Each of us has, at some time, wished we had the traits of another person. I wish I was as (cool/smart/beautiful/add your own) as so-and-so. Why are we so dissatisified with the cards we were dealt? I’m not sure I have the answer but it’s a good lead in to this question from a reader:
“I do hate my personality. I’m a health care professional. I have always been the quiet, shy guy. Good at my career but avoid going to far out of the box therefore give up a lot of career opportunities. I wish I could be comfortably outgoing. Is there any way at 47 years old that I could change that? At my age I still don’t like my personality, it holds me back in more ways than one.”
My response: It does no good to hate your personality any more than you can hate your eye color. Your temperament is something you received from birth and heritage. Personally I am extremely introverted but I’ve had to learn (some by being forced and some by making myself) to function well in an extroverted world. And I fail at that as often as I succeed but the trick is to never quit trying.
Remember that your temperament is only one aspect of personality. You CAN make behavioral changes that will offset natural shyness. Join a small group, get some counseling, find an equally introverted friend and challenge each other to be more outgoing.
I know it’s a struggle but keep after it and let me know if I can help in any way.
Readers can always leave me questions here in the comments or via email at warfieldh(at)gmail(dot)com. Here’s an example:
“If I’m a MEL (that is, a Melancholy temperament type) I’m doomed! I couldn’t see ONE positive trait and in this day and age it’s harder than ever to remain thick skinned. A friend of mine down at the pub noticed this was my personality type and now I feel worthless.”
My reply: One of the Melancholy’s weaknesses is being critical; especially SELF-critical. You are neither ‘doomed’ nor ‘worthless’. First off relax — there is not one temperament that is better or worse than another. A Melancholy is strongest in being organized and analytical. Melancolies make excellent doctors or engineers or any profession where a highly detailed and organized person is needed. They are the tpes that can keep a group or job or project organized and on track. It is true that the Melancholy, when they go too far, can be seen as crritical. This is a trait that you’ll need to work on. First, even if you feel that you are absolutely right in something you are thinking or going to say, take the time to consider how your comments may affect the other person or persons. No matter how ‘right’ you feel, it most often does no good to open up verbally on the other person.
You need also to determine your secondary temperament because no one is totally Melancholy. Are you also a Driver (Choleric)? Or outgoing and verbal (Sanguine)? Or is there a part of you that is “laid back” (Phlegmatic)? It helps to know your secondary type because it affects your overall personality in many ways.
Finally, try to determine why you feel this way about yourself – it’s often more than just temperament but also other inputs from friends and family. What self-talk runs through your head?
I don’t get angry often but I think being Phlegmatic has something to do with it. But I get questions from other temperament types that deal more with anger:
“Thank you so much for your writing. I have takent the temperament (personality) test from one of Florence Littauer’s books, How to Get Along With Difficult People”, and came out a strong Melancholy followed closely by Choleric with almost no Sanguine or Phlegmatic traits. As a typical Melancholy might, I’ve always tried to understand who and why I am and how to get along better with others, since I do NOT! Your article was very enlightening and helpful. Now if I can just aply what I’ve learned I might cope better.”
And I answered, “The Melancholy/Choleric combination is a very detailed person with a strong drive toaccomplish whatever is ahead of them. Unfortunately, that blend also has the otential to combine the strongest negative traits – criticism and anger. A Melancholy/Choleric MUST realize that they are not always right (even when it seems SO clear to YOU that your are!) and that other’s ways of doing things are okay (even when they seem careless or mis-directed to YOU). You will work better with other Cholerics who respect your level of detail. You would do well to cultivate a few Phlegmatic friends who will accept you as you are — and give them the space in your life to (gently) offer you their input on your ideas.
Questions? Write me at halwarfield(at)outlook(dot)com.
I’m using some of my coaching emails to continue explaining some of the differences between temperament types. A wife writes:
“My husband is a PhlegMel (in other words, a strong Phlegmatic with a Melancholy secondary) and I am a SanChol (or a Sanguine with a Choleric Secondary). How can I best relate to my husband without shutting him down or trampling on his feelings? Thanks for your input!”
I answered: As a Sanguine Choleric you are an outgoing, warm “driver”. Driver in the sense that you want to move forward and push ahead towards your goals and ambitions. Your sanguine primary gives you an “edge” in that the warm and outgoing part of your nature keeps you from seeming overbearing as you move towards the things you want.
As a Phlegmatic Melancholy your husband is more likely to be an “inner” person – laid back, easy going but not the outgoing person you are. Phlegmatics can feel threathened by the more outgoing temperament types.
