Background: Personality temperaments theory was originally devised in medieval times for understanding human nature. People were looking for simple ways to understand themselves and others. It was believed that everyone had various characteristics, which made up their basic temperament. The initial four basic temperaments were Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, and Phlegmatic. More recently personality traits have become popular in the business community through the DiSC Profile®. The DiSC traits, which are based on the ancient temperaments, are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance.

Each of the four temperaments has positive and negative characteristics or strengths and weaknesses. Thus, the idea is to help people understand themselves and others through identifying their strengths and weaknesses. Then they can work to enhance their own strengths and overcome their perceived weaknesses.

Despite its simplicity the four temperaments theory does have an element of truth. People can easily see themselves because of the universal nature of the traits, such as friendly, confident, sensitive, dependable, and so on. Even though these traits are common, when people apply categories to themselves and others, they have a framework from which to view the person’s behavior.

Therefore understanding temperament - your own and others - makes you better equipped to handle interpersonal relationships successfully. Studying your own temperament helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses and why you do some of the things you do. Understanding another's temperament can help you adapt your communication to theirs or, at the least, understand why you have problems communicating with them.
Determine Your Type: Take a blank piece of paper and follow these steps:

a. Draw a long horizontal line bisected in the middle by an equally long vertical line.
b. You should now have what looks like a large + covering your formerly blank piece of paper that creates a four sectioned grid.
c. On the left side of the horizontal line write “introvert” and on the right side of the horizontal line write “extrovert.”
d. At the top of the vertical line write “emotion” and at the bottom write “logic.”
e. On the horizontal line between introvert and extrovert place an “X” where you would rate yourself. Are you more introverted with a few close friends and uncomfortable in crowds? Your “X” would be far to the left. If you are never uncomfortable in groups and have too many friends to count then your “X” would be to the far right of the line. You may not place the mark in the exact middle.
f. Next you will mark the vertical line. How do you make decisions? Do you read, study the data and keep searching until the correct choice is obvious? Then place your “X” at the bottom of the vertical line. Or do you ask friends and acquaintances, while developing your intuitive choice? If you make your decisions more on how you feel than what you know, you “X” goes at the top of the vertical line. You may not place the mark in the exact middle.
g. Then draw a straight line connecting the two “X’s,” but not extending beyond the two points.
h. Your line will be in a quadrant of the grid… upper left, upper right, lower left, or lower right.
i. Upper left indicates you are a Watcher
j. Upper right suggests you are a Talker
k. Lower left means you are a Thinker
l. Lower right points towards a Doer

The Four Types: There are more than four kinds of people, aren't there? Of course, but everyone from the ancients to modern psychologists find that people can be grouped into four basic types of personality. These are:

1. The Talker (Sanguine or Influence): The Talker is enthusiastic and expressive. He is the talkative storyteller, who is seen by others as the life of the party. With an appealing personality, he can be cheerful and effervescent. However, he is also emotional with a changeable disposition. The Talker is curious and has a tendency to live in the present.

The weakness of the Talker includes being too happy and coming across as phony to some. He uses his verbal skills to work his way out of problems and therefore has a tendency to exaggerate and over elaborate. His restless energy, loud voice and frequent laughter can scare others off. The Talker is controlled by the circumstances he finds himself in and prefers complaining to action.

Summary: The Talker is a sociable person. They laugh easily and are creative, enthusiastic, and always have the energy to start new projects. Talkers love to be popular and have a lot of friends. They love being at the center of a group, helping others and are always curious. Talkers tend to rely on their verbal skills and may under-prepare for work challenges.

2. The Doer (Choleric or Dominance): The Does is dynamic and active. Her strong will and an almost compulsive need for change, makes her appear confident. She comes across to others as decisive and not easily discouraged. She has an attitude that nothing is impossible, which makes her independent and self-sufficient. Others may see her as a “natural leader” who can run almost any type of enterprise. The reasons for this are her extreme goal orientation and her ability to organize well. She looks for practical solutions and moves quickly in to action.

A Doer’s weaknesses include her impatience, impetuousness and inflexibility. Her approach to co-workers tends to be quick-tempered, bossy and she comes on too strong. Interpersonally she is unemotional, rarely giving compliments. She won’t quit when loosing and enjoys controversy and arguments.

Summary: The Doer is a strong personality. They are brave and have the ability to be on their own. Doers are forceful and are readily open to making changes. They are strong-willed, assertive, goal oriented, well organized, and don't really seem to need friends.

3. The Thinker (Melancholy or Conscientious): The Thinker is an analytical individual who is serious and purposeful. Others see him as deep and thoughtful. He can be talented, artistic and philosophical. As the DiSC profile type suggests, he is the most conscientious of the types to the point of self-sacrifice. At work he is orderly and organized. He is detail oriented, persistent and thorough. His high (almost perfectionistic) standards grate with colleagues at times.

Weaknesses include being too introspective and failing to listen to others. This is particularly true when an emotional appeal is being made. The Thinker wants just the facts. Show me the data is his mantra. In these situations he can appear moody and self-centered. He tends to have selective hearing when someone is making a point. The Thinker is often seen as off in another world and distanced from colleagues.

Summary: The Thinker is an analytical, serious, and controlled individual. Thinkers are perfectionist and love details. Thinkers are looking for proof before making decisions or acting.

4. The Watcher (Phlegmatic or Steadiness ): The Watcher is the low-key personality. Others see her as easygoing and relaxed. She is patient, quiet and keeps her emotions hidden. Although calm, cool and collected, she is sympathetic and kind. At work she is competent and steady. She often has administrative ability. Although she avoids conflicts, she is an excellent mediator. The Watcher is excellent under pressure.

The weakness of a Watcher is her tendency to avoid responsibility. Although she has a quiet will of iron, she can come across as fearful and worried. Another false impression she gives is being indecisive and too compromising. The reality is she is a people oriented individual who, being somewhat shy, is reticent to assert her views too strongly.

Summary: The Watcher is a peaceful person who is stable, patient, and compassionate toward others. She does keep calm, when others are confused. She is humble, silent, controlled, a good listener, and usually happy with her life. She is a great mediator and easy to get along with.

Better Communication
Another value of the four temperaments is the direct and implied ability to improve communication. For example if you are a Talker trying to convince a Thinker to approve a project, you know you will need data. The Talker’s routine approach would be to socially overcome objections verbally. The Thinker is looking for facts. Another example would be a Watcher attempting to push the same project to a Doer. The Watcher should expect any perceived weak points to be questioned. Instead of taking it as a personal rejection, give the Doer a reasoned response. By understanding the four temperaments in yourself and others you will be better able to communicate effectively within the team. Maximum effectiveness is achieved when a team has a variety of temperaments. This assures projects, problems and possibilities are examined thoroughly and responses from the team are well rounded.

Author's Bio: 

Richard Highsmith, rick@qualityteambuilding.com, is President of Quality Team Building. He has twenty-five years experience training and coaching. He has built and sold two successful businesses. To learn more about becoming a team leader visit our website at http://www.qualityteambuilding.com or call Rick toll-free at 1-888-484-8326 X101.