Are you surrounded by idiots? Improve your meetings by understanding the 4 key personality types

Personality types

We have all had the feeling in our lives that we are surrounded by idiots – “If everyone did what I told them to do when I told them to do it we wouldn’t be in this mess”….does that sound familiar? It is extremely frustrating when you recognise that your pleas, plans and persuasion techniques are falling on deaf ears.

According to the author of ‘Surrounded by Idiots’ you may in fact be reading the room wrong. The chances are that you are not surrounded by idiots, you are surrounded by different personality types. In this book author Thomas Erikson puts forward the idea of there being 4 main personality types, categorised by colour.

  • Red/dominant
  • Yellow/optimistic
  • Green/calm
  • Blue/realists

It is a fascinating look at how we can parse out people and their frame of reference for the world by these categories. It is worth noting that relying solely on this framework is a recipe for disaster. None of us humans are that easy to categorise but this framework is a great way into understanding that we all see the world differently and hence interact with it differently. 

Before delving into the personality types of the people around you, it can be a useful exercise to look inward at where you fit on each of the sliding scales of the 4 personality types.

All of us are on a sliding scale with each of these categories. In the book Erikson discusses the 4 types at the extremes. For example ‘Red’ are ambitious, competitive, not afraid of an argument etc. In reality we must be careful about pigeon-holing people. Unless you are a qualified psychologist you are not in a good position to make assessments and judgements about the framework people use to interact with the world. You can however get an inkling to how they might possibly, maybe, kinda see the world. This book is a great way to peek behind the curtain of how we are different when it comes to our personalities. Tread carefully. 

Red personality types

Reds are dominant, decisive and have minimal interest in showing caution in relationships. They have no problem ruffling a few feathers if it gets them what they want. In fact, they see it as part of the process of getting things done. However, they can be perceived as rude, arrogant, aggressive and control freaks. Of course they themselves do not see themselves this way. 

Yellow personality types

Yellows will make everyone in the room laugh, they are the life and soul of the party. They will look for and find the silver lining in every situation. These are the kinds of people to inspire a room with their optimism and ‘can do’ attitude. However, given that they talk so much they might not be the best listeners. They struggle to stick to a routine and can be over talkative. The perception is that they can be easily distracted, superficial and self-centred.  

Yellow personality types are jokers

Remember this is just the perception that you might have of them (or someone might have of you, if you fit this description) but the perception is not reality.

Green personality types

Greens are cool, calm and collected. They are easy going, do not like conflict nor attention. They want to be left alone to do their job and have very little interest in change. They are good listeners and ultimately they are the average of the 3 other colours. However, due to their easy going nature they can be perceived as naive and gullible. The resistance to change can also cause problems in a fast moving environment. 

Blue personality types

Blue personality types are like robots

Blues are essentially computers. They like data and they like to analyse data. They might take forever to make a decision but when they do, you can be confident in it as they will have looked at the problem from every conceivable angle. They might be considered pessimists but they consider themselves realists. There is not much interested in relationships, much like Green, they want to be left alone to do their work. They can be perceived as aloof, coldhearted and insensitive. This can be due to being more interested in problems and data that people and relationships. 

In this episode we cover the 4 personality types in detail, how they might be perceived and how to deal with people you recognise as fitting into one of these categories.

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