As an ICF certified Christian life coach, Temperament Assessment is one of the best tools you can use when helping a client understand their character DNA. One of the questions clients often ask is, “Why do I do the things that I do?” As a spiritual coach, when you help a client understand their temperament, he or she will be able to answer their own question!

Understanding temperament will lead your client to many “Ah ha!” moments and revelatory insights into their actions, attitudes, and behaviors. Here is an overview of understanding temperament and temperament assessment.

What is a Temperament?

Temperament is innate, God-given, driving force behind personality traits such as habits of communication, patterns of action, and sets of characteristic attitudes, values, and talents. It also encompasses personal needs, the kinds of contributions that individuals make in the workplace, and the roles they play in society. Each temperament has its own unique qualities and shortcomings, strengths and challenges. To understand Temperament most effectively, it is important to realize the four temperaments are not simply arbitrary collections of characteristics, but spring from an interaction of the two basic dimensions of human behavior: our communication and our action, our words and our deeds, or, simply, what we say and what we do.

Temperament AssessmentFive Main Temperament Theory Systems

There are many temperament theories, charts, names, and explanations. Some of the more well known are:

The Keirsey Temperament System. Developed by Dr. David M. Keirsey, he first wrote about his Keirsey Temperament Theory™ in the international best seller, Please Understand Me®, (1978) and was followed by its predecessor, Please Understand Me II, (1998). In 1996 he created to provide access for individuals to take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS-II), and gain a better understanding of themselves and others.

DISC. Developed by Dr. William Moulton Marston (1893-1947), Dr. Marston published his theories in two books, Emotions of Normal People (1928), and Integrative Psychology (1931). It was the first temperament test used extensively in the newly emerging field of self-help.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. First formulated by Drs. Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (MBTI), this assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

Drs. John Trent and Gary Smalley, inventors of the LBOG personality inventory, are two of the foremost Christian psychologists of our generation. The focus of their ministries is to develop strong families and family values, thereby reducing the alarming rate of divorce amongst Christians.

Communication styles: Concrete vs. Abstract

First, people naturally think and talk about what they are interested in, and if you listen carefully to people’s conversations, you find two broad but distinct areas of subject matter.
Some people talk primarily about the external, concrete world of everyday reality: facts and figures, work and play, home and family, news, sports and weather — all the who-what-when-where-and how much’s of life.

Other people talk primarily about the internal, abstract world of ideas: theories and conjectures, dreams and philosophies, beliefs and fantasies—all the why’s, if’s, and what-might-be’s of life.
At times everyone addresses both sorts of topics, but in their daily lives, and for the most part, Concrete people talk about reality, while Abstract people talk about ideas.

Action: Utilitarian vs. Cooperative

Second, people are trying to accomplish their goals, and if you watch closely how people go about their business, you see that there are two fundamentally opposite types of action.
Some people act primarily in a utilitarian or pragmatic manner, that is, they do what gets results, what achieves their objectives as effectively or efficiently as possible, and only afterwards do they check to see if they are observing the rules or going through proper channels.

Other people act primarily in a cooperative or socially acceptable manner, that is, they try to do the right thing, in keeping with agreed upon social rules, conventions, and codes of conduct, and only later do they concern themselves with the effectiveness of their actions.

These two ways of acting can overlap, but as they lead their lives, Utilitarian people instinctively, and for the most part, do what works, while Cooperative people do what’s right.

According to a person’s personality, what a person does (actions) can be viewed in one of four ways:

1. They speak mostly of their duties and responsibilities, of what they can keep an eye on and take good care of. These people are careful to obey the laws, follow the rules, and respect the rights of others.
2. They speak mostly of what they hope for and imagine might be possible for people. They want to act in good conscience, always trying to reach their goals without compromising their personal code of ethics.
3. They speak mostly about what they see right in front of them, about what they can their hands on, and they will do whatever works, whatever gives them a quick, effective payoff, even if they have to bend the rules.
4. They speak mostly of what new problems intrigue them and what new solutions they envision, and always pragmatic, they act as efficiently as possible to achieve their objectives, ignoring arbitrary rules and conventions if need be.

Basic Temperaments and CharacteristicsTemperaments and Characteristics

Dr. David Keirsey (The Keirsey Temperament System) identifies the four basic temperaments as: the Rational, Idealists, Artisan, and the Guardian.
Dr. William Marston (DISC) identifies the four basic temperaments as: Dominance, Conscientious, Influence, and Steady.
Dr. John Trent identifies the four basic temperaments as: The Lion, Beaver, Otter, and Golden Retriever.
Psychologists identify the four basic temperaments as: Choleric, Melancholy, Sanguine, and Phlegmatic. In addition, in the 1980s, the National Christian Counselors Association, Inc. founders Richard G. and Phyllis J. Arno identified a separate temperament, which they called Supine.
The Five Temperaments styles of Keirsey, Marston, Trent, and psychologists line this way:

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• Artisans, Influence, Sanguine, Otter
• Guardian, Conscientious, Melancholy, Beaver
• Idealist, Steadiness, Phlegmatic, Golden Retriever
• Rationals, Dominance, Choleric, Lion,
• Supine


Supine means “with the face upwards,” like a servant looking up to his/her master. It is called “the serving temperament,” because the Supine “feels” that their only value is to serve others. Supines like and need people; however, they have a fear of rejection and do not initiate.

Supines are identified by strengths, such as a desire to serve, liking people, and having a gentle spirit. Their weaknesses include expecting others to read their minds (indirect behavior), harboring anger as “hurt feelings,” and feelings of powerlessness. They are generally open to receiving affection, but have trouble initiating. Other profilers who use similar systems still refer to this temperament as “Introverted Sanguine.”

Artisans, Influence, Sanguine, Otter

If you are a Sanguine, then you are most likely the life of the party. You are funny and relish the limelight. You are affectionate, enjoy social activities, and make friends easily. You are imaginative and creative, and are often the one who enthusiastically promotes new ideas on the job. People call you vivacious, generous, and light-hearted. You wear your emotions on your sleeve, but you are always quick to “forgive and forget.” You probably struggle with follow-through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful. As quickly as you discover a new hobby or pursuit, you can also lose interest–when it ceases to be engaging or fun. This group:

• Tends to be fun-loving, optimistic, realistic, and focused on the here and now
• Pride themselves on being unconventional, bold, and spontaneous.
• Make playful mates, creative parents, and troubleshooting leaders.
• Are excitable, trust their impulses, want to make a splash, seek stimulation, prize freedom, and dream of mastering action skills.

This group has a temperament with a natural ability to excel in any of the arts, not only the fine arts such as painting and sculpting, or the performing arts such as music, theater, and dance, but also the athletic, military, political, mechanical, and industrial arts, as well as the “art of the deal” in business.

They are most at home in the real world of solid objects that can be made and manipulated and real-life events that can be experienced in the here and now. These people have exceptionally keen senses, and love working with their hands. They seem right at home with tools, instruments, and vehicles of all kinds, and their actions are usually aimed at getting them where they want to go, and as quickly as possible. Thus, they will strike off boldly down roads that others might consider risky or impossible, doing whatever it takes, rules or no rules, to accomplish their goals. This devil-may-care attitude also gives these people a winning way with people, and they are often irresistibly charming with family, friends, and co-workers.

These people want to be where the action is. They seek out adventure and show a constant hunger for pleasure and stimulation. They believe that variety is the spice of life, and that doing things that aren’t fun or exciting is a waste of time. They are impulsive, adaptable, competitive, and believe the next throw of the dice will be the lucky one. They can also be generous to a fault, always ready to share with their friends from the bounty of life. Above all, these people need to be free to do what they wish, when they wish. They resist being tied or bound or confined or obligated; they would rather not wait, or save, or store, or live for tomorrow. In their view, today must be enjoyed, for tomorrow never comes.

The Artisans, Influencers, Sanguines, and Otters of the world make up 30 to 35 percent of the population, which is good, because they create much of the beauty, grace, fun, and excitement the rest of us enjoy in life. These people excel as Composers, Crafters, Performers, and Promoters.

GuardianGuardian, Steadiness, Phlegmatic, Golden Retriever

If you are a Phlegmatic, you most likely possess a dry wit and a steady, amicable demeanor. You are dependable, polite, and even-tempered. You feel more comfortable in a small group of friends or even spending a quiet evening relaxing at home. You are never flashy, belligerent, or self-aggrandizing. You would rather take the blame (even unjustly) than stir up controversy or pick a fight. On the job, you seek neither power nor the limelight, but work steadily, patiently, and methodically. You are reliable, patient, and methodical, and can work alone, or with the most difficult of personalities. You will prefer job security, working within a structured organization, but can also be a leader of great character and service. This group shares the following characteristics:

• Pride themselves on being dependable, helpful, and hard-working.
• Make loyal mates, responsible parents, and stabilizing leaders.
• Tend to be dutiful, cautious, humble, and focused on credentials and traditions.
• Are concerned citizens who trust authority, join groups, seek security, prize gratitude, and dream of meting out justice.

They are the cornerstone of society, for they are given to serving and preserving our most important social institutions. They have natural talent in managing goods and services—from supervision to maintenance and supply—and they use all their skills to keep things running smoothly in their families, communities, schools, churches, hospitals, and businesses.

These people can have a lot of fun with their friends, but they are quite serious about their duties and responsibilities. They take pride in being dependable and trustworthy; if there’s a job to be done, they can be counted on to put their shoulder to the wheel. They also believe in law and order, and sometimes worry that respect for authority, even a fundamental sense of right and wrong, are being lost. Perhaps this is why these people honor customs and traditions so strongly; they are familiar patterns that help bring stability to our modern, fast-paced world.

Practical and down-to-earth, this group believes in following the rules and cooperating with others. They are not very comfortable winging it or blazing new trails; working steadily within the system is the way for these people, for in the long run, loyalty, discipline, and teamwork gets the job done right. They are meticulous about schedules and have a sharp eye for proper procedures. They are cautious about change, even though they know that change can be healthy for an institution. Better to go slowly, they say, and look before you leap.

Guardians, Steadiness, Phlegmatics, and Golden Retrievers make up as much as 40 to 45 percent of the population, and a good thing, because they usually end up doing all the indispensable but thankless jobs the rest of us take for granted. They are often Inspectors, Protectors, Providers, and Supervisors.

While most ICF accredited life coach programs do not teach on the importance of understanding temperament and temperament assessment, if you are looking to become an ICF certified Christian Coach, then look for a biblical coaching program that includes this teaching in its curriculum. Your goal is to be the best spiritual life coach you can be, so take a Christian life coach program that offers you the best practical skills and tools.