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What is Temperament?

Temperament is NOT personality—personality is your behavior or what you project. It is your mask. Personality or behavior is based on choice. For example, you can choose to be shy or loud, you can choose to be rude or polite.  Other models in counseling deal with your behavior and trying to modify it.

Temperament is NOT solely your character—character is exemplified by what you do when no one is watching.  Though your temperament tendencies may influence this, your sense of right and wrong is essentially separate.

So, the first layer a person displays is their personality. Underneath that is their character. Underneath character is your inborn temperament.

Temperament has been studied by many scientists even dating as far back as Hippocrates. There has always been some debate over whether humans are shaped solely by their environments, or come into the world with inborn tendencies. Jay Shields, a London scientist who worked primarily int the1940s, studied 40 sets of identical twins separated at birth. These sets of twins grew up in completely different environments and yet, 97.3% of the time, had identical temperaments. This formed a scientific basis for the idea that we are born with temperaments that will never change. Will Schutz then developed the temperament inventory and defined the five temperaments (his foundation is in Northern California).

Temperament is measured in three areas: Inclusion (socialization & intellectual energy), Control (decision making/taking on responsibilities) and Affection (the need to give & receive love and approval in deep relationships).  Many people are a combination of the temperaments, briefly outlined below, and some have a blend of two temperaments within a given area of their temperament—the blending temperament is the Phlegmatic. 

Factors that effect how temperament is manifested in practice include: 1) Personal growth or coping mechanisms, 2) Personality or learned behavior, and 3) Birth order. 



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The 5 Temperaments



Characterized by a need to be alone. They are independent, realistic, artistic, and creative. They also tend to be deep thinkers.




Characterized by their need for people.  They are bright, cheerful people who can inspire others.




Characterized by a need to take control of situations, self, and others.  Because of this comfort with control, they have great leadership capabilities.



Characterized by their low energy, easy-going manner and peacemaking abilities. They are great negotiators.


Characterized by their indirect behaviors, inability to initiate and their gentle spirit.  They are most comfortable when following a clear rule book and performing tasks in community with others.