How to Handle Idiots (i.e., Everyone Who Isn’t like You)

LESSON 12

How to Handle Idiots (i.e., Everyone Who Isn’t like You)


Now let’s now take a look at how we can adapt to one another in order to work together. A man once said (admittedly with an ironic smile on his face, but still) that the test of intelligence is simple: “If you agree with me, then you’re intelligent. However, if you don’t agree with me, then you are clearly and undoubtedly an idiot.”

I assume that you’re intelligent enough to interpret this message correctly. But seriously—all of us have wondered why some people don’t understand anything. As I said in the introduction, when I was young I was often struck by the fact that people who appear to be very intelligent could, at the same time, be such complete idiots. They didn’t see what I saw. Some people delicately say that such individuals lack the right “intellectual elasticity,” but that’s only because they’re too well bred to let the word “idiot” come out of their mouths.

People Are Obviously Different. So What Do You Do About It?

How should we handle people who are different from us when they react and function in completely different ways? Can you take on various kinds of personalities in different situations? An interesting question. If it were possible to behave 100 percent like a chameleon—completely changing your behavior depending on whom you’re with—would it be a good idea to try? It’s natural for us to be who we are, to exhibit our own core behavior. But for a variety of reasons, we can feel the need to adapt to those around us. There’s often a lot of talk about how we must be flexible and adaptable so that we can cope with a wide variety of situations and are able to respond to many different types of people. The term has even been given a name—EI (emotional intelligence) or EQ (emotional quotient). To cope with this constant need for adaptation, it’s important that we’re aware that adaptation demands effort and takes a lot of energy.

Our natural condition is to exhibit our core behavior. Our “unnatural” behavior is to continually adapt to others, and this requires ability, training, and energy. If we’re uncertain as to what is “right” in a situation, if we’re untrained or lack sufficient energy to cope with the role that we currently believe is the right one, we will be frightened, hesitant, and often stressed. As a result, we lose even more energy and our core behavior becomes increasingly visible—often to the great surprise of those around us, who are used to seeing us behave in a certain way.

In a Perfect World

In the best of worlds, everyone can be themselves and everything functions smoothly from the word go. Everyone agrees at all times and conflicts don’t exist at all. This place is said to exist, and it’s called Uto pia. But it’s not that simple. As I said at the beginning of this book, if you think that you can change everyone else, you’ll be very disappointed. It would surprise me if you could change anyone at all.

No matter who you are—Red, Yellow, Green, or Blue, or a combination of multiple colors—you will always be in the minority. Most of the people you encounter will be different from you. No matter how well balanced you are, you can’t be all the types at the same time. So you have to adapt to the people you meet. Good communication is often a matter of adapting to others.

But wait a minute, you might be thinking. That isn’t true. I can be myself. In fact, I never adapt myself for anyone, anytime, and it’s gone very well. It’s taken me this far in life.

Absolutely.

Naturally, everyone can start with themselves. That’s not a problem. But then, don’t expect to get through to other people with the message you’re trying to share. If you can live knowing that most of the people you meet won’t buy what you say, well, then you don’t have a problem.

You Already Do This, Even If You Don’t Think You Do 

You already adapt your behavior, even if you don’t realize it. We all adapt to one another all the time. It’s part of the social game, the visible and invisible communication that is constantly in progress. I’m just proposing a more reliable system. You don’t have to gamble or guess. You can make the right adjustment from the beginning. But please note: usually. No system is perfect.

Some people I meet don’t like the idea of deliberately adapting to others. They consider it dishonest and manipulative. But again, you can always abstain.

An Example from Real Life

I’m going to tell you a true story about a man I met during a training conference many years ago, a likeable and very popular private entrepreneur who achieved great success in his field. This man—let us call him Adam—was extremely Yellow, a real visionary with ambitious plans that were only occasionally put into effect.

Adam had never thought about or reflected on how he behaved as a person or how he was perceived by others. There had never been any reason to. Someone had persuaded him to come to this conference, and he didn’t really know what he was getting himself into.

The topic that day was the same as this book; it was a full-day workshop where we worked on how to understand different behavior profiles. After the lunch break, I saw that something was troubling Adam. His face was serious, and his body language had become very closed. When I started talking again and explaining the various profiles, he sank deeper and deeper into his chair, and it was obvious to me that he was thinking about something else.

I asked what was troubling him.

There was an explosion. He exclaimed, “This is wrong! How could I categorize people like that? Put people into a theoretical grid system?” It turned out that he didn’t like the idea of adapting to other types of people, but not because he thought that everyone had to adapt to him. No, what worried him was that he saw it as a way to manipulate others and he didn’t like it. Didn’t like it at all, in fact.

Everyone wondered what the real problem was. Adam believed that you couldn’t categorize people this way. That using a lot of models was just wrong. He thought that it was highly dangerous not to go on pure feeling.

Someone in the group made it clear to him that he of all people should listen, since he was the one who attracted conflict. The debate was soon in full swing, and after thirty minutes I had to call a time-out.

I can understand Adam’s concern, and I respect the fact that he raised the issue. What worried him was that it wouldn’t work: If everyone adapted to one another, no one would be themselves any longer. In his way of thinking, that would be the greatest deception—not to be yourself.

There’s something in what he said. At the same time, of course, you can always choose how much or little you modulate your behavior. The more you learn about other people, the easier it becomes for you to make decisions. Join in the game, or go your own way? The decision will always be yours.

Furthermore, Adam was also deeply resentful that I, as a specialist in the field, could describe him in quite some detail and give examples of how I thought he was wired. When he looked at the assessment tool that describes an individual, he went completely silent.

Ultimately, after we sat down and discussed the matter Adam came to understand the role and benefits of behavior assessment. But he taught me to be careful with how I use this knowledge.

How Often Do We Follow a System Without Knowing If It Works?

No system is perfect. There are always exceptions. This is just one piece in the jigsaw puzzle of human life. It’s certainly a large and important piece, but it’s far from the whole picture.

I’ve divided up the sections on adaptation into two parts for each color. The first part deals with what you need to do to interact meaningfully with another person—when you really want to get through to him and put him in a cheerful mood and make him feel that you understand him. The second part deals with how you get people to take your side. What each profile wants in a situation isn’t necessarily the best thing to do to make progress.

You can do a great deal of good—if you choose to do so.

Adapting to Red Behavior

What a Red Expects of You

“DO WHAT I ASKED OF YOU, AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE—PREFERABLY, EVEN

FASTER THAN THAT”

If you ask a Red, he’ll agree that most people are too slow. They speak too slowly, they have trouble coming to the point, and they work ineffectively. In a Red’s world, everything simply takes way too long.

Remember what I told you about impatience in Red behavior, about their constant pursuit of (fast) results. When other people turn things over in their minds from morning to night, it drives a Red crazy.

Thought and action are one. It has to be done quickly. If there’s anything Reds dislike, it’s endless discussion. It makes them flip out.

Conclusion: If you want to adapt to a Red’s tempo—hurry up! Speed up! Speak and act more quickly. Look at the clock often, because that’s what a Red does. If you can conclude a meeting in half the time—do it! If you have a Red with you in the car, he won’t be upset if you’re a little bit over the speed limit. (If you drive too slowly, he might insist on taking the steering wheel.)

“DO YOU WANT SOMETHING? SPEAK UP!”

As you now know, Reds are very much to the point, and they enjoy being with other people who also have the ability to tell them what they want—quickly. If you have a tendency to go around in circles before getting to the crux of the matter, you’ll have difficulty getting through to a Red. He’ll get tired if you waste your words without due cause. And he knows when he’s dealing with a chatterbox.

It’s very common for people to provide some background to a problem before describing the problem itself. And maybe even some more background to the solution of the problem.

Forget it. It won’t work.

Conclusion: If you want to have a Red’s full attention, cut the small talk. It’s vital that you’re clear and straightforward. Determine the most essential point of your message and start there. Let’s say that you’re going to present the latest financial statement. Say what’s written on the last line of the slide first—that’s what a Red is sitting there waiting for anyway. Then you can get into the details.

