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The Four Temperaments: An Overview

I love learning about personalities.

People are absolutely fascinating to me, and I will jump at each and every opportunity to learn more about the different ways they think. And any chance to better understand my own heart and mind as well is one I’m glad for.

Over the years, I’ve found many studies on personalities and temperaments insightful. While the ones that have positively impacted my relationships the most are the Myers–Briggs/16 Personalities (I’m an INFP-T), the Enneagram (type 2w1), and Love Languages (Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch), I’m always up for researching other credible studies too.

Such as my most recent topic of study: the Four Temperaments.

This way of studying temperaments (which are the God-given wirings that display themselves through our personalities) has been around for about two thousand years, since hundreds of years before Jesus lived on earth. It originated with Hippocrates, who believed there were four categories of human traits and behaviors, and has since been used in many other modern personality profiles.

I remember briefly learning about this system years ago, but as I’ve been researching it more and more, I’ve found its simple but expansive way of explaining the reasons behind why people act invaluable. With the insights I’ve gained, I’ve noticed changes in my responses to others. I’ve found it easier to understand them, and to treat them in the ways they most want to be treated.

Many people dislike personality profiling systems like this, and I can understand why. They can seem far too narrow. Too clear-cut. Real people are intricate and complicated and never exactly the same as anyone else. And that’s very true! No one will ever fit perfectly inside any of the personality or temperament types out there.

But in my own experience, there’s always something helpful that can be learned from these profiles. If nothing else, simply talking to others about it, and finding out what does and doesn’t describe them, is an excellent way to get to know someone better.

In my own family, we have each of the four temperaments prominently displayed. As we’ve been learning more about them, I’ve found it fascinating how accurate they are. Not in every detail of course, but in all the major ways, and in most of the smaller details as well. With my own primary temperament, almost all of it describes exactly how I think, feel, and respond to life.

The more I study human behaviors and personalities, the more I’m amazed by how beautifully complex we are – and how much more so our Creator is. Through studying personalities in numerous ways, and layering the findings from each, we get mere glimpses of just how expansive and intricate we each are. I find it breathtaking.

So today, I thought I’d share with you a bit about the Four Temperaments system, with the hopes that you might find it as fascinating and insightful as my family and I have. Come June, I plan to put out a series of more in-depth posts regarding each temperament, but for now, here’s an overview of them all.

It’s worth noting that no one fits entirely in one temperament. Most people have one dominant/primary personality that they relate to or default to almost all the time, and then a secondary one that compliments the dominant. Together, the combination makes up most the strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and motivations of your personality.

For example, I’m a primary Melancholic and a secondary Phlegmatic. Those two temperaments are by far the strongest for me, with the other two temperaments virtually nonexistent in the rankings, haha. Some people with have one primary temperament and several secondary ones that are about the same in strength. And there will always be one that you just don’t relate to much at all – the opposite of your primary temperament.

But no matter what your temperament is, learning to understand yourself and others better will lead to greater communication, deeper relationships, and more meaningful interactions. When you understand how to best make others feel valued, you can skip the things that don’t build them up, and go straight to the things that mean the most to them.

And being more aware of your own strengths, weaknesses, and motivations will help you to recognize where you shine best, grow in your weakest areas, and be aware of the situations that require extra care. That’s what it’s done for me. And I’d love for you to have that knowledge too.

Now, before we jump into the overviews for each type, here are explanations for each of the categories listed:

Their Primary “Language”:

Each of the temperaments has a different primary “language” that they speak. This language includes the areas you most excel in, where you naturally focus your time and energy toward. While you can learn to speak the other languages (one good reason to become familiar with others’ temperaments!), you will always fall back on your own primary language. That’s where you function at your best.

Extroverted or Introverted?

Contrary to popular belief, being extroverted doesn’t make you a popular social butterfly, and being introverted doesn’t make you a timid recluse. While certain temperaments do often lend themselves to those traits, there are plenty of socially awkward extroverts and outgoing introverts. Extroversion vs introversion actually relates to how you process information and emotions.

Being extroverted simply means that you direct your thoughts and feelings outward. Extroverts tend to process their thoughts and feelings by speaking.

Introverts direct their thoughts and feelings inward. Being introverted means you will usually process your thoughts and feelings before speaking.

People-oriented or Task-oriented?

If you’re people-oriented, your natural inclination will be toward fostering relationships.

If you’re task-oriented, your natural inclination will be toward accomplishing things.

No matter their temperament, everyone does plenty of both. But what’s your first tendency?

Common Strengths:

These are just like they sound – the ways that each temperament shine brightest.

Common Weaknesses:

Again, self-explanatory – these are the ways that each temperament struggle most.

Core Needs:

Every temperament has core needs – deep longings – that they need to have filled in order to feel valued. While every human shares the most basic emotional needs, such as the need to be loved, certain other needs rank much higher in some temperaments than others.

Manipulate With:

When those core needs aren’t being filled, each temperament naturally falls back on certain methods and behaviors in an attempt to have those desires met.

And with those things clarified, let’s head down to the personality overviews. Read through them with an open mind and see which one/s resonate deepest with you. You might be surprised!


Their Primary “Language”:
People and Fun

Extroverted or Introverted?

People-oriented or Task-oriented?

