Have you ever screamed in frustration, “I just don’t UNDERSTAND them!” If so, it’s time to learn about The Personalities! This personality typing system is the BEST I’ve found — and the easiest to use with anyone of ANY age. Let’s dive in and give you a brief overview of The Personalities to get you started!
I need to apologize to my readers: I had written most of my “Confessions of an Incurable Melancholy” posts with the assumption that anyone who read them would understand The Personalities, which was mostly true when my only readers were family and close friends. However, now that more people are reading these posts, it seems like the perfect time to give a brief overview of the Personalities for those who may not be familiar with them.
So, let’s dive in!
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An Overview of The Personalities
You’ll notice I use animal images with each Personality type as you scroll through this post. Those animals are the same ones Gary Smalley uses in his version of The Personalities. I don’t typically refer to the animal names, but if they help you remember the different types, go for it! 😊
According to this theory, The Personalities consist of 4 distinct types: Popular Sanguines, Perfect Melancholies, Powerful Cholerics, and Peaceful Phlegmatics. All of us are a unique combination of these four types, but generally, we are predominantly one more than the others with a strong secondary. For example, my type is mostly Melancholy with a strong Choleric streak. My husband is largely Phlegmatic, but has a Sanguine side, as well.
Because I know these names are a little odd — they ARE Greek after all! — I’ve created a handy-dandy, color-coded cheat sheet to help you remember each of The Personalities! You can snag it here:
Let’s take a look at some quick descriptions of how to recognize each type and what some of their main traits may be. (Remember, these are generalizations – not every Sanguine is going to display every trait listed in their description, and there are many more I have not given here. To learn more and explore the COMPLETE Personality picture, be sure to check out the book, Wired That Way!)
The easiest Personality to recognize is the Popular Sanguine – fun, bubbly, charismatic, and sometimes flighty, these “People-People” are generally characterized by a loud voice, loud clothing (lots of bright colors and patterns), open mouth (always talking), and an open life (no secrets here!).
Everything about the Sanguine is fun-loving and wide open, much like the otter who represents them in Gary Smalley’s typing system. They love people and assume that everyone loves them right back. One of my husband’s best friends is definitely Sanguine and recently told us, “Oh, everyone loves me!” For the most part, that statement is true.
It’s hard not to love a Sanguine, though their tendency to be forgetful or child-like can be irritating. But then they’ll apologize and charm you right out of your frustration, making it difficult to stay mad at them.
You will also see the Popular Sanguine represented by the color yellow — just as bright & cheerful as they are!
The second easiest Personality to recognize is the Perfect Melancholy, mainly because they are the exact opposite of the Popular Sanguine. Where the Sanguine lives life loud and wide open, the Melancholy is known for his quiet voice (and tendency to mumble), quiet clothing (traditional, no loud patterns or colors combinations here), closed mouth (doesn’t talk much), and closed life (operates on a “need to know” basis).
These “Detail-People” are perfectionists, tending to focus on the individual trees (like a beaver! 😂), instead of the forest as a whole, and can detect a flaw in a single leaf faster than anyone else. My radiologist father is a Perfect Melancholy, and because he catches such small details, he is definitely the one you want reading your x-rays and CT scans.
However, when a Melancholy spots an imperfection in her life, she can become depressed. These individuals are generally very intelligent, highly artistic, but tend to be moody when life isn’t as perfect as they would like.
A fitting color for the Perfect Melancholy is blue, like the deep, blue ocean. You could swim forever in their depth!
Powerful Cholerics are the third Personality type and are usually recognized by their “powerful” presence, “powerful” walk, and “powerful” body language. The lion is definitely a fitting symbol for this type!
When a Choleric walks into a room, the whole energy of the room changes: it either becomes charged with anticipation and a knowing something big is going to happen, or the atmosphere becomes incredibly heavy and stressful, depending on whether or not the Choleric is living in his strengths or in his weaknesses.
Cholerics walk, talk, and gesture with purpose and intensity, especially when they’re focused on something important to them, so they can come off as bossy and unyielding if crossed while they’re on a mission. My residents often notice these traits in me at the beginning of the year when we go over policies at our All Hall Meeting and during fire alarms when I’m running around, yelling to get everyone to get out, and then trying to find out what happened, drill sergeant style.
These “Natural-Born Leaders” also make decisions very quickly and often on very little information, making them perfect for taking charge in a crisis.
Red is the color we use most often to represent the Powerful Choleric because of its powerful connotation in color psychology and its association with intense situations — think about the bright red of a fire engine or the red lights of an ambulance springing into action!
Last, but certainly not least, we have Peaceful Phlegmatics, the “Natural-Born Peacemakers.” Personally, Phlegmatics are some of my favorite people – especially since my husband is one of them! When I’m freaking out about one of those bazillion things in life that goes wrong, Phlegmatics are the ones who can peel me off the ceiling and help me calm down. I’m still not sure how they do it, but with their calming presence, calming voice, and relaxed body language, they simply exude peace.
Phlegmatics are content with life and their place in it and are quite possibly the most patient people on the planet (just like the Golden Retriever!). One of my best friends and her now husband, another of my good friends, dated long distance for two years and were engaged – also long distance – for another year before finally getting married and moving to the same state. Because both of them were Phlegmatics, they were fine with the drawn-out courtship and were willing to wait for what they knew was God’s best for them.
The trouble for Phlegmatics comes in that they can appear disinterested or unenthusiastic to the more expressive Personalities. Generally, Phlegmatics have to be identified by process of elimination. While the other types are overtly something – loud, quiet, strong – the Phlegmatic notes a distinct lack of anything obvious. They are the chameleons of the Personality world, able to fit in with any crowd and assume any trait as needed for the given situation. If you’re ever not sure what type someone may be, or they seem to be ALL of the other three, they’re probably Phlegmatic.
Just like a calm, serene meadow, we often associate the color green with Peaceful Phelgmatics.
The Personalities Is All about RELATIONSHIPS!
While it’s easy to view The Personalities as just another “put you in a box” typing system, it’s important to understand that this tool — and any personality theory, really! — is simply that: a TOOL. It’s a TOOL to improve our relationships, improve our communication skills, and minimize conflict that arises simply because we don’t understand each other!
Learn More about The Personalities!
While this overview of The Personalities may help some of my readers understand the basics of this personality typing system, it is by no means exhaustive. If you’re interested in learning more about The Personalities and how to use this information to communicate well with people of all types, check out Wired That Way by Marita Littauer or Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. I was trained in personality theory by these two women, and I highly recommend their materials.
You can also read more about The Personalities right here on Scattered Woman:
One final, shameless plug: If you’re interested in having someone present The Personalities in an entertaining, informative, and interactive workshop, please let me know. I do these presentations periodically and would be happy to come talk with your Sunday School class, community group, or other events. Just contact me here or let me know in the comments if you’re interested!