No One Is Completely Perfect



No One Is Completely Perfect

Strengths and Weaknesses

As the title of this book suggests, there are individuals around us who, under less favorable circumstances, we may find challenging to understand. There are others we don’t understand at all, no matter what the situation is. And the most difficult to interact with are those who aren’t like us, because they obviously behave “incorrectly.”

The Differences Begin to Become Clear

You can see the general differences among the different colors. The illustration on page 63 shows an example of how they differ. Some people are issue oriented, and others are relation oriented. While two of them (Red and Yellow) are quick to act, the Greens and Blues are reflective. This is often the source of everyday misunderstandings, both large and small. I will come back to this on page 193, but I would like to take this opportunity to provide some nuances to the illustration of the different core behavior patterns that each color represents.

I’m not saying that you would call people idiots, like Sture, who opened my eyes at the beginning of this book. However, in all hon esty, all of us, on occasion, have just stood there, unable to comprehend a comment we’ve heard or watched someone behave in way that is diametrically opposed to how we would have behaved. And so we believe that they’re idiots.

This reasoning assumes that “I am always right,” which of course means that the other person, and their form of behavior, is automatically wrong. It’s a tricky question. A wise person once said that “just because you’re right, I don’t have to be wrong.” We also tend to pay special attention to the faults and shortcomings of others. Child psychologists have argued that the things we find most shocking in the behavior of our children are the things we recognize in ourselves—but wish we didn’t do. So who decides what kind of behavior is right and wrong?

Time for a Real Cliché

On the one hand, no one is perfect. There you go, a real platitude. But really, there are no perfect human beings; no one is without faults or shortcomings. In my youth, I was constantly looking for a role model who could become my mentor in life—that person, a man or woman, completely free from shortcomings—but I never found one. I still haven’t seen any trace of this elusive perfect human. And, of course, that’s the way it is. We live with our shortcomings and make the best of things.

On the other hand, when we think someone is an idiot is it really because of their faults and shortcomings or have we failed to understand them? An attribute that may be useful in some situations is unsuitable in others. It’s important to remember that communication usually takes place on the recipient’s terms. Whatever people’s judgment of me may be, that is the way they perceive me. Regardless of what I really meant or intended. As always, it’s all about self-awareness. Good qualities can become drawbacks in the wrong circumstances, no matter what the quality is.

Quick Review of Core Behavior Patterns

Reds are quick and more than happy to take command if needed. They make things happen. However, when they get going, they become control freaks and can be hopeless to deal with. And they repeatedly trample on people’s toes.

Yellows can be amusing, creative, and elevate the mood regardless of who they’re with. However, when they are given unlimited space, they will consume all the oxygen in the room, they won’t allow anyone into a conversation, and their stories will reflect reality less and less.

The friendly Greens are easy to hang out with because they are so pleasant and genuinely care for others. Unfortunately, they can be too wishy-washy and unclear. Anyone who never takes a stand eventually becomes difficult to handle. You don’t know where they really stand, and indecision kills the energy in other people.

The analytical Blues are calm, levelheaded, and think before they speak. Their ability to keep a cool head is undoubtedly an enviable quality for all who aren’t capable of doing that. However, Blues’ critical thinking can easily turn to suspicion and questioning those around them. Everything can become suspect and sinister.

In the following sections, I deal with how people might perceive the weaknesses of certain behavior patterns. Naturally, this is a sensitive area and can be easily misunderstood. When I coach individuals, this is usually where things can get messy. So as you read on be aware that much is in the eye of the beholder. Who is right and who is wrong? The behavior patterns I am talking about are described as other people may perceive them, even if the intention of the person who just made a fool of himself might have been completely different.

One thing I know for sure regarding the different colors is that each color evaluates themselves in different ways. Reds and Yellows tend to inflate their strengths and believe that they have no weaknesses. They have powerful egos, and a great part of their success can probably be attributed to the fact that they don’t get bogged down in faults and shortcomings but instead look for opportunities and good news. Clearly, this can’t be maintained over time.

Conversely, Greens and Blues usually exaggerate their weaknesses and in certain cases even ignore their strengths. The consequences are clear. When you give positive feedback to a Green or a Blue, they sometimes appear to be immune to it and change the subject to something that went seriously wrong. Obviously, this is highly unproductive.

Well—are we ready to go?

How Red People Are Perceived ?

If you ask other people about Reds, you might get a different picture from the one the Red gives of himself. What a surprise! My own private research shows that Reds are surrounded by more idiots than the rest of us. Many people will agree with what you have read up to now about Reds, but I have also heard other comments. Usually, they express this when the Red is not in the room because they are afraid of his fiery temper. You’ve heard him say that he wants to hear the truth. Over the years, he’s bellowed into our ears “Say what you think!” But as soon as you do, you find yourself in the middle of a heated discussion with an angry Red. This means that what you are going to read now will often be completely new for many Reds. Not many of us have ever been able to make these points to a Red before. It takes way too much energy.

Some people say that Reds are just belligerent, arrogant, and egotistical. They are perceived as unyielding, impatient, aggressive, and controlling.

