Sunday, January 10, 2010

A “Deep Review” of Marita Littauer's Wired That Way

A “Deep Review” of Marita Littauer's Wired That Way Lawrence J. Clark, Ph.D.

This month I will continue my series of “deep reviews” of books on personality and temperament theory by discussing not only what each book contains, but my personal reaction to the principles that it covers and the examples it uses to illustrate the main points. I liked Wired That Way immediately because it began with the New Testament scripture, Romans 12:18: “If it is at all possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone” (VERSION). This verse was important for me to read, because although I (usually) try live my life this way, I have discovered through numerous experiences that with some people it is just not possible. It’s good to know that God understands this!

It then gave a brief background of the Greek origins of the four temperaments as identified by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates in about 400 B.C. and later expanded upon by another physician and philosopher, Claudius Galen, in the second century A.D. Following was a comparison of other popular systems designed to help understand the differences in human beings’ personalities (Leading From Your Strengths, DISC, Merrill-Reid, etc.), then a brief introduction to the four temperaments, or personality types, along with an identifying adjective to help make the terms easier to remember: (Popular) Sanguine, (Powerful) Choleric, (Perfect) Melancholy, and (Peaceful) Phlegmatic.

The next chapter discussed visual cues for identifying different personality types. For example, a loud, cheerful individual who enjoys wearing fashionable and/or flashy clothing would most likely be a Popular Sanguine, while a Peaceful Phlegmatic would be more apt to dress for comfort and simplicity rather than the desire to be stylish or to attract attention.

The book then went on to outline the strengths and weaknesses of each personality type. I liked this section because it helped me identify some of my strengths, which was encouraging, but at the same time helped me confront some of my weaknesses and learn which ones I need to work on. For example, one of the strengths of the Powerful Choleric is the ability and drive necessary to take charge of virtually any project and get it done. On the other hand, one of the weaknesses of the Popular Sanguine is the need for approval and the desire to be liked. Conflicts can, and have, arisen in my life when I volunteered to take charge of a project (Choleric strength) because of my need to be liked and admired (Sanguine trait—could be a strength or weakness, depending on the situation) but then got distracted and forgot or neglected to follow through with the original project (definitely a weakness of the Popular Sanguine temperament).

The section on personality blending and masking was also useful in that it helped me understand how I had learned to mask Melancholy traits in reaction to emotional and physical stress I experienced as a child and during my first marriage. Since my dad and my ex-wife were both Perfect Melancholies, I was constantly trying to live up to their often impossible standards, then beating myself up (or getting beat up, whether emotionally or physically) when I inevitably failed to do so.

The chapters on emotional needs and marriage helped me understand why my first marriage failed, but also gave me encouragement because my current wife and I already understand and practice meeting each other’s emotional needs; because of this practice our marriage works much better. For example, Kristen understands my Choleric need for appreciation of my hard work, and also my Sanguine need for attention and approval. As opposed to my first wife, for whom I could seemingly never do enough to “earn” her praise, and who frequently withheld approval and attention as a weapon against me, Kristen frequently compliments me for some task that I have performed or a meal I have cooked (yes, I am the main cook in our family—I’ll explain that in a future article!). And she often does this in front of friends or family members, which, frankly, can be kind of embarrassing for someone like me who is not used to being complimented, but which is good for me to hear, as it shows that she is not only aware of my emotional needs, but is more than willingly to meet them rather than use them against me.

The parenting section was useful in helping me understand my own strengths and weaknesses as a parent, and how they are determined by my personality type. It also helped me to better understand my family of origin and the reasons my parents made certain decisions regarding my brothers and me. It especially helped me to understand why my dad and I were constantly at odds, since as a Perfect Melancholy he had great difficulty dealing with the Popular Sanguine side of my personality, and I had trouble adhering to his many rules and often unrealistic expectations of perfectionism. Also, my Powerful Choleric side constantly wanted to do things MY way, rather than the way that my parents, teachers, and other authority figures wanted me to do them.

The chapters on communication and the workplace helped me to understand how I interact with friends and co-workers. This understanding has helped me to become more tolerant of their decisions and actions, and hopefully helped me to become a better friend and co-worker, as I have identified certain personality traits in my past and present co-workers and supervisors that have influenced the way they did things or expected them to be done, and my reactions to their decisions and expectations. I have also identified weaknesses in both the Choleric and Sanguine parts of my personality, and I have made plans to begin overcoming those weaknesses. This section was also helpful in helping me see that many of the things I have done or am doing right fit perfectly with the Choleric and Sanguine strengths, so that was very encouraging for me.

The spiritual life section was also extremely helpful in that it helped me understand that my way of “doing” my faith is not necessarily wrong or right, but is unique and is a result of my God-given, inborn blend of temperaments. I have attended a number of churches in my life, both as a child, and after a hiatus of several years, as an adult. It has always been difficult for me, though, to find a church that meets all of my needs or in which I feel my spiritual gifts and talents can be used to their full potential. This has led me to seek spiritual guidance, direction, and refreshment from a variety of other sources, including Christian books, audio and video recordings, radio and television programs, websites, and conferences and seminars. It has also led me to volunteer with, work for, and even create parachurch ministries in speaking, writing, acting, and performing. Since much of my performances and speaking engagements take place during weekend retreats or in other churches on Sunday mornings, my attendance at my home church is often irregular. This section of the book helped me to understand that even though some people might have a schedule that allows them to sit in the same pew during the same service at the same church each week, but my schedule is not conducive to such a “normal” church life, God still loves me even if I don’t sing in the choir every Sunday.

Finally, another feature that I like about Wired That Way is there is not only a companion workbook, but also an excellent DVD video series in which the authors expand upon many of the principles outlined in the book. The video series reinforced what I had already read in the text, and I was able to watch and listen while cooking, shaving, etc. Researchers in learning theory have found that most people have a “best” way of learning, some through reading text or seeing images such as graphs and charts (visual learners), some through hearing (auditory learners), and others through doing [tactile/kinesthetic learners). The combination of the printed words in the book, the sights and sounds of the video, and the opportunity for practical application and self reflection through the workbook helps to make the concepts in Wired That Way accessible to virtually anyone. As a mostly Choleric/part Sanguine personality blend, I particularly appreciated the “Putting it into Practice” section at the end of each chapter of the workbook. My Choleric friends will surely agree when I ask, “what use is all this knowledge if I can’t put it into practice—and immediately?”

Wired That Way can be found at or If you are interested in receiving hand-on training in personality theory, consider attending one of the excellent CLASS Personality Training seminars; details can be found at:

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