Deidre arrived at my Sydney office in a whirlwind. She was an elegant woman in her early thirties who was elegant, well dressed and confident. I quickly learned that she was also a very capable woman who ran her very own successful business. However, she was suffering from indigestion, heartburn, candida and I suspected she was well on her way to developing an ulcer. She was clearly an on-the-go person who thrived on running her business, but she was driving herself very hard. I warned her of the effects of this lifestyle on her health and recommended that she consider taking on an extra staff member and delegating some of the work. I also made a number of suggestions as to strategies she might use to help correct the physical problems. She agreed that these were sensible ideas and was about to leave, But as she started to gather up her belongings she crumpled like a deflated balloon!
“What’s the real problem?” I asked. And that did it. Not even the strength of her character or the fear of spoiling her mascara could keep the tears at bay.
Deidre had been living with her partner of several years but felt that the relationship was somehow unravelling. “I love him dearly, but he doesn’t seem to care anymore. In fact, we don’t even seem to have the same interests any longer.”
“What do you do together?” I asked.
“Well, nothing much anymore, that is the problem because we used to do so much! He is a school teacher and he finished work around four o’clock and is generally home soon after that, but all he seems to do is sit around and wait for me to come home.”
“What did you do when you were first living together?”
“Oh, we went to shows, the theatre and to concerts, but all of that has stopped. It’s as if he is not interested. He knows I’m flat out busy at work during the day, especially now that my business has become such a success. The business has grown so much in the last two or three years, that I am rarely home before 6:00 pm. During the day I have too much to do to organise tickets the way I used to. When I ask him to do it, he says he will and that he would love to go to the theatre, but then he never follows through and we just end up sitting around all evening watching the same old boring thing on television. He doesn’t seem to mind. However, I am bored and frustrated. What is even worse is that I am beginning to think that he doesn’t care or want to do things with me and I don’t think I could bear it if that were true and we broke up.”
I was beginning to get an inkling of the problem. I was already pretty sure that Deidre was Choleric by temperament, but I wanted to know more. So, I asked her the four questions that would let me know which temperament she was, not only whether she was Choleric, Melancholic, Phlegmatic or Sanguine but which of the sixteen subtypes she was, specifically which of the four subtypes of Choleric. Her answers told me that not only was she Choleric as I had suspected, but that she was also an extrovert that liked excitement.
The next thing I needed to know was how Peter would have answered the same four questions, so I put them to her. It was not much of a surprise to find that he was an introverted Phlegmatic who liked structure and predictability in his life and was not happy with surprises.
They could not have been more opposite in temperament. This happens frequently because people are often attracted to those that they feel will fill out the gaps that they recognise in themselves. They fall in love, get married, settle down, and then immediately start trying to change the partner into the same temperament as themselves.
I thought about them both while Deidre repaired her mascara.
Peter would have been attracted to her confidence, her strength and her certainty, her social abilities, the way she could mix with all sorts of people, get on with them, adapt to situations and talk knowledgeably about a wide range of topics. He would have felt that this was a safe harbour, someone he could rely on and someone who would look after the greater demands of modern life in a way that would leave him free to explore his interests in history and the arts.
She would have found his quiet introversion calming and restful. His willingness to listen quietly gave her the audience she enjoyed, and his willingness to go along with her plans allowed her to choose the plays and concerts to which they went.
I explained this to her and suggested that the fact that he left the buying of the tickets to her didn’t mean he didn’t love her any more. It meant she could still choose which event they went to, the time, and even the seats. It also saved him the worry of making what he feared might be a wrong choice.
“But he knows how busy I am. Even if we decide which event we want to go to, he still doesn’t buy the tickets. And I am just too busy now. It was different before. But he doesn’t do anything now, and I just feel that he no longer cares.”
Her mascara was under threat again.
I tried another angle.
“If you came home from work early and hadn’t booked the tickets when you had plenty of time to do so, what would that mean?”
Well, obviously that I didn’t care anymore. If I cared I would make sure I had things planned that we could do together.”
“Right, but you are Choleric. Your gift to Peter is to be the strong one, to organise things and to take control. He is Phlegmatic. His gift to you is to leave you free to choose and arrange just what you want to do, down to the last detail, and to assure you that he will be happy with what you choose. His behaviour is saying exactly the opposite of what it would mean if you behaved in that way.”
“But I don’t have time I am just too busy at work.”
“Then you may just have to take on extra staff, someone who can organise these things for you. That way you can go on behaving like the competent leader you are, and he can go on giving by allowing you the freedom to be the person that he fell in love with, back at the start”.
Finally, she understood. Although she left looking a bit doubtful, at least she was smiling and seemed a bit more hopeful. She came back a couple of times over the following months as we sorted out her digestive problems.
In fact, the whole concept of different people’s actions meaning different things became quite an eye-opener for her, and she asked for more explanations, and even bought the book on the subject that I had written a year or two earlier. I suspected that she would eventually learn from it and find a use for this skill in her own business dealings and communications.
The reduced stress at home, combined with the exciting and happy social evenings during which she could relax and be happy, instead of frustrated and fearful, solved the problem of an impending ulcer. Peter? I don’t know. I never met the man. But she did comment that he seemed more relaxed, happy and affectionate towards her than he had been for the previous months. And yes, they had been to several plays and had some thoroughly enjoyable nights out.
If you are interested in learning more about unique personality types, we will be running our seminar on the Four Temperaments the weekend of 16 – 17th June, 2018 and again on 1 – 2nd Sept, 2018. Please call the office at 020 7824 8153 to book your place. Seats are limited so please call soon!