The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates was on to something when he came up with the ancient medical concept of humorism. Essentially he believed a person’s personality was caused by body fluids or humors: blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. From there sprung up the four temperaments of psychology. The humors were correlated to temperaments: sanguine for blood, melancholic for yellow bile, choleric for black bile and phlegmatic for phlegm.
It was during a leadership conference I first learned of the four temperaments. The presenter in one session had us take a temperament test to see where we fell in the scale. Some were half and half, others were a mix of all four. I was solidly sanguine and couldn’t have been happier. Sanguines are known as extroverts, talkers and optimists. Who wouldn’t want to be that temperament? Plus it sounds a whole lot better than the rest of the lot.
Everyone was grouped into their temperament categories, and the speaker started reading off the strengths and weaknesses. Cholerics are leaders but have type A personalities. Melancholics are deeply thoughtful yet can be perfectionists. Phelegmatics are easy going but can seem unmotivated. Then she got to Sanguines: the people person.
Sanguines are talkative (check), have energy and enthusiasm (double check) and are great storytellers (BINGO). What could possibly be weaknesses of this temperament? Unfortunately a Sanguine is a Compulsive talker (so I talk a lot), has restless energy (is it a crime to want to move around?) and exaggerates and elaborates (OK I might tell a tall tale here or there). When you get right down to it a Sanguine’s strength is also its weakness. I’m my own worst enemy. Oh the horror!
If others point out one of my tragic character flaws – such as forgetting names – I say it’s because of my temperament. But I can’t just chalk up shortcomings to my temperament, despite how much I want to. Knowing your temperament is only good if you not only learn your strengths but work to improve weaknesses. It is up to me to break out of the negative areas of my temperament. I wouldn’t be a sanguine otherwise. We’re known for changeable dispositions anyway.