What Is a Choleric Temperament?

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Updated on April 17, 2024

People characterized as having a choleric temperament or personality are generally known as go-getters. They are active, quick-thinking, confident, passionate, strong-willed, and motivated to succeed. This categorization is based on the work of Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived from 460-370 BC, who had a theory that connected the inner workings of the body to a person’s personality and behavior and led to the development of the four temperament theory. He theorized that human feelings and behaviors were connected to an overload or depletion of body fluids that he called humors.

Assertive choleric business man

Later, many theorists took the ideas of the four temperament theories and generalized them to characterize and identify four main personality types: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. While modern medicine has not found a biological link to the theories of Hippocrates, theorists continue to use the language of his early understanding of temperament to describe different character traits of humans today.

Those who use these personality traits as a reference note that a choleric temperament is the least common of all four temperaments. It’s also suggested that it is primarily a male temperament and that choleric females are extremely rare.

Traits of a Choleric Personality Type

As with any personality type, there are both benefits and drawbacks to the common qualities of those with a choleric temperament. Below is a list of some of the attributes of people who have a choleric temperament.

Positive Attributes of a Choleric Temperament

  • Highly Motivated – Individuals with a choleric temperament are goal-oriented and driven. They know what they want and work hard to get it.
  • Astute – They are high-energy and able to make decisions quickly and effectively because they are quick thinkers. They don’t need as much sleep but can produce amazing amounts of work and effort without seeming like much exertion.
  • Independent – They are self-sufficient and can take care of themselves, not needing others to support them in their endeavors. They have their own ideas and are not easily swayed by the thoughts and opinions of others.
  • Assertive – They are clear and assertive in their boundaries with others and their communication in general. Some may see this as angry or rude, but they are generally short, to the point, and tactical in their responses because try to use their time (and energy) wisely. Also, they genuinely know what they need and want quickly and work to get it in the best way possible.
  • Creative – Due to their quick thinking and amazing ability to create, they have an influx of ideas and seem never to run out. They can be creative and insightful and can come up with amazing ideas, inventions, or creations quickly and engage in follow-through just as fast.
  • Advocates – While assertive and self-sufficient, they can channel their assertiveness into helping others, thus they can be advocates and stand up for others who do not or cannot stand up for themselves to make quality change.

Negative Attributes of a Choleric Temperament

Like any personality type, many positive attributes come with the choleric temperament, but some negative characteristics also come with this. Here is a list of some of the things people with a choleric temperament may struggle with:

  • Impatience – Often, those with choleric temperament can struggle with patience and waiting for others to get on board with the intensity that they experience day to day. Also, they struggle with not seeing immediate results and can feel frustrated when things aren’t immediately easy for them.
  • Self-Centered – Their sense of independence can cause them to struggle with being self-involved and disinterested in what’s happening with others unless it benefits them, which can strain relationships.
  • Inattentive – They are frequently bored, choleric temperament individuals who struggle with feeling distractible and inattentive because they are always thinking about what’s next.
  • Bossy – Choleric temperament individuals know what they want, tell it like it is, and work to get what they want. Sometimes this can be off-putting for others, as they struggle to develop a collaborative approach that makes others feel like an integral part of a process.
  • Struggle to Form Social Connections – Choleric temperament-forward people struggle to form solid social connections because their priorities are elsewhere. They tend to prioritize success and the completion of tasks over social connection and intimacy.
  • Lack of Empathy and Compassion – Similar to the points above, because they are so focused on their internal dialogue and their external input into achieving results, they struggle to connect with others on a deeper level to understand and respond in a way that shows compassion or warmth.

Concluding Thoughts

As mentioned, no research-based psychological or medical principle discusses the four temperaments and their characteristics. But, it can be fun and interesting to look at what theorists have proposed to try and understand human behaviors and personality types.

If you, or someone you know are struggling with the aforementioned negative attributes of a choleric temperament, a mental health professional can work with you to provide insight into where some of these negative traits come from and how to overcome them to live a happier, more balanced life.


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Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events

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