasley

Updated December 20, 2018

Reviewer Kay Adkins, LPC

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A person's temperament is formed as an infant and never changes. It simply develops over time as you mature and grow, to make you who you are. Studies have shown that temperament does not change but remains constant.

One study indicated that temperament is determined by brain-stem processes. Each person with a different temperament has a brain stem that works differently from the others. This is something that cannot and does not change over the course of a lifetime.

Psychologists recognize four primary temperament types. The names of the types were originally names of humor in more distant times. It was believed that humor caused people to behave in certain ways. Although science has refuted the existence of humor in that fashion, the names of the four temperament types stuck.

It is possible, in fact likely, that someone will have both primary and secondary temperament types. A person can have any combination of the temperament types to make up their overall personality. The four primary temperament types are explored below.

Sanguine

Sanguine is the most common temperament type. It is typically either a primary type or a secondary type, although of course, not everyone is Sanguine. This temperament type is just as likely to be found in men as it is in women. Some people are considered "Super Sanguine" in that they are so overly talkative and active that it can be overwhelming to be around them.

Sanguine Orientation

Those with the sanguine temperament type are extremely people-oriented. They are very outgoing and extroverted, and extremely talkative and social. They encourage people to work together and do good things for one another.

Sanguine Characteristics

People with the sanguine temperament type have a wide range of emotions, and also 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.

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

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Sanguine Traits

You are likely to get the feeling that you have known someone with the Sanguine temperament for a long time when you first meet them. They are that comfortable to talk to and get to know. They are extremely friendly.

They are also extremely 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 are enjoying the conversation or what they are doing.

Sanguine temperaments are also very emotional, and they will let everyone know. 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 to make a bad impression and fear rejection. They want most to be accepted but also to be the best that they can be.

Phlegmatic

Phlegmatic temperament type is also a common temperament, but they can be seen as almost the opposite of Sanguine temperaments. However, it is possible to have a primary type of sanguine and a secondary type of phlegmatic, or visa versa.

Phlegmatic Orientation

People with the phlegmatic temperament type are very service oriented. They are very introverted, but they will frequently work together with others to achieve a common goal. They are very passive, which leads to a lack of ambition or sense of urgency, even when working with others.

Phlegmatic Characteristics

The passiveness of the phlegmatic temperament type leads to a distinct set of characteristics. They are very easy going and laid back, and calm and unemotional. They can be indecisive and agreeable, and they 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 very involved in the world around them or with other people. However, they are fiercely loyal to their friends and will stick by 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.

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This temperament type is content to let things happen simply. 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 if it is a sudden change.

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. This is another common temperament type.

Melancholy Orientation

People with the melancholy temperament type are very detail and quality oriented. They are obsessed with finding what is right rather than being right all the time. They are also very conscientious and work to make sure that all details are as perfect as possible. They can be perfectionists in general.

Melancholy Characteristics

The melancholy temperament person 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 very private people and extremely introverted.

This temperament is very factual, logical and analytical in their behavior and communications with others. To function without anxiety, these people need to have a solid plan for action and follow it to the letter.

Melancholy Traits

The melancholy temperament is usually high anxiety. They have anxiety about what others think of their work, as well as worrying about the future. They also tend to be high guilt individuals, worrying about how things might have been done differently in the past. They rarely live 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 they can and ask very specific questions to make sure they are making the right decision.

People of the melancholy temperament are also very suspicious and conscientious people. 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 the relationships that they do form.

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Choleric

The choleric temperament type is the rarest of the four primary types. In particular, females with the choleric type as their primary temperament are extremely rare. It is much more common for Choleric to be a secondary temperament, although even this is not as common as other combinations.

Choleric Orientation

People with the choleric temperament type are very results-oriented. They make goals and stick to them. They are driven to succeed and tend to stay positive with constant forward movement. They face opposition head-on with the mindset of getting results.

Choleric Characteristics

Choleric temperament people are very extroverted and exude[s] 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 very assertive and direct, often brief almost to the point of rudeness.

Most of all 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 extremely creative and have a vision. They never seem to run out of ideas or plans, all of which tend to be very 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, in their personal life, they are slow to build relationships. 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, although 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 with each other. It is possible that two people of very different temperaments may have difficulties in relationships. While temperament cannot be changed, you can learn to understand each other and learn ways to cope with each other's needs.

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When raising children of different temperaments, it can be difficult to meet their needs while meeting the needs of everyone else in the family as a whole. It is important to understand where your child is coming from and how they need your help to function.

In these and other situations, it can be helpful to seek out the help of a therapist. A therapist can help narrow down temperament types and help others to understand them more fully. This can greatly improve relationships and make everyone in the family much happier.


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