My eyes were opened ever since I learnt about the “four temperaments”. The impact it had upon me and my social anxiety was very noticeable.
People with SA are often concerned, even terrified, of what other people think of them and are quite sensitive to the responses and actions of others. However, upon learning about the four temperaments, we get a better insight as to what is really going on in the other person’s head.
So, what are the “four temperaments”, you ask? It is a theory of psychology which originated from the “four humours” concept of 460-370 BC. Basically, there are four personality categories: Sanguine, Melancholy, Choleric, and Phlegmatic. While you will most likely find you have traits from all four, most people will have significantly more in one or two of the categories.
Here is a summary of the four categories, and how understanding this may help you realise that what you interpret is not really what the other person may be thinking:
The Sanguine is the extrovert, the talker, the optimist. They are the life of the party, the centre of attention, and love to talk. They are also known on occasion to be forgetful and disorganised.
Someone with social anxiety may find this outgoing and carefree personality type intimidating. Sanguine personalities can tend to say things without thinking them through first. Usually, what they say was not intended to be hurtful, and some individuals may not understand how someone could possibly have social anxiety. They can also make fun of things that other people find embarrassing (but Sanguines really don’t see it that way). If they do blurt out something offensive, take it with a grain of salt as they probably did not really mean it in the way you have interpreted.
On the other hand, Sanguines are the best kind of people to have conversations with if you are really not much of a talker. They will appreciate a good listener, and you will appreciate not having to say much.
The Melancholy is the introvert, the thinker, the pessimist. They are analytical, perfectionists, and generally serious people. They can also take things too personally and be over sensitive.
The Melancholy personality will often respond to things negatively. If they shoot down something you say, it may not be as personal as you think. They can often see the worst in things and might not even realise that they have offended you (being in this category myself, I can certainly vouch for that). Sometimes this personality can get very precise and irritated when it comes to neatness and perfection. If this happens, just smile knowingly when you realise this is very typical behaviour of the Melancholy.
On the other hand, those with Melancholic traits are also passionate, caring, and loving. They are quite open minded, and many are willing to empathise or discuss deep topics.
The Choleric is the extrovert, the doer, the optimist. They are born leaders, strong willed, and move quickly to action. They may also put pressure on others and appear bossy at times.
Cholerics can sometimes be the scariest people out there if you have social anxiety. They will speak harshly, push their views, and tell you what to do. However, please recognise that more often than not, a Choleric is not trying to offend you. It is just the way they are, and they are unlikely to know that they have offended you and have already moved on and forgotten about it while you dwell on it for weeks on end.
The Choleric/Sanguine can often be the type to put others down or make fun of them, all the while smiling and making a joke out of it all. Smile and go along with it because they are not trying to hurt you and their words are likely much harsher than what they are actually thinking. Certain individuals of this personality type also believe that they are the best, and work hard to stay there.
If a Choleric compliments you at all, you know you really must have done something right. Feel proud about a Choleric acknowledging what good you have done, because they really mean it.
The Phlegmatic is the introvert, the watcher, the pessimist. They are easy going, generally quiet, and prefer to avoid conflicts. However, they can at times be difficult to communicate with and are very indecisive.
The Phlegmatic is probably the last person that you will have conflicts with, but if you have social anxiety, even these types can seem intimidating. Phlegmatics tend to hide their emotions and prefer to listen rather than talk, so be careful not to misinterpret this as meaning that they don’t want to be around you.
They are very forgiving people and are pleasant to hang around with. I have always felt a lot more comfort talking to an easy going Phlegmatic (unfortunately, I am also a Phlegmatic, therefore we can never decide on anything!).