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 comes from the ancient Greeks. They originated the Four Temperaments. 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: 

  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. Consider these examples.

Emotional descriptors:

  • Choleric: dynamic and active 
  • Melancholic: serious & purposeful 
  • Sanguine: appealing personality 
  • Phlegmatic: low-key personality 

As a parent: 

  • Choleric: organizes household 
  • Melancholic: sets high standards 
  • Sanguine: makes home fun 
  • Phlegmatic: doesn’t get upset easily 

In the workplace: 

  • Choleric: thrives on opposition 
  • Melancholic: sees the problems 
  • Sanguine: inspires others to join 
  • Phlegmatic: good under pressure 

In relating to others socially:  

  • Choleric: has little need for friends 
  • Melancholic: avoids causing attention 
  • Sanguine: doesn’t hold grudges 
  • Phlegmatic: has many friends 

Your temperament is sometimes mistaken for your character. I can understand why some can think that, but they’re two different things. Your character isn’t your biology. You can’t change your biology, but you can strengthen your character to compensate for the weaknesses in your temperament.  

How? By practicing what I call 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 results of practicing your challenge habit to strengthen character is that the other temperaments bug you less than before.  

The challenge habits also come from the ancient Greeks. Back then, and today, they are also know by another term: VIRTUES!

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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