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 team building, 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.
I begin with the Phlegmatic Temperament because it is the one I am most familiar with – I am Phlegmatic. The word picture of a Phlegmatic includes: laid back, easy going, needing structure, calm, passive, team oriented. A Phlegmatic is typically an introvert; understanding that introvert doesn’t necessarily mean unsociable. An introvert has an active inner life and can be tired by large amounts of social interaction. They need quiet and solitude to recharge. Introverts are often seen as arrogant or snobbish due to their quiet, introspective natures – this is rarely, if ever, true.
In the DiSC model, the Phlegmatic is the “S” for Steady or Structure.
Phlegmatics appear to the world as calm, easygoing people. As friends they are fiercely loyal though they do not usually have a large number of friends. It takes time to get to know a Phlegmatic because they are not naturally outgoing. Phlegmatics make great team members because they are cooperative and do not insist on their own way. They tend to prefer repetitive, structured work, which also makes them excellent assistants or committee members.
The Phlegmatic has two chief weaknesses – first, they have to fight a tendency towards laziness. It is very easy for a Phlegmatic to “drift” when faced with unstructured time. The second weakness shared by Phlegmatics is a naturally fearful streak. While apparently calm most of the time, the Phlegmatic’s inside world is awash with anxiety and fear. These fears may be completely unfounded but still the Phlegmatic will find a way to worry.
With all this inner ‘stuff’ going on, the Phlegmatic is still ‘hard to read’ and may be thought of as shy, snobbish, or arrogant – when, for the most part, none of these is true. Most extroverts have a great deal of trouble understanding introverts, but have an easier time accepting Phlegmatics than they do the more critical Melancholy Temperament.
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.
*Phlegmatic Choleric – PhlegChol – High S High D in DiSC parlance.*
While still laid back, a Phlegmatic Choleric is the most driven of the Phlegmatics. A Phlegmatic Choleric wants to accomplish what they have set their minds to, however, being Phlegmatic they don’t make a splash about it. A Phlegmatic Choleric with a goal will simply go ahead and do what needs to be done – without fanfare or telling anyone.
Since the Choleric has problems with anger, this is often reflected in the Phlegmatic Choleric as irritability or frustration. Since the Phlegmatic is “hard to read”, there may not be an obvious reason for this reaction. For example, traffic backups can irritate a Phlegmatic Choleric; but little warning about their irritation is visible until they comment.
These individuals can make excellent team leaders – they are the only Phlegmatic type that may rise to leadership. Because their Choleric secondary type is a Driver and their primary Phlegmatic is easygoing, these can combine to make a leader who can handle a variety of personalities. The Phlegmatic Choleric needs to have a partner or spouse who understands – and more importantly – accepts their quiet ways. Another Phlegmatic may be best suited while a Choleric or Melancholy will be a less likely match.
*Phlegmatic Sanguine – PhlegSang – High S High I in DiSC parlance.*
The Phlegmatic Sanguine will be the most outgoing of the Phlegmatics. But as so often happens, the juxtaposition of these two opposite types often causes internal and external conflict. The Phlegmatic is quiet, the Sanguine is outgoing – a Phlegmatic Sanguine may find themselves Internally conflicted; going from introvert to extrovert in certain conditions. The Phlegmatic fights laziness, the Sanguine is naturally disorganized – a Phlegmatic Sanguine will have the most difficulty staying organized, focused, and on-track. They will have the most difficulty with goal setting and accomplishment. If they start painting a room, it won’t get finished. If they start a blog, it won’t have many entries.
Phlegmatic Sanguines make good friends; they are acceptant and warm – but don’t expect them to be helpful in keeping you on your diet or going after that promotion. A Phlegmatic Sanguine needs a partner or spouse with a tolerance for their natural lack of organization and focus. A Sanguine Choleric with their warm but firm nature might be the best choice.
*Phlegmatic Melancholy – PhlegMel – High S High C in DiSC parlance.*
The Phlegmatic Melancholy is a study in contrasts; usually acceptant of others, the Melancholy secondary type will cause them to be more critical and analytical. In this case, where a Melancholy might be blatantly critical of someone, a Phlegmatic Melancholy may “hint” or “snipe” or in some other way let you know of their displeasure at your behavior. This type is the most organized of the Phlegmatics due to the Melancholies organized nature. This temperament works well in jobs requiring organization and an ability to be acceptant.
The Phlegmatic Melancholy make an excellent administrator; combining the ability to look at and solve problems with an ability to put up with schedules and bureaucracy. They need a partner or spouse who understands their need to criticize things and people from time to time.
In summary, the Phlegmatic can be identified by a quiet, easygoing, unassuming nature. Don’t mistake this introversion for arrogance; a Phlegmatic just wants to get along, find structure in life, and cherish a few key friendships and relationships.
Hal Warfield is a speaker, teacher and coach. Email him with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.