To be in a ‘good humour’ to the ancient Greeks meant that you were healthy. So are you Sanguine, Phlegmatic, or even Melancholic or Choleric? Yes, even the Greeks were at it way back in 190AD – analysing personality types that is. Sanguine et al are personality types described by Galen the physician (c130-201AD) which are referred to as the ‘Four Temperaments’ or the ‘Four Humours’.
But even before Galen developed his theory of the humours, Hippocrates (yes – he of the oath fame) had identified four similar 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 illnesses they became prone to; they were, in fact, in a bad humour.
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.
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 behave differently to us because they are different to us. Understanding the differences gives us a real edge when we seek to lead or manage a team.
So if medicine has 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 – first used by 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. Back in 190AD Galen described us as being Sanguine, Melancholic, Choleric and phlegmatic; and in 1998 David Keirsey 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 one dominant personality type, we are able to adapt 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 still is the DISC method. 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 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 Iindicates Influence. Both these types are described as being usually proactive and extroverts. S stands for Steadiness while Cdescribes 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, both Trish and Sharyn @ Trischel are duly accredited – so if you would like to talk about discovering the personalities that you work with, then give us a ring on +61 7 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 as leaders, 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.