As you sit in your counseling sessions working at helping clients resolve their varied concerns or problems, could it be rather challenging or even impossible to reach some of them, based on differences of personalities between you and your client?
I am inclined to refer to the problem of communication in counseling. Perhaps every counselor should give great attention to the way he or she tends to communicate in a counseling session. I suggest that heightened awareness of one’s personality or one’s temperaments is absolutely essential.
My reference in this blog is Dr. Fred Littauer and Dr. Florence Littauer in the book, ‘Personality Plus’. Self-understanding is crucial to understanding any other person. Counselors must pay close attention to finding out who they really are –their strengths and their weaknesses. They need to see how they communicate to their clients the thoughts which they hold in their heads.
Florence Littauer suggests four personality types-Sanguine, Melancholy, Choleric and Phlegmatic. These all tend to communicate and generally, to operate in different ways. She indicates that the Sanguine is very fun –loving and extremely talkative. There is a strong likelihood that this personality may talk too much in a counseling session, telling all of their own stories. The client, then, may be robbed of the opportunity to tell their stories.
Florence Littauer then suggests that the opposite personality to the Sanguine is the Melancholy. Let’s us then imagine that these two persons are in a counseling session. There is a tendency for the Melancholy to be very economical with the use of words. Could it be that the Sanguine may control the session in the event that he or she is the counselor. In so doing, the session may accomplish very little. Should the reverse be the case, the Sanguine client is likely the attempt to control the conversation.
Based on the Florence Litauer’s research there is then, the likelihood that the Choleric would be commanding and controlling his or her Phlegmatic client. The Phlegmatic counselor will likely just have a very cool and collected session. He or she may just lay back and enjoy a relaxed session with the client. However a Choleric client will not just sit there and be led by the Phlegmatic counselor.
Based on this research then, let us now see a Sanguine in a session with a Choleric counsellor. I imagine a great deal of talking will be taking place. While the sanguine client may be talking for pleasure – just for the sake of talking-the Choleric counselor is highly likely to be talking for business and carefully guarding the time. This personality may be in a rush to get the session done and move on to the next client.
Don’t you think that it would be great to sit behind a one way mirror looking at all these fantastic reactions and interactions playing out themselves? These scenarios seem quite dramatic to me. I felt that this may be an interesting exercise that counselors may experience. Perhaps there is a great deal of understanding to emerge from such an exercise.
The research points out that both the Melancholy and the Phlegmatic are quiet and laid back personalities who prefer to stay in the background. Should these two personalities be engaged in a counseling session there would be quite a great deal of quiet moments. While the Phlegmatic may choose to be uninvolved the Melancholy will be looking for a perfect setting in order to conduct a well-organized session according to schedule.
As I reflect on all the scenarios that are likely to evolve in a counseling session, it seems to me that this may well be some of the reasons that some counselors fail to achieve the goals in counseling.
Anderson Antoine is a counselor from Trinidad and Tobago. He lectures at the University of the Southern Caribbean, and owns the company ‘Anderson Antoine and Associates Professional Counseling Services’. At present he is deeply engaged in writing poetry.