Disposing of my Disposition (Personalities Through the Lens of Me)

Dear Lindsey,

The personality differences have always amused me. I have read many personality plusmarriage books, not because our marriage seems in need, but because I want to be all my husband needs ( 🙂 ). Although I have favorites, (What Did You Expect?, Love and Respect and Becoming the Woman of His Dreams) no books have done so much for my role in my marriage as Personality Plus (Florence Littauer). I could say that this book rivals for top position in all of my parenting books as well. Why? Because my own personality had blinded me, creating a distorted view heading for relational disaster…in most relationships. And don’t marriage and parenting rank as the most important relationships I have?

Though I highly recommend you read the book to get the full extent of how to work well with the personalities surrounding you, the brief summary of characteristics is this:

If we took a set group of people and played Twenty Questions with only yes/no answers, the population would fall into two groups: those who are task-oriented and those who are people-oriented. (Left and Right side of the diagram below.)

Those two groups can then be divided again into two groups: Introverted (enjoying being alone) and extroverted (comes alive in a group of people), shown as the top and bottom of the diagram. I am on the line between these two…depending on how much chocolate and/or sunshine I have had. 🙂


Of those four created quadrants, there are four personalities:

“Melancholy” is the task-oriented introvert.

  • Strengths: detail-oriented, self-disciplined, can be musicians.
  • Weaknesses: None. (just kidding – I am a Melancholy, and like to think I am perfect!) A Melancholy’s weaknesses are that tasks often get more attention than people’s needs. Can be obsessive-compulsive and inflexible.
  • Motto: “Anything worth doing is worth doing perfectly!”

NOTE: I think it is funny that I wrote about Melancholy first. AND I put it in the top left quadrant – the premier place. I assume it is how we are: we put our own personality in the limelight and then adjust the rest around us!

“Choleric” is the task-oriented extrovert.

  • Strengths: self-driven, gains followers quickly, gets the job done.
  • Weaknesses: Can run over people while “getting the job done.” Can be bossy.
  • Motto: “Get it done…NOW! And Hurry!”

“Phlegmatic” is the people-oriented introvert.

In other words: he or she loves and adores people, but doesn’t need to be in the limelight at all.

  • Strengths: Gets along with everyone, great team player, easy to be with, flexible
  • Weaknesses: Can be lazy, un-dependable or have difficulty making decisions.
  • Motto: “Yes. Unless you prefer no, then no. Why is everybody going so fast?”

“Sanguine” is the people-oriented extrovert.

  • Strengths: A blast to be around! Creative genius! Caring
  • Weaknesses: Loses keys…to the car, to the job, to life. He or she may battle with dishonesty and lack of integrity – when facts are fudged, because frankly, it just makes the story better.
  • Motto: “Wooooo hoooooo!!!!!!!!”


Of course, even with four groups of personalities, there are unlimited variations. I am mostly melancholy with a lot of sanguine – which means I am split between exact opposite quadrants. One book said I was “dysfunctional.” I always knew I was a “misfit toy”! However, it was the way God made me – and I will do my best with my “dysfunctionality”!

The first time I read the book, it was about ME.  Therefore, I:

  1. Took offense that someone thought I deserved a label.
  2. Recognized a little of myself somewhere in it, and decided maybe the label fit.
  3. Was entertained by how much they knew me.

The second time I read looking for traits of family and coworkers. I realized my mother’s sanguine side is what made her invite the entire church over for lunch…with no notice except that she thought of the idea that day.  Phlegmatic was the friend of my son (since opposites attract!) who wouldn’t tell me whether he wanted mustard or ketchup on his hotdog and instead looked at me and shrugged his shoulders.

The third time I read the books I had a goal to diminish my weaknesses and magnify the strengths in those around me. It became a game. Have fun with it! The purpose of the book is not to label someone into a box, but to learn how to best deal with people who are naturally in their own box. If I notice the only people I get along with are Phlegmatics (who get along with everybody!), then I may have a problem! If I realize that I only admire people who fall into the same quadrant as myself, then I better work to expand myself to see strengths in other quadrants! The Bible says we should go into all the world…not “make everybody come into my world.” Don’t read to find out who you are, but read to find out who you can be! I became a better wife and mother when I learned how to not only identify and diminish my weaknesses but truly appreciate the strengths of my husband and kids!

Personality Clashes

How did knowing personalities help my marriage?

