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What is your personality and temperament? 

We all have a personality type and a temperament, or cluster of temperaments. The difference – we are born with a temperament but our personality is developed gradually. Though they have some connection, they’re quite different. Temperament refers to behavioral style and the how of behavior. Personality describes what a person does or why they do things? Both merge to help form who we are. They both join to determine how and why we respond to music, religion, literature, career choice, family, politics, and life itself. Understanding the personality and temperament of individuals may assist one in being less critical of others. It may also help individuals to be better parents, teachers, employees, supervisors, and employers.

Freelance writer Steph Coelho’s writes in an article on PsychCentral entitled, “What Is the Difference Between Temperament and Personality?” the following: “Your temperament, sometimes called disposition, refers to aspects of your personality influenced by your biology, not your experiences …”

She references Dr. Mirela Loftus, medical director of Newport Healthcare Connecticut who says temperament refers to the foundational part of your personality. And that on the other hand, personality is your whole self, including your temperament. Loftus says your personality is influenced by your temperament, which is thought to be biologically determined, along with your environment and experiences.

There are four temperaments: phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine, and melancholy. Each one of us has a mixture of all these temperaments or very strong in one or more. I have a very strong blend of two temperaments: phlegmatic and sanguine. There are 16 personality types which I cannot list here. My personality type, based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is Consul (ESFJ-extravert, observant, feeling and judging). People with this personality are generally extraordinarily caring, social, and popular people, always eager to help. You can find out your temperament and personality type by doing a free test on this webpage: www.soencouragement.org/tests. Note that all temperaments and personality types have strengths and weaknesses. Seek to know yours.

Many employees find that utilizing a personality test can be useful in hiring someone in a particular position. It helps to select the person with the best personality for the job. For example, there are some people that do best working alone. There are others who thrive engaging with people.

Employers often use different personality tests to understand the character traits of their employees. Pre-employment personality assessments can also be used to estimate the likelihood of success in job applicants. The often-used personality tests by companies for incoming workers are Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Caliper Profile, SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire, also called OPQ32; and HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised.

A Medline Plus study entitled “Is temperament determined by genetics?” states: “Temperament includes behavioral traits such as sociability (outgoing or shy), emotionality (easy-going or quick to react), activity level (high or low energy), attention level (focused or easily distracted), and persistence (determined or easily discouraged).”

Most social scientists suggest that both temperament and personality are influenced by genetics and environment.

Understanding temperament and personality types can help us to appreciate why people respond, think, and act differently. For example, Doctors Peter Blitchington and Robert Cruise, in their book “Understanding Your Temperament” state: “Studies have shown that temperament affects the ease with which children develop morally. The introverted temperaments (melancholy and phlegmatic) are generally easier to train than the extroverted temperaments (sanguine and choleric).”

It would be fair to say that many parents often misjudge their children’s behavior because they do not know and understand temperament and personality. For example, one child is very calm, obedient, and respectful. The other child is rebellious and loud and cannot keep still. Truthfully, the child is not necessarily rude or rebellious. The child is simply an extrovert. He or she is quick to speak, has a difficulty sitting still, and gets into fights. Interestingly, when the “quiet, sweet child” (introvert) becomes an adult, he or she might have difficulty mixing with people and participating in events. The extrovert would be “going places” and easily making friends.

There are weakness and strengths with both introverts and extroverts. However, parents must have different parenting styles for each of them. In the beginning, the extrovert child gives more challenges than the introvert. The introvert can sit undisturbed in church for three to four hours. The extrovert has difficulty sitting still for more than 30 minutes. The extrovert is not rude – he or she needs a patient, understanding parent.

According to Blitchington and Cruise, introverts are easier to train. They learn rules easier and have stricter conscience than extroverts. Introverts tend to have an advantage over extroverts in school. Generally, they tend to make better grades. They further explained: “If you are a teacher or parent, and are trying to motivate your children to study, keep the following rule in mind: Introverts are more strongly motivated by praise while extroverts are more strongly motivated by censure.”

To put this in my own words, a parent would say to an introvert child who is not doing too well in school: “I know you are doing your best. Continue to work well.” To the extrovert child who is not doing well in school, the parent might be somewhat negative to motivate: “You need to put more effort into your work. You will turn off the television this week and study longer after school.”

I hope you are beginning to understand the value and importance of understanding your own personality type and those for whom you care. It might help to reduce some conflicts and misunderstandings. Take the time to know yourself. Remember to utilize the web link mentioned above to assist you to better understand yourself.


• Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist. Send your questions or comments to
question@soencouragment.org, telephone 327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org.  

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