Don’t use a single word unnecessarily. But make sure you’ve done your homework when it comes to the background. Questions may come up. If a Red senses that you’re uncertain, you’ll be grilled on the facts.

Written materials should be concise and, above all, well laid out. No endless dissertations written by someone who loves the sound of his own voice. A single line jotted down on the back of the napkin will do the job.

“I COULDN’T CARE LESS WHAT YOU DID ON VACATION.”

Reds live in the present. Everything that happens is happening here and now. They have a unique ability to focus on what’s on the current agenda. Thus, you need to stick to the topic when you speak to a Red. He has no problem with creativity or new ideas; this is always appreciated as long as it moves you forward. But when a Red feels that you’ve left the agenda altogether and are beginning to fiddle-faddle, then conflict isn’t that far off.

The most effective method for a Red is to establish what the problem is and then just get to work. Simple, isn’t it?

Conclusion: Stick to the topic! The easiest way is to prepare your case very precisely before going into a meeting with a Red. If, in the middle of an interesting discussion, another thought pops into your head, write it down and ask at the end of the meeting if it’s okay to raise the issue. Otherwise, schedule a new meeting.

If someone with lots of Red in his behavior asks what time it is, answer the question with the exact time. Don’t say that there’s plenty of time. He’ll decide that himself. And again—don’t forget to keep up the pace. For a Red, “speed” will be synonymous with “efficiency.”

Now we’re talking business—never forget it. Being businesslike in business doesn’t really sound like a novel idea, but think about it. If you’re a seller, you’ve probably attended a number of training courses in sales where you learned that you have to build up a relationship with the customer. Get to know him. Win him over to your side.

This is good advice. Do it. Build relationships as much as you deem necessary. Just don’t do it with Reds. For example, if you begin a meeting with a Red whom you’ve never met before, nothing could be worse than asking where he lives, where he spent his last vacation, or what he thought of the game last night. Nothing could be more irrelevant to him. He’s not here to chat or make friends. He’s there to do business. Deeply Red individuals become downright irritated and aggressive when they notice that someone is trying to be friends with them.

A Red is not here to be your pal. He’s only here for one reason—to do business. He might throw you out—figuratively speaking—if he perceives your attempts to be friendly as ingratiation or fawning. This isn’t something he would dream of doing himself, so neither should you.

And don’t flatter a Red if you don’t know him well. Just leave the compliments at home.

Conclusion: Paradoxically, Reds are the easiest to sell to. If you want to do good business, the only thing you need to do is step into a Red’s office, present your suggestions, and then ask about a deal. Skip the football game yesterday. Never mind that you saw him in the supermarket last week. He didn’t see you anyway. When a Red trusts you and has decided that you’re a decent person who can be advantageous to him, well, then he may very well start discussing cars, boats, or the latest politics. Play ball with him. But then and only then. And don’t be surprised if the meeting ends mid-sentence. When he’s satisfied with his socializing, he concludes it instantly. It has nothing to do with you. He’s just tired of conversation.

“YOU DON’T ACTUALLY KNOW? THEN WHY AM I WASTING MY TIME WITH 

YOU?”

It may sound like a contradiction, but a Red would also like you to be determined and direct. Although he often demands that he make all the important decisions himself, he strongly dislikes dealing with vacillating people. Dancing the hesitation waltz does not instill trust. Comments like “It’s hard to say,” “It depends,” or “I don’t really know what to say” just frustrate Reds.

If you have an opinion, out with it. Reds judge you on how driven you are. You should listen to them, of course, but you must have an opinion of your own. Otherwise, you’re weak, and that’s not a quality that will win you any points.

Keep in mind that we all like people in whom we can recognize ourselves. A Red won’t meet other Reds every day, so when he actually does he’s pleasantly surprised. “An equal! Wonderful!” I have met Reds who have rubbed their hands gleefully before starting a heated debate.

Conclusion: Deliver your opinion without blinking. In the end, you might have to concede, but never sell yourself short. A Red can rattle and rumble, stamp on the floor, raise his voice, and shake his fist. Many people back off in the face of this behavior. It’s not pleasant to be shouted at, is it?

Well, the worst thing you can do is back away and let him walk all over you. If a Red is permitted to walk over you, you lose something very important in his eyes—respect. If he doesn’t respect you, he’ll eat you alive. And walk over you again and again and again until you become completely and totally marginalized. You won’t be someone to be reckoned with in the future. A complete doormat.

The best thing you can do is place yourself in the center of the storm, telling him that he’s wrong. When a Red discovers that you won’t give in, he will turn in an instant. If you know what you are talking about, that is.

YOU CAN SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE DEAD

If you have a boss who is Red, he will work hard, maybe harder than anyone else you’ve ever met. He will have many irons in the fire at once, and he’ll have complete control over everything that’s happening.

A Red can live with the fact that everything won’t be right the first time. But he will demand that you work hard. You should be diligent in everything; feel free to put in overtime if you can. I urge you not to become a workaholic—life has more to offer than work—but from the perceptive of a Red boss, this would be a first-class quality. He will hold you in high esteem if he sees your commitment in the form of hard work.

Conclusion: Show that you work hard. You don’t need to run into the Red’s office every five minutes, informing him that last night you stayed at work until half past eleven—he might not even be impressed. He might just ask you whether such a trifling little task like that warranted the time you spent on it. But you should report back regularly about what you have done and present—briefly—the result of your efforts.

Be willing to take initiative. Offer suggestions that the Red didn’t ask for. As usual, get ready for a fight, but he will like that you are driven.

Please note the wording in the preceding sentence. It doesn’t say that he’ll like you because you are driven. It says “like that you are driven.” A Red boss may very well like you—that’s sometimes the case—but don’t expect lots of glowing and pleasant praise.

How to Behave When You Meet a Red ?

You don’t have to completely adapt to how Reds want you to behave—that would be surrendering. There are several other things you need to keep an eye on in order to achieve the results you want. Because Reds have their faults and failings but often turn a blind eye to them, you can help to achieve a better result if you know how. Here are some points to keep in mind.

“Details … Boooooring…”

Essentially, Reds dislike getting into details. It’s boring and takes time. Thus, Reds tend to be careless about small matters. You can accuse Reds of many things, but meticulousness isn’t typically one of them. For them the destination will always be more important than the journey, so Reds will do just about anything to achieve the desired results. Reds won’t naturally stop to consider the small things or analyze their method.

Conclusion: If you really want to help Reds do better work, try to demonstrate the benefits of keeping an eye on the details. Explain that the results will be better and profits larger if they just consider a couple of small but crucial elements of the project.

Be prepared for the huff and puff and a general unwillingness to act on your advice. But if you’re good at arguing, your advice will be followed. As we know, Reds are good at pushing themselves to the limit, just as long as they make headway.

Quick but Often Frightfully Wrong

As I have written several times before, everything in a Red’s world is usually very urgent. You can figure out for yourself the risks this entails. Putting the pedal to the metal may seem like a good idea, but only when everything else, and most of all every one else, is on the same train. Normally, Reds rush ahead of the group, only to get annoyed when others can’t keep pace.

A Red needs someone who can get him to pause and realize that not everyone has grasped the situation as quickly as he has. He’ll never be able to carry out all the phases of a project on his own—even if he believes he can and probably will attempt to. He still needs to have his team with him.

You’ve probably heard the expression “quick and wrong.”

Conclusion: Give examples of instances where time was lost by being too hasty. Point out the risks involved in hurrying too much. Explain that others can’t keep up, and point out that it would be great if everyone knew what the project was about. Don’t give in. Assert that not even he can manage everything himself. Force a Red to wait for others.

Afterwards, try to discuss the event and show clearly and distinctly what was gained and how much the Red has profited by taking things a bit slower.

“Let’s Try a Few Completely Untested Ideas and See How It Goes.”