I don’t think this is necessarily correct, but I’ve even heard people speak about people with Red behavior as dictatorial and tyrannical. Suddenly the picture isn’t as flattering. The born leader reveals his blemished side.

First of all, let me say this: Nothing said previously would necessarily bother a Red, because he is more task oriented than relationship oriented. Besides, everyone else is wrong. But let’s see what everyone else has to say.

“Why Does Everything Take So Long? Can’t You Speed Things Up a Bit?”

Well, what can you say? A person willing to step outside any regulatory framework to get ahead is nothing if not impatient. When the usual official channels take too long, a Red will scale over a few levels of decision makers and expeditiously look for the person who really calls the shots.

The first example that comes to mind was the traffic in my beautiful capital city. Sure, many locals are in more of a hurry than the national average when they sit behind the wheel—there are statistics about this. But since we’re talking about Red behavior, I’d like to tell you about a colleague I had a few years ago. Bjö rn and I used a car as our principal means of transport in and around the city. It simply took too long to use public transport. Bjö rn lost his license every so often because of his somewhat liberal approach to speed limits.

He lived far outside the city, and the journey into the office, about twenty miles away, could take about forty minutes. That was on a good day; it could just as easily take an hour and a half.

Bjö rn rarely felt the need to adjust his driving according to the flow of traffic. His opinion was that there was no reason for him to follow every single traffic rule. The posted speed limits here and there—fifty, sixty, and so on—they were mostly recommendations. They didn’t apply to him. They were there for people who didn’t really know how to drive a car!

On one occasion I was sitting in the office with a few colleagues having a cup of coffee, discussing the rather serious traffic situation. It felt as if the city was on the verge of a traffic infarction. Bjö rn didn’t know what we were talking about. He wasn’t aware of the problem at all. On the contrary, he felt that the traffic hadn’t been bad lately. When we questioned him a bit more, it turned out that he usually drove in the bus lane. All the way. For over twenty miles. It was so much quicker that way. Bjö rn even maintained that this was okay. You could even get a permit for the bus lane. That’s what he did, and it cost him about $140 a month.

About every four weeks the police stopped him, but it was worth it. Just imagine how much time he saved! And all it cost him was the fines. He felt it was a good deal.

This story illustrates quite clearly how Red behavior works. They know just as well as everyone else that it’s wrong to break the rules; however, since it’s quicker that way, they do it anyway. Reds are notorious rule breakers. Once again, I would like to remind you of their intentions—to get the job done.

Reds have no problem taking one or two shortcuts, as long as it’s about getting things done. With such a generous approach to regulations and rules, you’ll definitely arrive faster. I would even say that a Red is often so fast that if something were to go wrong he would still manage to redo the project. At the same time, no one else ever really knows what’s going to happen.

“I Am Not Screaming! I’m Not Angry! Aaarrrghhhh! 

Because the way Reds communicate is so blunt and so direct, many perceive them as aggressive. This is logical, but at the same time this perception varies, depending on who becomes the victim of the Red’s forceful points of view. For instance, in Sweden it’s not acceptable to behave in the kind of confrontational manner that would be fine in Germany or France. I’m not saying that people quarrel more in these countries, but that they have a slightly different approach to conflicts.

Just imagine. In many workplaces people are encouraged to be candid and “have open communication.” What does this really mean? It’s easy to interpret it as meaning we should all be honest with one another and just say whatever we think, right? We want to have open and forthright dialogue. That’s excellent; for any organization to be efficient, it’s necessary to have straightforward communication about things that are important.

So who excels at frank communication? And can receive the same without getting cranky? Answer: No one.

Besides Reds, of course. For them, this is a nonissue. “Why are we even talking about communication? It’s obvious that you say what you think!” Many people find this stressful; to constantly have the truth pushed into your face can be onerous if you have difficulty taking it.

My goal here isn’t to define what’s right or wrong; I only want to establish that all of us are different.

So why do we sometimes perceive Red behavior as threatening and belligerent? Could it be that they don’t give up right away? That they like to argue and debate even small matters if they find them important? That they’ll raise their voices, glare daggers at people, and pound their fists on the table if it suits them? That sometimes they express themselves rather rudely?

Imagine the following scenario:

You have a project, something that you’ve spent a few days on, or maybe even weeks. You begin to doubt yourself—have you succeeded at your work? Is it as good as you wanted it to be? Would you dare show it to the client as it is now, or should you ask for some feedback from someone who you know will give you an honest answer?

Just then a Red comes sauntering by, and you take a chance. You are fully aware that this colleague—spouse, friend, cousin, neighbor—will be honest. You ask for a frank opinion. With a degree of pride in your voice, you show him what you’ve accomplished, and you go through your process step by step. Without you noticing, the Red becomes impatient because he’s already decided what his opinion is and he’s getting tired of you doing all the talking for so long.

With a wave of his hand that effectively silences you, the Red says, “It doesn’t look that good. I don’t really like what you’ve done here. In fact, it looks pretty rough. I’m amazed that you didn’t do better than this. I think you have to redo the whole thing from start to finish.”

Then he leaves without thinking any more about it. You’re left there feeling forlorn and crushed, regardless of what color you are.

Exaggerated? