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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

Managing Your Temperament

Updated: Mar 6, 2019

In a previous blog, I described the four temperaments. I'd suggest referring back to that blog. But to summarize, they are: Choleric: a natural born leader, confident, although impatient with anyone who gets in their way; Melancholic: sensitive, intense, perfectionistic, and prone to anxiety and shame; Sanguine: upbeat, cheerful and lively, who loves adventure and fun, but can overindulge and make impulsive decisions; and, lastly, the Phlegmatic: rock solid, easy going, rarely stressed, but possibly a bit languid at times.

One way to discern your temperament is to see your reaction to a particular situation. Here I will offer you a scenario and ask you to notice your reaction. I will give you four possible responses to a situation. See which one fits you best.

Imagine that you were applying for a summer training program. You are very excited about it; the training has every potential for jumpstarting your career. You fill out the involved and lengthy application. A few months later, you get a rejection letter. Which of the following might you do, numbers 1, 2, 3, or 4?

1. You get the letter and become very discouraged, almost despondent. You think, "I must have been kidding myself. Of course, I wasn't going to get in. They must have much better applicants." You start kicking yourself for not assembling a better application or not going to the right schools. Your mood is sour for many days, if not weeks, and you don't bother looking into another summer training program.

2. You get the letter and have a very strong and intense reaction. Possibly you are enraged, and scream and curse, or you burst into tears. You are overwhelmed; it all feels like too much. A couple of days later, though, you're pretty much over it. You think, "Well, if they don't want me, fine. I'm going to gather a few friends and do a road trip this summer."

3. You read the rejection letter, and you've very disappointed at first. But a day or two later you think, "Well, I suppose it wasn't meant to be," and your bad mood disappears. You carefully start looking for other programs for the summer.

4. You get the letter, and you are outraged by the unfairness of it. And you will not let this rejection go without a fight. Since there is an office in San Francisco, the next day you get in your car and drive over there. You politely, but emphatically, insist on speaking with someone in charge. During the meeting, you make an impassioned argument for why you should be admitted to the program. You even bring supporting documents as more evidence for how well suited you are for the program.

So how did you react to the scenario? If you chose number one, you may be a melancholic; two, a sanguine; three, phlegmatic, and four, choleric.

Now that you have some idea of your temperament, what do you do around it? How do you allow your temperament to help and not get in your way?

Each of the temperaments has its own strengths and weaknesses. By mobilizing the strengths and counteracting the weaknesses, your temperament may help and not hurt you.

Melancholics are sensitive, hard-working, and passionate people. But they are prone to hypersensitivity and discouragement. If you are melancholic, you may be wired for negative reactions to life stresses. Accept this, but don't over focus on disappointments or mistakes. It's also very important for melancholics to have kind and supportive friends and extra time for rest and relaxation.

If you are a sanguine, you probably have a bright and animated personality. You can get along with all sorts of people. Yet, you may have a tendency towards erratic behavior and impulsive decisions. Try to surround yourself with calmer and more even-keeled people. And don't make big decisions until you've run them past some of your more grounded friends.

Cholerics can go far in life based on their passion, ideas, and perseverance. At the same time, they can be rough on others, impatient, and even a bit arrogant. Cholerics should try to quell their temper and exercise patience towards others.

Lastly, phlegmatics are generally calm and affable people. They are likable and can handle problems with minimal stress. But phlegmatics can get stuck in repetitive patterns. If you are a phlegmatic, try to vary your routine and activities some.

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