Why You Should Understand the Temperament Theory

In my second year at the University, a friend introduced me to the temperament theory and even recommended several books to read on it. Everyone seemed to be talking about the temperament theory; my friends were always referencing it during discussions, at conferences, the speakers found  way to infuse into their speech, , even in Church, some pastors were ringing bells about the subject. In order not to feel left out, I  did a surface reading on Wikipedia about temperaments,  and the bit I learnt was enough to make me survive conversations that tilted towards the subject. Hence, I was content with my shallow understanding of the temperament theory.

My mum bought me books on the subject recently and  it was not until  then that I realized the needless pain I had been bearing and the wealth of knowledge my laziness to read had cost me. Sure enough, I could brag about knowing temperament traits and how to identify them in others but I had really missed the whole point. In his book, “Why You Act the Way You do”, Tim Lahaye advanced three major reasons why understanding the temperament theory is important- self acceptance, self-improvement and interpersonal relationships– and I certainly agree with him. We will consider these three important reasons in subsequent paragraphs

Self Acceptance

With a good understanding of the different temperaments (choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic), their strengths, weaknesses and possible reactions when faced with different situations, you will be able to come to terms with your own actions and reactions to others. To put this simply, it will help you acknowledge and understand why you act the way you do. I must note however that self acceptance does not equal self-indulgence. While self acceptance leads to self-improvement, the other does not, rather it makes you cave in deeper into your weaknesses instead of addressing them. For example, lack of assertiveness is associated with the phlegmatic temperament, self acceptance will  acknowledge the unassertive nature and will  put strategies in place to overcome it, while self-indulgence would just throw its hands up in defeat and say, “this is how I am”

Image credit Christopher Weidlich/Corbis


The good news is you are not condemned to a particular set of traits or behavior because you are choleric or phlegmatic. As a follow-up to self acceptance, a choleric who acknowledges that his ambition is costing him the friendships and relationships that really matter, for example, can develop an action plan to ensure that he becomes more relationship oriented, thus ensuring self-improvement. You can improve notably by ensuring that your actions and reactions to others are Spirit-led.

Cultivating Sound Interpersonal Relationships

Just like your actions and reactions are largely determined by your temperament, those of others around you are also largely determined by their temperament. Hence, to carry on relationships with others, you must understand who they are and why they act the way they do else you might think your choleric friend just hates you and likes taking the glory for a task you both worked hard on or your phlegmatic friend is very selfish. When you understand others, you will not take their actions too personally and what a relief that will be for  you to understand that the reaction of others towards you is not about you but rather about them. They are only reacting to you based on their temperaments and not necessarily because you are in the picture. This understanding will help you manage your relationships, your children and most importantly help you determine who to let into your circle of influence.

So, if you just have a shallow knowledge of temperaments like I did, I encourage you to study about it. It will do you a world of good.

I recommend that you with start with Tim Lahaye’s Why You Act the Way You Do. It’s readily available online and in local bookshops. You can read a sample here

Have a great week!


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