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The Four Temperament Symphony

Updated: Apr 3

Many of the leading social media influencers have millions of followers across platforms, but within themselves they might battle relationship issues. As someone who is not on any social media platform, barring LinkedIn for professional reasons, I’ve always wondered how to enhance my own abilities to connect and sustain relationships. Whether its friends, family, relatives, work, school, college, etc how can I relate to others and sustain meaningful human connections.

In today’s information age, with AI being the buzz, an important aspect that is still a key reason for all of us to be happy and sane is human relationships!!

Here’s a very interesting perspective on why social intelligence is so key in the world of artificial intelligence: click here

My search for a simple and effective mechanism to understanding people had a serendipity moment when I got introduced to an ancient technique called “4 temperaments” through a leadership development program that I attended in 2016.

All of us can be classified into one of the following four personality types (or temperaments)

1)      Sanguine (sociable and joy seeking)

2)      Choleric (machismo and ambitious)

3)      Melancholy (critical and analytical)

4)      Phlegmatic (cool and thoughtful)

Some individuals might be identified with predominantly one temperament while most could be identified across two temperaments with one being the primary temperament.

There’s a lot of information available on this technique on public domain. Here’s some insight on how to apply this technique in the corporate world.

The first step would be to assess yourselves and self-discover what your temperament is. For e.g are you Sanguine or Melancholy-Choleric or Sanguine-Phlegmatic, or any other combination. Discovering yourself is extremely critical to building relationships. How do you come across at work? What have you heard from your colleagues or supervisor during feedback sessions about your personality? Or better still do a quick self-assessment by exploring online. The best part of this technique is the ease with which you can assess yourself and others.

Here are some ways to put the four temperaments to use at work.

Customer Relationships:

Whether you are in front office or back office, it is extremely important to understand customer expectations. Observe their behaviour patterns - usually in about 3-4 meetings, you should be able to identify their temperaments. Once you do that, make a judgement on how to build a rapport with them. Having self assessed yourself, make a conscious effort to relate to your customers’ temperament and plan your actions to get into their good books. Remember, people with the same temperament tend to like each other and tend to get along more easily. If your customer is choleric and you are phlegmatic, make an effort to intentionally engage with them to meet the expectations of a typical choleric. You don’t have to change who you are. Be authentic and be yourself, but be very conscious of your customer’s temperament and adapt to that personality.

For e.g. while talking to a customer who is primarily choleric, your conversations should be about result orientation rather than detailed analysis. With a sanguine, ensure you provide your updates as a exec summary while for a melancholy, be prepared for a detailed walkthrough. Send an email to a phlegmatic and do not expect a timely response from them.


Every individual on your team would obviously be different. We often tend to make assumptions on specific roles or age groups and biases kick-in in our conversations. With your team members, as you interact with them, within a day or two, you should be in a position to map each member to the four temperaments.

While you will leak emotions about your temperaments to your team, your job is to make them successful.

Regardless of your past practices, make a phlegmatic feel inclusive by calling them regularly, help a sanguine with inputs over an in-person coffee meet, articulate to a choleric the effects the outputs will have on his/her career, present scenarios and discuss pros/cons with a melancholy.

Your Boss:

In many instances, a senior P&L leader is usually a choleric. They are driven by achieving their targets and like to see their milestones met without any surprises. While many of us figured out how to manage people upstairs through trial and error, using the 4 temperament analysis to study your supervisor gives a more human touch to understanding their priorities, styles of working, what motivates them, why they have certain expectations and so on. Where this helps most is in understanding their expectations and delivering against it. Based on the temperament, you can tailor your communication and the mode of delivery.

E.g a sanguine may want to see your status in their in-box, but prefer that you call and update them, whereas a phlegmatic will get to the report at a time convenient to them and possibly after you follow up on whether they have any questions.


You might be working with Suppliers, Technology Partners, Startups, Academia, Outsourced entities and all of them might have a legally binding contract. But eventually the success of these partnerships lies in human-human relations.

What drives a Head of Department from an academic organization to work with you at an individual level? A melancholy might be motivated to work with you to do a study on collating industry data and perform some analysis.

The CEO from a startup might be looking at you as a means to get their first client or first go-live. Then you know you are working with a Choleric.

By understanding your partner’s temperament, you can gauge what drives them and accordingly align them to your objectives for the partnership.

You can extend your application of the four temperament technique to anyone you are interacting with. The beauty of the technique is its simplicity unlike many other profiling techniques and its survived over so many centuries!!

I’ve been applying it ever since I learnt about it and happy to share my experiences if you would like to learn more. Please feel free to contact me. Let’s learn from each other.


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