Last year, I read Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. She and her husband came up with a personality system based upon Hippocrates’s theory of the Four Temperaments in an effort to figure out why, within their family, there are so many personality differences. They have since taught countless seminars, and helped millions of people accept the unique characteristics in each other. In the book, you are given a list featuring 40 sets of strengths, and 40 sets of weaknesses, from which you are supposed to choose the words that best describe you. I asked my parents for help because I didn’t think I would access myself accurately. (I didn’t, of course. In my mind, I’m a lot nicer.) Anyway, the temperaments I scored the highest in were Choleric (dominant, strong, aloof, leaders) and Melancholic (introverted, thoughtful, analytical), with Phlegmatic (controlled, laid-back, peaceful) being a close third. (Sanguine is the upbeat, charming, and sociable temperament. I scored a 2.)
As I read through the book, I found how each part related to me. My most dominant side has a very low tolerance for anyone or anything that I think is idiotic. Littauer’s advice? “Be nice to the dummies”. She explained how people with Choleric personalities naturally assume that everyone who isn’t like them is wrong, weak, or stupid. (Or wrong, weak, and stupid.) In the book, I was told, in no uncertain terms, to stop treating people as though they’re a pathetic and inconvenient liability because they aren’t.
I’m also a Melancholic, which means I am introverted, analytical, and pay fastidious attention to detail. In other words, I think a lot, and notice things that most people ignore. Sometimes I spend so much time thinking that I don’t pay much attention to what is going on around me. Also? There’s no such thing as spontaneity in my world. I like to plan, and reject ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ ideas. Littauer’s advice? Don’t be rigid. Loosen up and have some fun.
My personal favourite is the Phlegmatic. It is the side of my personality that is the most peaceful and relaxed. Phlegmatic people don’t react. They don’t complain. They don’t freak out. It is pointless to try to provoke them into action because they just don’t care enough. Her advice to phlegmatic types: care more, and do something. (Phlegmatic people are most likely to be lazy and unmotivated if left unchecked)
In reading more about psychology, I am slowly figuring out that our personalities are more complicated than one set of traits. A few years ago, I was called out by an acquaintance for being phony. They said that I pretended to be meek and quiet to get them to like me, and then turned into a completely different person as our relationship progressed. Well, being meek and quiet is just one aspect of my disposition. I’m also bold and opinionated, serious and standoffish, and easy-going and relaxed. I’m mostly the same wherever I go, but occasionally, my behaviour blends in with the behaviour of those around me. There’s an old proverb that says “Who keeps company with wolves will learn how to howl”, and I can yell with the best of them.
If the overall atmosphere of a place is negative, I have to fight against succumbing to that energy. But when it’s positive, I am my best self. I always joke with my mom by saying, “If everyone were like me, there wouldn’t be as many problems in the world”. That’s just flat-out wrong.
If everyone were like me, there would be a bunch of silent and reserved people in the world, sitting in a proverbial corner trying not to be noticed. Finally, one person will stand up and take the lead because she got tired of waiting, and then everyone will want to take charge because they believe that the leader is wrong, and they know best. The melancholy folks would be complaining about how they knew this would happen all along, and there’s no point in going further because the plan was doomed from the start. The only exception will be the small crowd of people who don’t care about any of it, and just want everyone to be peaceful and relax.
No, thank you.
I am coming to terms with the fact that we all need each other.
Exuberant, outgoing people add fun to any school, organization, or workplace they enter. Their spontaneity is contagious, and they help those of us who are serious and melancholy (*ahem*) to loosen up and enjoy life.
We also need people who are organized and task oriented. They add order to chaos and help keep people focused on what is important.
If we didn’t have any “take-charge”, aggressive types, there would be no strong leaders. They’re the ones who come up with ideas, make quick decisions, and take calculated–or foolish, but somehow worthwhile — risks, and they command enough respect to keep everyone on target.
Last but not least, the peacemakers of the world add a sense of harmony. They’re the ones who show love, and bring people who have opposite views together. Their calling is one of reconciliation and making sure that everyone is shown the respect they are due. Without the peacemakers, there would be no peace.
Whether you believe in God or not, you have to admit that there’s a natural order to things. Taking care of other people isn’t a burden. It’s a privilege that shows that you have been blessed enough to pass that grace along to someone else. We all have to live with one another, in spite of the fact that we won’t always get along. Rather than grudgingly acknowledging the existence of other people, we should accept them as just another brother or sister in the human race.
I realize that I sound like a total Pollyanna about this, but I wouldn’t write it if I didn’t believe it was possible. It won’t be easy, but it is attainable. Like anything that is worth doing, we just need to work hard to achieve it.
Oh, and if you can, try to live with gladness.