Common Strengths:
~ Active
~ Adventurous
~ Charismatic
~ Cheerful
~ Curious
~ Easy to talk to
~ Encouraging
~ Enthusiastic
~ Great storyteller
~ Popular

Common Weaknesses:
~ Can’t remember names
~ Compulsive talker
~ Disorganized
~ Dramatic
~ Forgetful and scatterbrained
~ Impulsive
~ Loud voice and laugh
~ Makes excuses
~ Naïve
~ Self-centered

Core Needs:
~ Approval (being liked for who they are)
~ Acceptance (being invited and included)
~ Attention (having your full focus)
~ Affection (being noticed or acknowledged)

Manipulate With:
~ Charm (elaborating or exaggerating; being over the top)
~ Flattery (phony or excessive praise of others)


Optimistic and popular, Sanguines are adventurous people-pleasers with a love for fun and activity. They excel at including and encouraging others, and are often the life of the party. With their boundless energy, they can be overwhelming, disorganized, and quick to make excuses for their sloppy behavior. They’ll never meet someone they can’t befriend, and will easily fill a room with conversation and laughter.


Their Primary “Language”:
Power and Control

Extroverted or Introverted?

People-oriented or Task-oriented?

Common Strengths:
~ Can control emotions in emergencies
~ Confident
~ Disciplined
~ Dynamic leader
~ Independent and self-sufficient
~ Logical
~ Not easily discouraged
~ Persuasive
~ Practical
~ Responsible

Common Weaknesses:
~ Can’t relax
~ Demanding of others
~ Decides for others
~ Dislikes tears and emotions
~ Doesn’t listen
~ Dominates
~ Enjoys arguments
~ Impatient
~ Prideful
~ Quick-tempered

Core Needs:
~ Loyalty (knowing you have their back)
~ Sense of Control (everyone doing what they’re supposed to)
~ Appreciation (being valued for their strengths)
~ Credit for Work (being valued for their contributions)

Manipulate With:
~ Tone (harsh comments)
~ Volume (angry outbursts)

Driven and confident, Cholerics are natural-born leaders with a knack for getting things done and encouraging others to be their best selves. They are responsible and decisive, and aren’t easily discouraged by setbacks. If things don’t go as they want, they can also be bossy, impatient, and quick-tempered. At their best, they’re energized by challenges, and will approach any difficulty with a purpose and plan.


Their Primary “Language”:
Calm and Harmony

Extroverted or Introverted?

People-oriented or Task-oriented?

Common Strengths:
~ Can recognize all sides of issues
~ Compassionate
~ Diplomatic
~ Easygoing and relaxed
~ Good under pressure
~ Likeable
~ Listens well
~ Patient
~ Quiet and witty
~ Supportive

Common Weaknesses:
~ Doubtful
~ Fearful
~ Hard to get moving
~ Messy
~ Mumbles
~ No sense of urgency
~ Resents being pushed
~ Selfish
~ Self-righteous
~ Stubborn

Core Needs:
~ Harmony (everyone getting along)
~ Feeling of Worth (being valued for their strengths)
~ Lack of Stress (an absence of conflict)
~ Respect (being asked for their thoughts and opinions)

Manipulate With:
~ Procrastination (delaying or ignoring responsibilities)
~ Stubbornness (refusing to converse or compromise)

Calm and compassionate, Phlegmatics are natural negotiators, and will always seek to keep the peace. They’re loyal friends, great team players, and often shepherd leaders. Often, they’re prone to sluggishness, indecision, and fear or worry. Their warm, easygoing, and inviting nature constantly draws others to them and they’ll always find a way to support and care for others.


Their Primary “Language”:
Perfection and Order

Extroverted or Introverted?

People-oriented or Task-oriented?

Common Strengths:
~ Deep friendships, quality over quantity
~ Detailed and accurate
~ Empathetic
~ Musical, artistic
~ Perfectionist
~ Philosophical and thoughtful
~ Self-sacrificing
~ Sensitive to others
~ Sincere
~ Works well alone

Common Weaknesses:
~ Fears failure
~ Feelings of guilt
~ Guarded
~ Hard to please
~ Insecure socially
~ Low self-image
~ Off in another world
~ Pessimistic
~ Remembers the negatives
~ Suspicious and/or skeptical

Core Needs:
~ Safety (being able to trust their surroundings and relationships)
~ Sensitivity (being understood)
~ Support (being offered or provided help)
~ Space and Silence (having time to decompress, process, or think)

Manipulate With:
~ Silence (being judgmental, critical, or self-deprecating)
~ Moodiness (being disengaged, or unwilling to talk to or hear from others)

Deep and sensitive, Melancholics are creative perfectionists with a tendency to serve in the background. They’re detailed, respectful, idealistic, and empathetic, and usually work best alone. Insecure socially, they’re often self-deprecating, withdrawn and guarded, and can be critical and hard to please. Their quiet natures make them good listeners, and they’ll do just about anything to help others.

Did you discover your primary temperament – or do you at least have a good idea? How about secondary – was there another temperament that spoke deeply to you, just not quite as much? From my own experience, it can be very humbling and uncomfortable to admit so many of our deepest thoughts and motivations. Being that vulnerable is always hard.

But it’s also the way to deeper relationships. Understanding and seeking to support others in the way they need is a blessing and a privilege. Every day, every conversation, we have many chances to build one another up – or to tear one another down. My prayer is that we’d each be able to be builders, encouragers, and supporters to everyone we interact with.

If you found this interesting and/or helpful, stay tuned for June, where I’ll be going in-depth with each temperament, and discussing the best ways to be a blessing to each. I look forward to seeing you then!

Do not let any unwholesome talk
come out of your mouths, 
but only what is helpful for building others up 
according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.
(Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

1.One of my favorite resources for the Four Temperaments is the I Said This, You Heard That program. You can find many of their videos and resources here. (Much of the information in this post is from their teachings).

2. Another helpful way of learning how to relate to others…I discussed some of the love languages (Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and Quality Time) here.

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