good • bad • better • friendships by personality


For every strength of our personality there can be weaknesses on the flip side. What makes us a great friend can also be the very characteristics that become obstacles to being better friends – particularly when interacting with friends with a different dominant temperament than your own. 

SANGUINES

Sanguines make GREAT friends because they bring the spontaneity and joy to pretty much every situation. They celebrate well, they tell great stories and they find the fun in everything. 

Sanguines make BAD friends when they dominate in social environments, forget important details and don’t help with the dishes. 

Sanguines make BETTER friends when they make greater efforts to use their social power to include and draw in quieter friends, show sensitivity to the emotional climate of a situation, and are more reliable. 

CHOLERICS

Cholerics make GREAT friends because they will want to succeed at being a great friend. They’re good decision makers and full of big ideas for fun adventures and accomplishing things together. 

Cholerics make BAD friends when they get caught up in the tasks they want to achieve and don’t give attention to the feelings and emotional needs of others. 

Cholerics make BETTER friends when they make concerted efforts to understand people and give themselves to communicating at a heart level. 

PHLEGMATICS

Phlegmatics make GREAT friends because they are loyal, peaceful and consistent. They are observant, tolerant and can be drawn to laughter and fun. 

Phlegmatics make BAD friends when they are non-responsive or overly sensitive. Their lack of enthusiasm or expression can sometimes translate as a lack of care or concern. 

Phlegmatics make BETTER friends when they are intentional about expressing encouragement and emotional understanding and are more generous with their words and selves. 

MELANCHOLIES

Melancholies make GREAT friends because they think and feel deeply and seek creative forms of expression. Their perfectionism leads them to strive to be a ‘perfect’ friend and they follow through with intentionality. 

Melancholies make BAD friends when their depth of thinking and introspection leads them to overanalyse words, actions or circumstances and they become withdrawn, fearful, critical or suspicious. 

Melancholies make BETTER friends when they choose to believe the best of others and externalise thought processes in order to let others short circuit negative thinking. 
Which friend are you? Do you identify both the strengths and weaknesses of your personality type? What could you do to be a better friend or better understand your friends? 

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six truths about extroverts 

I’ve been an extrovert for many years now! Whilst not necessarily an expert, I do feel like I’ve been refining my extroversion skills over time. I think I can extrovert as well as anyone! 

Conversations about introverts and extroverts can tend to be quite polemic. In an attempt to be understood and validated we can often make sweeping generalisations about either temperament that are actually contrary to the goal of understanding. 

Here are a few thoughts that I think represent common misconceptions about extroverts and the nuances of how they tick. 

They aren’t all outgoing. One of the most outgoing people I know (Hey Paulie!!!) is an introvert. Introverts can be socially competent and dynamic. Conversely, not all extroverts are outgoing. While they may crave social interaction they may not be the ones to generate it. It can just be enough for them to be present in a socially vibrant space rather than the ones hosting or leading such interactions. 

They aren’t all good at meeting new people. Because of their need for social interaction at a high level many extroverts develop social skilfulness- but not all. Extroverts aren’t all naturally self-confident and often face the same fears as many others face when meeting new people or stepping into potentially awkward social environments. 

They need good people, not just any people. This may be more a function of age and maturity – but I find that not all people fulfill my extroverted need for social fueling. It’s not always enough to just be present in a large or loud social gathering – there needs to be social stimulation and satisfying personal interactions for energising to occur. While they may be good at small talk they can also crave deeper forms of communication and social exchange to feel more fulfilled. 

This isn’t an “extrovert’s world”. As much as introverts might feel ‘the world’ is innately geared toward the extrovert – extroverts could make a similar case. The very concept of people needing their own bedroom, a private office, or silence for effective work in exams or libraries – the general social norm of being in large public places but not talking to each other (waiting rooms, shopping centres, trains etc) – prayer meetings, lectures, and movie theatres where information is received without interaction – these are all potentially more satisfying for an introvert even though they would be perhaps deemed as “social” environments. 

They need physical rest in non-social places even if they don’t crave it. The energy they gain from being with others is physically finite. It doesn’t replace their need for sleep or to pause for physical renewal. In moments when they are emotionally deenergised by being alone, their bodies are still rejuvenating and necessary biological processes are taking place. 