Should we really do that? Red individuals aren’t anxious about risks. Many Reds actively search for risky situations just for the thrill of it. In fact, what others might perceive as dangerous behavior a Red wouldn’t even think of as risky. “Hey, life is risky. You won’t get out of it alive!”

However, Reds do need someone who can weigh the advantages against the disadvantages. Disadvantages are boring, of course, so a Red individual will often simply ignore them. Since the answer to what risks you take often lies in the details, your approach should be similar to the way you handle discussing details with a Red.

Conclusion: Reds calculate risks by constantly looking at the facts. Facts are something they understand. Since Reds prefer not to look backwards—old and tiring—and focus on the present and the future, a plain and honest exchange of experiences may be called for.

Give examples of situations that historically were shown to be dangerous. It can be about business risks, going downhill skiing without a helmet, or calling the boss an idiot. Prove things with facts and de mand that the person thinks twice before deciding to take on a new project without first having checked the conditions.

As usual: You’re right—stick to your guns and don’t give in.

“I’m Not Here to Be Your Pal. Or Anyone Else’s, for That Matter.”

Since many Reds are less relationally focused, they’re frequently criticized for insisting that all relationships must take place on their terms, even in private life.

People around Reds frequently feel that they’re being steamrolled by their friends or coworkers. It’s rarely the Red’s real intention; it’s just something that happens. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, and so on.

Reds may not understand that others are avoiding them because they would rather avoid conflict. This also means that Reds can be excluded from important information. They may not feel excluded if they’re invited for a beer on Friday evening, but it’s far worse for them to feel left out of important decisions. In the worst case, this can lead them to suspect the people around them are deliberately withholding important information. The power struggle is just moments away.

Conclusion: Reds need to understand that the road to full transparency is to adapt to others. That thought may never even have crossed their minds; they’re mostly focused on themselves and their own thing. But by realizing that no one can manage everything alone, they can be prevailed upon to pause and actually care about other people.

When a Red understands that many people think it’s important to chat about their child’s first tooth, how the cabin they rented on vacation was furnished, and about the boat they’re dreaming of buying, he can listen actively and contribute to the discussion. Once a Red understands what all this small talk is about, the door is open. You may even learn something about him.

“What Kind of Weaklings Are You? Just Handle It!”

Reds just get angry. It can’t be said any clearer than that. Their temperament is such that it detonates every now and then, causing migraines for everyone around. They don’t notice it happening themselves; screaming a little bit is just another way to communicate.

No one likes a bully, but not everyone is willing to say so. When a Red tramples on someone’s toes, you must tell him nicely that it doesn’t work like that. He’ll put on an innocent face and pretend that he doesn’t understand what you’re talking about. Secretly he’ll be thinking that if some people are afraid of him, well, that’s just tough.

Conclusion: You should confront his behavior immediately. Don’t allow any exceptions; just say loudly and clearly that you won’t tolerate coarse remarks, nastiness, and uncalled-for tantrums. Demand adult behavior, and if he loses his temper just leave the room. It’s important that you never let him get his way just by barking his head off.

Just remember that this is a technique—bickering and brawling—that has worked for the Red for many years. As a child, he might have gotten his way by quarreling. More than likely, his family experienced his explosive temperament in his very early years. And you can bet that they just succumbed to avoid the air-raid siren. Very few people have confronted him about this, meaning that the demand for calmer conversations could easily lead to even louder protests. The one thing a Red detests more than anything else is being told that he must lower his voice.

Adapting to Yellow Behavior

What a Yellow Expects of You

“ISN’T IT NICE BEING HERE ALL TOGETHER?”

In essence, Yellows are not afraid of conflict. If something goes wrong, they can really blow a gasket, but if possible, they prefer a pleasant and cozy atmosphere. Yellows are at their best when everyone is being friendly and the sun is shining.

A Yellow, however, can be very sensitive to whether people are in good spirits or not. If the people in a group are in bad spirits and aggression is pouring down like from a cloudburst, he won’t be happy at all.

Conclusion: A Yellow functions best when he is happy and content. His creativity is at its zenith and all his positive energy flows. You should strive to create a warm and friendly atmosphere around him.

Smile a lot, have fun, and laugh. Listen to his crazy jokes, laugh along at all his childish remarks, and kindle the easygoing and happy-go-lucky atmosphere.

If you do that, he’ll feel better about you and listen to you more, which is always a good thing. A Yellow in a bad mood is not much fun to be with.

“I ASKED SOMEONE TO FIX THAT TINY DETAIL—I CAN’T REMEMBER WHO, THOUGH.”

Keeping a Yellow’s interest is, in all honesty, not the easiest thing to do. There are many things that bore the socks off a Yellow employee, customer, friend, or neighbor. A foolproof method to put a Yellow to sleep quickly and efficiently is to bring up lots of details.

Don’t do that. A Yellow simply can’t cope with details. It just gets boring. Not only will he forget what you’re talking about, but he’ll also simply think that he doesn’t need any of those details. His strength lies in the broad brushstrokes. You can easily ask a Yellow to draw up a vision for the next ten years, but don’t ask him to explain how to make it happen.

Conclusion: If you want to keep a Yellow’s attention, strip away as much of the minutia as you possibly can. Always start with the big questions. It’s perfectly fine that you know how to install the latest surround sound system, but don’t tire your Yellow friend with it. It’s not for him. He just wants to know how to get the music started.

It’s just like with Reds, if not worse. Yellows don’t care about how things work, only that they work. So put away the instruction manual—they’ll never open it.

FOLLOW YOUR GUT. IT WORKS EVERY TIME.

If I had a dollar for every time a Yellow has explained a totally crazy decision by saying that it felt right, I could be sleeping at the Ritz. There’s a study that shows that some people make better decisions if they only go on gut feeling. Whatever you do, never mention that to your Yellow friend or you’ll never hear the end of it.

It must feel right. A Yellow can readily ignore the actual facts so long as it feels right. Don’t misunderstand this: A Yellow understands perfectly well that some people look at facts and that this is important. He’s not stupid. It’s just that he’s not interested. He wants to feel his way.

Do you want to get a Yellow to make a decision? Try to put the Excel spreadsheets aside, lean forward, and say with a broad smile, “How does this feel?”

He will understand exactly. And you’ll get an answer.

Conclusion: Just accept that a Yellow feels his way. He has a high tolerance for uncertainty and isn’t overly afraid of risks. Adapt to it. You can get through to him by showing him that you too follow your gut. No matter how wrong this might feel to you, this is the way to a Yellow’s heart. He’ll recognize himself in you. You’ll become the best of friends. The sun will shine on you.

“THIS CAR IS A PROTOTYPE? THE CONCEPT COMPLETELY UNTESTED? NO ONE

HAS EVER DONE THIS BEFORE? PERFECT!”

While a Red focuses on speed, a Yellow focuses on the latest and greatest. “New” is synonymous with “good.” All Yellows know that. And why not? Without creativity and new inventions all development would simply grind to a halt, right?

Everyone likes having a little excitement in their everyday life. The difference lies in how we define “exciting.” For a Yellow, “new” means “exciting.” Yellows are so-called early adopters, the very first to try out new things. Check out who is wearing the latest fashion, who is the first to drive a new and preferably unusual model of car. Who has the latest cell phone and who knows what restaurant will be the newest sensation in a few months?

How can they keep track of all this? Don’t ask me. They probably devote some of their time at work to keep au courant on all things new and interesting. But they’re also early in implementing new work methods and new concepts to sell goods and services. It’s just great fun.

Conclusion: Allow a Yellow to devote himself to the latest thing. He’ll love it. If you want to sell something to a Yellow, use expressions like “state-of-the-art,” “newly developed,” and “never before used.” Your potential customer will really get into gear.

“No one else has ever tried this? I have to have it!”

He’ll like you because you’re so exciting and so interesting and, above all, innovative. Equip yourself with lots of energy, because it can be challenging to keep up-to-date, but Yellows will adore you. However, be prepared to be replaced rather quickly if they find someone else who is even more knowledgeable about newer things.

