The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  “16PF”.  Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis.  These are just three of the dozens of different personality tests available today, each designed to explain the ins-and-outs of your personality.  While the fact that we give personality types so much attention highlights our belief in their importance, have you ever paused to consider just how great a role your personality has in your daily interactions?  Have you ever wondered why you are able to connect easily with one person while another continually “pushes your buttons”?  While there are countless variables that determine how two individuals will interact, understanding your personality and that of others can make a huge impact in your ability to connect.

In her book Wired That Way*, Dr. Marita Littauer defines four main personality types: sanguine, melancholy, choleric, and phlegmatic.  While ultimately these are merely generalizations and in no way completely define how a person’s temperament, Dr. Littauer argues that an awareness of the positive and negative attributes of these personality types can improve our ability to interact with those who have attributes that are different from our own.

Positive Attributes:

  • Sanguine: outgoing, energetic, curious, friendly, vocal
  • Melancholy: sensitive, concerned, organized, analytical, thoughtful
  • Choleric: confident, goal-oriented, “natural leader”, fast to act
  • Phlegmatic: good listener, steady, easy going, relaxed

Negative Attributes:

  • Sanguine: not time sensitive, too talkative, tends to be self-focused
  • Melancholy: easily moody or depressed, too analytical, suspicious, hard to please
  • Choleric: unsympathetic, tactless, places blame onto others, acts without thinking
  • Phlegmatic: indecisive, too quiet about feelings, indifferent, uninterested

Again, remember that these are merely generalizations, and that it is possible for an individual to have characteristics that bridge all of these types.  Also keep in mind that anyone can learn to replace or improve upon their negative attributes (if you are reading this, you probably already have).

Now think for a moment about your relationships and connections with others, specifically those whom you have difficulty connecting with.  What types of personalities do these individual exhibit?  Do they have personality types that are different than you?  Could this explain why you have trouble connecting with them?

Dr. Littauer argues that when we understand the personality type of those with whom we wish to connect, we can more easily do so by temporarily altering our natural personality type in order to align with theirs.  Maybe you are an energetic sanguine who can’t understand why your phlegmatic client doesn’t seem to open up to you.  The solution is to slow down, speak less, and adapt their more easy going attitude.  In other words, interact with the phlegmatic on their level.  Or maybe your choleric teammate wants to push forward with one business proposal while your melancholy mind wants to take more time to analyze your options.  Be assertive and direct, and enthusiastically explain (not in detail) your equal desire to act.  Get on your teammate’s level.

The next time you have difficulty connecting with an individual, stop for a moment to think about whether your personality attributes conflict with theirs.  The more that you are aware of the personality attributes of those with whom you are interacting, the more you can adjust your demeanor to mirror theirs, allowing for easier connection.


*Jeremiah Clark is not affiliated with Dr. Marita Littauer, nor did he receive compensation for the promotion of Wired That Way in this article.



Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications. He is also
a partner at Appalachian Digital, a local web development agency, and a founding partner of
MHQC LLC Real Estate Development. He and his wife Erin are natives of Kingsport, TN.