4 Most Common Temperament Types
Updated June 09, 2020
Reviewer Kay Adkins, LPC
We absorb a lot of information as we grow up and encounter new surroundings, situations, and individuals. Each of these experiences has an impression on us that alters how we think and act, which is why our personalities are heavily derived from our journey through life. But are there parts of us based solely on biology?
What Is a Temperament?
A person's temperament is formed as an infant and never changes. It simply develops over time. Studies have shown that 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 temperament is determined by brain-stem processes. Each person has a unique brain stem that cannot change over the course of their life. More information will be provided about this as we look into the various temperaments you may hold.
Can Your Temperament Be Altered?
If you have a generally negative outlook, you have a lot of company. While your underlying temperament may be a permanent aspect of who you are, especially as you get older and continue building your experience based on how you see the world, you can certainly heal some of the ways that you feel and change your outlook on life. You're not going to be a whole other person but you can make sure that a better tomorrow is possible with the right tools and mindset.
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. 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 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.
Those with the sanguine temperament type are extremely people oriented. They are outgoing and extroverted, and extremely talkative and social. They encourage people to work together and do good things for one another.
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 expressive and affectionate. They build relationships easily and are trusting of others.
When you first meet someone with the 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 are enjoying the conversation or what they are doing.
Sanguine temperaments are also highly emotive. 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.
Phlegmatic temperaments are also common, 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 vice versa.
People with the phlegmatic temperament type are service oriented. They are introverted, but will frequently work together with others to achieve a common goal. They are passive, which leads to a lack of ambition or sense of urgency, even when working with others.
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.
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 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.
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 if it is sudden.
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.
People with the melancholy temperament type are detail and quality oriented. They are obsessed with finding what is right rather than being right all the time. They are also conscientious and work to make sure all details are as perfect as possible. They can be perfectionists in general.
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 plan for action and follow it to the letter.
The melancholy temperament is usually anxious. They worry about the future and what others think. 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 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 the relationships they do form.
The choleric temperament is the rarest of the four primary types. In particular, females with the choleric type as their primary temperament are extremely rare. It is more common for choleric to be a secondary temperament, although even this is not as common as other combinations.
People with a choleric temperament are 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 temperament people 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.
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, 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, 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 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. 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.
Develop a More Positive Outlook on Life
If you have a temperament that tends to lean more towards the negative or prevents you from taking chances, you might want to develop a more positive outlook on life. Being more positive will give you the ability to thrive without fear holding you back from fully experiencing or enjoying the world. Just make sure you are always realistic in your positivity, or you run the risk of disappointing yourself and hindering your progress.
Set Solid, Achievable Goals
We can't get anywhere without goals, and this 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? 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 to understand them more fully, which can greatly improve relationships and make 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.
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What are the 4 types of temperament?
The four types are sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic.
This is anyone who is always positive, socially active, and always moving. You probably know someone like this. Nothing brings them down, no matter the circumstances.
This is someone who easily gets irritable and has a short temper. Their short fuse does lead to getting things done quickly, so there are advantages to a choleric temperament.
This person is quiet, but they have wisdom and can analyze a situation deeper than others. This is someone who you would want on a team. They may not say much, but each word has an impact.
This person is always relaxed and at peace with themselves, even if it feels like their world is falling apart. They may not necessarily be an optimist, but instead someone who is okay with the negative situation they are facing at the moment.
Obviously, temperaments can overlap. Someone can have signs of all four temperaments in them, or have one stand out amongst the rest.
These four temperaments are an old way of looking at one's character, but they still can be used to describe a person, making them interesting to learn.
What is a person's temperament?
A temperament is how a person's behaves. This tends to be based on biology and may not be determined by nurture. However, someone's temperament may be influenced by how they are raised, depending on the context of how the word is used. Many would describe your temperament as the foundation of yourself, with other parts coming in later on.
What are the three basic types of infant temperament?
The three types are easy, difficult, and slow to warm up.
A baby that has an easy temperament means that they are quick to learn new things. They don't mind if their sleep schedule changes, or if you swap their bottle for a sippy cup. An easygoing baby is perhaps what you may want out of a child. Of course, a baby with a temperament that is a little too easygoing may soak up everything they hear.
This is the opposite of easy. They hate change, and will oppose any form of it. From crying all night because their pacifier was taken from them, to wanting to stay in diapers, a difficult child is one that is a challenge for many parents.
Slow to warm up
This is when a baby requires gradual change to adjust to a new thing. It may be in the middle of the above two temperaments.
Just like any temperament, a baby may have a combination of all three. They may be more easygoing with some things, but more difficult to change with others. A baby may be slow to warm up in some cases. A baby that is only one of these temperaments and nothing else can be a problem down the road.
What is a temperament?
See the question "What is a person's temperament" for more information.
What is the Most Common Temperament?
The most common is sanguine. We know that not everyone is socially or physically active, but most people have at least some features of sanguine, from wanting to try new things to liking some forms of change. You can find elements of this temperament in almost any person that you run across.
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 if they live in a bad household, they may have a more pessimistic view on life. 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 as a strictly biological sense.
Can you change your temperament?
For most, their temperament is set in stone. They can be more mindful to avoid the problematic tendencies they have, 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 really 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 on 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 as well, but personality is more of a result of nurture.
There are some parts of ourselves that 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 as to what makes up who you are, the guide above will be a great resource to use to get you started. No matter what temperament you have, with the right tools, you can create the fulfilling life you want. Take the first step.