The Five Temperaments; An Overview

by ToriDeaux on July 5, 2008

Part of the introduction for the Temperment/Social
media series with Elemental Truths

(written in my most serious of voices. ahem)

The most modern interpretation of Temperament Theory (as outlined by Drs Phyllis and Richard G Arno) recognizes 5 temperament types: Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic, Melancholy, and Supine. These elemental types come together in of our individual natures, making each of us a unique and complex blend of needs, wants and drives.

Below is a rough overview of each temperament in it’s idealized form:


Choleric: Control-Oriented Leaders
Motto: “When I say jump…”

Cholerics are born leaders, driven by a desire for power, authority and control. They are the bosses, the Generals, the directors of society, unafraid of conflict. At their best, they’re independent, decisive, goal oriented and visionary. But because of their dominant goal-oriented self-interest, they can also be cruel, egotistical, unemotional, domineering and unforgiving.

Sanguine: Fun-loving, attention-grabbing life of the party
Motto: “All the world’s a stage, and the sun is my spotlight!”

Sanguines light up the room when they walk in, thriving on attention and popularity. Their prime motivations? Fun, attention, and more fun. They need to feel popular, be praised, and they need to look good in a social sense. At their best, Sanguines are entertaining, outgoing, warm, friendly and responsive – but they can also be undependable, undisciplined, prone to exaggeration and egotistical.

Melancholy: Idealized Perfectionists
Motto: “Artist-Poet in search of kindred souls… ”

Melancholies are riven by what might be called a search for intimate perfection. Melancholies have a need not to just appear morally sound, but to *be* morally sound. Their quest for intimacy means they seek to be understood, to be appreciated, and accepted – but all within the limits of what they consider appropriate moral boundaries. At their best, they are creative, helpful, thoughtful, self-sacrificing and faithful, but their introspective natures and idealized desire for perfection can also make them moody, critical, resentful and suspicious.

Phlegmatic: Reserved, Quiet Peacemakers

Phlegmatics are natural diplomats, driven to create and maintain peace in their environment, peace between, peace within themselves. Their drive towards peace (and away from conflict) can be so strong that phlegmatics may appear to have no driving need at all, but their motivation manifests in a drive to simply maintain calm, and protect their own energy reserves. At their best, they have a high level of self control, remain calm in a crisis, and make good listeners. But their overwhelming need for calm can also make them indecisive, and even fearful, as well as prone to procrastination and avoidance of problems.

Supine: Servant-Leaders in search of purpose
Motto: “I answer to a higher authority.”

Motivated to be useful in a larger sense, Supines are driven to serve a higher cause than their own self-interest. This can lead them to appear subservient and even deferent when it comes to their own needs, but in the interest of their chosen causes, they can be fiercely assertive. At their best, they’re caring, gentle, dependable and loyal; at their worst they can be insecure, weak-willed, and indecisive, failings which sometimes lead them to be manipulative and to hold a grudge.


Everyone shares all of these core traits to some degree to one degree or another, and while we may have natural tendencies towards expressing some of the more strongly than others, we’re still free to adjust and adapt according to circumstance and need, making it a bit more complex than it may seem on the surface.

Still, a basic understanding of these Temperaments and how they’re expressed in each of us can offer valuable insight into ourselves, our business and personal relationships, and even society itself.

Any questions?

(For an even cooler, nifty widgety presentation
of this information, check out
this interactive graphic

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Qrystal 08.04.08 at 12:48 pm

I wonder how I can use this insight. I am definitely Phlegmatic, with everything in that paragraph resonating with me. In particular, I avoid problems so much, I am constantly procrastinating.

Perhaps I’m being too protective over my energy reserves, but how can I convince myself that the energy is only useful if I actually USE it for something worthwhile? I have a lot of great ideas and goals, but hardly ever progress on them. Perhaps I am fearful of change, after all.

2 Qrystal 08.04.08 at 1:12 pm

I’ve now read ahead to the post mentioning the temperament test, and I’ve discovered that I’m a rather balanced blend of Phlegmatic, Melancholy, and Sanguine. So I’m a calm and peaceful perfectionist who is friendly and talkative, but who lacks discipline and thus avoids actively doing anything except being introspective and having fun. This, of course, explains why I’m here, having fun introspecting and procrastinating…

Maybe I just need to focus on some of the positive aspects of these temperaments that I don’t see in myself, and figure out which ones serve me well as motivation. Can I push myself to do things, for the sake of inner peace? I think I’ve already tried motivating myself by the fun of the accomplishments I’m aiming for, and for the morality of being productive, but now I’m wondering if peace is going to be the key. I’m going to meditate on this idea for awhile.

3 Tori Deaux 08.05.08 at 12:30 pm

Hi Qrystal : )

You’re looking at exactly the sorts of things I am, on a personal level – finding ways to motivate myself and cope with other life issues through a better understanding of temperaments. I’m very interested in seeing what you figure out for yourself, so please share any further insights you get!

Maybe the phlegmatic in you can be moved into action if its clear that doing something now will save a lot of energy later? Or by making it part of a meditative practice?

My wording is poor today, thanks to an ongoing headache, but I think that made sense…

4 samuel 10.13.09 at 5:48 pm

it’s good to know who you are