The Phlegmatic is one of the two introvert temperaments.
The Phlegmatic can be a very switched off, distant person who tends to retreat in the face of challenges. They operate from the stance of self-protection - they naturally feel vulnerable and anxious and will therefore draw a ring around themselves. They are peace-lovers but not always peace-makers. They don’t like anything confrontational, painful or unpleasant and will stubbornly dig their heels in rather than go into a situation that they do not want to face. This ‘line of least resistance’ approach can lead to procrastination and a lack of motivation.
However, when they do choose to get involved they are superb. They can be objective, decisive and determined. They have wonderful qualities of warmth, tenderness and empathy. They are solid and reliable. It is all about that decision to get involved. They can be two different people - if they are closed off they are boring, dull and colourless but if they choose to get involved they can be the life and soul of the party.
The Phlegmatic compartmentalises life. They can close down parts of who they are but switch on where they want to get involved. This can be so frustrating for a wife or friend who looks on at the Phlegmatic being so engaged with some people or situations – and not with them!
The key concept for a Phlegmatic is that they feel fragile so they protect themselves and take the line of least resistance. They need to make the conscious decision to get involved with people and situations rather than standing on the edge as an observer.
It is the Phlegmatic temperament which is most prone to anxiety – click for further information.
Phlegmatic strengths and weaknesses
The diagrams below depict the strengths of the Phlegmatic temperament, which can be seen most clearly when God is at the centre of life, and the weaknesses, which are most clearly seen when we live for ourselves.
Phlegmatic Key Concept
Feels fragile – so protects
Takes line of least resistance
Get involved – don’t stand on the edge
Stubborn – use it for good!
Phlegmatic avoidance tactics
Try and help this temperament and you will soon come up against either his silent control – or endless chatter. Think of a circle. A Melancholic will be involved in the whole of that circle whereas a Phlegmatic will select a segment and thereby ‘play safe’ with his involvement. However, by choosing to restrict himself to that segment all his emotional and mental energies are channelled ‘through a narrow gap’ and therefore come out as a torrent of detailed and often irrelevant talk. You will have to break into that and help that person to see and feel the bigger picture.
He does not like pain or confrontation so be aware of the constant quest for the ‘line of least resistance’. Unless he has chosen to become involved in the process of being made whole he will take the opportunity to terminate the conversation at the earliest point possible. If he does hear you out he may still protect himself with a statement like, ‘I understand what you are saying but…..’ Bear in mind that his instinct is to see himself as the victim.
This temperament can be very objective when it comes to helping others but very subjective when the spotlight is on him.