August 25

Why Does that Person Annoy Me?

What was the name of the last person you met, who just bugged you without even trying?

Would you like to know why that happens?

The answer is found in the Four Temperaments, which come from the ancient Greeks, particularly to the work of Hippocrates and later Galen, who linked them to physical and mental characteristics. Back then, they believed your temperament was an actual fluid in your body. Today, while we know it’s not a fluid, we still maintain that your temperament is indeed based on your biology. 

And the reason you may find yourself annoyed by the temperaments of some others, is based upon your own temperament.

The Four Temperaments are:

  1. Choleric: intense and action-oriented
  2. Melancholic: deep and idea-oriented
  3. Sanguine: spontaneous and people-oriented
  4. Phlegmatic: restrained and peace-oriented 

Your temperament can also be described as your first reaction to external stimuli, environments and roles in life. This may also be partly why temperament is sometimes mistaken for character. While this misconception is understandable, they’re two different things. Your character isn’t your biology. Your temperament, on the other hand, is your biology, and you can’t change it. However, as author Alexandre Havard in his book From Temperament to Character points out, you can strengthen your character to compensate for the weaknesses in your temperament.

How? By practicing your "challenge habit."  

  • If you’re choleric, practice humility.
  • If you’re melancholic, practice audacity.
  • If you’re sanguine, practice endurance.
  • If you’re phlegmatic, practice taking action.

One of the benefits of practicing your challenge habit to strengthen character is that people with other temperaments will bug you less than before! The challenge habits also come from the ancient Greeks. Back then, and today, they are also known by another term: VIRTUES!



Emotional Descriptors

Temperament in Action...

Challenge Habit

At Home

At Work

At Work


intense and action-oriented

dynamic & active

organizes household

thrives on opposition

has little need for friends

practice HUMILITY


deep and idea-oriented

serious & purposeful

sets high standards

sees the problems

avoids causing attention

practice AUDACITY


spontaneous and people-oriented

appealing personality

makes home fun

inspires others to join

doesn't hold grudges

practice ENDURANCE


restrained and peace-oriented

low-key personality

doesn't get upset easily

good under pressure

has many friends


About the author 

Darren Smith

Darren Smith is Co-Founder of the Authentic Leadership Institute. He is a native Texan and a graduate of Dallas Jesuit and Texas A&M University. Over the past 25 years, Darren has visited 35 countries and led 100 strategy programs. He and his wife have five children.



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