Thomas Erickson/ Image: Per A.J. Andersson/ Wikimedia Commons
Image: Per A.J. Andersson/ Wikimedia Commons

How to Understand Those Who Cannot Be Understood

I don’t know about you, but I do love a good personality test; whether that be ‘which Disney Princess are you’ or ‘which ice cream flavour are you’, I’m sure we’ve all got lost down a rabbit hole with these kinds of tests at one point in our lives (usually on BuzzFeed for me).

So, when I purchased Thomas Erikson’s book, Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behaviour (or, How To Understand Those Who Cannot Be Understood), I knew it would be the book for me … and it sure was.

Each of these behaviour types is associated with a colour – Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue

Thomas Erikson is a Swedish behavioural expert and has provided leadership training to companies such as Ikea, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola. Erikson has spent much of his life trying to understand people and their lifestyles: why are some people silent? Why do others never stop talking? Why do some people always tell the truth while others never do? This book has all the answers…

The world’s most widely used method to describe differences in human communication is the DISA (dominance, inducement submission, and analytic ability-system). In this book, each of these behaviour types is associated with a colour – Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue. Throughout the book, each behaviour type (and its accompanying mannerisms and lifestyles) is described, including strengths, weaknesses, body language, and which of the behaviour types complement each other (and which don’t).

So, let’s start with Red (‘How to Recognise a Real Alpha and Avoid Getting in His Way’). Reds often see themselves as driven, persuasive, competitive, determined, independent, and strong-willed among many other things. People who have lots of Red in their behaviour enjoy challenges and are task-oriented, often finding it comfortable to take the lead – they are natural leaders. Reds are also very easy to spot. Who talks the loudest? Who goes all out when explaining something? Who’s always the first to answer a question? Who will judge an entire country based on something they saw on TV? Famous Reds include Steve Jobs, Venus Williams, Margaret Thatcher, Barack Obama, and Mother Teresa. So, do you have any Reds around you?

Up next, we have Yellow (‘How to Recognise Someone Whose Head Is in the Cloud and Get Him Back to Reality Again’). Yellows often see themselves as enthusiastic, outgoing, creative, flexible, optimistic, and charming. They love creating relationships and are happy to talk about their feelings and experiences with complete strangers. Always smiling and laughing, Yellows are some of the most curious people you’ll ever meet. Who has the most contacts on their phone? Who has the most followers on Instagram? Who gets the most birthday and Christmas cards? That’ll be anyone who’s a Yellow. Some famous Yellows include Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres, and Han Solo. So, have you ever met a real Yellow?

There are no perfect human beings after all; no one is without faults

The next chapter is Green (‘Why Change is So Difficult and How to Get Around It’). The Green person is the most common – you’ll see them everywhere. Greens consider themselves friendly, calm, reliable, pleasant, patient, and predictable. They are kindness personified: they will keep track of everyone’s birthdays, they will give you a helping hand whenever you need it, and they are the best listeners. Change isn’t their greatest strength, but they will be prepared to try new things. Everyone else is more important to a Green. They never ask for anything and are introverts, active in their inner world. They don’t talk just for the sake of talking. Some famous Greens include Mahatma Gandhi, Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter, and Jesus. Do you have any Greens in your family?

Last up is Blue (‘In Pursuit of Perfection’). Blues think they are logical, orderly, accurate, systematic, thorough, reflective, and correct. You’ll often hear a Blue saying something along the lines of: “What’s the Science behind this? That’s not quite accurate. The Devil is in the details”. Like Greens, Blues will often be found in the background, but instead of going with the flow, they will be analysing, classifying, evaluating, and assessing everything. You know you’ve met a Blue if you visit someone’s house and everything is organised in a particular way: labels, dinner menus, organised toolboxes … that’s a Blue right there. Famous Blues include Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Mr Spock. Have you identified any Blues in your life?

If you’re currently finding it hard to associate these colours with people you know in your life, perhaps some weaknesses will help you out. There are no perfect human beings after all; no one is without faults.

Other colours perceive Reds as belligerent, arrogant, and egotistical. They are unyielding, impatient, aggressive, and controlling. If we look at how a Red communicates, we can understand why someone would perceive them this way: “I want that assignment. This is what I think about it. I have a good idea. Will we do this my way or the wrong way”. Reds are the ones who always believe they are surrounded by idiots.

When asked about Yellows, other colours perceive them as selfish, superficial, overly self-confident, and careless. However, none of this criticism will torment a Yellow, mainly because they have selective memory. Should you get into a conversation with a Yellow, you need to be observant so that when they catches their breath, you can quickly insert a comment or end the conversation altogether.

About 80% of all people have a combination of two colours that dominate their behaviour

When asked about Greens, other colours perceive them as silent, dishonest, stubborn, unconcerned, and indifferent. Greens dislike change and this is what happens most often in their minds: “I know what I have but not what I’ll get. It was better before. I’ve never done this before. The grass is not always greener on the other side”. Greens are shy, they are introverted, and when they need to relieve the pressure of not speaking out, they will talk behind your back.

When asked about Blues, other colours perceive them as evasive, defensive, perfectionists, hesitant, cold-hearted, and suspicious. These are the people who consider themselves to be realists … in everyone else’s eyes they are just pessimists. Blues can easily give the impression that they don’t care about other people; their needs are on a different level than everyone else’s. They like being in their own company.

So, can you see some of these colours in people you know? About 80% of all people have a combination of two colours that dominate their behaviour. Approximately 5% have only one colour that does so. The rest are dominated by three colours. Entirely Green behaviour in combination with one other colour is the most common. The least common is entirely Red behaviour or Red behaviour in combination with one other colour.

I personally think I’m a Green/Blue who is striving to have a bit of Yellow in my personality. It can be hard sometimes to see people easily mastering things that you struggle with. Maybe you’d like to be more decisive like Reds, or maybe you wish it were easier for you to interact with strangers, like Yellows. Perhaps you want to take it a bit easy like Greens, or perhaps you wish that you could have a more ordered schedule, like Blues. Whatever you desire, this book is a start. It will tell you everything and help you better understand both yourself and those who surround you.


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