“YOU SEEM INTERESTING. WANNA KNOW WHO I AM?”

By now we’ve established that Yellows like other people. They function best if they surround themselves with a crowd. Of course, Yellows don’t like everyone they meet, but they will give the majority a decent chance.

You need to show a Yellow that you are just as open and friendly as he is. If you’re way too closed and private, he’ll feel unwelcome. Why didn’t you reply when he spoke to you? Why didn’t you smile at the funny story about his dog? Why doesn’t he know anything about you? What are your dreams? Insufficient personal connection can result in a strong sense of insecurity, and your relationship won’t develop in a positive direction. If you’re Red or Blue, you need to think carefully about how to get this to work. If you want to, of course.

Conclusion: Become approachable. Demonstrate that you’re available; smile a lot; be sure to have open body language. When a Yellow wonders where you grew up, don’t just respond with “New York.” Say that you lived in Chelsea, and that you loved jogging along the High Line, and that a pickpocket stole your wallet once while you were walking down Fifth Avenue, and that you met the love of your life when she accidentally dropped a plate of fries on your pants at a restaurant. It may seem a bit unnecessary, but you should definitely show interest in the Yellow as a person. Admittedly, it won’t be difficult to find out things about him, because he’ll freely tell you a great deal. But be sure to show that you are curious and interested.

And remember that Yellows are very susceptible to flattery.

How to Behave When You Meet a Yellow?

To keep a Yellow in good spirits, you need to rub him the right way. The problem will become obvious after a while. They won’t get that much work done. I’ve looked at a group of Yellows who were trying to solve a problem. They all spoke at the same time and had a great time, and when you asked them how things were going they said, “Fantastic!” But nothing got written down. To really make headway with Yellows, you need to do more than just create a great atmosphere. Once you’ve tuned into their frequency, you need to do the following.

Learn to Tell Whether a Yellow Is Actually Listening 

I’m just going to say it like it is—Yellows are, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the worst listeners. Usually, they will never admit it. The very expression itself—“awful listeners”—is something negative, and they’ll do anything to avoid negativity. Many Yellows really see themselves as good listeners. Who knows where they got that idea? It’s simply not true. Of course, there are Yellows who listen—when it suits them. Or when they’ve already gotten what they wanted out of a conversation. But in most cases, forget about it.

They don’t want to listen. They want to talk. Yellows simply think that they can express everything far better than anyone else. The problem is that they neglect to listen to what anyone else is saying.

Conclusion: When you’re dealing with Yellows, there are certain things you need to do. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking to your partner about your summer vacation or to a colleague about an ongoing project, you need a plan of action. You need to have prepared yourself carefully. You have to know what your message is and exactly what response you need from them.

You must persuade the Yellow, happy person to answer your questions very concretely and hear him say, “Yes, I will be there at four just as I promised,” or, “Of course I’ll notify the customer exactly what we have agreed to.”

But—big but—be prepared to follow up if it’s important, because the Yellow didn’t write down any of it. Unless you managed to persuade him to write it on his calendar, of course. That would be the best way. But in all other contexts, you should expect that what you’ve said has gone in one ear and out the other.

Learn How to Respond to “No Problem—That Won’t Take Long at All!”

Yellows are optimists regarding time; that’s just the way it is. Sure, your work can be done quickly, but rarely as quickly as a Yellow thinks. This has to do with the fact that he simply can’t plan or structure his life. I’ve personally worked with people who legitimately believed that they could manage eight meetings per day, who thought that it only took two days to renovate an entire kitchen and that it is possible to walk across Manhattan in twenty minutes.

These are typical manifestations of a Yellow’s optimism. The problem is obvious. It’s impossible to accomplish everything a Yellow wants to do, particularly because he doesn’t even know how long anything takes. And even if he does ask someone how long it takes, he doesn’t listen to what the person says, because what he’s saying is wrong. After all, the Yellow believes he probably knows best.

The other problem is that he won’t get into gear when he should. Do you know anyone who has taken a day off to paint the bedroom and at three o’clock in the afternoon, hasn’t opened the can of paint yet? “I’ll just do this first, then call so and so, then pop out for a bit, then…” Sometimes I wonder if the people who schedule the subways are all Yellow. There’s nothing nasty in this; it’s just about a total inability to have a realistic sense of time. And a genuine belief that this commodity is inexhaustible.

I remember a dinner I went to with a few Yellow friends. The pub had a policy of ninety-minute reservations, which meant that if you got there twenty-five minutes late there wouldn’t be time for an appetizer or for dessert because the kitchen couldn’t manage it in time. My partner and I arrived fifteen minutes early—we both have some splashes of Blue in our profiles. We went to the table and sat down to wait for the others. Time passed. Forty minutes later, twenty-five minutes late, they arrived, joyfully joking about how they had forgotten the time. We managed to order just a main course, eat it, and quickly pay for it before the next guest wanted his table. The strange thing was that when we spoke about the incident afterwards, their recollection was that they were just a few minutes late. They had simply repressed the fact that they missed 30 percent of the dinner.

Conclusion: Coordinate all appointments properly with Yellows. Synchronize your watches. Explain very clearly that the plane takes off at 8:00 P.M . and that if he doesn’t show up by then he’ll be left standing at the gate. Say it like it is: If he’s not in his car outside your door two hours before the plane takes off, you’ll drop down dead of a heart attack. Tell the Yellow that you will be deeply irritated with him and that your friendship could be damaged due to his continual slipups.

If the dinner is due to start at 7:00 P.M. , invite everyone for that time, but make it 6:30 for your Yellow friends. They’ll arrive last anyway. They’ll come with very well-worded excuses. Be prepared for very colorful stories. But also know that Yellows will emphatically deny that they are optimists regarding time. They’ll insist that they most certainly kept an eye on the clock. It was just that something happened on the way.

It Looks Like a Hand Grenade Went Off in Here

The most cluttered desks I have ever seen have all belonged to Yellows. Computer screens with so many Post-it notes stuck to them that you can barely see the screen. The most topsy-turvy garages and the most overloaded attics belong to Yellows as well. But this is only the visible. Ask to look at a Yellow person’s calendar. Or handbag. Don’t even think about looking in a Yellow’s closet. And this is still only the purely physical.

Meetings are moved or forgotten; things disappear; whole cars are lost in parking lots. Keys are gone without a trace. Furthermore, many Yellows have no ability to plan their day. They can go to the supermarket five times in a row and buy three things at a time because they didn’t write down what they needed. This can be because they don’t know what they want until they get there or because they’re sure they’ll be able to recall the nineteen things they need to buy. (Yellows have a very generous view of their own ability. They’ll tell anyone who wants to listen that they have the best memory in the world.)

Conclusion: If you really want to help a Yellow get organized, make sure he gets at least some structure in his life. Help out by creating a simple list. If you are going shopping: Write down everything yourself. Your partner or pal will forget half of the items.

Create a structure for him. Yellows are the ones who are most in need of structure in the form of diagrams and checklists. Paradoxically, they hate all of that. They won’t let themselves be “shoehorned” into a system not of their own choosing. Be diplomatic. If you press too hard, you can get some powerful reactions:

“Why does everything have to be micromanaged? Are we living in a fascist state, or what?”

Remember That for Yellows the Most Important Thing Is to Look Good. All the Time.

“Me, me, me.” Yellows have strong egos, just like Reds, no doubt about that. They like getting attention; they throw themselves into the center of things faster than anyone else. They enjoy themselves the most when they’re in the middle of where the action is. Your yellow friend is a ray of sunshine, talking louder and faster than everyone else and lighting up a room with his behavior.

“Shine all the spotlight on me. See me, hear me, like me.” But this means that no one else gets any space. Many conversations end up with the Yellow individual loudly and resonantly speaking about his experience or his opinion. No matter what you are talking about—war, starvation, dieting, cars, executives, gardens—a Yellow will bring up a story in which he himself is the protagonist. If he doesn’t have any story, he’ll make one up.

