As we each build our leadership communities, one thing that quickly becomes obvious is that people are unique! Everyone has their own history, their own list of accomplishments, their own family situation, their favorite sport, favorite food, and their own personality style. Despite all of the differences, when you start spending a lot of time with a lot of people over the years, you start to see some patterns in behavior emerge. For example, you see that certain people are shy, and certain people are really confident. Some people really love details and tasks, and some people just love to be around friends. With practice, you can start to recognize the general patterns in people’s personalities, it can help you understand them a little better and relate to them more successfully.
Recognizing the different personality styles is nothing new. People have been studying other people for as long as people have been around! For example, a very famous Greek Philosopher named Hippocrates (after whom the Hippocratic Oath for medical practitioners is named) believed that in order to be healthy, your body needed equal amounts of four specific liquids. He called these liquids “humors” and they listed them as black bile, yellow bile, phlegm (“flem”), and blood. If you got sick, Hippocrates and his students thought it was because you had too much of one of these humors. So, they tried to cure you by removing some of those fluids! (Not always successfully, mind you, and not a very wise decision to begin with. Just imagine the conversation! “Hey Pythagoras, you still sick? Well, let’s drain off a few quarts of that yucky blood stuff you’ve got inside and see if that doesn’t put some spring in yer step!”)
Fast forward a few thousand years and we humans are still trying to figure out ourselves and the people around us! Luckily, some very smart people have done a lot of the heavy lifting for us. A wonderful author, Florence Littauer, has written a great book to help us understand the four personality types. That book is Personality Plus, I really recommend you get a copy and start to master your understanding of the four personalities! Why take the time to learn more about our personality style, as well as the people around us? Because by better understanding ourselves, we know who we really are and why we react the way we do in certain situations. We can recognize our strengths and amplify them, and we can be aware of our weakness and manage them more effectively. When I got started in community building, my upline leaders took me aside and gently suggested that I learn more about the Choleric personality and study some people skills books, because my demanding choleric nature was a definite weakness for me! So, let’s dive into our four personality styles: Melancholy, Phlegmatic, Sanguine, and Choleric! (And yes, Melancholy’s, I know that isn’t in alphabetical order… it’s not the end of the world!)
This is the outgoing, people-oriented social-type. Sanguines are also known as the “Popular” type. They enjoy fun, socializing, chatting, telling stories – and are fond of promising the world, because that’s the friendly thing to do. A Sanguine gets on well with people and can get others excited about issues, but cannot always be relied upon to get things done. They love interacting with others and play the role of the entertainer or center of attention in group interactions. They have a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver. A Sanguine would benefit from LISTENING more and letting other people tell stories… and not trying to upstage them! As well, if you are a Sanguine and don’t know the correct answer, DON’T make up the numbers… the Melancholy’s will spot you doing it and you’ll lose their respect! Some famous examples are Bill Clinton, Robin Williams, Kelly Ripa and Richard Simmons.
This is the reserved, task-oriented cautious type. Melancholies are also known as the “Perfect” type. Their typical behavior involves thinking, assessing, making lists, evaluating the positives and negatives, and general analysis of facts. They love maps, charts and graphs. They are usually the most intelligent of the four types; however they tend to dwell on details. A Melancholy is a planner, making sure things happen, although sometimes they can paralyze themselves with over-analysis. Lists and “doing things the right way” are characteristics of this personality type. Melancholy’s need to loosen up and let their hair down. No one is perfect, even if a Melancholoy tries to be. Don’t be so hard on yourself when you make a mistake… you are probably your own toughest critic. Probably no one else noticed, so you don’t need to point out your error. Remember that Cholerics and Sanguines are bored to tears with details, even if you find the details interesting. When presenting to them, try to summarize the key points and move on. Some famous examples are Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, and Beethoven.
This is the reserved and people-oriented type. They are easy going, laid back, nonchalant, unexcitable and relaxed. Desiring a quiet and peaceful environment above all else. They tend not to actively upset people, but their indifference may frustrate people. They try not to make decisions, and generally go for the status quo. They are good as mediators because they don’t usually have many enemies. Phlegmatics are also known as the “Peaceful” type; they tend to want everyone to get along and not rock the boat. They also have a “dry” and quick sense of humor. Phlegmatic leaders may not move as quickly as real Cholerics, but they can be just as—or even more—effective. They may not work harder, but they just may work smarter! If you are a Phlegmatic, you don’t have to say “yes” to every request… sometimes other people will take advantage of you if you don’t set up some boundaries and say “no” once in a while. Some famous examples are Calvin Coolidge, Tim Duncan, and Keanu Reeves (Not his Matrix action-hero character, mind you… His Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure surfer character.)
I’ve put Cholerics last so that they can practice being patient and recognize that they aren’t always the alpha male in the room! 🙂 This is the outgoing and task-oriented style. Choleric are dominant, strong, decisive, stubborn and sometimes even arrogant. Cholerics are also known as the “POWEFUL” type. They tend to be good leaders because they are driven to get things done. Unfortunately, they might offend some people along the way by not taking their feelings into account and stepping on some toes. We joke that they are often wrong but never in doubt! Cholerics often have the answers; they know what to do; they can make quick decisions; they bail others out in a jam—but they can struggle with being popular because their assurance and assertiveness make others feel insecure, and their ability to lead can easily make them appear bossy. Powerful Choleric should try to soften their approach with people while maintaining their amazing work ethic and results so that others will celebrate the Cholerics and not be offended by them. Some famous examples are Donald Trump, General Patton and Bill O’Reilly.
So we’ve briefly touched on each of the four personalities, but it gives you a good introduction to them. It’s my hope this blog inspires you to devour Personality Plus. One thing to always remember: no personality style is better than the other. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Each style is complemented by someone else…. Which is why working as part of a team can be so powerful! If you haven’t done so, take the time to read this book and learn about these styles. If you’ve read the book once, read it again and master it! You’ll discover the people around you are amazing!
God Bless, Tim Marks