Temperament is Not the Same as Character
Temperament has nothing to do with a person’s character or their level of maturity. It is what a person is apart from problems. Here is my definition: “Temperament is a cluster of inborn traits that causes you, in part, to do what you do. ”
Temperament is Not a “Type”
A distinction needs to be made between a “trait” and a “type.” “Types” are considered to be categories into which a person may either fit or not fit. For example, a person could be seen as either an extrovert or introvert.
Temperament Represents a Cluster of “Traits”
The four temperaments are represented by four distinct groups of “traits” or tendencies. Each cluster of traits produces a distinct manner of behavior that is different from the other groups. For example, the Choleric cluster of traits differs widely from the Sanguine cluster of traits and, each will demonstrate different behavior. The Phlegmatic and Melancholy have their own unique cluster of traits that also differ widely from each other.
Each trait can be placed on a continuum from low expression to high expression. For example, one may possess the trait of being social to a high degree, moderate degree, or almost not at all.
The temperament model does not embrace the type approach to behavior. Types are restrictive and narrow in their scope, and they do not leave room for different degrees of expression or development by an individual. Allport stated, “A man can be said to have a trait, but he cannot be said to have a type, rather he fits a type.”
The temperament model embraces the trait approach which allows for a particular trait to be possessed and developed to varying degrees.
Temperament, therefore, represents natural traits or tendencies with which a person is born. How well these natural traits are developed depends on the individual’s motivation. Work ethic and a person’s purpose/passion in life are also important factors in how the traits or tendencies benefit the individual.
Temperament is What a Person is Most of The Time
Temperament represents the way a person relates to others and responds to events. It is what you have observed and expect someone’s behavior to be, most of the time.
Perhaps you have referred to someone as “shy” or “outgoing.” Without realizing it, you were referring to certain temperament traits. These traits are what you know and expect the person to be every time you are with them. Temperament behavior is, for the most part, predictable. The exceptions being, as Dr. Geier pointed out when one temporarily experiences strong emotions such as anger or fear, or one is trying to deceive another. Actually, acting is a form of acceptable deception. A person is knowingly acting like they are someone else. Unfortunately, some purposely act like someone they are not in order to deceive. When this occurs, it is difficult to determine their temperament.
Society would not be able to exist if behavior was not basically predictable. Imagine what life would be like if everyone were different every time you met them. Imagine the chaos. Without consistency in people, without predictability, society simply would not survive.
Temperament is a Force
Temperament is a force within that represents various traits or tendencies that produce an urge, drive, and appetite. Whatever temperament is, it is acting as a force that urges, even drives a person to act in a particular manner.
As an appetite or void, temperament is something that requires satisfying. The obvious example is when you are hungry you have a need to be satisfied and to fill the void. So you eat, and when you do you are satisfied, the void is filled, and you are no longer hungry. Temperament is that way. It pushes or urges you to behave according to the tendencies that represent your temperament blend.
For example, there are those who are natural people-people. They enjoy being with, around, or just standing by others. They like to talk, have fun and be active with others. There is a force within that person that urges them to do this. Ask one with this social bent and they will tell you, “I just want to be around people.” Conversely, there are those who are private in nature and they prefer not to be with, around or by others. There is an equal force within them that urges them to avoid contact with others. Both are normal and both have a push inside to actually act according to their natural tendencies.
Temperament is a Need
Temperament represents inherent needs. Let’s use Abraham Maslow’s definition of need. He says that a need is something that if you do not have, you get sick. Air, food, and water are physical needs without which anyone, of course, would become ill and even die. Temperament is a need, but one will not, of course, die without the needs being met.
Temperament is, however, a need which drives or motivates a person to act according to their natural, innate tendencies. If the needs are not met, the individual will not feel well about themselves or function efficiently
A temperament need represents what is important and highly desirable in the core of an individual. A need is a drive that urges one to behave in such a manner until it is fulfilled. Meeting temperament needs is critical to a person’s feeling of self-worth and sense of value.
Let’s use the sociable temperament (Sanguine) as an example again. As a people-person, they enjoy being with, around or standing by others. They also enjoy talking. Being with people and talking are needs. If this person is not with, standing by or talking to people on a regular basis, they simply will not feel well about themselves. They feel better when they are engaged in some social activity. This is just one of the four temperaments, and the others will have specific needs as this one, but all will be different from each other. The needs represented by the four primary temperaments are natural and normal, and each person is driven to have those needs met.
Everyone, therefore, should provide adequate satisfaction for their “temperament needs” in order to be at their best. For example, Cholerics need to see quick results; Sanguines need to be with people; Phlegmatics need a stable environment; Melancholies need a detailed plan.