Temperament Theory – Does It Really Matter?

Can you guess what temperament each of the picture depicts?

“I’m a Choleric person,” my friend once said. “That means I can’t delay whatever I wanted to say. If I saw something wrong, I have to make it right, now, with my way.” he told me with a glaring eyes. His index finger tapping all the time in the canteen table while he’s communicating his mind, making sure I’m not some lab monkey that wouldn’t understand each of his words.

“Whoa, whoa, take it easy pal. It’s not me you’re angry of.” I raised my hand before he done anything further and accidentally spill anything. “By the way, are you sure it will be okay?”

“Sure it will.” he take a sip on his lemonade juice. “It works every time I got someone lazy and slow in my group. You have to try it sometimes, to tell them that they cannot go easy on you.”

“But not everybody has your way of thinking. And not everybody is as tough as you. How you’ll take responsibility if one of them undergo a mental breakdown if you’ve done too hard on them?”

“Don’t worry, they won’t. Even if they are, I’ll take responsibility. If the situation can’t be repaired, I’ll just replace the man. It’s easy.”

“But even then, wouldn’t it better to do it in such a way that minimized the risk, than repair the damage later? Maybe you should take a look at your surrounding. Nobody uses that authoritarian way of life anymore.”

“Well, I can’t change. I won’t change! Why should I change?” he’s raising his eyebrows.

“And that is because…?”

“Well,” he paused for a brief moment, “Because I’m a Choleric person. And that’s what a Choleric person do. I can’t be anything else! That would not be.. me!”


I really hate when somebody gives me a lame excuse like that. Actually, I’m a very theoretical person. I like to hold on to theories to support my arguments. But after a long experience talking with a bunch of different peoples, trying to convince them to change their bad (and sometimes destructive) behavior, now I realized that my own theory-dependent-behavior has stabbed me in the back.

What the theory about temperament really do is that it tries to classifies each of you which is abstract, into one of understandable, isolated categories. Then in turn, it tries to redefines you with the categories that it put you within. For example, let’s say there’s a man that tends to agree with anything his friend asks him, from accompanying him to a party, to lend some reasonable money whenever his friend asks him too. By the description above, one can immediately classifies this person has a Phlegmatic humors or temperament. Then in turn, it tries to guess every other tendency this man has by putting the Phlegmatic way of thinking label onto him.

Well, it’s not that bad, really. In some cases, it’s useful to helps me determine what is my new acquaintance’s character when I first met him/her. It becomes bad whenever someone uses that as a defense to not to change. It’s us ourselves who define us, not some sort of temperament theories. And it’s not just limited to the four temperament theories, but also to all the other temperament theories developed later. When it’s come to change, defending with temperament theories is the worst excuse you can take.

I admitted that I was also often defending myself with temperament theory excuse. I’m a Melancholy Phlegmatic person, which cannot go hard on people, as the conversation above implies. Whenever my superior gives me advice to take a harder stance, I often replied him/her with those same lame excuses: “I’m really sorry, but I’m a Melancholy person. I can’t stand to watch myself over-disciplining someone.” or “I hope I can change, but my Melancholy temperament always refrains me from doing something I should have done months ago. I hope I can be as Choleric as you.”

But now I realized that being a Melancholy can’t stop you from disciplining someone for their own good. Or being a Sanguine can’t stop you from having a calm and polite manner like a Phlegmatic does. In fact, the four humors temperament theories advises someone to be a perfect mix of four temperaments, to be able to adjust and adapt as the situation needs. When it comes to the need of change, nothing should come in between. Not even theories about temperament.

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9 comments on “Temperament Theory – Does It Really Matter?

  1. Think of a dot in the middle; that’s what a person is. His/Her persona. Now draw lines going in different directions, maybe three, maybe four. It depends. Those lines are what he/she reacts to.

    We can be a happy person, but at times sadness, anger, anxiety, etc, may affect that happiness. It doesn’t change who we are, just how we feel at that particular moment. And vice versa to other characterizations of who others might be.

    Can we really be place in a “box”?

    • Hey, thanks for the thoughtful comments. 🙂
      Yeah, we can’t really placed in a box. In fact, the temperament theory teach us that a person is a unique mix of temperaments that makes him/her different from the rest of the people in the planet. Just that some people really dominant in an area, some is just sort of balanced. That characteristic helps us to understand someone faster. But to rely too much on it is also a foolish idea. 🙂

  2. Well we do rely on the characteristics of people because it helps to identify who they are. In daily common practices, it’s use all the time. 🙂

    And I guess from that stems our reaction(s), how we interact with each other. But some reactions stem from what we believe in as well.

    • That’s so true. 🙂 except that in some extends, our characteristics do affect what we tend to believe. For a melancholy people, they usually have no problem in believing about compassion, romance, and philosophy. But they usually will feel the inner conflict if they’re posed with “opposing type” of belief, such as eat or be eaten, an eye for an eye, or such.

      • It’s the way you see the world. A pessimist will see only dark sky, an optimist, blue sky and a realist, both.

        Others can have opposing views, but you don’t have to feel “threatened” by them. Not if you’re strong in what you believe. 🙂

      • Hehe. No, if their views “threaten” me physically. 😀 What other people’s character is usually poses no problem to us, at least until they interact with us. 🙂
        But, yeah, it’s good to have a personality which can switch depends on the situation needed. I think that kind of personality is the best.

  3. You shouldn’t switch personality, just the way you respond or react to situations. If a person has a short temper, they should try to change that when they react. It’s in the how.

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