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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who's Got Personality?

About 350 B.C., Hippocrates (founder of modern medicine) described four personality types based on the predominant bodily liquid that manifested itself in that person: Sanguine (blood), Choleric (yellow bile), Melancholy (black bile), and Phlegmatic (phlegm). Knowing what our particular personality style is and learning more about what others' personality styles are is important. Our learning style differences affect our ability to communicate effectively as teachers, parents, or students. So does our particular personality style. When we teach to particular learning styles, we are aware of the most effective ways to communicate information to others. When we teach with regard to the personality styles of the various parties, we are mindful of the best ways to communicate to others in a manner that is comfortable and familiar to them.

Here are the basic definitions of the four various personality styles. Please keep in mind that I am simplifying the discussion for purposes of this blog post. There are several valuable resources that I will recommend for further study about this topic. I will list them at the end of the discussion.

Sanguine: the "popular" personality, the extrovert, the talker, the optimist

The Sanguine's personality is appealing. He or she is emotional, talkative, enthusiastic, cheerful, innocent, and sincere. The Sanguine personality thinks creatively, loves people and compliments, and is spontaneous and never dull. Taken to extremes, the Santuines' personality traits resemble compulsive talking, exaggeration, and naivete. The Sanguine often can't remember names, forgets appointments and obligations, is disorganized and undisciplined, is easily distracted and doesn't follow through, hates to be alone and needs center stage, interrupts and doesn't listen, and is generally forgetful. The Sanguine child tends to control by using his or her charm. To teach effectively to this personality style, a teacher needs to make learning fun by using games, and the teacher needs to remember that the Sanguine student needs attention, affection, approval, and acceptance.

Choleric: the "powerful personality," the extrovert, the doer, the optimist

The person with a choleric personality is a born leader. He or she is dynamic, active, strong-willed, decisive, independent, confident, and goal-oriented. The Choleric personality moves quickly to action, makes the goal, insists on production, thrives on opposition, leads and organizes well, and excels in emergencies. As I frequently like to remind my husband, the Choleric personality knows the right answer and is usually right. On the negative side, the Choleric seems to be bossy, impatient, and impetuous. The Choleric personality comes on too strong for some and appears inflexible. He or she is generally not complimentary nor sympathetic, and he or she overdominates and answers too quickly. The Choleric has little tolerance for mistakes, doesn't analyze details, appears rude or tactless or demanding, knows everything, and is right but generally unpopular in spite of it. The Choleric is a "bottom line" thinker. The Choleric has little tolerance for the sales pitch and generally wants to get to the final answer quickly and decisively. The Choleric makes decisions quickly; if given new information, the Choleric is quick to process it and to make a new decision. The Choleric controls by threat of anger. Teaching to a Choleric personality, the teacher needs to structure the learning so that the Choleric student has a sense of control, loyalty, and appreciation, and so that the Choleric feels that he or she is getting credit for the work he or she does.

Melancholy: the "perfect" personality, the introvert, the thinker, the pessimist (the "black cloud")

The Melancholy personality is deep, thoughtful, analytical, serious, creative, artistic, musical, poetic, sensitive, and conscientious. He or she is idealistic, scheduled, and a perfectionist who is very conscious of the details. The Melancholy is persistent and thorough, orderly, organized, neat, and tidy. This personality needs to finish what they start, and he or she enjoys creating charts, graphs, figures, and lists. The Melancholy is cautious when making friends and tends to stay in the background. The Melancholy personality is faithful and concerned for others. On the negative side, the Melancholy tends to remember the negative and is often moody or depressed. The Melancholy seems to enjoy being hurt and exhibits a lower self-image. The Melancholy is introspective and meticulous, and this trait often lends itself to procrastination at worst and hesistancy to start projects at best, as the Melancholy spends too much time planning. The Melancholy is generally not people oriented, and he or she is often hard to please because the Melancholy has standards that are too high for some. The Melancholy is critical of others and tends to hold back affection. He or she is suspicious of people, has a tendency to be unforgiving, and is skeptical of compliments. The Melancholy controls by threat of moods. Teaching to a Melancholy, a teacher needs to mindful of the Melancholy's need for perfection, sensitivity, support, space, and silence.

Phlegmatic: the "peaceful" personality, the introvert, the watcher, the pessimist

The Phlegmatic personality is low-key and easygoing, relaxed and calm, patient and consistent, sympathetic and happy in life, and competent and steady. The Phlegmatic is an agreeable person with administrative ability and mediation skills, as they tend to avoid conflict and act well under pressure. The Phlegmatic tends to look for and find the easy way. The Phlegmatic is pleasant and enjoyable and shows compassion and concern for others. Consequently the Phlegmatic has many friends. The Phlegmatic can appear unenthusiastic and indecisive, and he or she may have a tendency to avoid responsibility. The Phlegmatic has a quiet will of iron (a stubborn streak) that shows in full strength when the Phlegmatic is the recipient of a well-meaning spouse who is "nagging" them about completing a chore or other household responsibility. As a parent, the Phlegmatic tends to be lax on discipline and doesn't organize the home well. The Phlegmatic takes life too easy, appears to lack self-motivation and goals, is hard to get moving, resents being pushed or nagged, and appears to others to be lazy and careless. The Phlegmatic would rather watch and be uninvolved. The Phlegmatic is not easily excited, and he or she tends to show indifference along with sarcasm and teasing. Basically the Phlegmatic resists change and controls by procrastination. Teaching to a Phlegmatic, a teacher needs to remember the Phlegmatic's need for peace and quiet, a feeling of worth and respect, and the lack of stress and pressure.

My personality style is Choleric-Sanguine. When I analyze my personality test closely, I discover that my strengths fall mostly on the Choleric side and my weakness on the Sanguine side. Knowing this information I have been able to recognize when I might come on too strong for a student with a different style or when I can be frank and direct with a particular student. Knowing this information also helps me to relate better to my spouse, who is a Melancholy-Phlegmatic, and to my stepson, who is a Sanguine. There are several clashing points between the personality styles, and I'll save that for a future discussion.

Other Resources for Further Study

The Public Speaker of the Quick and Dirty Tips folks, has presented this personality concept with regard to communication. You may find this discussion in episode 59 (September 11, 2009):

Florence Littauer has written a series of books about this topic. Her basic book is entitled "Personality Plus." My personal favorite of her series of books, which resonates stronger with parents, is her "Personality Plus for Parents."

And for fun, why not take the personality quiz yourself?

For an exhaustive look at the various personality style theories: