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Trade Paperback
278 pages
May 2006
Regal Books

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Chapter 1

Foundation and Background

Have you ever noticed that there are people out there who are different from you? Perhaps you live with them. Maybe you work with them. But chances are that you have noticed differences and you have wished that you could change those people. You may have even gone so far as to try to “fix” them by suggesting that their way of thinking, attitude and approach to life should be more like your own. But these attempts usually end in futility and frustration. Those people’s differences just seem to be hard wired into their Personality.

As you think about those people whom you may have tried to change (and as you reflect on your own personal growth), I want you to consider Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone.” I love how this verse is presented in three parts. The first part says, “if it is possible.” It is as if God is giving us a disclaimer—as if He is saying that this is a goal we should try to reach. The second part says, “so far as it depends on you,” making this our individual responsibility to—the last part—”be at peace with all men.”

If this verse simply said, “be at peace with all men,” it would be impossible for us to live out this teaching. We all have had situations with people in which we have tried everything we know how to do to get along with them, but nothing seems to work. No matter how hard we try, we cannot change those individuals. However, as this verse in Romans suggests, we can change ourselves—we can grow and improve. We can also change our approach to others so that we can, so far as it depends on us, be at peace with everyone.

Once we give up trying to change the people in our life—and accept that they are just wired that way—we can begin to understand others and improve our relationships with them. Likewise, when we are able to grasp the way we are wired, we can use that knowledge to grow beyond our natural tendencies and become better and more balanced individuals.

Personality: Learned or Inherited?

While each person is wired differently, there are many similarities that allow people to be grouped into general categories. The study of these differences and their interrelationship is known as “the Personalities.”

A recent article in Life magazine stated that “Studies of twins and advances in molecular biology have uncovered a more significant genetic component to personality than was previously known.”1 Researchers have spent countless hours and dollars on studies in order to determine where our personalities come from. These researchers are now beginning to grasp what any parent or teacher will tell you: We all come with our own Personality, determined before birth within our individual genetic make-up. Environment plays a role in how that Personality is shaped, but the basics are predetermined.

I once met with a group of preschool directors and asked them if they had ever had several siblings go through their schools. Of course, the answer was yes. I then asked them to consider the fact that each of these children had the same parents, grew up in the same house, and went to the same church or preschool. Often, they wore the same clothes and slept in the same room as their siblings. But were they just like each other? The answer was a resounding no!

Despite having virtually the same environment, these siblings each had their own distinct Personality. Some were incessant talkers who liked to be the focal point and whom others wanted to emulate. Others were born leaders and liked to tell the other little children what to do and when to do it—these children would take over the class if the teacher let them. Others were more reserved and quiet, afraid to get messy, and avoided projects like finger painting in favor of tidy, methodical activities like building blocks or reading. Other quiet children were content with any activity and easily went along with the program, rarely initiating any ideas of their own.

These same patterns follow us throughout our lives. They are inborn Personality traits—the way we are wired.


    Grandma Knows

    Ruth Crow, CPT

    Every grandmother knows what a joy their grandchildren are! I had the opportunity to take my granddaughter, Morgan, to her first day of kindergarten. From my experience, I know this can be a terrifying and traumatic experience for some children.

    Morgan and I entered the room that morning and looked around. Some of the children were crying, some were clinging to their parents, and some were sucking their thumbs. Not Morgan—no, not Morgan! She took a few moments to size up the situation and then began telling the other children what to do, where to sit, who to talk to, what toy to play with, and what book to look at.

    Morgan was five years old, a little girl, and the youngest in her family. No one had taught her how to be bossy, or how to be a leader. Watching Morgan’s first day of school illustrated to me that Personalities transcend age, gender, birth order, environment, or learned behavior.


It’s All Greek to Me . . .

The study of inborn Personality traits is not a new science. During the golden age of Greece (around 400 B.C.), renowned Greek thinkers studied and philosophized about life and the universe. One of the areas that especially aroused their curiosity was the study of the differing natures of people. Just like the group of preschool directors that I met with—and probably just like you—they noticed that people are different.

One particular Greek thinker, Hippocrates (known today as the father of modern medicine), theorized that what made people so different was their body chemistry. (Only recently have we come to learn that he may have been right on more counts than he has been given credit for!) He and other Greek thinkers believed that people could be categorized into four basic groupings and that their differing physical make-up (or “fluids” in their bodies) was what gave them the specific outward manifestations (what identified their Personality). Around A.D. 190, Galen, a Greek physician, built on Hippocrates’s ideas and came up with what he called the four temperaments—four Personality types or moods that he said were caused by the imbalance of certain bodily fluids in people. He called these four temperaments Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy and Phlegmatic.

Over the years, people have added to and expounded upon these concepts (often giving them different names so as to appear more clever or original), and today there are a variety of different teachings available on this general topic. For example, some of these “new” systems will refer to the Sanguine as Emotional, Influencing, Socializer or Expressive; the Choleric as Volitional, Dominant, Director or Driving; the Melancholy as Rational, Cautious, Thinker or Analytical; and the Phlegmatic as Personal, Steady, Relater or Amiable. However, regardless of the terms used, these basically all come back to these same four Personality types that were originally determined thousands of years ago. So, if you are familiar with one of these other systems, understand that we are all talking the same language, just using slightly different terms to mean the same thing (see chart below). You’ll just need to translate as we go along.


Comparison Chart of Different Personality Systems

The Personalities

Popular Sanguine

Powerful Choleric

Perfect Melancholy

Peaceful Phlegmatic

“Leading from Your Strengths” Behavioral Assessment




Golden Retriever






Color Code





True Colors





Alessandra & Cathcart





Larry Crabb





Merrill-Reid Social Styles






Most people who are familiar with these other approaches find that this Personality program focuses more on the positives, rather than the pathology, and is more helpful in solving relationship problems.2 While many Personality-typing programs give you a label, they do not tell you what to do with that information. The goal of this program, however, is to move you beyond the label and into application so that you can see real changes in your relationships. As you read, I trust that you will have fun discovering who you are and that you will be able to quickly apply the principles to grow beyond your natural Personality while improving all your relationships—both at home and at work!

Basic Personality Groupings

Let’s start by looking at the basic Personality groupings, realizing that any time we take the entire population of the world and put all those people into one of four categories, we will be making generalizations—no one person will fit exactly into one box. But the thing about generalizations is that they are generally true! While we are all unique individuals, most of us do have our own set of colored glasses through which we view life and from which our decisions are made. This makes up our basic Personality.

In addition to our basic Personality, everyone has a secondary Personality and usually has a smattering of traits from some of the other categories (we will review the various combinations in chapter 4). The following chart will give you an at-a-glance review of The Personalities. Following the chart, I’ll describe the characteristics of each Personality and provide a quick overview of each Personality. You will want to refer to these overviews from time to time as you familiarize yourself with The Personalities.


The Popular Sanguine

People with Sanguine personalities are typically high-energy people who are fun loving and outgoing. These are the people who are always looking for the next gathering or get-together with their friends. Originally, the ancient Greeks believed that people with this Personality type behaved this way because they had red-hot blood coursing through their veins; hence the name “sanguine,” which relates to the blood. Today, the word “sanguine” is also used to describe someone who is optimistic or confident.

Because the word “sanguine” isn’t commonly used in speech today, throughout this book it will be coupled with the word “Popular” when it is being used to represent a Personality type. Of course, if you are familiar with this teaching from another source and are accustomed to just the word “Sanguine,” feel free to use it. Or simply use the term “Popular” if you find Sanguine cumbersome. Remember, it’s not about labels or how we refer to the Personality types—it’s about understanding ourselves and improving our relationships.


Popular Sanguines ”Let’s do it the fun way”

Representative Color: yellow (like a “happy face”)

Desire: to have fun

Key Strengths: ability to talk about anything at any time at any place, bubbling personality, optimism, sense of humor, storytelling ability, enjoyment of people

Key Weaknesses: disorganized, can’t remember details or names, exaggerates, not serious about anything, trusts others to do the work, too gullible and naïve

Emotional Needs: attention, affection, approval, acceptance

Get Depressed When: life is no fun and no one seems to love them

Are Afraid Of: being unpopular or bored, having to live by the clock, having to keep a record of money spent

Like People Who: listen and laugh, praise and approve

Dislike People Who: criticize, don’t respond to their humor, don’t think they are cute

Are Valuable at Work For: their colorful creativity, optimism, light touch, cheering up others, entertaining

Could Improve If: they got organized, didn’t talk so much, learned to tell time

As Leaders: excite, persuade and inspire others; exude charm and entertain; are forgetful and poor on follow-through

Tend to Marry: Perfect Melancholies who are sensitive and serious, but whom they quickly tire of having to cheer up and by whom they soon tire of being made to feel inadequate or stupid

React to Stress By: leaving the scene, going shopping, finding a fun group, creating excuses, blaming others

Recognized By: their constant talking, loud volume, bright eyes


The Powerful Choleric

People with Choleric personalities are naturally goal-oriented and live to achieve those goals. They are highly task-oriented and well organized, but they are also outgoing, just like the Popular Sanguines. However, in addition to having these positive traits, Cholerics also tend to have a short fuse and to be bossy.

Hippocrates and the Greek thinkers believed that people who displayed this type of Personality had yellow bile in their bodies that gave them these specific traits, like a baby with cholic or a person with cholera; hence the name “choleric.” (Choleric is pronounced like “collar” on a shirt, not like “calorie.”) For the same reasons as “Sanguine” above, throughout this book the term “Choleric” will be coupled with the word “Powerful” to better define this strong Personality type: the Powerful Choleric.


Powerful Cholerics

“Let’s do it my way”

Representative Color: red (like a fire engine)

Desire: to have control

Key Strengths: ability to take charge of anything instantly and to make quick, correct judgments

Key Weaknesses: too bossy, domineering, autocratic, insensitive, impatient, unwilling to delegate or give credit to others

Emotional Needs: sense of obedience, appreciation for accomplishments, credit for ability

Get Depressed When: life is out of control and people won’t do things their way

Are Afraid Of: losing control of anything (e.g., losing a job, not being promoted, becoming seriously ill, having a rebellious child or unsupportive mate)

Like People Who: are supportive and submissive, see things their way, cooperate quickly, let them take credit

Dislike People Who: are lazy and not interested in working constantly, buck their authority, become independent, aren’t loyal

Are Valuable at Work Because: they can accomplish more than anyone else in a shorter time, are usually right

Could Improve If: they allowed others to make decisions, delegated authority, became more patient, didn’t expect everyone to produce as they do

As Leaders: they have a natural feel for being in charge, a quick sense of what will work, a sincere belief in their ability to achieve, a potential to overwhelm less aggressive people

Tend to Marry: Peaceful Phlegmatics who will quietly obey and not buck their authority but who never accomplish enough or get excited over their projects

React to Stress By: tightening control, working harder, exercising more, getting rid of the offender

Recognized By: their fast-moving approach, quick grab for control, self-confidence, restless and overpowering attitude


The Perfect Melancholy

People with Melancholy personalities tend to be quiet, deep and thoughtful. They strive for perfection in everything they do that matters to them and believe that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Because people with this Personality type focus so much on perfection, they often find themselves more disappointed—and even more depressed—than the other Personalities.

The Greek thinkers believed that people who displayed this type of Personality behaved this way because of the black bile in their body—thus the name “melancholy.” Today, this word is often used to describe people who are depressed or have negative mood swings. To focus on the positive aspects of this Personality, throughout this book the term “Perfect” will be coupled with “Melancholy” to describe this Personality type.


Perfect Melancholies

“Let’s do it the right way”

Representative Color: blue (like deep water)

Desire: to have it done right

Key Strengths: ability to organize and set long-range goals, to set high standards and ideals, and to analyze deeply

Key Weaknesses: easily depressed, spends too much time on preparation, is too focused on details, remembers negatives, suspicious of others

Emotional Needs: sense of stability, space, silence, sensitivity, support

Get Depressed When: life is out of order, standards aren’t met, no one seems to care

Are Afraid Of: no one understanding how they really feel, making a mistake, having to compromise standards

Like People Who: are serious, intellectual, deep and can carry on a sensible conversation

Dislike People Who: are lightweights, forgetful, late, disorganized, superficial, prevaricating and unpredictable

Are Valuable at Work For: their sense of detail, love of analysis, follow-through, high standards of performance, compassion for the hurting

Could Improve If: they didn’t take life quite so seriously, didn’t insist that others be perfectionists

As Leaders: they organize well, are sensitive to people’s feelings, have deep creativity, want quality performance

Tend to Marry: Popular Sanguines because of their outgoing personality and social skills, but whom they soon attempt to quiet and get on a schedule

React to Stress By: withdrawing, getting lost in a book, becoming depressed, giving up, recounting problems

Recognized By: their serious and sensitive nature, well-mannered approach, self-deprecating comments, meticulous and well-groomed looks


The Peaceful Phlegmatic

People with the final Personality type—the Phlegmatics—are a bit harder to identify than the other Personalities. While the Popular Sanguines, Powerful Cholerics and Perfect Melancholies tend to live life to the extreme, individuals with Phlegmatic personalities tend to be more balanced and contented with life. As such, they often do not feel the need to change the world or alter the existing status quo.

People who display this type of Personality are often viewed by the more-driven Personality types as being slower and more thoughtful, which may be why Hippocrates and the other early Greek philosophers believed that people who displayed this type of Personality had phlegm in their bodies—thus the name “Phlegmatic.” Because this word is often foreign to most us, throughout this book the term “Peaceful” will be coupled with “Phlegmatic” to better describe these balanced, steady and easy-going individuals.


Peaceful Phlegmatics

“Let’s do it the easy way”

Representative Color: green (like the grass)

Desire: to avoid conflict, to keep peace

Key Strengths: balance, even disposition, dry sense of humor, pleasing personality

Key Weaknesses: lack of decisiveness, enthusiasm or energy; a hidden will of iron

Emotional Needs: sense of respect, feeling of worth, understanding, emotional support

Get Depressed When: life is filled with conflict, they have to face a personal confrontation, no one wants to help, or when the buck stops with them

Are Afraid Of: having to deal with major personal problems, being left holding the bag, making major changes

Like People Who: make decisions for them, recognize their strengths, do not ignore them, and give them respect

Dislike People Who: are too pushy, too loud, or expect too much of them

Are Valuable at Work Because: they mediate between contentious people and objectively solve problems

Could Improve If: they set goals and became self-motivated, were willing to do more and move faster than expected, faced their own problems as well as they handle those of others

As Leaders: they keep calm, cool and collected; don’t make impulsive decisions; are well-liked and inoffensive; don’t cause trouble; don’t often come up with brilliant new ideas

Tend to Marry: Powerful Cholerics who are strong and decisive, but whom they soon tire of because they realize that they don’t like being pushed around and looked down upon

React to Stress By: hiding from it, watching TV, eating, tuning out life

Recognized By: their calm approach, relaxed posture (sitting or leaning when possible)


    Remember, these terms are listed here in order to provide us with some form of shared vocabulary so that we can better discuss each of our Personalities. The goal here is not to label anyone or put them in a box, but just to give some general characteristics that are common among people who share these different Personality types.

    In the next few chapters, we will go into more detail regarding each of the Personalities. However, before proceeding, I recommend that you pick up a copy of Wired That Way Personality Profile and complete it so that you can determine which Personality type best fits you. By completing the Personality Profile, you will be able to apply the discussions in the following chapters to your own life, and also to those with whom you interact every day.


You Are Here

Kathryn Robbins
Director, Marketing and Development, The Personalities

Completing the Personality Profile may seem like taking a test, but it’s a tool that will help you find a starting point. Think of it as going to the shopping mall. First, you need to decide to go to the mall (you need something). You park your car and walk in (do the profile). Now, if you don’t know exactly where you are, you might wander around in circles. So a helpful thing to do is to look for the directory board and find the “You Are Here” sticker (add up your totals).

Once you figure out where “You Are Here” is, you then can make a Personality Plan for getting from where you are to where you want to be. You may find you’re on the wrong end of the mall (living in weaknesses), which means it will take a little more time to get where you want to go (living in strengths). The journey may be long or short, but at least you’re not aimlessly walking around in circles anymore. While most people live with a mix of their Personality strengths and weaknesses, what you want to become is a well-balanced individual who is living in his or her strengths, not wallowing in weaknesses.

This book is your Personality Plan. While you are wired a certain way, you can use the tools and techniques in this book to overcome natural tendencies that hinder you from making the connections in your wiring that turn the lights on. Yes, “You Are Here.” But, here is not where you will want to stay. Apply the Personality Plan and enjoy living in your strengths!



        1.      George Howe Colt, “Were You Born That Way,” Life magazine, April 1998, pp. 39-50.

        2.      To determine the nuances of your own Personality in this program, you will want to use the Wired That Way Assessment Tool, the complete and comprehensive Personality Plan that will help you understand yourself and improve your relationship. This tool is available at and