Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to our mini-seminar on character types. The character type
theory that I'm going to present to you is over 2000 years old. Many
historians say that it was Hippocrates, the Greek physician and "father of
medicine," who first described the four main types of characters.
I'm sure you've all heard the adjectives sanguine, melancholic,
choleric and phlegmatic. And you all know that sanguine means happy,
melancholic sad, choleric angry and phlegmatic calm. But did you know that
these words can actually mean much more? You can also call them character
or temperament types. According to this theory people are born with a
certain temperament type. They inherit it from their parents. All of our
character features are inherited just as arbitrarily as our body build,
or the color of our eyes, hair or skin.
I'm soon going to describe to you what these four character types are
basically like, but before that, it's important to note that no one is
purely just one type. Usually people are a mixture of two or more types.
There are various tests you can take to find out your own type. I, for
example, am a pretty even mixture of the melancholic, sanguine and
phlegmatic types. In some people one type can be extremely dominant, but
usually everyone has a secondary type that also effects their behavior.
Of course, our character type is not the only thing that matters. Our
childhood experiences, our upbringing, education and our personal goals
are of a certain importance, but our character type is the thing that
influences us most when it comes to how we are and how we act. We are born
with a certain temperament, and we die with that same temperament. We are
basically the same from cradle to grave.
Now, let's take a few examples of how these different character types
behave. It's said that you can tell a person's character type just by
watching him in different situations.
First let's take the classic example of the flat hat. It's exaggerated,
but it gives you an idea of the basic attitude these character types have
towards life. Imagine that a sanguine person walks into a park and sits on
a bench. He puts his hat down beside him and turns to read his paper.
Meanwhile, someone comes and sits on his hat and the hat goes flat. When
the sanguine person turns back and sees what has happened, he starts
laughing. To him the hat looks so funny.
What happens if the same thing happens to a melancholic person? He sees
his flat hat and he starts crying. "Oh, my beautiful hat, it's ruined. I
got it from my grandfather, it had great sentimental value." Nothing the
other person says or does can make things right anymore.
What about the choleric person? He sees his hat and is filled with
rage. He turns red in his face and starts yelling: "Now look what you've
done! What kind of an idiot are you? Do you know how much this hat cost?
You're going to have to pay for it, you know." The choleric person will
calm down only after he has been promised full compensation for the
A phlegmatic person's reaction is quite different from the others. He
waits until the other person has left. He takes his flat hat and puts it
calmly on his head and walks away - whistling.
You can tell a person's character type by watching him drive a car. A
sanguine person drives unpredictably. Sometimes he speeds and the next
minute he slows down and soon speeds up again. And no one knows why. He
likes talking and if he has company in the car he has trouble
concentrating on driving. He likes to look people in the eye, even those
who are sitting in the back seat. Sanguine persons are the ones with the
Melancholic people are careful drivers. They drive according to speed
limits and all other traffic regulations. They keep a driving diary. They
study road maps in advance. They are the ones who always know the best
route from place A to place B.
Choleric people are brave drivers. Some might even say too daring. They
want to get from place to place FAST. They are always speeding. What could
be a better way to save time, they think.
Phlegmatic people are Sunday drivers seven days a week. They are SLOW.
They take their time enjoying the scenery. Sometimes they are so slow that
they are a danger to other drivers.
You can tell a person's character type by watching the way he takes
care of his garden. A sanguine person wakes up early Saturday morning full
of energy. He's going to get a lot done today, he thinks. He gathers all
his equipment and tools (he has a lot of tools because he can't resist
buying them) and starts to work. But before long out comes his neighbor
and they start chatting. They can talk for hours and before the sanguine
person notices the day has gone and he didn't get anything done. He packs
his stuff and says he'll do the weeding next week. He is a master at
A melancholic person's garden is the most beautiful in the
neighborhood. It's like a work of art. No weeds, and a lot of beautiful
flowers. Melancholic people love their gardens and that you can really
A choleric person hates working in the garden. But things have to be
done, so he does them quickly and effectively. He doesn't have an eye for
beauty; he wants things to be practical. You can usually tell it's a
choleric person's garden by the extremely short-cut grass, bushes and
The lawns of phlegmatic people look shabby. Well, it's no wonder. On
Saturday mornings when all the others have already been working in their
gardens for hours, the phlegmatic person is still in bed or sipping his
3rd cup of coffee. He has an amazing gift to rest. Some might even call
Of these examples you have noticed that all the character types have
both good and bad sides. Let's make a short summery of the most typical
features connected with each character type:
Maybe you found yourself in some of these descriptions. Maybe you found
your family members, relatives, friends, neighbors. These were
descriptions of all of us. That is why I think it is so important to learn
about these character types. It helps us understand each other better. It
helps us understand ourselves better. Maybe you think this is a depressing
theory because I said in the beginning that "we are the type that we are
and we can't change it." That's true, but once we become aware of our
temperaments we can learn how to deal with our weaknesses and learn how to
use our strong sides to the full.
- A sanguine person is happy, friendly, warm, eager and has an ability to
sympathize with others. He has lots of friends and everyone thinks he is
fun company. But he is often very self-centered and he lacks self-control.
He has a tendency to exaggerate and he is emotionally unstable.
- A melancholic person is often extremely talented. He can analyze things
very deeply. He has an eye for beauty. He is disciplined and diligent. But
he has a whole load of dark sides. He is often pessimistic, and is
depressed easily. He is too critical of himself and of others. He is
revengeful and easily offended.
- Choleric people are definitely leaders. They have a strong will. They
are independent, practical, efficient and productive. When they get
something in their mind nothing can stop them. Unfortunately, choleric
people have to spend a lot of their time alone, as their social side is so
poorly developed. They scare people away with their coldness and their
angry and cruel words. They are insensitive and overly dominating.
- It's easiest to get along with a phlegmatic person. He is calm and
easygoing. His carefree attitude and good sense of humor attract people.
He is stable and reliable and very diplomatic. But he is not perfect
either. He is often irritatingly slow and unable to make up his mind. He
is selfish and stingy. Sometimes he is totally indifferent to everything
around him. All he's interested in is his daydreams.
This is just what this short introduction has been all about: Making
ourselves aware. Learning about this theory has helped me a lot
personally. If you decide to dig into it more deeply, I'm sure you won't
be disappointed either. It's all about discovering our potential.