Her are some suggestions: first realize that you are NOT going to change his underlying type and he is NOT going to change yours. As a Phlegmatic myself who is married to a Sanguine, I have to find time to “retreat and recharge” from her energetic and outgoing nature. She has come to realize that the things she values in me (stability, ability to “take” her moods, etc) are not necessarily what she needs in interpersonal relationships. To that end, she is more open to visit with friends, co-worders and family to meet her need for socialability.
That doesn’t let me (or your husband) off the hook – to get more “out of him” he HAS to feel that your are a SAFE person to be around; safe in terms of allowing him to feel his own feelings and express them in his own way. If you are impatient as a SanChol can easily be – he will feel it’s not okay to be himself. I could go on but will leave it here for now.
From time to time I get questions on the blog – here is one: “How long will it take to change one’s self-image and do you have any useful tips for it?”
Our self-image is our “inner picture” of ourselves. In other words, who do YOU think the real YOU is? That inner picture is formed by years of “self talk” describing you to yourself. Do you hear inners thoughts of success or failure? Strong or weak? Also how you interpret what others think of you – parents, friends, co-workers.
It will take you as long to change your self-image as it takes to change this inner self talk and BELIEVE it. Some ideas on how? Do something challenging that you wouldn’t normally think of as “you”; anything that challenges you to see yourself differently. Be brave enough to ask friends how they perceive you – is it different than how you perceive yourself? If you have family and friends that negatively impact how your feel about yourself then put some emotional distance between them and yourself; associate with more positive individuals. Remember the quote from Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”. What can you do to improve your average?
An article in The Atlantic Online discussed Caring for Your Introvert – evidently we need caring for! This “wave” of study on introversion seems to support that we’re “normal” (whatever normal is!). In your experience have you, as an introvert, felt mis-understood by extroverts?
I’ve often had to explain the difference between temperament and personality — at least from my point of view and experience. Your temperament is that basic set of behaviors and attitudes you were born with. These cannot be fundamentally changed – though behaviors can be changed. This is the premise behind th Myers-Briggs and DiSC tests. Indications can include whether you are extroverted or introverted, prone to anger or criticism or anxiey.
Personality is your temperament modified by life experience. Your personality if the sum total of your experiences on top of your temperament. There are many temperament tests available on line – check out this one which will give you the basics.
And, as always, if you have questions about your temperament or someone elses’, just add the question in the comments or email me at halwarfield(at)outlook(dot)com.
When did you first realize you were introverted? In her book, The Introvert Advantage, Marti Olsen Laney says it was like a revelation. “There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just introverted!” This site is for that “25% of the Planet” who identify as introverted. So are you SHY or INTROVERTED? Are they interchangable? I don’t think so – shyness may be a result of an introverted personality but an introvert is not necessarily shy.
Confused? Okay, let’s see . . . I have a introverted temperament – my Myers-Briggs is INFP and my “greek” style is Phlegmatic. I was a HIGHLY shy child and it didn’t change that much until I reached my junior and senior years in high school. It didn’t get a lot better even then but I did find I enjoyed theatre and in doing plays you have to become more outgoing.
Strangely I’ve spent most of my career in sales and that has required me to be more outgoing though I won’t ever become an extrovert; not in my genes! Shyness seems to be more a reaction to the world around you — the circumstances of your growing up years. If you had parents who worked hard to “socialize” you, then you may have grown up less shy. If, like me, your parents left you pretty much to your own devices, then shyness may have been the result. An Introvert is a person who is more internal than external; who finds satisfaction in being alone to recharge (notice I did not say “lonely”), and is most likely happy with a few close friendss. So are you introverted?
And what about you Extroverts reading this? What do you think and feel about introverts? We’d like to know!
All of us need to be reminded of our true place in life from time to time. As an introverted personality type, I probably spend too much time considering my significance or lack thereof. Unless you’re a master of modern mathematics, it’s almost impossible to imagine both how incredibly much smaller the universe is from us (down to the sub-atomic level) and how incredibly much larger the universe is from us (up to the level of galaxies). C. S. Lewis said, in Mere Christianity, “Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect.” So today for your amazement and amusement is a link to the a picture of our earth taken from by Voyager I from a distance of 3.7 Billion miles from earth. Carl Sagan convinced mission control to turn the cameras of the space probe back on where it had come from – this is our earth from a distance 50 times that from the earth to the sun (93 million miles). Does it make you think? Does it make you a bit introspective?
I’ve studied temperament and personality now for over 10 years. I know the natural strengths and weaknesses of all kinds and types of people. But the saddest thing I think is a person who, for who for one reason or another, has “put on” the behaviors of a temperament type not their own for such a long time that they have “become” that type. It seems so forced and unnatural, like an introvert who thought they had to be outgoing so they forced an outgoing “face” for so long that it stuck (Like your mother told you – if you keep doing that your face will stick that way!) What are your experiences with people who behave “off type”?