Thoughts after reading “Surrounded by Idiots”, by Thomas Erikson
This book’s provocative title caught my attention, so I decided to check it on Audible. After listening to it, I can declare it is enlightening and thought-provoking, especially during these times.
The content revolves around classifying people’s characters into four types; a different colour identifies each. This idea is pretty simple, yet that is its strength.
Classifying people’s characters into four types is not a novel idea; it was inspired by William Moulton Marston’s theory1. Nevertheless, the author Thomas Erikson depicts each character type in details with real-life examples that resonate with the reader, and provide a refreshing point of view on the interactions between the characters, which leads to many aha moments.
In this era, communication is prevalent in many forms; not only the type of channels has increased (written, verbal, audio, video), but within each channel, the variety of the tools has expanded too (emails, IM, voice messages, VC online and offline).
Although we are more communicative and accessible than ever, it does not mean the discourse is clearer, or our messages are conveyed or absorbed the way we intend to.
We communicate, one way or the other. What’s the problem?
So why is it so important to uncover the characters of our conversation’s partners? Well, the abundance of communication comes with a lack of time. We communicate more, but without having adequate time to invest in these conversations.
Furthermore, due to COVID-19 pandemic, our basic communication in the workplace reshapes. With the scarcity of face-to-face interactions, the ability to use all our senses during meetings is downgraded. Reading people and understanding their underlying intent and agenda becomes much harder. All the more so when we’re talking with someone for the first time.
Therefore, it is paramount to understand our counterparty as quickly as can, right from the beginning of the interaction. If we grasp the character of our interlocutor accurately, both sides will gain. Firstly, we can invest less effort in explaining our intents and articulating our messages. It will prevent frustration and increase efficiency. Secondly, communicating on the same level will increase reciprocal feelings. We like it when our expectations are being met.
Want an example? Imagine a discussion between your manager and you. You try to make a point and advocate your idea, but your manager rejects it. Unless you communicate effectively, the discussion can be tedious on the good side, or disastrous on the worst side.
You may burn the bridge with your manager only because you could not perceive why he or she had reacted that way. Had you understood your manager’s core traits and values, you could have avoided such unfortunate discussions, and maybe even achieve the desired outcome.
Understanding the different types of people at your workplace contributes in many ways: balancing ego, inducing harmonic environment, harnessing others, solving conflicts, cultivating cooperation, and more.
Besides improving communication, identifying the character of peers or newcomers is advantageous for increasing diversity and building balanced teams. Some combinations are highly recommended to improve collaboration and productivity, whereas others will not yield the best outcomes.
To recap, it becomes crucial to interact effectively with many stakeholders, regardless of your rank or position in the organisation’s hierarchy.
So, after praising the importance of understanding the other’s traits, let’s see what types of people are there.
- Ambitious, proactive, never wastes a minute, competitive, alpha-male
- Clear communicator, quick thinker
- Doesn’t reject others opinion if it aligns with his
- Hard worker, effective
- Famous Reds people: Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Mother Teresa
- Optimistic, friendly, gives joy to people around
- Positive, Bubbles along, sees the positive in any situation
- Resourceful, persuasive
- Building relationships, many acquaintances, may friends in FB
- Entertainer; in a party he is the pivot, always makes everyone happy
- Famous Yellows: Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey
- The most balanced character; in the middle of all extreme behaviours
- Good listener, a person of relationships
- Volunteer, a team player, prepared to help a friend
- The team is more important than himself
- Considered to be introvert
- Famous Greens: Mahatma Gandhi, Michelle Obama
- Realist, precise, accurate
- Looking for logic in every situation
- Knows everything, familiar with facts
- Methodically, logically, facts oriented, observant
- Famous Blues: Albert Einstein, Bill Gates
Just in case you wondered, most of us are a combination of two colours. It is rare to have a one-coloured character or a three-coloured person.
While listening to this book, I could not stop contemplating which colour represents me the best? Which colours fit my family members and colleagues?
Thinking about the people I have been working with, it suddenly seemed obvious why in some relationships the friction was high and the project was affected, whereas others were fertile and the project thrived.
Managing is a lot about people and the interactions between them, which can be constructive or destructive. Whenever I form-up a team or a Task-Force, I try to keep it balanced and thinking ahead about its potential productivity. Finding the best effective match can yield better results.
So, look around you and see the colours; you may find it beneficial for building your team, interacting with colleagues, and communicating with customers. After all, you are not surrounded by idiots.
 William Moulton Marston published his book Emotions Of Normal People in 1928; it introduced the DISC model to the world. This model is still relevant even these days.