Their thoughts often begin with the word “I.” “I want,” “I think,” “I can,” “I know,” “I will.” It’s quite natural. They like other people, but there is one thing they like even more: themselves.

Conclusion: Yellows need to understand that there are other people in the room or working on the project besides themselves. You can never allow Yellows to consume all the oxygen. They need to hear— from someone with courage and perseverance—that they have to let others enter the conversation or whatever it may be.

It’s impossible to explain this in the midst of a conversation with others present. It won’t fall on fertile ground. A Yellow can be very offended by such criticism. He’ll think things like, “Everyone else just thinks of themselves,” or, “I’m the only one who looks out for me.” This type of feedback must be given discreetly and in a positive way. It depends a little bit on how Yellow the person in question is, so you will probably need a plan.

Be prepared for one thing: You may very well become enemies in the process. You’re definitely taking a risk here. Hearing that you are egocentric and self-centered is extremely unflattering. Yellows will understand this; they’re not stupid. But they will just think that your analysis is wrong. So you’ll have to work a lot here. Or swap pals.

All Talk, but No Walk

I might as well get straight to the point here to avoid confusion: Yellows talk more than they work. They have a penchant for talking about everything they need to do rather than actually doing anything. Everyone who knows a genuine Yellow knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Okay, so many people have trouble getting motivated to work, especially with boring tasks. But Yellows find it particularly hard to leave the starting block when faced with uncomfortable tasks. It may be about having to call a dissatisfied customer, or getting an oil change, or going to the pharmacy. If it’s dull and uninspiring, it won’t happen. Their excuses for avoiding these tasks will be numerous and imaginative.

Because a Yellow’s perspective on time is based in the future, they spend more time talking about the future than dedicating their energy to getting there. Seldom have so many crazy plans been drawn up or so many insane goals set as is done by Yellows. Because they think aloud, people around them believe that these fantasies are going to happen: “Wow! It sounds amazing!”

Conclusion: To help your Yellow friend you need to make sure that he puts his shovel in the ground and starts digging. Push him, but push gently. Treat him a little bit like you would treat a child. Be kind but clear. If he notices that you’re becoming his taskmaster, things may become difficult. Yellows hate feeling controlled. They need the most help to get into gear, but that doesn’t mean they like it. They are free souls and don’t obey anyone else.

So you need to be diplomatic. Softly and gently explain the value of actually doing the job itself, now that he knows what needs to be done. Take a moment to explain to a Yellow how the great popularity he already enjoys can actually be increased even further if he just happens to get finished. Everyone will love him, and he will be more beloved than ever.

Does that sound simple? It is simple. All you need to do is overcome your resistance to inflating someone’s ego in such an obvious way. But it will work.

Realize That Yellows May See Your Lips Moving but Not Hear Anything You’re Saying 

This could very well be a subtitle to a section on bad listeners, because these things are connected to each other. All of us make mistakes and no one is perfect. This is obvious to everyone, even to a Yellow. In hypothetical discussions, Yellows can agree that other people really need to get a grip, sort things out, and do better. They can even admit that there are no perfect people. So far, no problems. The problems arise when we try to make a particular Yellow understand that he may need to improve. This creates a conflict, especially if the criticism is expressed in public.

Yellow people find it difficult to cope with criticism. They don’t like it because it doesn’t make them look good. Imagine, there’s someone who doesn’t like everything they do and everything they say! I have individually sat down with Yellows and given them personal feedback on their profiles. Everything goes fine until we get to the page with the heading “Areas of Improvement,” which is to say, weaknesses.

Even if we’re on good terms, the temperature in the room gets significantly cooler. Defensive walls pop up quicker than you can say “poor self-awareness.” Deep down the Yellow individual knows that he has weaknesses; he just won’t consider talking about them.

Conclusion: If you wish to get through to a Yellow with negative feedback, you need to be persistent. Create a friendly atmosphere in the room and find the right tone so that your criticism lands where it should.

You can always slam your fist on the table as hard as you can to really shake him up, lay down the cold, hard truth, and give it to him straight. I don’t recommend this. Better to work slowly and consistently, repeating the same feedback until he understands.

Clarity is key. Make sure to be extremely well prepared, with all possible facts to substantiate your claims. Yellows are clever manipulators. If he senses that you’re not serious in your criticism and that you won’t follow up, he’ll lure you off track. He is good at smokescreens. Make sure you don’t get lost in the fog.

Get real answers to your questions, and be sure that he understands the message. Insist that he writes down what you have said. Ask him to repeat your feedback.

You also need to set up a plan of action. But save that for the next meeting. Right now, you’ve probably gotten as far as you can with a Yellow. You’ll just exhaust yourself if you keep going.

One more thing: This doesn’t happen with positive feedback. Then, the Yellow will jump on the bandwagon quicker than you can imagine.

Adapting to Green Behavior

What a Green Expects of You

EVERYTHING SHOULD FEEL GOOD ALL THE TIME

Security will always be important to a Green. A Green worries about everything that may happen. He doesn’t like insecurity and solves it by hiding under the covers. If you don’t see it, then it’s not there. He doesn’t want to be anywhere if it’s too insecure. He strives for stability and doesn’t even want to think about wild gambles.

You may be thinking, The world is a dangerous place to live. There’s an infinite number of dangers out there. Absolutely anything can go wrong. My relationship may fall apart; I might get sick; my husband [or wife] could leave me; my children might think I am an idiot. I can lose my job; my boss may start agreeing with my children; I could end up in conflict with a lot of people. On the way to work, I could have a car accident. A person can die from a tiny fish bone caught in his throat!

All these things make life scary. Anything can happen. Many Greens I’ve known over the years in my role as a coach have said that all these potential dangers paralyze them. They become overwhelmed with thoughts about these risks and dangers. They become completely powerless to act. And since they’re not particularly motivated to get out in the world, it becomes easier to just stay at home. Nice and safe at home by the hearth.

It wasn’t Greens who left their homes and immigrated to America. They would never have gotten on the boat, because who knows how the trip would go? And if you survived the voyage itself, who could really say what you would find when you got there? Those stories about all those people who achieved success and wealth could well be humbug from start to finish. And if you did get a job and if you did find somewhere to live, who knows if you would be happy? Imagine if you end up even more miserable than you were at home! You know what you have, but you have no idea at all what you’ll get.

Conclusion: Accept that this person doesn’t think like you do. Accept that he is driven just as much by fear as by anything else—perhaps even more. Show that you’re prepared to listen to what he is anxious about. Don’t say things like “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” It doesn’t work because the fear itself is real. And it’s also not true. There are many legitimate things to be afraid of. We all have things we’re anxious about; a Green just has more of them.

Instead, help your Green friend to face his fear of the unknown. Encourage him to brave things that feel scary and still move ahead. Just as we learned to swim as children, despite the fact that the water looked cold and dangerous, you can give support through small, gentle nudges forward.

When your friend says that the grass only looks greener on the other side, simply take a deep breath and keep at it.

NOTHING HAPPENED. TWICE.

I’m sure you recall that I mentioned the Green’s passivity. Nothing is too big to be ignored. Being proactive and driven, having an active lifestyle —all these things disturb tranquility. And it won’t be appreciated. He won’t be happy if you’re constantly coming up with new things to do.

Greens feel better when they don’t have to be active. They come home on a Friday evening so completely exhausted from spending the week trying to accomplish as little as possible that they now need to take a good rest. I’ve met Greens whose efforts to avoid work cost them more energy than actually doing the work.

The consequences are obvious to those around them. They don’t like weekends with full schedules. Visiting the mother-in-law, organizing a picnic, taking his son to soccer, cleaning out the garage, inviting the neighbors over for dinner—everything becomes a burden for him, and half the time nothing gets done at all. A Green glides under the radar and disappears completely. He needs peace and quiet to be able to do what he does best. Peace and quiet make him feel safe and content.

