3 Ways to Understand (and Love) Your Super-Social Friend

We all have a people-person friend, but do you really know what makes her tick?
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We all have a people-person friend, but do you really know what makes her tick?

I love my friend who pushes me out the door on Saturday night (when all I want to do is curl up on the couch and watch TV), who lights up a room with energetic conversation, who is quick to forgive, and who is the first to remind me that it’s not the end of the world (despite how it might feel). Mind you, this is the same friend who is terribly flaky, constantly vying for attention, and has a hard time just listening when I need it the most.

Yes, I’m talking about my sanguine friend, and even though she is charismatic and easy to love, some of her quirks can get under my skin. But rather than trying to change my friend’s ways, I can be a better friend to her by acknowledging her unique personality and understanding why she behaves as she does.

The temperaments personality theory can teach us about the behavior and motivations of four basic types: melancholic (idealistic and analytical—we previously talked about how to care for her here), phlegmatic (calm and easygoing), sanguine (enthusiastic and social), and choleric (quick-thinking and determined). We all have a dominant temperament type, and most of us have a secondary temperament that we also relate to.

With some similar insights as the Myers–Briggs personality test, temperament theory comes with practical insights. “Understanding our temperament helps deepen our understanding of ourselves and others,” Laraine and Art Bennett write in The Temperament God Gave You. Reading this book has helped me understand friends whose personalities contrast and complement my own—such as the sanguine type, for example.

Chances are, you have a friend who embodies sanguine traits. Warmhearted and enthusiastic, she has a knack for brightening your day. She’s spontaneous and prone to rash decisions, but you admire her carefree spirit and her ability to see every occasion as an opportunity to meet new friends.

Have someone in mind? Let’s learn to show the sanguine some genuine appreciation.

WHO SHE IS

Your sanguine friend lives on a whim. You know, one moment, she’s shimmying to “Stitches” on the dance floor, the next she’s having a heart-to-heart on a barstool. No matter where the day leads her, she goes by her own watch (being a little late never bothers her, anyway.) From yogalates class to seeking out the best stargazing spot in town, she’ll encourage you to tag along on every adventure.

The sanguine brings joy and fun to any friendship. This extrovert craves companionship, and she’s naturally welcoming. Want to talk about feelings? The candid sanguine’s your go-to girl. For better or for worse, she often speaks before she thinks. It’s no secret that this friend wears her heart on her sleeve. Sure, the sanguine can sulk, but she’s the type to bounce back soon after letdowns. She’s an optimist, after all. And given her sunny disposition, nothing can rain on her parade.

HOW TO CARE FOR HER

01. Acknowledge her strengths. Like all types, sanguines have their weaknesses: They can be “all talk and no follow-through,” distracted, and scattered, as well as impulsive decision makers. “Sanguines also imagine that they can fit more activities into their schedule than is actually feasible within the laws of physics,” the Bennetts explain in their book. These habits can frustrate other types, especially when they affect our plans. But rather than criticizing a sanguine for being late or changing plans on the spur of the moment, remember that this friend takes a flexible approach to life. (This means that she will likely be forgiving whenever you find yourself in a last-minute bind.)

“Friends should look for ways to understand and be willing to forgive weaknesses,” Laraine Bennett told Verily. “But the first step is probably to affirm strengths. And this is true for all temperaments.”

We shouldn’t aim to “help” a sanguine friend by advising her to break bad habits. Being a supportive friend to a sanguine means appreciating her many good qualities. “Affirm your sanguine friend’s spontaneity,” Laraine says, or her “fun-loving, expansive, and optimistic approach to life.”

Affirming your sanguine friend will help her realize the good qualities that others see in her. Praise her people skills or talents, for example. This can be as simple as telling her, “I love having fun with you!” or “You have the best sense of humor.” Or you can go the heartfelt route, sharing something you admire about her or why you cherish her friendship.

“Once you have firmly established that you appreciate their strengths, you may move carefully into areas of helping your sanguine friends with some of the things they may be struggling with,” Laraine says. She also recommends that before we give advice, we should find out if a sanguine is truly interested in hearing it. To test the waters, Laraine recommends saying something like, “I’ve discovered some great ways to help me focus on projects, and I’d be happy to share if you are interested.”

02. Spend quality time with her. Sanguines revel in good times and good relationships. To be a better friend to this type, invest in quality time. Make time for sanguine friends “not just as a perfunctory task,” Laraine says, “but to genuinely enjoy and appreciate their presence.”

“Sanguines really enjoy creating fun activities and spending quality time with their friends. Words of affirmation are always wonderful (for all temperaments), but these words of affirmation (for a sanguine) must be backed up by quality time,” Laraine continues. “The sanguine really wants her friends to enjoy the activities she plans as much as she enjoys spending time with her friends.”

Other types may not understand the value that sanguines place on fun and friendship. More than having a good time herself, the sanguine also wants her friends to enjoy themselves. Laraine explains: “She will become discouraged or upset if the melancholic does not join in with sufficient appreciation or (worse) if the melancholic never wants to do the things the sanguine has planned, appears unenthusiastic, or is critical. The sanguine loves spending time with her friends and loves creating memorable experiences and wants her friends to be appreciative of this.”

03. Show genuine interest in her world. Sanguines tend to be creative and inspiring, qualities that shine through their storytelling. Show your sanguine friend that you care by listening to her stories and asking questions, Laraine suggests.

Need a simple conversation starter? When I lived with my sanguine best friend, she’d often greet me with a smile and this simple question: What was the best part of your day? At first, my introverted, melancholic self wished she would spare me the small talk. But over time, her question taught me how she likes to spark conversations. Her question meant more than the mundane details of our day; it meant a genuine interest in another person’s world. Now, I borrow her ways. Asking questions (even simple ones) and attentively listening are essential to staying invested in a sanguine’s life.

Sanguines relish deeper conversations, too. The sanguine’s lighthearted personality “sometimes results in a label of superficiality and frivolity,” the Bennetts write, but that doesn’t mean she lacks depth. The sanguine’s “curiosity is easily piqued and [her] interest easily aroused.” She’ll dive right in to intriguing topics—no matter if that means discussing the Gilmore Girls reboot or religion. In fact, more serious types can inspire a sanguine to sit back and reflect—just as sanguines remind other types not to take life too seriously.

From cheery conversations to spontaneous adventures, time spent with your sanguine friend will always be rewarding. This friend invests in your happiness and draws out your own fun-loving side. The proper care and feeding of a sanguine friend means investing in her happiness likewise.

Photo Credit: Shannon Lee Miller