Personality Plus talks about four key personality types. Any such system has to make generalisations, trying to find a balance between accurate portrayals and a usable number of types. The Personality Plus system allows for extensions by mixing profiles, such as describing someone as a Choleric Sanguine, rather than just Choleric or Sanguine. The system exists not simply to describe an individual's personality type, which perhaps the Myers-Briggs system does, but rather to highlight those aspects of personality which relate to interactions between people.
The 'Personality Plus' personality profiles
Choleric: This is the commander-type. Cholerics are dominant, strong, decisive, stubborn and even arrogant.
Melancholy: This is the mental-type. Their typical behaviour involves thinking, assessing, making lists, evaluating the positives and negatives, and general analysis of facts.
Sanguine: This is the social-type. They enjoy fun, socialising, chatting, telling stories - and are fond of promising the world, because that's the friendly thing to do.
Phlegmatic: This is the flat-type. They are easy going, laid back, nonchalant, unexcitable and relaxed. Desiring a peaceful environment above all else.
Positives and Negatives
None of these types is specifically described as positive or negative - each having upsides and downsides. The book makes it clear that the characteristics are for observing and identifying, rather than judging.
* A Choleric is focused on getting things done, but can run rough-shod over others. They are decisive and stubborn.
* A Melancholy is a highly talented person, they have brilliant ideas, although sometimes they can paralyse themselves with over-analysis. Lists and "doing things the right way" are characteristics of this personality type.
* A Sanguine gets on well with people and can get others excited about issues, but cannot always be relied upon to get things done. They love interacting with others and play the role of the entertainer in group interactions. They have a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver.
* A Phlegmatic is neutral - they tend not to actively upset people, but their indifference may frustrate people. They try not to make decisions, and generally go for the status quo. They care about people and harmony.
The Personality Plus system is less about identifying a person's profile, and more about the implications that may have for group interactions. As such, it is used in sales and negotiation training, and for understanding group dynamics in business.
* A Choleric might get frustrated by a Phlegmatic who doesn't seem to want to get things done now. This pairing however can work well, though, because Cholerics tend to tell people what to do, and Phlegmatics tend to do what they are told. This coupling often have relationships with each other - although interestingly this may introduce a downward spiral, where the Choleric becomes increasingly commanding, and the Phlegmatic becomes more indifferent through their interactions.
* Melancholies might make lists and work through them point by point, and get frustrated by Sanguines who tend to bounce from one idea to the next, often without completing the first.
A simplification might be that a Choleric likes it "my way", a Melancholy likes it "the right way", a Sanguine likes it "the fun way", and a Phlegmatic likes it "the easy way".
Personality Plus, like other profiling systems, is criticised for issues around a lack of statistical justification, use of generalisations, and confirmation bias. This is discussed in more detail here in relation to Myers-Briggs.
Comparing with other systems
The Myers-Briggs scale is another well-known system for generalising personalities. Personality Plus is more about how people relate than how they are in their own right. Nevertheless, it is instructive to compare the different scales.
* Introvert/Extrovert: Sanguines love socialising, and Cholerics have the confidence to interact socially. A Melancholy can be more of an intellectual, and thus somewhat anti-social (or perhaps just less social), and Phlegmatics just don't mind either way.
* Sensing/Intuition: A Melancholy seeks facts to come to conclusions; a Sanguine may go with what feels right; while a Choleric's decisions are based on their own opinion - without those opinions necessary being fact-driven, although they could of course be.
* Thinking/Feeling: This is about how people process the world around them, and the most obvious observations are that Melancholies like facts, whereas Sanguines have a leaning towards emotions.
* Judging/Perceiving: Whereas perceiving is all about simply making observations, judging involves allocating value to the observations (right/wrong, good/bad, etc.). Since a Melancholy is about "the right" way, and Cholerics are about "my way", they tend to be more on the judgmental scale. Phlegmatics, being "easy way", are more about perceiving.
The profiles of the Merrill-Wilson system overlap closely with the Personality Plus system:
* Driver: Choleric
* Analytical: Melancholy
* Expressive: Sanguine
* Amiable: Phlegmatic
David Keirsey and others have popularized the Four Temperaments system with slightly different results than Littauer.