Conclusion: It’s important to respect this on one level. We need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, knowing how stressful it can be for them to be constantly on the go. In today’s society, it’s not possible to avoid all the bustle and activity. It means that a genuine Green often feels that he is doing something wrong. He hears about everyone else’s weekends, their activities, how they’ve completed one complicated project after the other. For a Green that just sounds exhausting.

The solution is to allow the Green his periods of peace, quiet, and inactivity. He needs to function like that. This doesn’t mean, of course, that he can sit on his butt his whole life, but he does need to be allowed to do a reasonable amount of—nothing.

“WHERE ARE WE GOING? I THINK I’LL SIT THIS ONE OUT.…”

Stability and predictability are valuable to a Green. And when you think about it, it’s very logical—it’s a good thing knowing what’s going to happen. We probably all have some measure of control dependency. We simply want to know. For Greens, this dependency is very strong. When Reds ask what, Yellows wonder who. When Blues ask why, Greens want to know how.

A Green simply needs to know what the plan is. What needs to happen? When will things be taking place? What should he expect?

Just look at how it works at home. Who always has the same spot at the breakfast table? I know that many of us are creatures of habit, but if you snitch a Green’s since-a-long-time-ago-claimed chair, you unhinge his very existence and he won’t be able to get his food down.

But their need for predictability goes further than that. It’s about anything that even resembles change. In our society today, the only thing that’s permanent is change. Nothing is totally predictable; everything rotates on its own axis and appears in new shapes and forms. And all of this is extremely stressful for Greens.

Conclusion: Since a Green won’t come up with anything on his own, it will be you and I who will have to handle the planning. But maybe that’s okay. We can help ease Greens’ minds by explaining every step of the plan. Instead of just saying that I’ve invited guests over for the weekend, I could explain that we will be having John and Mary over for dinner and we’ll be offering a three-course dinner consisting of an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. I’ll fix the main course while my Green partner should make the dessert and should follow this recipe. I explain who is doing what. Who will buy the wine, who will buy the flowers, and so on. I might even explain which day my Green partner has to do the shopping. And who knows, maybe I’ll write down the address of the flower shop with a list of exact instructions about what should be purchased.

Does this sound exaggerated? Not at all. Remember, Greens aren’t world champions at taking their own initiative. Think of your family as a company—everyone doesn’t do the same things, because we’re good at different things. If you’re better at taking the initiative, do it. But make sure that your Green partner is on board. Otherwise, there’s a risk that he’ll run out the back door.

How to Behave When You Meet a Green?

Okay, now you know how your Green friends would like to be handled. The result will be a calm and excellent relationship, and you will be good friends for many years. Nice, huh? But you can’t stop there, because unless you’re a genuine Green yourself you’ll want to actually do something every now and then. And you’ll need to have some appropriate strategies to kick-start your stability-loving friend.

“Why Does Everything Have to Be Such a To-do? Ugh. I’m Going to Bed.”

I’ve said this before, but we need to spill more ink on this issue. Greens don’t like friction of any kind. They back off when a discussion heats up or if you frown at the wrong time. Everything could be a potential conflict, and this is a very bad condition for all Greens. They lock themselves in and become silent and passive.

Many years ago, I was giving a sales conference at which I trained sellers in personal effectiveness. One of them was playing with his cell phone unremittingly, and when I—nicely and gently—asked him to write his text messages during the break, he completely stiffened up and stopped speaking. He didn’t respond to any questions or take part in any discussions. He didn’t so much as lift his pen for the remainder of the day. He glared at me, and when I asked what the problem was he just shrugged his shoulders.

He gave me what is probably the worst evaluation I have ever received. Although the conference was five days long, it was that one day that was critical to him, and he truly cut me to shreds. He had never encountered such a rude and incompetent consultant. He felt as if I had stuck a knife in his back. Obviously, this was a completely unreasonable reaction, especially considering that we had agreed not to use our mobile phones during work sessions. But it didn’t matter—this guy still thought that I had wronged him wholly and entirely, and he punished me the only way he could: through total passivity. I phoned him afterwards and confronted him about it. He admitted that it was juvenile behavior and apologized.

Conclusion: If you have a comment to make about a Green’s behavior, make sure you’re careful about how you present it. For example, if it involves criticism, you should deliver it in private. Make sure that the person you are talking to understands that you still like him, but that you believe that he and the group (work team, sports team, family, association) will function better if he changes certain things. Don’t ask him what he can do about the behavior; just ask him to do certain specific things. It may be that he knows what to do, but as usual, he will not lead the conversation—you’ll need to do that.

“It Was Better Before. Much Better.”

When I’m talking about change, one of my favorite exercises is to ask everyone in the group who is afraid of change to stand up. Occasionally someone will stand up, but it’s more common that no one moves.

Why? Because we all understand that change is inevitable and necessary if we’re going to keep up with the world. Some people can admit that they dislike change, but this observation is only at an intellectual level. And so we all sit quietly in our seats pretending that there are no opponents to change to be found here. And besides, no one else is standing up.

After that, my second question is, “Who thinks that someone else in the group is afraid of change?” Suddenly the whole group stands up, and they look around quite amused. So who doesn’t like change? Answer: “Everyone else. And because those other people are the problem, I don’t need to do anything at all.”

The issue is widespread. The majority of the population has Green as its dominant quality. This is the main reason why we can’t accept change with open arms. Everything new is evil, and it should be strongly discouraged.

Rapid change is the most difficult to accept. The faster it is, the worse it is. So the faster the wheels of society spin, the more frantic all those opponents of change become. We see this all the time in new reports. Yellows and Reds devise constant change, Greens and Blues, who are in the majority, try to keep up. And the stress just increases.

Conclusion: If you want Greens to accept change, you’ll have to equip yourself with a good dollop of patience. Break down the process into small pieces and set aside a few weeks to persuade, win over, and spell out the particulars. You must describe the process in detail, and since no one is going to take any notes, you’ll have to go through it again, and again, and again until the message gets home.

The group must get the chance to feel its way to the only possible solution—change. Once that feeling has developed, you’re home free. But the road is long and complicated. You need to know exactly where you’re heading, and you need to remind yourself constantly why you are going through all this trouble. If you are Red, every day you’ll be seized by the urge to simply force your opinion on the group, but I hardly need to explain that you might as well shut the company down if you do that. It would spare everyone involved a great deal of time and suffering.

Someone Needs to Take the Helm If We Aren’t Going to Sink to the Bottom 

Let’s be honest—isolated from everything else Green behavior is not a distinct leadership quality. Especially because oftentimes leadership is all about change. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that there are no good Green bosses—there are many of them out there—but they don’t grow on trees. They won’t step forward in the same way as Reds and Yellows do.

It’s convenient not to have to take responsibility. I think all of us have a certain degree of laziness in us. It’s liberating not to have to think, to avoid having to decide and just be a passenger. Of course, it varies depending on the circumstances, but Greens have developed this laziness into an art form. They don’t want any responsibility because a) it can lead to conflict if someone doesn’t agree with a decision or b) there may be lots of extra work and that’s never good. And so they dodge it, for as long as possible.

Responsibility is burdensome, requiring inner strength as well as an external drive to assume it. But at the same time, it’s a measure of maturity, and it begins with taking responsibility for yourself and your own life. Greens (and some other colors on occasion) have a tendency to blame everything and everyone but themselves. I knew a woman who had an entire list of things she could blame if something didn’t go her way. She blamed the government, the opposition, taxation, her employer, the state of the market, her education, her parents, her husband, and her children. Sometimes it was the weather’s fault. She blamed everything and everyone except herself.

What did she gain from this? She didn’t have to take any responsibility herself. Because there was always some other factor that was responsible for this and that, she never had to tackle her own problems and really change anything. I remember that I asked her to explain how it was possible that she was also not on her own list, but I suspect that she didn’t understand the question.

Given the monumental passivity a Green person can demonstrate, we immediately end up with problems. If someone doesn’t row the boat or take the helm, no amount of prayer will ever help. And Greens will remain seated, waiting for help. (Usually, someone comes and helps out; so, despite everything, they survive.)

