Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An In-depth Look at Florence Littauer’s book--Personality Plus

Greetings, Friends!

This month I will begin a series of articles about books that have influenced my thinking about personality/temperament theory. I have mentioned some of these books in passing in previous articles and workshops, but I thought it would be a good idea to give an in-depth review of each book, and explain how each has given me a different view of my own God-given personality. I hope that these reviews prove helpful to you, and that they will inspire you to discover how learning about your own personality and those of your friends, co-workers, and loved ones can help you improve your knowledge of yourself, your relationships with others, and most importantly, your relationship with God.

Personality Plus was the first book I had ever read that was devoted entirely to the study of the four temperaments. I had been introduced to the topic when I attended a CLASSeminar for Christian Leaders, Authors, and Speakers in Houston.

Since I had just attended the CLASSeminar before reading Personality Plus, and had taken the personality profile during the seminar, chapters one and two were mostly review. When I first filled out the profile, though, I came out being a combination of “Perfect” Melancholy and “Popular” Sanguine. This combination of temperaments, according to the seminar leaders and the book, was highly unlikely, and was probably a result of something called “masking.” (I will explain this in a future article.) With the help of a good friend who was also attending the seminar (and who happens to be a licensed therapist) I retook the profile after carefully reading the definitions and thinking back to my personality as a child. This time I came out Choleric/Sanguine, which as you will see below, makes much more sense. While reading chapter three of Personality Plus, I recognized that I do have many of the traits of a Popular Sanguine, but that temperament didn’t quite describe me totally (if you are lost already, please see my previous article, “Introduction to the Personality Corner,” at http://www.newbeginningsmarriage.org/Articles.html).

In chapter four, which dealt with the Perfect Melancholy personality type, I saw a few traits that I had picked up or tried to model at various points in my life, but realized that most of these were not natural to my personality, but were instead learned behavior. This is an important distinction. I did see, though, that my dad definitely fit in this category, as did my ex-wife.

It was while reading chapter six, which covered the Powerful Choleric, that I really saw myself, or I should say I saw many traits that I was proud of, such as being determined, independent, willing to step in and take charge of almost any situation, and able to persevere against many obstacles that life has thrown in my path. I also saw, though, traits that others have noticed in me that I had been in denial about. Yes, I usually want things my way. Yes, my willingness to lead and take charge can sometimes make me seem bossy and cause me to become frustrated when things are not being done “properly” (translation “properly” = MY way). I do realize that I possess these weaknesses, and have worked hard to overcome them, but they still slip out on occasion.

The next chapter, which described the Peaceful Phlegmatic personality, was not as interesting to me, because I don’t identify with many of those traits. I will say that I avoid conflict and often act as a peacemaker, but that is probably more of a learned behavior, from watching adults fight when I was a child, than an in-born trait. I often tell myself that I wish I had a peaceful life, and enjoying spending time at our family retreat in the mountains, but when I say “peace,” I don’t mean doing nothing and staring at the trees or the sky or my navel. Instead, I mean free to do what I want without distractions. When I am at our retreat, there are no papers to grade, no freeways to get stuck on, and no committee meetings to attend. I do, however, bring boxes full of books to read, several journals and spiral notebooks to write in, guitars and music books to practice with, and a laptop computer to write stories and articles and outlines for class lectures and motivational/inspirational speeches and programs. This is my “Powerful Choleric” way of relaxing on my vacation—doing all the things I don’t have time to do when I am at home!

The next four chapters discussed a variety of ways to help people of each personality type to overcome the weaknesses associated with that temperament. I liked the way each chapter was set up with a problem/solutions structure. I was of course most interested in the “organizing the Sanguine” and “toning down the Choleric” chapters, and took a lot of the suggestions to heart. In fact, two of the weaknesses I pledged to work on in the Commitment Letter I signed at the end of the CLASSeminar were listed in the Sanguine chapter: lack of organization and a tendency to procrastinate.

Part 4 of this book discussed the different blends of personalities. This was important for me, because I found out how the traits associated with my blend of Sanguine and Choleric temperaments have made me who I am and have also contributed to many actions and choices, both positive and negative, that I have taken in my life. Some of these have been good, such as the Choleric tendency to be independent and strong willed, which helped me to go to college and eventually earn a Ph.D., even under extremely adverse circumstances. Some of them, though, such as my Sanguine need for acceptance and approval, caused me to make unwise choices of friends and activities as a teenager.

The personal plan to assess my strengths and evaluate my weaknesses found in chapter 13 was also helpful, and I will continue this process for a long time to come. The chapter on how opposites attract each other was helpful in understanding why I chose my first wife (and why she chose me) and also why my lack of understanding of the temperaments caused me to not understand or meet her needs and vice-versa. It also helped me to see that my current (and hopefully last!) marriage is strong because we understand and build upon each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and do our best to understand and meet each other’s emotional needs. My wife and I also have two “Ch” words in common: Choleric and, most importantly, Christ.

Chapters 15 and 16 helped me to understand my friends and the people I work with, and has especially helped me be more compassionate and more accepting of the different personalities of my co-workers. It has also helped me to have a sense of humor when thinking of some of their actions and statements, and I have begun collecting examples for some personality workshops I will be doing at our school next semester. Hopefully I can help the faculty and staff in my department, as well as employees at other companies and schools where I will be presenting workshops, to get along better after they gain a basic understanding of the personalities.

The final chapter, “Personality Plus Power Produces Positive People,” did a good job of tying everything together. As was the case with the several other Florence and Marita Littauer books I have read, it was very encouraging and uplifting. Over the years, I have read dozens of “self-help” and motivational books by Stephen Covey, Anthony Robbins, Melody Beatty, Zig Zigler, and others, but what I appreciate about the “Littauer Ladies” (they probably wouldn’t like that term, but oh, well . . .) is that they unapologetically point everything back to scripture and to Jesus’ saving and transforming power. This is the “X” factor that will truly change lives, not just in this world, but for eternity.

NOTE: If you live in or are able to travel to Texas, Florence Littauer will be presenting a one-day seminar, “Personality Plus for Couples,” in Buda, Texas on January 30, 2010. Please see http://classeminars.org/Events/?id=20 for details.

If you would like to purchase your own copy of Personality Plus, it is available at the very reasonable cost of $13.00 from CLASServices, http://classervices.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/page1.html . It can also be found at Amazon.com and many other booksellers.


At 4:17 AM, Blogger George Porter said...

Lawrence, you really nailed the essence of the Personality Plus book and I loved how you personalized your journey through it. Very interesting, intriguing, and inspiring.

I especially loved the line, "my wife and I share two "CH" words; Choleric and most importantly, Christ.

Well done.

Thanks for mentioning the PT training in Austin in January. We are looking forward to a fun and in-depth day!

Karen Porter
VP CLASSeminars, Inc.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Great article, Lawrence! I'm going to send a copy to Florence.

Gerry Wakeland


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