I love the title of this book by Swedish psychologist, Thomas Erikson. In a school leadership position it can be very frustrating as we deal with people, all day, every day and at times, I’ve felt frustrated with the views and behaviour of some of those people.
Understanding human behaviour is a never-ending pursuit. At times I have struggled to understand why people have made certain choices that have led to the way they are behaving.
I confess that that at times I can be quick to judge and that isn’t helpful. The premise of Erikson’s book is that it is both easy and dangerous to categorize someone who behaves differently from you as ignorant, wrong or even worse, stupid. The most important lesson of the book is that the idiots who surround you are, in fact, not idiots at all. They are simply different to you.
The book explores human behaviour and communication styles through the lens of four distinct personality types, represented by colors: Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green.
Erikson delves into how understanding these colour-coded personalities can lead to improved interpersonal relationships and more effective communication.
The Red personality type is characterised by assertiveness, directness and a focus on results. Reds are confident, decisive and often take charge in social situations. They are goal-oriented and tend to prioritise efficiency over emotions. However, their directness may come across as blunt or insensitive to others.
The Green personality type is empathetic, caring and driven by emotions. Greens are excellent listeners and thrive on building meaningful connections. They are compassionate and highly attuned to the feelings of those around them. However, they may struggle to assert themselves and can be prone to overthinking and indecision.
The Yellow personality type is outgoing, energetic and spontaneous. Yellows are social butterflies, easily making friends and bringing a sense of fun to any situation. They are optimistic and tend to avoid conflict. However, their impulsiveness may lead to scattered focus and an aversion to details.
The Blue personality type is analytical, calm and detail-oriented. Blues value logic and objectivity and are excellent problem solvers. They prefer to weigh all the options before making decisions, which can make them appear indecisive. Blues may also struggle with expressing emotions and can come across as reserved.
Erikson emphasizes that each person possesses a mix of these personality types, with one typically being dominant. By recognising these colour-coded personalities in ourselves and others, we can adapt our communication styles to better connect and avoid misunderstandings. The book offers practical advice on how to communicate effectively with each colour, fostering understanding, collaboration and harmony in both our personal and professional relationships.
“Surrounded by Idiots” offers a compelling framework to comprehend human behaviour and perhaps be less judgmental and more accepting. A worthwhile read for school leaders.