“Character is something you forge for yourself; temperament is something you are born with and can only slightly modify” — Sydne J. Harrison.
According to Honors de Balzac, temperament is the thermometer of character. In other words, our character, behaviors, and personality are shaped by our temperament.
It is a reflection of our personality, emotions, belief system, and attitudes. Every human being possesses unique peculiarities and differences which come to play in their actions and reactions to events.
Temperament is the thermometer of our character.
This unique difference reflected by our actions and reactions to events is identified as temperament; and understanding exactly what your temperament is will enable you to know and forge a better relationship with yourself, understand your reactions to other people, and relate better with them.
What is Temperament?
Cambridge Dictionary defines temperament to be — the naturally predisposed combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person.
Temperament is an individual’s behavior or nature and it is manifested in their different feelings, response to situations, actions, temper, and so on.
In the field of psychology, temperament focuses on an individual’s characteristics, assumed to be biological and genetic(from birth), and has to do with an individual’s effective re-activity, self-regulatory, and motor responses to the stimuli around him/her which play a significant role in social functioning and interaction.
Rothbart in his book — Becoming Who You Are, wrote “Doug Derryberry and I defined temperament as constitutionally based individual differences in reactivity and self-regulation.”(Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981)
The term “constitutionally” refers to the biological basis of temperament. By reactivity, he meant how we are disposed to emotional, motor, and intentional reactions.
One’s disposition to a reaction can be measured by the latency, intensity, peak intensity of reaction, fear, approach, and the length of time it takes to recover from a reaction.
By self-regulation, Rothbart meant the processes that regulate our re-activity. These include our tendency to approach or withdraw from a stimulus, and to direct our attention toward, and or away from it.
They also include our ability to control our actions and emotions.
Why Is Knowing Your Temperament Important?
Knowledge of your temperament is important as it helps to shape your personality, character, mood. It gives reasons for your responses to situations and helps people understand you more and be better equipped to work with you.
A person’s temperament could either be inborn or shaped based on which environment the person spent time in as they grew up.
Your temperament will also likely determine the kind of career you take to and do well in. It will also be reflected in your reactions to situations.
Identifying and understanding your temperament will help you in your daily interactions with people and improve your relationship with others.
Valentine(1.951) recognized that temperament included individual differences in motivations for actions that are part of the organized emotions, such as fighting, fleeing, freezing, avoiding, seeking, and approaching.
He also emphasized the importance of a balance among temperamental tendencies.
Your temperament explains your actions to the world.
Do you always feel nervous when talking to people, are you usually lively and excited? Do you get angry when things don’t go your way?
Your temperament will give people around you a better explanation for your every emotion and action.
The Four Temperament Theory
There are many theories of temperament but our main focus will be on the four temperament theory because it is the most common theory that explains the types of temperament.
The origin of the temperament theory can be traced to Ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia but was later developed to a medical theory by a Great philosopher, Hippocrates(460–377BC).
The birth of the four temperament theory has its connection to the experiments and works of the following great scholars; Empedocles, Hippocrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Galen.
In ancient times there were prevalent occult practices and myth. Philosophers and physicians made use of body fluids(blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm), four basic temperaments, and zodiac signs to treat ailments and assist in understanding human differences.
Following their research, these four major classifications of human temperament were theorized:
- The Sanguine: Sanguine are extroverted people.
They tend to be overly excited about almost everything, love adventures, are sociable and love making friends. They enjoy social gathering and like being the center of attention, can be very sensitive to issues, but can also be very compassionate and thoughtful. They are the life of the party, but they are not without their share of weaknesses.
Sanguines tend to be forgetful, with a serious tendency to be unaware of appropriate timing— meaning they are most likely to be late to events. They can also be talkative(they love hearing their voices than others), emotional, a bit sarcastic, and will easily lose interest quickly when pursuing a new hobby.
2. The Melancholic: People who fall under this category are sad, sensitive, analytical.
They are perfectionists, usually unsociable, mostly moody, and rigid. They are extreme introverts and will enjoy staying alone than being in the midst of people because they tend to be socially awkward.
A typical melancholic is a perfectionist to the core. They love orderliness and disperse their duties in a very organized way. This can have a negative side as they are likely to be uncomfortable when people around them are clumsy or unorganized. They also tend to be a bit too concerned about very little details.
3. The Choleric: The choleric are born leaders.
They are usually always energetic, ambitious, and passionate. Cholerics love to instill their level of energy and passion in others. They tend to be over-domineering, that is, they can easily dominate other temperaments especially the phlegmatic.
A choleric is usually strong-willed, assertive, and will always love to be a leader. One great weakness of the choleric is that they like to be in charge of whatever they do, and can sometimes be manipulative.
4. The Phlegmatic: People with this temperament tend to be self-content which means they are easily pleased with little things, kind, very compassionate, and affectionate.
Phlegmatics are friendly, receptive, shy, calm, curious, and will usually prefer stability to uncertainty and change. They are usually consistent with whatever duties or responsibilities assigned to them.
A typical phlegmatic is a good observer and administrator but can be aggressive in their interactions with others.
Most people fall into one of the four major temperament groups. Others will possess a mixture of more than one temperament. For instance, someone could be a sanguine-melancholic, having attributes of both sanguines and that of melancholics.
Knowing which temperament group you belong to is important and will help you learn to improve on their weaknesses. The knowledge that everyone has weaknesses will help you relate better with others.
I hope this article was a good read and was helpful to you. You can drop a comment if this article was helpful to you.