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Personality Tips: How to understand people that aren’t like you

Okay, so here’s the deal. We are all so different – and at times, we can think: How can they actually think that? What makes them think that acting like that is okay? – when others may well be thinking that exact same thing about us! Although our differences come from a lot more than just differences in personality – ‘grouping’ ourselves in terms of broad personality categories can be very useful in helping us see where other people are coming from.

There are lots of different ways to ‘measure’ personalities. There’s the good old ‘introverted’/’extroverted’ grouping; the Myers-Briggs test – that tells you whether you’re a ESTJ or a INFP or 14 others in-between; there’s the ‘9’ types enneagram; and there’s the 4 ‘temperament’ types that have been around since the Greeks were ruling the world (so, quite a while ;)) There are merits to each personality type ‘test,’ and here at Lumi we like most of them, but here we’ll look at one of our favorites – the ‘temperament’ types – the Extroverted Saguines and Cholerics, and the Introverted Phlegmatics and Melancholies. Here’s the quick low-down on each:

Sanguines:

Positives: Optimstic. Bubbly. Sociable. Carefree. Often warm-hearted. Idea-creator.
Negatives: Irresponsible. Unreliable. Flighty. Forgetful. Pleasure-seeking.
Element: ‘Air’.
Ultimate need: Have fun.

Cholerics:

Positives: Great leader. Organiser. Decisive. Confident. Strong. Practical. Planner. Passionate.
Negatives: Aggressive. Stubborn. Thinks they are right. Controlling. Adversarial.
Element: ‘Fire’.
Ultimate need: Have control.

Phelgmatics:

Positive: Peaceful. Great listener. Relaxed. Tolerant. Patient. Reasonable. Empathetic.
Negatives: Indecisive. Submissive. A Procrastinator. Lazy. Unoriginal.
Element: ‘Water’.
Ultimate need: Have peace.

Melancholies:

Positive: Thoughtful. Loyal. Deep thinker. Sensitive to others. Creative. Focused. Conscientious.
Negatives: Inward. Over-sensitive. Too analytical. Judgemental. Prone to depression. Unsociable.
Element: ‘Earth’.
Ultimate Need: Have Perfection.

Notice some things that may ring true for you? None of us are all of one (thank goodness), and we often create our personality through combinations. It’s not uncommon to take, for example, from an extroverted personality type (such as Sanguine) as well as from an introverted personality type (e.g. Melancholy). However, usually we are dominated by one of these personalities. So what is the point of knowing all of this? Because we can apply it to our lives. What if we are a powerful Choleric dating a chilled-out Phlegmatic? What if we have a flighty Sanguine boss when we are an analytical Melancholy? Here is our 3 tips on how we can take steps to understanding people of the different types:

1. Observe the people around you and identify their ‘type’ tendency.

Once we identify what our partner, bosses, colleagues, close friends and family have personality or temperament tendencies towards, then it can help us to understand what their most inherent needs may be. If you’re a Sanguine and your partner is a Melancholy, you can’t just assume that they think the same as you – because sometimes their motivations behind things will be completely different to your assumptions of them. Finding out your mother is a phlegmatic may help to understand why she parented the way she did. Identifying your boss as a choleric may help you to understand why they may be being seemingly ‘aggressive’ when they are simply trying to just get things done!

2. Be Aware of difference and try to think ‘outside’ of your personality’s ‘square’.

Once we identify the temperament types of the people closest to us, then we need to make a connection between their behaviour, and their thought processes driving their behaviour. Our personality type actually gives us a personality ‘lens’ that we look through, and if we are not aware – we can get tunnel vision and not see that different people are viewing the world with a different ‘lens’. Take the Sanguine married to the Melancholy – the Sanguine may never remember to keep her clothes neat, to hang-up the bath towel properly, and probably doesn’t care at all about presenting things nicely – and she probably doesn’t think this is a big issue. The Melancholy, however, sees keeping things neat as a sign of respect, thoughtfulness, and pride for when people come into their home. Thus, they internally feel like their Sanguine partner is in fact purposely and intentionally disrespecting them and being unthoughtful, when the Sanguine actually has no idea that there is any problem at all! We need to purposely, and daily, make a strong effort to understand others and where they are coming from. As well as continually observing this, sometimes this may even mean sensitively asking people about their thoughts and feeling in order to gain a better insight into their actions.

3. It’s not about changing other people – it’s about changing yourself.

Yep. Ouch. This is a tough pill to swallow. Leadership 101, for example: is not about forcing people to think, act, and do things your way – but it’s about embracing the opinions, ideas, thoughts, and yes – positive qualities of personality in different people – in order to work out the best solution, action or decision, for the person or group you’re leading. In life, often the easiest thing to do is to judge others for not acting like you! – but this is putting your spin of emotions onto someone else’s thought processes – you are blaming the person for thoughts that they may not even have! In the end (and this is what people refer to as ‘Boundaries’), we can only control our own emotions and our own behaviours, under the lens of our own personality. So, if we are feeling a certain way – then it is up to us to figure out why. This is a much more helpful way of then controlling our own temperaments, understandings, and thus behaviours. If we understand why we feel a certain way, then we can also create the space for ourselves to understand why others feel a certain way.

The beauty (and the frustration) of diversity is that people think, and act, different to us – across cultures, nations, workplaces, families, and personalities. But it is up to us to take the steps towards understanding and embracing this difference, which is how we start walking on the path to relational harmony across all of our differences. So we propose this challenge to you, ladies! Good Luck 😉

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