What the “Four Temperaments” Theory Can Tell You About Your Personality

Photo: Getty Images/Thomas Barwick
You've gotten some insight from Myers-Briggs, but do you know which of the four temperaments from Ancient Greek medicine aligns with your disposition? Consider this the Mediterranean diet of personality tests—a palatable questionnaire that can provide healthy insight into how you communicate in relationships, best use your skills at work, and what your personal needs are.

Greek physician Hippocrates believed that humans could be divided into four temperaments—distinct yet overlapping personality types. These temperaments—Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic—are based on "humors," bodily fluids within the microcosm of the body that cause illness if imbalanced. Hippocrates incorporated these beliefs into his medical teachings. While the theory of humorism has been widely discredited and debunked by modern psychology, a temperaments test was used thousands of year ago as the underpinnings of medical diagnoses in Ancient Greece. Like any good personality type indicator, this one involves a fun quiz. Here's what each of the four temperaments means , once you get your results:

Sanguine: If you have a Sanguine temperament, chances are that you're a people-person. You like being in a lively environment, so if you're feeing bored at work, it could be because you're not interacting with people enough. A sampling of some things Sanguines are good at: group sports, business, politics, and entertainment.

Phlegmatic: Phlegmatic temperaments love to help people and often work in service-oriented jobs, such as health care or hospitality. They're pretty mellow and go-with-the-flow. Phlegmatics are great to be around in a crisis because they aren't very emotional and don't freak out easily. This temperament thrives on routine. They also aren't drama queens and avoid getting mixed up in others' drama.

Choleric: This is the rarest temperament, especially for women. People who fall into this group are more task-oriented than people oriented; they're driven by results. Most Cholerics are confident, independent, and like to work alone rather than in a group. They also don't require a lot of sleep, so they tend to be super productive, always working toward their goals.

Melancholic: Melancholic temperaments love having a plan, working slowly and cautiously. (Perfectionists, this is you.) Because they care so much about their work being quality, they can become preoccupied with what people think, worried that it's not good enough. Because of this, they can be a bit serious in nature, and can at times be unsure. You know what makes them feel better? Reassurance and feedback. Melancholics take it to heart, not only listening, but actually putting it to good use.

While you don't want to live-and-die by the four temperaments, thinking about your communication style in any context is a worthy endeavor. And hey, it just might help you understand your coworkers better, too.

The Big Five personality test can also offer up some helpful insight. And once you know your personality type, find a pretty planner to match.

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