This is part of an overall series on our natural Temperament. Temperament differs from Personality in that Temperament inborn and Personality grows out of upbringing, culture, family, and other external factors. Personality equals Temperament plus Life Experience.
In the study of Temperament there are many approaches with many names. The easiest approach to understand and use divides individuals into one of four basic types – Phlegmatic, Choleric, Sanguine, and Melancholy. These names came from the Greeks who thought that behavior was influenced by an abundance of bodily fluid. Studies today confirm that an individual can be classified by Temperament type as evidenced by the use of Temperament tests in the areas of employment, group teambuilding, and organizational development.
Today the four Temperament types have been re-named many times – in this series I will try to provide other naming systems for each type including the DiSC model. Understanding Temperament provides many insights into our own behavior and the behaviors of others – spouses, children, bosses, co-workers, etc. Many have asked, “Why do I react the way I do? Why do I have this particular weakness or fear”? Temperament is one means of answering some of these questions.
Further study has shown that most people are a blend of two of the four Temperament types. One Temperament type is predominating; the other is secondary. Each article in this series will focus on one primary Temperament type and its combinations.
The Choleric is the strongest of the extroverted Temperaments. The Choleric Temperament is sometimes referred to as a “Type A” personality; a hard driving individual known for accomplishing goals. This is both good and bad; good in that the Choleric is a person of accomplishment; they ‘get things done’. Bad, in that the Choleric does not care how they accomplish those goals.
The most insensitive of the Temperaments, a Choleric cares little for the feelings of others. They simply don’t play into the equation.
In the DiSC model, the Choleric is the “D” for Driver or Difficult.
Cholerics have the most trouble with anger, intolerance, and impatience. Those of other Temperaments are simply tools to be used or problems to be avoided. The Choleric doesn’t stand on ceremony, they want facts instead of emotions, and if you get your feelings hurt, it’s your problem, not theirs.
The Choleric may make an impressive leader – the most obvious example is General George Patton of World War II fame. Watching the character portrayed by George C. Scott you find a man who is driven and drives everyone around him towards excellence.
A Choleric in business will often rise rapidly in managerial rank but may leave damaged souls in his wake. And in the area of home and family, a Choleric can damage spouses and children by insisting on ‘my way or the highway’. This is not to say that Cholerics are any better or worse than any other Temperament. They simply have stronger strengths and weaknesses than some of the other types.
Because the Choleric is such a driver, they do not work well in groups. I have often seen a Choleric group member take a project or task and, in effect, say “I’ll get this done and have it for ‘us’ in the morning” and proceed to do the work himself.
A Choleric may not have many friends; having scared or injured most of the people they know. They need friends because a strong Choleric may come to dislike even themselves over time.
Cholerics have the most difficulty with the warm, outgoing Sanguines and would probably do best with easygoing Phlegmatics as friends. In a spouse or partner, a Choleric most needs someone with a great deal of personal strength. Another Choleric would probably be best suited as a spouse with the Phlegmatic coming in a distant second.
Temperament Type Combinations
As stated earlier, each of us is a combination of two temperament types – one is dominant, the other is secondary. The following section gives details concerning each combination.
Choleric Phlegmatic – CholPhleg – High D High S in DiSC parlance.
A Choleric Phlegmatic is a person who is known for steadily achieving goals or finishing plans; but in a quiet, unobtrusive sort of way. The most easygoing of the Choleric types, the Phlegmatic secondary softens the sharp Choleric primary just enough to make them easier to get along with. As with all Cholerics, a Choleric Phlegmatic doesn’t really care how they achieve a goal, even if it means hurting other’s feelings. But in this case, the Choleric Phlegmatic won’t actively seek to antagonize others (as we will see with the Choleric Melancholy). As long as you understand that this is still mainly a Choleric, it is much easier to get along with this blend. Because the Phlegmatic is secondary, the Choleric Phlegmatic is much less likely to have strong angry outbursts. They often show their Choleric ‘edge’ through less-than-funny pranks (i.e. the stinky cheese in the desk drawer, etc).
Choleric Sanguine – CholSan – High D High i in DiSC parlance.
The Choleric Sanguine can be strongly persuasive. Having the driven nature of the Choleric, the Sanguine secondary type can be ‘used’ to persuade others by means of their outgoing nature. The weakness of the Choleric is a tendency towards anger; one weakness of the Sanguine is brief but intense outbursts of strong feeling. A Sanguine doesn’t hold on to these feelings for long; once over, they return to their normal cheery selves. In a Choleric Sanguine, however, anger can be sustained and loud. Rather than gradually fading, a Choleric Sanguine may hold a ‘grudge’ for a very long period of time.
It may be stereotypical, but a Choleric Sanguine makes an excellent outside sales person; combining drive with the ability to charm.
Choleric Melancholy – CholMel – High D High C in DiSC parlance.
The Choleric Melancholy is a powerful combination of Temperament characteristics. The driven nature of the Choleric is augmented by the analytical nature of the Melancholy. A Choleric Melancholy lawyer would be a formidable combination of ‘in your face’ determination with exacting amounts of facts and figures to back them up. The Choleric again wants to achieve goals and uses their Melancholy side to arm themselves via analysis. The downside is that the anger of the Choleric combined with the critical nature of the Melancholy can cause extremely unhappy arguments and confrontations, which the Choleric will most likely ‘win’ and ‘lose’ at the same time.
Hal Warfield is a speaker, teacher and coach. Email him with questions at email@example.com.