Currently, it is the year of the Monkey, the month of the Capricorn and as of yesterday I was a Cookies and Cream Poptart. What does any of this mean? Next to nothing. However, if I were to throw in the fact that I am a second born, middle child with a choleric temperament and a Myer’s Brigg label of INTJ, a lot more information would come to light.
Personality and Temperament are two, sometimes confused, aspects of who a person is. While they interact and play off of each other, each of these ideas address a different part of who a person is. Why does anyone care? You might not. A person can go their entire life and never know if they are what a counselor would consider an Introvert or if they are actually an Extravert. It honestly will not cause you to suddenly become enlightened to realize that you are a Sanguine person. However, from experience and research knowing these details about yourself can have a lasting and helpful effect on how you approach life. Before delving deeper into the what’s and why’s of personality and Temperaments, it is important to note that there are many theories and ideas floating around about these aspects of your life. Most major psychological theories have their own ideas about personality (major ones being Adler, Freud and Jung) and most counselors will agree or disagree with parts of each theory. However currently there does seem to be certain theories that are considered more stable than others.
To start, the difference between a Personality and a Temperament. Researchers and counselors agree that Temperament is an “in-born” and “innate” part of who a person is. An infant who is only a few days or weeks old can exhibit signs of a temperament, however most people would not say they have much of a personality. Temperaments do not typically change much throughout life (baring traumatic incidents or a purposeful change on someone’s part). Currently, the 5 main temperament types are Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric and Melancholic. Typically a person will exhibit traits from two or more temperaments, though there will be one temperament that tends to be the “main” temperament.
A quick guide to temperaments could be as followed:
Sanguine: The outgoing temperament tends to be incredibly social and very talkative. Bold and expressive, they are the “pleasure-seekers”, constantly wanting more and enjoying every bit of life. Can be moody, but just as easily can become the life of the party. Sanguine tend to more followers than leaders, but they don’t really care so long as they reach success and enjoy themselves doing so.
Phlegmatic: The “watcher” temperament, people with this temperament tend to be very laid back and calm. Peaceful, patient and adaptive, these are the people who sit in the outskirts of the group not really saying anything, but when they do it is witty and insightful. The Phlegmatic tends to have a more fearful approach to life, not wanting to simply jump into any decisions without due consideration and worry.
Choleric: The rock of the temperaments. If they are at point A and need to get to point B, there is no stopping them; they will go straight for it. They are the people who will walk into a job and try to change everything to be more efficient and successful, whether they were asked to or not. Cholerics tend to be more focused on the facts than emotions, and therefore can come off as abrasive and uncaring.
Melancholic: Artistic, thoughtful and introverted temperament. The Melancholic temperament tends to be highly organized, have a high standard for themselves, and in self-conscious. These are the people who will fall deeply in love with others, while holding a very low opinion of themselves. They take life seriously and often feel rather down. They are incredibly loyal and dislike self-promotion, opting instead to constantly work on themselves, yet still feel they have not achieved their goals. More on the 4 temperaments
Each of these temperaments has positive and negative traits, and each of these traits are up to opinion as well. While a Sanguine might view the Melancholic’s view of the world sad, and boring, the Melancholic might view the Sanguine as not being serious and flighty. To each their own.
Understanding what your temperament, or what your temperament combination is, can be helpful in understanding how you view the world. Your temperament will be a kind of guiding force for you to approach life. Are you prone to mood swings? Do you rely more on making your own opinions and decisions, or letting others lead the way? All of these are parts of your temperament. Which is part of your personality.
While they are two different things, temperaments are part of what colors your personality. It’s like saying that by definition a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. If you know your personality you’ll more than likely be able to know what your temperament is, but just knowing your temperament won’t necessarily give you all the information you want to know about your personality.
Moving on to the bigger picture, personality. There are so many different variations of what kind of personality a person can have that there are entire college classes solely devoted to the idea. Most counselors and other psychologists have their own ideas on how personality develops, as well as what personality consists of. In fact each of the “founding fathers” of psychology had their own ideas of personality. Which I would love to go into, but again that would take an entire college class to discuss. To make it easier, there is a general consensus on several ideas about personality.
The most popular personality ideas can be summed up into two different labels, The Big 5 and Meyers-Briggs. Chances are if you haven’t actually heard those titles, you still know the general concepts about them.
Big 5 – The first major agreed upon ideas of personality, there are five different traits that are used to describe a person’s personality. Either you are, or aren’t one of these traits. Naturally over time the traits have gained a bit of a percentage or scale style in that someone can be more open than not, but as a general rule this is a quick tool to figure out a person’s personality.
If you are curious about your Big 5 personality, I would encourage you to visit Personality Test to learn a bit more about it.
The five traits, which spell out OCEAN for those who enjoy fun facts, are:
Openness – People who enjoy learning new things and exploring.
Conscientiousness – Reliability, organization skills and how methodic a person is.
Extraversion – People who gain energy from interacting with others.
Agreeableness – Friendliness and ability to work with others.
Neuroticism – Emotional stability, people who are neurotic tend to be considered emotionally unstable and have negative emotions regularly.
Again, these traits each have their opposites and being one side of the coin or another is not a “good” or “bad” thing. Extraverts tend to love being Extraverts and Introverts tend to be very happy being Introverts. The problem arises when an Extravert is determined to convert their Introvert friend, or an Introvert doesn’t understand why they are constantly exhausted from working a public relations job for 60 hours a week.
The Big Five is typically more used as a labeling system than anything. It’s cool to know where you fall on the scale of Openness and Neuroticism, but these traits are a big basic, which is why most people tend to look towards the Meyer’s Briggs Test to better understand their personality.
Meyer’s-Briggs is probably one of the most popular personality tests and typing that is currently running around. The test takes the traits from the Big 5, renames a few of them, and they let you know what your personality is from the 16 available. Click here for the best site that I have found, and made each of my family members use! Not only does it have a free test to take, but also each personality type is given an in-depth discussion about what their personality is.
The four traits that the Meyer’s-Briggs tests analyses are:
Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E)
Intuition (N) or Sensing (S)
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
Since there are sixteen different variations of each of theses personalities, I won’t go into much detail about them, however this is what leads to why it is nice to know what your personality is.
For example, I had someone take the test and they were labeled as an INTJ. We went through the profile of an INTJ together and discussed what it meant for their interacting with the world. When we got a point about the difference between a Judging persona and a Perceiving when suddenly they said, “Wait, you mean not everyone does that?” No, not everyone walks into a room and immediately starts planning how they would escape if suddenly pirates attacked the supermarket they are at; but an INTJ does. Not because they are afraid of pirates actually attacking, but you know, they just want to know what they would do.
Knowing your personality can help you to interact with others, especially if you know their personalities. Allowing extraverts to finally give their introvert friends a break, and letting those who avoid letting their hearts lead to give their emotional friends some grace in that department.
You can know, in a sense, what your personality is, because it is essentially who you are. But being able to sit down and study it in a more analytical sense can help to bring better understanding for how you interact with the world, how others interact with the world and a better understanding of who you are.
In the end, a lot of personality and temperament labeling is helpful to an extent. Two people who are both ENFPs will not be carbon copies of each other. They will have different interests, different likes and dislikes and different life experiences. Knowing that you are more Open than not can help you understand that not everyone is, but it’s not going to finish your math homework. However, if taking ten minutes out of you day to better understand how your mind works and why you do some of the things you do can help you reach a deeper level of success and friendship, personally I think it’s worth it. Plus, I really wanted to know what kind of Poptart I am.
~By Nichole Kistler, MA