I noticed that according to the book, a weakness of my Melancholy personality is that I can be oversensitive, or assume things are about me. (Really? There’s something not about me?! ) Someone can say, “The sky is blue,” and a hyper-melancholy will take insult because she has brown eyes, so the person is obviously saying that he doesn’t like her brown eyes. OK, I exaggerate, but you get the point.

Isn’t it funny that God would marry a Melancholy like myself with a images-1Choleric? Watch the weaknesses line up: If a Choleric “runs over people” and a Melancholy “takes offense at small bumps” I was feeling dead on a highway under a steam roller. How’s that for a marriage?

After studying personalities, I started noticing the phenomenon.

I was cooking one day, obviously, stirring a pot on the stove, when my husband accessed the drawer on the other side of the stove to get out a spoon. He cut in front of me, bumped me backwards, so I obviously had to stop stirring, and he retrieved his spoon, never saying anything, or acknowledging me, and left.

The old me would have been hurt. “He did it on purpose to disrespect me. He obviously thinks cooking is not as important as whatever he is doing. He obviously doesn’t value me. (Aside: ‘Obviously’ was one of my favorite observational words back then, but I learned that “obvious” is not so obvious with other personalities. My common sense was not common – just “mine”!) Maybe I should let him be on his own for dinner tomorrow night, since he obviously doesn’t honor the role of cook?!”

Having the value of these personality books fresh in my arsenal, I said to my husband, “I know you didn’t do that on purpose to hurt me.”

He looked like a deer caught in the headlights.  There was a LONG silent pause while I could see the gears in his brain turning, not sure if those were fighting words or what my intentions were.  Then he gulped and said quietly, “Did what?”

It still makes me laugh. I would have been so offended – assigning motives and planning my next chess move, but the personality delineations explained he wasn’t even playing the game! He was just…getting a spoon…in a choleric way! Ha ha!

A melancholy might have begged the cook’s pardon before reaching to get the properly-sized spoon for the meal.

A sanguine might have bounded in, telling a story, grabbed a fork and come back for the spoon later – if she remembered why she needed a spoon.

A phlegmatic might have sat until the soup was cold before ever implying that he actually would have preferred to have a spoon.

A Choleric took the spoon.

In parenting, I have often realized how my interpretation was making me want to reprimand a child – when there was nothing wrong in his/her heart – only a difference in his/her personality. My sanguine daughter, for example, can drive me crazy with her messy room and lost articles. However, when I recognize her strengths – like the ability to make great art out of junk, or ability to LIGHT UP anybody’s world with her smile – it makes a lost sweater here and there nothing in comparison. Therefore, we have focused on her learning ways to remember where she took off her sweater (to one day help her find her car keys) or how to meet expectations of a clean room without dimming her bright light of a personality that has an amazing effect on our whole house!

At one point I even noticed that I had been using the personality terms in a negative way! UGH!! My kids made me realize it when the Sanguine said to her brother in a fight, “You are SO CHOLERIC!!” Bahaha! I am sure she picked that up from me! No personality is wrong – despite how my “perfect Melancholy” wants to make it seem that way. They are just different…the way God intended!!

When my oldest son was in high school, he complained about his vision, so I took him to the eye doctor for the first time. Of course, they immediately saw a solution in the form of glasses – and we ordered them. Within two weeks the glasses arrived, and I watched them transform his world into something I didn’t even know he was missing. He had never mentioned it. I remember almost crying feeling bad I had no idea that he couldn’t see. (I have never had glasses.) He put on the new specs and walked outside on that bright sunny day and exclaimed, “I CAN SEE!” In the car he asked, “Can we go back and watch every movie I have ever seen AGAIN, so I can really SEE them this time???”

That’s how I felt once I understood how my own personality was clouding my vision to see others. I wish I could go back and see, really SEE every person I had ever met, befriended, done business with, been in class with, or loved…because I feel like I could have made the relationship better.

Correct your vision utilizing personalities and you will see others through lenses for which God created them.


Terri Brady

Romans 12:4-5: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

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20 thoughts on “Disposing of my Disposition (Personalities Through the Lens of Me)

  1. I love how you tackled this book!! Showing others how to read it for themselves…and applying the personality definitions to find solutions and understanding…not to assign excuses! And, you’re right, in my opinion…probably one of the best books for our most important earthly relationships…lots of bang for the buck!

