Did you know that you naturally speak the language of your temperament? Unfortunately, most people around you use a different language. Why? It’s because they have a different temperament than yours.
Yet, you can overcome this problem. If you learn to speak the languages of each of the four temperaments, you can begin building better relationships today.
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Why Are the Four Temperaments Such a Big Deal?
Many times in my life, I have spoken words to others that I thought were helpful or supportive. Yet my words weren’t received that way. It wasn’t necessarily the meaning behind the words that was off-putting. Instead, my ignorance of that person’s temperament led me to use the wrong words.
Learning the four temperaments gives you a whole new understanding into the lives of those around you. Just as importantly, you learn why you have certain strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. Imagine how much more compassionate you can be when you grasp the basics and learn to speak the language of each temperament.
What Are the Four Temperaments?
Sanguine. Choleric. Melancholic. Phlegmatic. If these names for the four temperaments are Greek to you, it’s because they are. Literally.
Fortunately, Kathleen Edelman color coded the temperaments for simplicity. Sanguine is yellow. Choleric is red. Melancholic is blue. Phlegmatic is green. Whether you prefer the official temperament names or the colors, you owe it to yourself and others to learn what the temperaments mean.
The Basics of the Four Temperaments
The information shared here about the four temperaments comes from the books, videos, and online resources created by Kathleen Edelman. Check out these resources for more insight into the temperaments.
As you read about these temperaments, keep in mind that no temperament is better than another. Every temperament has its own strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. Temperaments are innate. You can’t change them, but you can encourage others to live in their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
As people-oriented extroverts, sanguines speak the language of people and fun.
- Strengths include high energy and enthusiasm, living in the moment, being affectionate and joyful, and apologizing quickly.
- Weaknesses include being naïve, loud, dramatic, forgetful, and restless.
- Innate needs are approval, acceptance, attention, and affection.
As task-oriented extroverts, cholerics speak the language of power and control.
- Strengths include being confident, self-sufficient, disciplined, persuasive, logical, and competitive.
- Weaknesses include being impatient, bossy, quick-tempered, inflexible, and argumentative.
- Innate needs are loyalty, a sense of control, credit for work, and appreciation.
As task-oriented introverts, melancholics speak the language of perfection and order.
- Strengths include being sensitive, honest, detailed, trustworthy, compassionate, and a great listener.
- Weaknesses include being moody, jealous, pessimistic, judgmental, and withdrawn.
- Innate needs are safety, sensitivity, support, and space and silence.
As people-oriented introverts, phlegmatics speak the language of calm and harmony.
- Strengths include being easygoing, considerate, generous, happy, helpful, and friendly.
- Weaknesses include being indecisive, stubborn, messy, sarcastic, timid, and too compromising.
- Innate needs are harmony, a feeling of worth, lack of stress, and respect.
How to Discover Your Temperament
You can discover your temperament by answering two simple questions.
1. Are You an Extrovert or an Introvert?
The popular definition of an extrovert is a person who seeks out the company of others. However, being an extrovert is really about directing thoughts and feelings outward. In short, an extrovert thinks by speaking.
If you are an extrovert, you are either a sanguine (yellow) or a choleric (red).
Introverts direct their thoughts and feelings inward. In other words, an introvert thinks before speaking.
If you are an introvert, you are either a melancholic (blue) or a phlegmatic (green).
2. Are You People-Oriented or Task-Oriented?
This question may be harder to answer. A people-oriented person seeks to foster relationships whereas a task-oriented person focuses on accomplishing things. This is not to say that a task-oriented person doesn’t care about people. Neither does it mean that a people-oriented person can’t prioritize a task.
Sanguines (yellow) and phlegmatics (green) are people-oriented. On the contrary, cholerics (red) and melancholics (blue) are task-oriented.
Still Unsure? Take the Quiz.
If you’re not sure whether you are people-oriented or task-oriented or whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you can take a quiz to help you find out. My husband and I took the quiz in Kathleen Edelman’s book, I Said This, You Heard That. Her second book, A Grown-Up’s Guide to Kids’ Wiring, includes the same quiz. This particular quiz, which is also available online for a fee, has forty questions that help you discover your temperament.