Conclusion: If you want to make headway with a large group of Greens, you have to take command, get a firm hold on the steering wheel, and, in some cases, simply get into the driver’s seat yourself. Asking a group of Greens to solve a task is as much use as trying to put a brake on a canoe. They won’t get started unless you put them on the track.

A doggone-I-thought-they-were-adults approach will not work. Sure, they’re adults, but they’re children when it comes to such basic things like making decisions. This is because once upon a time they made a decision not to make any decisions. So someone has to put his foot down and just decide.

Do it and do it now. But at the same time, do it gently.…

Adapting to Blue Behavior

What a Blue Expects of You

IT’S BEST TO THINK EVERYTHING ALL THE WAY THROUGH FROM THE

BEGINNING

A Blue prepares meticulously. If you’ve planned to meet at a certain place at a certain time, you can rest assured that he’ll be there. A Blue will have gone through all the material, analyzed everything down to the smallest detail, and he’ll be prepared to discuss just about anything on the topic. He will have an alternative plan and a contingency plan for that as well.

HE’S THOUGHT OF EVERYTHING, SO YOU SHOULD, TOO

Being Blue is a little like doing military service: No excuses will be allowed. If you get a flat tire, you should be prepared for it. If there’s a puncture in the spare tire, you must have a plan for that, too. A Blue will have some critical questions if you say something like “That’s just the way it is.” The next time you meet him, his confidence in you will be tarnished.

Conclusion: Make sure you can show that you’ve done your homework and are well prepared. For example, when a Blue customer or policy maker has a question you should be able to pull out that exact folder from your briefcase. Don’t make a big deal out of knowing the answer. He expected nothing less.

And—most important—if you don’t have the answer, just say so. Acknowledge that you don’t know. Don’t offer any excuse just to get out of the situation. When the Blue discovers the white lie—and he will—you will fall out of favor. It’s not ideal to have to come back with the answer the next day, but it’s definitely preferable to telling a fib.

A car salesman I know usually says that when he meets Blue customers he knows from the outset that the customer is more informed about a particular model of car than he, since as a seller he might have fifty models to keep track of. Blue customers don’t ask questions to find things out; they ask to confirm what they already know. So the car salesman doesn’t even try to pretend anymore. If he doesn’t know the answer, he acknowledges it and then finds out. It’s the only way to win a Blue customer’s confidence.

WE’RE NOT HERE TO HANG OUT AND BE COZY

This is a given if we’re referring to a working relationship. Stick to the job. Make sure to stay focused on the task at hand. A Blue is not at all interested in your personal preferences or what you think about his choice of car, house, sport, or anything else that is not related to work. He’s there to work. Period.

I remember once that after about five or six meetings with a personnel manager in a big company I thought I had gotten to know him. We had passed the stage of shaking hands every time, and by now he knew how I preferred my coffee. At the seventh visit it occurred to me to ask him what he planned to do over the holidays. I don’t know what came over me. At first his look became vacant and then his anxious eyes began to wander all over the room. I ended up saying some nonsense to cover up my mistake. I hadn’t told him what I had done on my holidays, either. About four visits later, he informed me gently that he planned to go to Thailand over the new year with his family.

That was the opening.

Conclusion: Stick to the task. Work with checklists where factual matters are noted—things you can tick off together with the Blue. If you’re Yellow, put a part of your spontaneity aside. For that matter, put away as much spontaneity as you can. Force yourself to do one thing at a time. Remind yourself that a Blue will rarely or never ask how things are going or show interest in your personal problems. Don’t ask how things are going for him on a personal level, either. The word itself would be his answer: “Personal. This is private. Stay off.” In time he will open up if he wants to. It’s not that he doesn’t like you; he just wants to work first. Accept this and it will go well.

NO VISION NECESSARY. LET’S ALL STAY IN THE REAL WORLD, THANK YOU VERY

MUCH.

Your Blue friends aren’t flying around up there in the blue, blue sky. They’re on the ground using their critical minds to judge whether things are realistic or not. While you may think they’re boring, suspicious, or downright pessimistic, they believe that they’re only realists. They want to know what reality looks like, not what the world looks like if you’re a dreamer or a visionary.

I remember once when I was working in the banking world we were having a kickoff event and I wanted to inspire my team to do great things, the likes of which had never before been seen. I finished my rousing speech by exclaiming, “Soon we will stand on top of the peak of success and look down on the market we’ve conquered. We, all of us, will be atop that mountain!” While both Yellow and Red and, to a certain extent, Green employees smiled and were hyped up, the Blues only said one thing: “We can’t imagine ourselves up there. How did we get up there?”

The Yellows shouted, “Don’t you have any vision?”

And the Blues replied, “We have Excel.”

If a plan seems crazy, a Blue will never have any confidence in it. There’s no point in playing on his feelings or trying to promote ideas that are way too wild. What you say needs to have realistic perspectives; otherwise, you won’t get anywhere.

Conclusion: Think through what you want to say and what you want to convince a Blue to believe. Put daydreams and visions aside. It may even be worth rethinking the kind of language you will use to talk about your plan. Skip all those inspirational speeches that Yellows and Reds adore. Stick to the facts, and be clear.

If you have an idea that hasn’t been tested before, try to set reasonable goals. Don’t say that you will dominate the market within three months or that the Little League team will win the championship despite having lost all of their matches so far. They’ll only consider you a lunatic. If you have Yellow in your own profile, you should really think twice about how you interact with Blues. You’re already fighting an uphill battle as far as a Blue is concerned. And be careful to avoid any overly dramatic body language.

DETAILS: FACTS ARE THE ONLY THINGS THAT MATTER

Details are essential to communicating with a Blue. If you really want to get through to them, you must make sure to be very exact. Carelessness or ignoring the details won’t be appreciated.

More than one seller has been turned out of a sales visit due to negligence—for failing to know the nitty-gritty details. And remember that it’s not a question of whether the details are crucial for a particular decision or not. They may have no real bearing on the issue at all. But a Blue decision maker simply wants to know.

He also wants to know exactly. If you’re asked how much a particular product costs, don’t say, “About ten dollars.” Say, “Nine dollars and seventy-three cents.” It’s a precise answer. A Blue is more interested in an exact price than a low price. He may very well negotiate, but he wants to know the precise cost.

Conclusion: Prepare yourself well. When you think you’re prepared and that you know all there is to know about an issue, go through it all one more time. Make sure you have answers to absolutely everything. Accept that this person might want to have more data to feel secure. Give him the details he needs in order to move on. He’ll always wonder if there’s any more information. But this way, you can keep him calm and, you hope, content.

THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR QUALITY

Quality is what drives a Blue. Everything else is secondary. Everything else he focuses on stems from a deeply rooted desire that everything must be perfect. A Blue is discontented if he’s not allowed to perform his work to an exacting standard. It has nothing to do with what quality of work is actually needed. It’s simply due to his belief that things must always be done the proper way.

This, of course, takes a huge amount of time. But the advantage is obvious—if you do it right from the beginning, you will avoid having to redo it. This is actually a great way of saving time. But since a Blue does not think in terms of hours, days, or even weeks—but rather in months and years—he doesn’t see the potential downside of his exacting standards. If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing right—and that takes time. It’s as simple as that.

Conclusion: Be particularly meticulous in your work when trying to impress a Blue; otherwise, he will view you as sloppy and careless. You should be on your guard about expressing yourself using negative terms concerning how the Blue spends too much time just on quality. Use words like “careful control,” “properly inspected,” “the importance of quality.” Avoid criticizing Blues for taking too much time or fussing over details that may be unnecessary. Instead, praise them for their attention to detail and the superior work they do. Let the Blue understand that you are doing quality work and that you understand its value.

This means that you should prepare very carefully before any meetings with a Blue. He judges you by the merit of the work you create. Not by how funny you are, not by who you know, not by whether or not you invite him to fancy lunches. None of this means anything if you are careless. When you are finished with a task—double-check it. If possible—triple-check. Have someone else look at it. Only then should you show it to your Blue colleague.