  2. Terri,
    Thank you for an insightful and (as usual) humorous post! This book helped our marriage a lot, too. I’m a fairly evenly balanced Choleric/Melancholy, married to a Phlegmatic/Melancholy/Sanguine, with emphasis on the Phlegmatic. Before reading it, I’d wonder what planet he was from, why he was so laid back about decision making and so unassertive. He wondered (often aloud) why I was so outgoing, and so “pushy.” When we finally understood we needed our shared Melancholy sides to work together and make them the basis for our communications, things between us started to improve. Now we’ve both learned to talk to the Melancholy in our spouse as much as possible.

  3. Thanks Terri for bringing the Book to Life!!! Its so refreshing to see my eleven year old Daughter reading and applying the principles.
    Because of this book, I’m learning allot about my family and myself.

  4. Great post Terri. I love the different perspectives you took when reading the book each time. I get something new from it on each read, but I love your though on using it to help you magnify other people’s strengths. I have some dear sanguine friends who test my melancholy, but life would be very dull without them!!

  5. Love it!! Great Post.. My 11 year old daughter is reading this book and has said to me numerous times..My brother and Dad are really,really choleric.. all I can say is yup..Love them where they are at. Makes for interesting discussion in our home looking for strengths not weaknesses:)

  6. Wonderful perspective on this truly remarkable book! I loved the comparison recognizing how your own personality skewed your vision of others to your son getting glasses and truly being able to see the world around him.

  7. Would have benefited a great deal knowing this information from my youth. Would have answered a lot of questions like “what is wrong with them? “: /

  8. Reblogged this on Nana and Her Superheroes and commented:
    Terri Brady did it again. The article I am reposting pretty much gives us a wonderful picture of the different personalities that makes up our families. I can write my own thoughts about the book Terri highlights (Personality Plus by Florence Littauer) or share her interesting take. Today–I prefer Terri’s comments. Enjoy the story–and enjoy your Superheroes.
    Nana Sharon

  9. Great post! And so true, I sometimes picture myself going back in time with friends and family to a time when I didn’t understand WHY they would do what they did! (I’m blessed with being a Melancholy as well.) Knowledge of the personalities has definitely started to clear up my vision of those around me!

  10. Im a Choleric Melancholy, and my wife is a Sanguine Phlegmatic, I love this book and I have no idea how I would of made it through life with out this information, our marriage is getting better, i wanna say thanks to all the life founders, I’m fired up every day. I’m reading listening and also out running the roads chasing my dream, sharing the awesome information with people. Love it, I’m in life for life , this is not just a thing I’m trying, it’s my life !!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. I’m a Melancholy Choleric with a dash of Sanguine and very little Phelgmatic. My oldest daughter is an Melancholy Phlegmatic, and God has used her to teach me some very important lessons. Number one is patience. I want things done right now and perfectly, and she’d rather be drawing and painting. So she learned that if she ignored me long enough i would just do it myself rather than deal with what I saw as her laziness. Sixteen short years later and I have learned to value her amazing artistry, and to have the patience to take the time to get her attention and gently teach her what I need her to do. I am also so thankful for her peaceful nature because she has always been so forgiving for all the times I went all Choleric ranting on her and the many ways I messed up. She was the first born and that explains a lot about what I put her through before I knew better.

    Each personality of each of my three girls has taught me so much, and I thank God for the knowledge of the personalities as they enter their teenage years. I always appreciate your insights on the personalities, especially your talk on the Checkpoint Race CD. Thanks so much for reminding us of the purpose of understanding the personalities as the way to bring out the best in others. There was a time when I used them as an excuse to act out my weaknesses. thanks to Life Leadership I know better know.

  12. I felt the same about my son now that I know about the personalities. I didn’t realize 20 years ago he couldn’t see the chalk board. When I took him to the Dr they laughed because it was so obvious he needed glasses. Luke of course was very hurt that the staff at the pedestrians office laughed at him. Thanks for a great example. By the way my denomination endorses “Love and Respect” also which is a fabulous book! God bless you.

    Sincerely, Jennalee Riley

    > > >

  13. Thanks for the great article Terri! Darcy and I have started reading Personality Plus and it is funny how little things set me off before. Still happens from time to time but I catch myself and I am working on reframing the situation into a more positive light. Thank again.
    Ross Goldsmith

  14. Pingback: The Robber in the Church Choir | Letters to Lindsey

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