Resources for Understanding the Four Temperaments
Just knowing your temperament is helpful, but it isn’t life-changing. To really improve your relationships with others, you must learn about the four temperaments and practice speaking the languages. These are the resources I highly recommend in book, video, and online format.
I Said This, You Heard That (Book & Video Series)
Kathleen Edelman’s book I Said This, You Heard That is geared for adult small group studies. However, there is no reason that an individual wouldn’t benefit from it as well. Our church provided this book for our community group. It is a companion guide to a video series that is available both online and in an app.
A Grown-Up’s Guide to Kids’ Wiring (Book, Video Series, and Online Tools)
Every adult who interacts with kids on a regular basis needs A Grown-Up’s Guide to Kids’ Wiring. Kathleen Edelman even includes advice specific to parents, teachers, and coaches. I purchased this book soon after hearing about it. Although this book and video series is geared toward understanding kids, I continued to learn so much about my own temperament in its pages. I particularly enjoyed the companion videos.
The book’s website is called Kind Words Are Cool. You can view all of the videos directly on this site. Additionally, you’ll find a wealth of worksheets and tools to help you understand children’s temperaments better.
What Impact Has the Four Temperaments Had on Our Family?
Our family is still in the early stages of learning about the temperaments. Since reading Kathleen Edelman’s books and watching her video series, I pause much more often with my kids. That is to say, I try to think about their innate needs before reacting. I’ve noticed that I respond more intentionally and with more grace much more often.
But I’m still learning. This is about making progress one day at a time. I still struggle with finding the right response that will help fill my children’s innate needs. Except for my melancholic (blue) child, speaking the languages of my children’s temperaments doesn’t come naturally to me.
We Are Melancholic (Blue) Parents.
My husband and I are both melancholics (blue). In other words, we’re task-oriented introverts. My quiz results indicated that my secondary temperament is choleric (red). This means I’m strongly task-oriented. My husband’s secondary temperament is phlegmatic (green). Thus, he’s highly introverted.
Until now, we’ve always parented our children according to our own temperaments not theirs. But this often led to misunderstanding. Worse yet, we tried to make our children’s temperaments more like ours. But our sanguine (yellow) child doesn’t need to be melancholic (blue) like us. His innate needs are different than ours.
Therefore, we are in the process of learning the languages of our children’s temperaments. As with any other language learning, it will take time to become fluent.
Our Kids Represent Several Temperaments.
Of our four children, we believe we know the temperaments of our oldest three. Our firstborn son is melancholic (blue) just like we are. It amazes me how closely his temperament matches the lists of strengths and weaknesses for melancholics from A Grown-Up’s Guide to Kids’ Wiring. I’ve recently become much more understanding of his innate need for space and silence.
Our daughter appears to be phlegmatic (green). She is definitely more people-oriented than task-oriented. We think she’s introverted. Since she is the only girl with three brothers, I expect that some of her temperament is masked by her desire to hold her own with them.
Our third child is surely sanguine (yellow). He is a people-oriented extrovert. This is in complete opposition to the temperaments of both of his parents (melancholic – blue). I love that Kathleen Edelman provides specific advice to each parent/child temperament combination. Among other things, I’m learning to limit my words (details) with him and help him find outlets for his energy.
Embracing My Own Temperament
As a melancholic (blue), I was labeled shy throughout my childhood. Of course, the grown-up version of that word is introverted. I attended three different schools growing up. After a cross-country move, my middle school and high school years were focused on academics as I found it difficult to fit in.
Read: My High School Reunion – A Gamut of Emotions
Now, I know that my temperament is innate. Armed with a list of strengths, I no longer feel limited by my temperament. Yet, my temperament still has a long list of weaknesses. Fortunately, I can take Kathleen’s advice and try to fill my innate needs by leaning into my strengths to overcome my weaknesses.
Kathleen Edelman bases her four temperaments training on this foundational verse.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”Ephesians 4:29
Remember that each temperament has its own innate needs. So, when we speak, we have to consider what is helpful for that person’s temperament. Additionally, we have to avoid words that would be harmful for that temperament.
Kathleen Edelman has made the four temperaments accessible to everyone. Whether you enjoy reading to learn or prefer watching videos, she has you covered. Take the time today to learn about the four temperaments and build better relationships with the people in your life.