Their need for others makes them vulnerable.
An introvert is completely self-sufficient in regards to reenergising. In different lifestages that alone time may be harder to find but ultimately a few moments behind a locked toilet door or in the car on the way to the next social gathering can top up their tank. An extrovert cannot replicate the social energy found in the company of others and is therefore reliant on others to re-fuel. Whilst all humans need other humans for a myriad of reasons, this aspect of the extrovert makes them needy of other people which puts them at the mercy of others. 

[Read more about Extroverts & Quiet Times]

Understanding Others #4 – “Help Me Understand”

In our quest to better understand one another an awareness of temperaments and personality types is a useful tool (you can read about them more here). None of these diagnostic instruments can DEFINE you and aren’t intended to PIGEON HOLE you but they can give us great insight into ourselves and one another. We can learn more about the kind of environments where some people will thrive and where others would be completely overwhelmed. We can appreciate that people will engage differently in social situations, that they will be motivated to action in diverse ways and that the way they communicate (talk, listen, respond or react) will be unique to their way of perceiving and receiving information and interpersonal nuances.

As I’ve previously mentioned, understanding firstly myself and then others in this way has been transformational – to my self-acceptance and appreciation, to all of my relationships, to the way I lead and teach, to the way I counsel others, to the way I give instructions and feedback … to virtually every area of my life that involves any kind of interaction with other people.

I’m sure you’ve all reached that point in an interaction with another person (or even an observance of them from afar) where you exclaim “I just don’t understand you!” – either out loud or just to yourself.

“I don’t understand why you would / wouldn’t do that!”

“I don’t understand how you can react that way.”

“I don’t understand why you made that decision.”

“I don’t understand how you so completely misunderstood me!”

“I don’t understand what you’re asking.”

“I don’t understand where you’re coming from.”

“I don’t understand why this matters so much to you.”

“I don’t understand … I’m sure you can fill in this gap yourself…”

Whilst for the most part, this indicates that we’ve come to the end – we’re exhausted, we’re overwhelmed, we’re sick of it: “I don’t understand…” can actually be a very empowering place to find ourselves if we let it be.

“I don’t understand …” is the gateway to “Help me understand” which is the key to unlocking a whole new level of interacting and an entirely different dimension to your relationships.

Solomon says, “though it cost you all you have; get understanding” and the reality is it might only cost you the time to say, “Help me understand.” It really isn’t that high a price to pay for the significant relational improvement that could happen as a result.

When we say “help me understand” we demonstrate that we place a high value on the relationship. When we say “help me understand” we are giving the other person an opportunity to explain themselves to US but also to understand themselves some more as they do. When we say “help me understand” we are giving ourselves tools for better interactions next time, for avoiding coming back to the same old place (y’know … the same old place!) for establishing a new way of tackling an old topic. When we say “help me understand” we are demonstrating a level of grace and submission that are necessary for healthy and helpful human interactions.

Try it out for yourself! Next time you find yourself frustrated, confused, angered or despondent over another person’s attitudes, action or speech; next time you’re in the middle of one of those circular arguments that inevitably escalate; next time you feel the disappointment of another person toward you or fear that you’ve ‘done something wrong’ … try these three words.

“Help me understand.”

More in this series
Understanding Others #1
Understanding Others #2
Understanding Others #3

Understanding Others #3

In her book “Personality Plus” Florence Littauer outlines generalised descriptions of four personality types. She gives a diagnostic tool that you can use to determine which of these you are most like but you may be able to identify yourself in one of these categories purely on the following brief descriptions.

POPULAR SANGUINE

Pros – The Sanguine is the outgoing personality, life of the party, entertaining, engaging, fun and spontaneous. They are exciting to be around because they are so interactive and energetic. They’re the most likely to shout or cheer if you tell them good news and will probably laugh the longest at your jokes and stories.

Cons – Sanguines generally lack structure and order and pay little heed to schedule or routine which can make them unpredictable and unreliable. They are often running late and leaving tasks unfinished. They can also be socially dominating.

POWERFUL CHOLERIC

Pros – Cholerics make great leaders and CEOs because they are very ‘driven’ and motivated. They are great in directing and overseeing and have capacity to accomplish projects on a large scale. They are confident and respond to challenges. They are ‘can do’ kind of people and work quickly and decisively. Cholerics take on projects that most other would be intimidated by.

