Opposites attract and then prove very difficult to live with. Speaker and personality expert Allison Mooney takes a look at the four general personality types and offers tips on how to get along with the one you live with.
As a speaker I travel a lot and usually make use of my time in an aircraft by talking to “my new best friend”– the passenger lucky (or unlucky) enough to be sitting next to me. People can really open up on long-haul flights and I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard others say things like, “We’re so different in our marriage, the only thing my husband/wife and I have in common is that we got married on the same day!” This thought can, over time, create distance between couples. If only we could take a step back and see the benefits of having someone in our life who is largely our opposite.
Understanding and respecting each other’s differences is the essence of a happy home life. There is great strength in diversity, especially when we appreciate and value all personality types. It was the ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates who originally came up with the theory that humans have four basic personality temperaments. Most people demonstrate characteristics that are a blend of more than one temperament, but we all have a primary driver, or default mode.
Each temperament has its share of positive and negative traits that can both help and hinder a person. In an ideal world we would all be aware of our strengths and weaknesses, and those of others around us, and relate accordingly – with patience, consideration and tolerance. Ideally. Time spent considering the different temperaments of the people we work and live with is time well spent.
Even more important than recognising the natures of the different personality types is understanding the needs of each type. Meeting your partner’s needs and vice versa works wonders for a harmonious relationship. See if you can recognise yourself and your partner in the summaries below – the four Ps are terms I have coined to describe Hippocrates’ original four groups.
Hippocrates referred to these folk as “Sanguine”. They are extroverts and love to socialise. They are also creative and passionate, but can easily be distracted.
How to identify a Playful:
Stylish dresser, constantly talking, loves all things bright and flashy, smiley eyes, loves to gesticulate, mixes easily in social situations and is impulsive. You’ll possibly hear them, especially their loud laughter, before you actually see them.
What do they bring to the relationship?
Playfuls know how to bring energy and life to dull situations. They will stay optimistic and buoyant in uncertain times.
What do they need?
Attention, affection and approval – you can’t give Playfuls enough of this.
These folk are our natural born leaders and go-getters, referred to by Hippocrates as “Choleric”. Naturally very good at organising and delegating, Powerfuls can come across as bossy and a tad insensitive.
How to identify a Powerful:
Functional dresser, self-confident, restless, decisive and ambitious.
What do they bring to a relationship?
Confidence and vision, optimism for the future and the ability to make decisions.
What do they need?
Credit and appreciation for all that they do. They also highly value loyalty.
Analytical, introverted and independent, Hippocrates referred to these friends as “Melancholic”.
How to identify a Precise:
Classic dresser. Quiet and serious, well-mannered and meticulous. Logical, orderly and cautious.
What do they bring to a relationship?
Organisational skills, focus and ability to see and make logical progress.
What do Precises need?
Sensitivity, space, silence and support.
Almost the complete opposite of sanguines, Hippocrates’ “Phelgmatics” tend to be shy and prefer to stay within their comfort zone. They’re rational and calm and handle stress well. |
How to identify a Peaceful:
Conventional, conservative dresser. Calm and relaxed. Graceful and agreeable.
What do they bring to a relationship?
Nurture and diplomacy, great listening skills and an appreciation for relaxation.
What do Peacefuls need?
Respect, harmony and to feel valued.
Whether they actually articulate them or not, the deep needs listed above are what people get out of bed for each day. Making an effort to meet your partner’s needs goes a long way to helping them feel valued and special. We have a profound opportunity to meet each others needs so as to recharge, motivate, and inspire each other. Giving people what they need is a great way to keep a relationship buoyant.
Problems at home
The benefit of making an effort to meet our partner’s needs is significant, especially when we take a look at the effects of missing them all together. I saw a coverline on a magazine recently that said “Unambitious Husbands, Ambitious Wives!” In the article women were bemoaning the fact that they had married men who lacked drive, direction and focus. Most nights they would arrive home to find their husband blended into the furniture, remote in hand. In the early days, when they were smitten and in love, they thought it cute but over time this familiar sight was hitting a raw nerve. These particular women agreed that they usually greeted their reclining spouse with “What have you done today?”. Big mistake! These Peaceful partners want to be known for who they are, not for what they do. At the end of the day they need to recharge their batteries by doing nothing. That is their reward.
Doing “nothing” doesn’t feature on the radar of Powerful types. They get home from work only to get involved in another project. They are “doers” and herein lies the problem. Powerfuls take value from being a human machine, while Peacefuls (“watchers” rather than “doers”) just want to “be” human beings.
So while there is potential for conflict if needs aren’t being met, there is greater potential for harmony as these two opposites actually do need each other. The “doers” need an easy going, laid back type to de-stress them, bring harmony into their lives and help them find balance. Equally the “watchers” or cruiser types need the highly motivated types to bring activity and initiative into their world. In a perfect world full of happy families a Peaceful husband would have his hour or so doing nothing before he got up and mowed the lawn. Then later he would suggest to his Powerful wife, who is busy sanding back a vintage dressing table for the new baby’s room, that perhaps she down tools and they go off for a walk on the beach.
In it for the long haul
Opposites attract. We need each other. My husband and I couldn’t be more different, but understanding how we both see the world helps us to better relate. The proof is in the pudding – our pudding being a 45-year-long relationship!
Most often people are attracted to an opposite. We are fascinated at first, but then over time we can feel frustrated with that opposite if we don’t see their value. Over the last 20 or so years I have observed far too many long-term relationships end. I believe relationships often break up because people don’t have the tools to understand the different personality type they married. So they go looking for their own kind which, at the time, seems an easier option. However, being in a relationship with someone just like you has its own issues and you have to work as hard, or even harder, to remain harmonious.
For example, Playfuls who choose another Playful – sure there is a lot of fun, parties, socialising and activities, but who does the cleaning, sorting and management of the finances?
A Powerful who chooses another Powerful? These are personalities who have to be in-charge, so a lot of head butting and trying to assert leadership would naturally occur in this high-octane relationship.
Two Precise personality types would constantly be trying to improve on everything and wouldn’t celebrate anything until it was perfect, resulting in an environment with plenty of criticism and not much fun.
A Peaceful type with another Peaceful – oh, you can just about hear the evening discussions, can’t you?
“Honey, what would you like to do tonight?” “Oh I don’t know, you choose” “No, you choose!” The indecisiveness would drive anyone nuts.
Yes, matching personality types would “get each other” but there would also be some challenging dynamics and frustration. Admittedly there is no perfect dynamic, but understanding personalities helps us connect and engage with others. Respecting our differences creates harmony.
As parents, it is slightly disconcerting to realise we cannot choose our children’s personality – they come with a predisposition, and are “pre-packaged” with certain temperaments. This stuff is in the genes, so it’s so important and valuable to consider who we have in our family.
In the next issue of OHbaby! Magazine I will provide tips for identifying your children’s personality styles. Having an understanding of this will help you develop them into fully functioning and competent adults.
We are all different, but not wrong – just different.
Let’s celebrate who we are and grow each others’ strengths to be magnificent.
“The People Interpreter” Allison Mooney is an award-winning professional speaker and author of the best-selling book Pressing the Right Buttons. For more information check out her website allisonmooney.co.nz.