How to Behave When You Meet a Blue?

Just agreeing to a Blue’s initiative would be like driving a car with the parking brake on. Your task is most likely to get things moving, but you can’t just hit the gas. Instead, you need to find the right lever to pull and take off the Blue parking brake.

A Blue has feelings like everyone else, and he appreciates people. It just looks a little different. Because most of a Blue’s emotions are self-contained, he may seem a little cold. No facial expressions to speak of, no gestures, no emotional expressions at all. Blues often don’t seem interested in other people and simply focus on the issue at hand.

If we’re sitting in an accounting firm or if we’re trying to solve an important problem in the company, then this is a good approach. But every time other people, especially Yellows or Greens, are involved, a Blue’s tendency to dissociate from others can be problematic. He simply doesn’t realize that other people don’t function in the same way. People want to feel like they can relate to this person. They don’t want to feel like robots.

Conclusion: Remind him that other people have feelings. Give examples of times when he bruised other people’s feelings—like when he pointed out all the flaws in the neighbor’s new house. Explain that he doesn’t need to express himself critically all the time. Show him that people can take great offense when others criticize their home, car, spouse, or children. Be clear and tell him that being honest isn’t an excuse for being callous and remind him that it isn’t as simple as “saying things as they are.” He didn’t say things as they are. He only said what he thought or believed about a certain thing.

Point out that constant criticism rarely accomplishes anything. This won’t be an easy task, because he will think that you are wrong. He has every right to criticize and point out errors and flaws. If he sees an error, he can’t just ignore it. You might just have to tell him that he’s being impossible.

The Devil’s in the Details

Have you ever listened to a Blue tell an interesting story? Let’s say he got a flat on the highway. He’ll begin by saying that his alarm clock, a Sony, rang a minute earlier because it was Thursday and on Thursdays he gargles a little longer with Listerine—the green kind, since a taste test done by Consumers Union, the largest independent consumer-testing organization in the world, in their bulletin issued last March clearly demonstrated that it’s preferable. Breakfast consisted of two seven-minute eggs and coffee. Nespresso has a new roast, but he didn’t enjoy it. At least 9 percent of the beans were damaged, which made him reflect on how bean structure affects the mouthfeel of the coffee. Then he fetched the newspaper The New York Times, since they had made a special offer, 18 percent discount for three months. At the post office he spoke to his neighbor—who also reads The New York Times —about the best way to take care of the lawn in September. “There’s an interesting website that discusses different types of autumn fertilizer, very fascinating.…”

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day!

Haste is only for sloppy people. We can tell Blues to hurry up, but it goes in one ear and out the other. Speed isn’t an end in itself. Oftentimes, Blues slow down even more when they’re feeling stress, since in a high-stakes situation you really don’t have time to make mistakes. Better to be careful to avoid time-consuming fixes.

This may be true, but sometimes things are urgent, particularly in our fast-paced society—hurry to work, hurry at work, hurry home from the same job. Hurry in school, in traffic, in the supermarket—everywhere, everything is urgent. I don’t encourage any form of behavior that may lead to stress-related illnesses. But sometimes you have to speed up in order to stay in the race. Outwardly, the Blue is quite unmoved. He works at his own pace without worrying that those around him may burn out from their more hectic pace. They actually have themselves to blame.

Conclusion : Calmly and methodically tell the Blue that next week he’ll need to work at a faster pace. Explain exactly why this is so important. Establish that you have only forty-eight hours left to complete the project. This time is precious and must be used correctly. Point to the big picture. Give him valid reasons he should go against his instincts.

You can readily prove your point by highlighting the long-term plan: “We must stay on track or we’ll miss our next deadline.” If, for example, you’re talking about renovating your house, it might be helpful to negotiate in advance when everything will be ready. If the in-laws are arriving in four weeks, then the house must be done by then no matter what. Calculate how many hours can be devoted to the renovations. Decide which activities should be given priority. Make sure the Blue sticks to his schedule and keeps moving forward once he’s completed each task. Otherwise, the risk is that he will spend five hours polishing the finer details—time that he doesn’t have.

If you have all the time in the world, well, that’s another matter.

“If It’s in the Book, It Must Be True”

“Can’t we go by our gut feelings?” Try saying that to a strictly Blue individual and see what happens. Gut feeling is the opposite of rational thought, and nothing could be more foreign to the Blue.

Wait a minute: Does this mean that you should never use your own intuition if you’re working with Blues? Even Blue individuals have what we call a sixth sense or “nose” for what can be right. The difference is that they don’t trust it because it can, of course, be wrong. The problem is that it’s impossible to prove anything with the help of gut feeling. The only thing that counts is the facts. And even the facts might not be enough—there may be more information out there that would change everything!

Conclusion: Tell your Blue friend that if he has to make a decision without all the facts, he can follow his gut. This can apply to work or ordering at a new restaurant. Speak clearly and loudly to the Blue, and explain that if he doesn’t make a decision he’ll end up going hungry. Prove that it’s better to do something rather than remaining paralyzed, waiting for more information.

Point out that that it’s logical to use intuition in this situation because you don’t have all of the facts. Explain that the results will still be good—maybe just 95.3 percent of what they could be but still good. Help him to calculate risk but also to move on.

Decisions Made Here

Because the Blue experiences the decision itself as less important than the path to the decision, stagnation can occur. After painstakingly collecting facts and meticulously studying all available conditions, you finally come to the moment of truth—the decision. There is a risk that everything can deadlock. On the one hand … but on the other hand …

A project manager I met a few years ago wanted to buy a new car. For eight months he test-drove sixteen different makes. Over fifty different models in different combinations: different engines, bodies, transmissions, interiors, colors. He tried everything. Fabric versus leather upholstery. Gas versus diesel. Automatic versus manual. He did calculations on fuel consumption and depreciation and gave different graphs to respective car salesmen for an evaluation. After considerable internal torment, he bought a Volvo V70, then the country’s most popular car, in metallic silver, the most popular color at that time. This particular model was the most tested car of all by the various consumer agencies that year. You would think he could have picked that car just by reading about it.

“Why did you go and buy the most common, boring car after all that research?” everyone asked. “Why not?” he replied.

You can help with a Blue’s decision stagnation. Provide him with the crucial piece to the puzzle. Softly and gently, try to steer him in the right direction or, in any case, in a direction.

Conclusion: Pay attention to when the decision process stalls out. Suppose, for example, two equally strong candidates have applied for an opening at your company. So far, everything has gone well. The Blue decision maker has submitted detailed information via email and kept everyone informed about the necessary steps. The process has been followed to the letter.

In order to get something to happen, provide the decision maker with the necessary data required for him to make a decision about one of the candidates. Push him to make a choice. Remind him that the deadline is approaching. Point out the repercussions of delaying the decision—the quality of the company’s work will suffer if he doesn’t hire a new employee. Explain that everything has been properly considered and that, regardless of which candidate he chooses, all the risks have been eliminated.

In Conclusion

Now you have some basic information about how you can interact with the different colors so that you can get to where you want to go. The first step is to try to tune into the frequency of others and then adapt to them. In this way, you gain their trust and they are able to recognize themselves in you.

So the basic rule is to meet a Red with Red behavior, Yellow with Yellow, Green with Green, and finally Blue with Blue. You may think that it sounds simple. The difficulty comes, for example, if you are Yellow and must adapt to a Blue. You might need more training here. It depends on what color you are, how strong your self-awareness is, and how willing you are to make headway with a specific contact in your everyday life. You can always do what Adam did—you can continue being yourself.

The next step will be to start leading the person away from common pitfalls. As you have seen, each color has its obvious weaknesses. Here a Blue can help a Yellow become more concrete and the Yellow can perhaps persuade the Blue to loosen up and be a little more spontaneous.

At the risk of sounding cliché d—it’s all about working together, about meeting one another in the middle. You already knew that, but now you know how to do it.





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