What do a golden retriever, Charlie Brown, and Obi-wan Kenobi have in common?
They are all Peaceful Phlegmatics-the nice guys and girls and dogs. They are supportive, friendly and loyal. They are steady, considerate and solid. They are introverted and private, but thoughtful and caring.
Peaceful Phlegmatics are also known as the Watchers. When asked if they want to participate in an activity you may hear my daughter’s favorite phrase, “I’m going to take a hard pass” because they would rather watch than do. Of course they would say it very nicely. While the Choleric is a Doer, the Sanguine is a Talker, and the Melancholy is a Thinker, Phlegmatics prefer to hang back and observe.
One of my favorite memories with my mom was a trip to the mall around Christmas time when I was in high school. We had stopped into the food court for a snack and decided to do some people watching since all of our shopping was complete. With pretzel in hand we sat on a bench watching the hustle and bustle of shoppers, but after two minutes we were bored. As we stood to leave, a lone cricket attempting to cross holiday foot traffic from the Orange Julius to the Burger King caught our eye. We looked at each other and sat right back down to watch.
The cricket jumped and landed in the path of oncoming traffic. We held our breath. It was safe but only for a moment. We squealed when it jumped again. My mom and I held hands as a sign of solidarity for our cricket and to keep our enthusiasm from embarrassing us. This continued for several minutes I think, who knows when time slows down like that. We watched and rooted for our cricket until it had made it all the way across the concourse. When it touched the wall we shot out of our seats and cheered like our cricket had just won gold. We hugged. We high-fived. We celebrated. And then we sat back down. Thirty seconds later we were bored again.
My mother got up off the bench and walked casually toward the cricket. Did she want to capture it and take it home with us? Did she want to move it to safe pasture? What in the world was she doing? She placed her toe right next to our victor, turned to me, smiled and then…she kicked that cricket back out into the middle of traffic to keep the excitement alive.
As you can see my mother is awesome but we are really bad Phlegmatics. We tried to be watchers but we got bored. We were not relaxed, peaceful, or patient-hallmarks of a Phlegmatic life. As Powerful Cholerics, my mom and I are the polar opposite of Peaceful Phlegmatics. We do share a couple of traits, being strong-willed and unemotional, but in general Phlegmatics and Cholerics are totally different. The same is true for Popular Sanguines and Perfect Melancholies. We will get to them in future blogs.
When taking a personality assessment, keep in mind that while you can have a major temperament and a minor temperament blend, you cannot be opposite temperaments. You cannot be a Choleric-Phlegmatic, but you can be a Choleric-Sanguine or a Choleric-Melancholy. You cannot be a Melancholy-Sanguine, but you can be a Melancholy-Choleric or a Melancholy-Phlegmatic.
If your scores indicate an opposite blend, then you are masking a temperament. Masking occurs when we take on the qualities of a temperament that are not our true personality. This happens in families in which differing temperaments are not understood or appreciated. This happens at work when our roles require skills different than our natural abilities. This happens in relationships when we our desire to please others trumps our desire to live authentically.
“It takes effort to play a role that God never intended us to fill.” Florence Littauer in The Personality Tree
Let’s say for example that you are a Perfect Melancholy but somewhere along the way you learned that life would be better if you were more pleasant and easy going like a Peaceful Phlegmatic. This is easy for us gals to do because Phlegmatic traits tend to be culturally more feminine. You try your best to be calm, cool and collected (classic Phlegmatic strengths) but those traits come out more like stubborn, lazy and fearful (classic Phlegmatic weaknesses). Your personality assessment scores will reveal the mask when you have many more weaknesses than strengths of a particular temperament.
Becoming aware of a mask, removing it and living into your true personality is the start of living an authentic life.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
If you find that you are wearing a temperamental mask, ask your closest friends or your spouse to define your strengths and weaknesses. You may want to be an asker (like I did), but if you are really a teller (Ugh) then you need to own the true you. Another way to find the true you is to answer the assessment questions as if you were a child. Sometimes our most authentic self was revealed in our younger years before we started to adapt to the wishes of others.
Back to the Peaceful Phlegmatics….
Phlegmatics are easy going and laid back. They are adaptable and go with the flow. If you ask them if they want Chinese or Italian food, they will respond “whatever” and mean it. Contentment comes naturally for them. Life moves at a slow pace for the Peaceful Phlegmatic. They walk a little slower than the average bear and everyday is a Sunday drive in the country. While the Melancholies, Sanguines and Cholerics driving behind them are experiencing some degree of road rage, the Peaceful Phlegmatic remains unaffected and composed. How nice for you.
Peaceful Phlegmatics are great team members because they are natural peace-keepers. Every home with a contentious teenager could use a Phlegmatic parent’s calming influence to keep everyone out of jail. In fact the Peaceful Phlegmatic’s main desire in life is peace, which allows them to mediate and avoid conflict. Rodney King, a man whose beating ignited the LA riots back in 1991, summed it up well when he said, “People, I just want to say, can’t we all get along? Can’t we all get along?” Phlegmatics will do anything to keep the peace.
Examples of Phlegmatics are Tonto and Robin, and any other supportive side kicks that come to mind. Timothy, the faithful companion to the apostle Paul, Abraham who peacefully separated with his cousin Lot when their land became crowded, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Mr. Rogers (who doesn’t like him?), Mother Theresa, Rosa Parks, Princess Diana, and Seinfeld’s Low Talker https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ziqc6uOIrZc who also happened to be the designer of the Puffy Shirt.
Peaceful Phlegmatics are kind and quiet. They love to help and support others. Their accepting, non-judgmental nature and listening ears make them excellent therapists. One of the great benefits of therapy with a Phlegmatic is the sense of being heard and feeling understood because they will never try to fix you or one-up your story like a Choleric would. Phlegmatics also seems drawn to the field of education. Who else would have the patience required to run a preschool or to teach kindergarteners to read?
God created Peaceful Phlegmatics to bring peace, to care for His people, to love the least of these, to support and nuture his children, and to provide the kindness that leads to repentance. If you are a Phlegmatic, thank you for the beauty you add to our world.
“For we are God’s workmanship; created in Christ Jesus to do good works; which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
If you think you might be masking a temperament other than your own, I would love to help you discover your authentic self. Contact me at through real.life.coaching at DWSkram@comcast.net for a free 30 minute phone session to discuss your unique situation.