Many schools of modern psychology have recognized four basic personality types, with various sub-groupings being comprised of mixtures of these basic traits. The main four are like the “primary colors” of the social palette. Although people can oftentimes find labels confining, an understanding of these basic personality types – and their distinctive approaches to life – may help you to understand how you see yourself and others, as well as your place in relation to the world.
The idea of personality types is not a modern concept. The ancient Greeks, for example, recognized that humanity’s approach to life and problem solving tended to fall within four key categories, and this idea may have originated even earlier. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung made an extensive study of personality types, and many of his deductions have survived into modern psychological practice.
While labels can oftentimes be restrictive – and fail to honor the uniqueness of each person – some understanding of the basic personality types can help you to interact with others and make decisions with a greater degree of self-awareness. While most of us will share in the qualities of each group to some degree, you may find yourself resonating strongly with one in particular as you read its description. You could think of this as your primary stance in life, the way in which you see yourself in relation to the world.
Choleric people are drivers and doers. This type is the prototypical extravert. People in this category tend to be driven, organized and disciplined in the pursuit of their goals. Decisiveness is the dominant fact of their nature, and they back this up with a strong will. The shadow aspect of their will can express itself as stubbornness, arrogance and lack of consideration for the perceptions and feelings of others.
Sanguine (also known as expressive) people are filled with spontaneous, creative energy. This type makes for a good entertainer as well as a fun and energetic friend. The shadow side of the sanguine can be very self-centered, caught up in its own world. This can express itself in an overall lack of organization, and the inability – or unwillingness – to reciprocate in personal relationships.
Phlegmatic (also known as amiable) people are peacekeepers. They dislike conflict and strive to promote harmony. They tend to be good listeners. Amiable people can be counted on; they consistently pull through even when the going gets tough. On the downside, they may have problems communicating or setting limits because they’re so averse to confrontation. They may avoid certain responsibilities – particularly those involving decision making – for this reason.
Analytical people are neat and organized. They live their lives according to high personal standards. Their approach to life’s various challenges is typically persistent and thorough, and it proceeds according to a well thought out plan. They are good problem solvers for this reason. On the downside, the analytical tendency towards high standards can become overly rigid and demanding. Such people can become pessimistic or easily hurt when the world doesn’t live up to their expectations. The original word for this personality type was melancholy, but this is not so often used nowadays because of people’s tendency to associate that word with despondency.
Understanding which personality type you resonate with most strongly can help you to interpret your interactions with other people better. It helps you to perceive the various conflicts in life as less a matter of right or wrong and more a matter of people’s different values. This awareness can serve you well when making major life decisions – for example, those involving career choices or the pursuit of an intimate partnership.
Wanna find out what your personality type is? Take a free, confidential assessment here. Once you’re done, let me know if the results align with what you perceive as your personality. I’m especially interested in hearing about anything you might disagree with or results that you find surprising.