Cons – The Choleric is typically strongly task focussed and can often be so to the detriment of helpful relationships and group dynamics. Whilst they are charging off to achieve great things they can often hurt people and leave a wide path of damage in their wake. They can be bossy and domineering.

PEACEFUL PHLEGMATIC

Pros – The majority of ‘people’ are Phlegmatic and this is what keeps the world going around! They are great followers; great supporters. They are able to remain emotionally neutral in difficult situations providing stability with their ‘unflappability’. They are agreeable, amiable and often helpful in mediating others and keeping the peace. They are faithful and loyal.

Cons – The Phlegmatic’s “whatever”, easy going attitude can often morph into laziness and/or stubbornness. They can be hard to motivate to action, difficult to inspire to emotional response or reaction and resistant to change. Their ‘steady’ pace can often bring frustration to those wanting to move a little faster.

PERFECT MELANCHOLY

Pros – Melancholy people are deep and creative thinkers. They do a lot of internal processing and analysing. This makes them great at strategy and logistics. They can identify potential problems and think ahead to possible solutions. They are often musical or artistic. They are great at keeping records and recalling details.

Cons – Because the Melancholy spends a lot of time in thought and internal dialogue they can become TOO introspective, negative or even depressed. They are often fearful in social situations because they over-analyse things. They are often slow to make friends and can tend to hold grudges.

Which one are you? Which one is your spouse, children, work colleagues, family members and friends?

These descriptions are not designed to pigeon-hole or ‘label’ you. They don’t EXCUSE any nuances of your personality but they may help to EXPLAIN something more of who you are and how you are more likely to respond to and interpret situations.
For me personally, this framework was instrumental in my journey to understanding and appreciating myself more (there’s a whole SECTION that describes me, I must not be *that* weird) and radically transformed both my understanding of others and my understanding of how they understood me (or didn’t).

More next time!! …

Understanding Others #1
Understanding Others #2
Understanding Others #4

Understanding Others – #1

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this before, but everyone else is not like you! Have you caught that? Bizarre but true! People think differently, they respond differently, they behave differently … they value different things, make different decisions, choose different life paths.

Those differences confront us at every turn – in the little and the big. When planning a meal for a family with a wide range of food preferences, sitting on a train and observing people’s sense of socially acceptable behaviour or trying to resolve a conflict with a friend or spouse.

In Proverbs 4:7 it says “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it costs you all you have, get understanding.”

If you are interested in improving your relationships, in reducing your frustration levels, in experiencing greater peace in your daily life (and who isn’t?) you might want to consider these words of Solomon more closely.

There is incredible power – to heal, to calm, to enable, to free – in the simple (but not easy) process of understanding others. There are few things more able to defuse anger, disappointment, wounding or annoyance than a healthy dose of understanding. Anything that can help you to perceive and receive things through another’s lens, anything that provides greater context for what you are witnessing or experiencing, anything that positions you in a place of empathy and assistance (rather than opposition and resistance) can only be beneficial.

I’m a great proponent of personality theory. The idea of doing some thinking and exploring (reading, talking and listening) around the areas of temperament and nature that can help us first to understand ourselves … then to understand others … then to understand why others don’t understand us … and then to help others understand why others don’t understand them … etc.

There are a million and one diagnostic tools available to help in this area. One of the simplest and most readily applicable I know of is “Personality Plus” by Christian author Florence Littauer (clickhere for more information). Over the next few blog posts we’ll use her framework to give us some insight into understanding ourselves and others more.

Please hear my heart in this.

Solomon advises that wisdom is supreme and understanding is worth any price we need to pay for it.

In my own life, coming to understand myself more through this kind of lens was nothing short of transformational – it freed me to celebrate how God had uniquely wired me while being more empathetic to how others received me. It changed ALL of my relationships, it impacted my work life, it grew me in wisdom and my ability to relate to, encourage and lead others. (All of these things are definitely still a work in progress!)

Let’s see if we can’t move a little further along in our journey towards understanding others.

More in this series
Understanding Others #2
Understanding Others #3
Understanding Others #4