Or even Melancholic or Choleric? Yes even the Greeks were at it in 190AD – analysing personality types that is. Sanguine et al are personality types described by Galen the Greek physician (c130-201AD) which can be referred to as the ‘Four Temperaments’ or the ‘Four Humours’.

However Galen actually built on previous work done by Hippocrates (yes – he of the oath fame) who identified four similar types of body and personality types to be used in medicine; while about the same time Plato was defining ideas about character and personality.

Greek medicine believed in balance, to be healthy people needed to be in balance with their four bodily fluids – the Humours – Blood, Phlegm, Yellow and Black Bile. If people were out of balance then this affected the way in which they behaved and the illness they became prone to.

Early medicine was designed to re-create the balance, so if it was deemed you had too much of the Blood aspect of the Humours, leeches or some other system of blood letting was applied. Luckily these medical practices have fallen out of favour, but funnily enough the analysis of personalities by way of reference to the Four Humours has clung tenaciously to Western thought.

Some people, such as Richard Montgomery (author of the book People Patterns, a Modern Guide to the Four Temperaments) believes that the first reference to this type of personality analysis occurs in the Bible, at Ezekiel 1:10. Here Ezekiel describes the four faces of mankind as being represented by the four creatures that appear to him through the mists. Montgomery assigns specific characteristics to each creature, for instance the lion represents boldness; however the Bible does not.

There is a good reason to try to understand the personalities of the people we work with, or who are on our team or we deal with on a regular basis. Different people have unique and individual strengths and they will also have points of differences to us. People behave differently because we all are different. Understanding the differences gives us a real edge when we seek to lead or manage a team.

Alas, too many times when we have completed a personality test, we have no real knowledge of the theory behind it, or how they got to the interpretation they did. Sometimes the results are not properly explained or in the worst cases, not even given to the people being tested. We all long to know how we did, what is our personality described as, and how is it defined. Not received feedback is frustrating and not especially informative.

So if medicine as moved right away from the Four Humours as a diagnostic and treatment tool how has the cult of the personality fared? Actually, very well. The basic four temperaments underpinned much of Carl Jung’s work in psychiatry, which itself led to the first real modern insight into what makes us tick – Isabel Myers in the 1950. Even when I joined the army the Myers- Briggs principles were in vogue – and while explanations and interpretations may have changed the basics do not appear to have. Where Galen (around 190AD) described us as Sanguine, Melancholic, Choleric and phlegmatic; David Keirsey (in 1998) brings us a little more up-to-date with his four categories of artisan, guardian, idealist and rationalist.

When we consider our personality type, we need to remember that no-one is just one temperament or type. While we are likely to have a dominant personality type, we are able to adept our reaction to differing situations. It is this ability to adapt that can make us so successful in life.

Understanding the personalities that we deal with every day gives us an opportunity to predict reaction or behaviour.

One of the most popular models of defining personality types around at the moment is the DISC. This has been attributed to Dr William Moulton Marston, whose book Emotions of Normal People hit the bookstands in 1928. While Marston provided the descriptors he didn’t create an assessment tool. Initial work on this was done by the University of Minnesota, but probably the most in-depth work has been done by Inscape Publishing company in the US, and programmes that use the principles and practices devised by Inscape can be recognised by the representation DiSC®

There are several slightly different variations of the DISC theme, and this is just a generalisation for interest.

D represents Dominance while I indicates Influence. Both these types are described as being usually proactive and extraverts. S stands for Steadiness while C describes Compliance. These latter types are described as usually reactive and introvert.

Using the testing tools, the DISC model tends to identify people’s dominant type, with one or two supporting types depending on the person or the situation. Under some circumstances DISC and any related terminology are protected and trademarked intellectual property and should be used only by properly accredited people.

Luckily Trish @ Trischel is such a one – so if you would like to talk about discovering the personalities that you work with, then give Trish a ring on 07 3261 2140.

Knowing about other people’s preferred styles, their strengths and their weakness enables us to provide them with assistance, direction and responsibilities which are in keeping with their needs and motivations.

While understanding our own behavioural styles allow us to adapt to changing situations, and match our styles to meet the needs of others. Understanding behaviour and personality is a key to creating the best possible climate for maximising everyone’s potential.

So – how’s your humour today?

Michele @ Trischel

DiSC® is a trademark of the US Inscape Publishing company.

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