Do You Know Your Characters?
Most of you will have watched the hilarious TV sitcom, Modern Family, and have laughed your way through an episode or two of the various unbelievable, yet naggingly credible, social bloopers, temperament clashes, rule bends, and incredible, yet sometimes all too predictable, antics that this assortment of almost too real characters have scripted for them. How better then to illustrate how our real life personalities operate and interact, whether at work or play, than to borrow four of these well known characters? This is exactly the situation I found myself in recently when I attended a Communication Workshop specifically tailored for my peers and me, a group of senior management engineers, more used to budgets, programmes, reports and calculations, than how 'Cameron', 'Jay', 'Clare' and 'Manny' typify our human relationships and exemplify the four main human temperaments. Little did we know how our clinical psychologist for the morning, an experienced corporate facilitator, coach and master of ceremonies, would enthral us by proffering her advice and stage show using a backdrop of such familiar characters.
So what are these vaguely familiar human character traits? Google 'The Four Temperaments' and you'll come up with a plethora of articles, all with much the same description, similar to the following:
- popular, spontaneous, vivacious, cheerful Sanguine;
- powerful, adventurous, pervasive, confident Choleric;
- perfect, thoughtful, faithful, persistent Melancholic; and
- peaceful, friendly, patient, contented Phlegmatic.
I was first introduced to these four traits or temperaments, when I sat through a thoroughly entertaining presentation, some twenty+ something years ago, by Florence Littauer who was hilariously narrating her way through extracts from her then quite recently published best seller, "Personality Plus". Her presentation stayed with me for many years afterwards and I often returned to her book, more for entertainment value than any real thirst to gain insight into how my colleagues, friends and family behave and interact.
I still remember her jovially relating the story of how her melancholic husband, Fred, lectured sanguine Florence on how she was eating grapes incorrectly ("It never occurred to me", she said, "that there was a right and wrong way") and that the 'correct' way was to use scissors to trim little parcels from the bunch so as not have an untidy result. I also remember her advice never to look inside a sanguine lady's handbag, where everything is stored but nothing can be found.
Anyway, the four main character traits, Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic, have drifted in and out of my fog of a brain for the last all too many years, until surfacing again during the recent Communication Workshop I attended, thoughtfully illustrated as the selected Modern Family characters of 'Cameron', 'Jay', 'Clare' and 'Manny'. I hope you can recognise their 'personalities' which I am introducing you to below.
Cameron, the popular Sanguine, is an eternal optimist who influences others and makes life fun. He's a talkative story-teller, the life and soul of the party, is good on stage, and is wide-eyed and innocent.
Jay, the powerful Choleric, is a born leader who takes charge easily and executes plans. He is strong willed and decisive, is goal oriented, delegates work and thrives on competition.
Clare, the perfect Melancholic, is a pessimist who seeks perfection and may be prone to genius. She is orderly and organised, serious and purposeful. Talented and creative, she loves lists, charts, graphs and figures.
Manny, the peaceful Phlegmatic, is mediator who rolls with the pinches and relates well to others. He is low-key, easy going, calm, cool and collected. Never in a hurry, he is happily reconciled to life and is easy to get on with.
So where to from here? Well, you see, this post is not intended as an introduction to deep and meaningful character assessment (or assassination) and I have no intention (or capabiliity) of delving into the strengths and weaknesses, the emotional needs, behaviours, problems, and best ways to respond to each of the main personality types. Consult your local friendly qualified psychologist for that, or perhaps just Google what you need ('cause everything you read on Google is true, right?).
No, my reason for writing this post is to allow you to share my re-awakening by providing a readily identifiable means of remembering these character traits, through Sanguine Cameron, Choleric Jay, Melancholic Clare, and Phlegmatic Manny. If nothing else, you'll never watch another episode of Modern Family now, without looking a little more perceptively at the behaviour of these fictional players.
And how about the other players in this sitcom? Whats more, how about the other players in your sitcom?
Thanks to Florence Littauer for the initial introduction, so many years ago, and to Jeannet Weijers and People Culture, for dragging these memories out of the mist and anchoring them in the 'reality' of television.
When not researching the weird or the wonderful, the comical or the cultured, the sinful or the serious, I chase my creative side, the results of which can be seen as selected photographs of my travels on my website at:
The author of the above, Ken Boddie, besides being a consulting engineer, is an enthusiastic photographer, rarely leisure-travelling without his Canon, and loves to interact with other like-minded photographers and people with an artistic background.
Ken's three day work week (part time commitment) as a consulting engineer allows him to follow his photography interests, and to plan trips to an ever increasing list of countries and places of scenic beauty and cultural diversity.
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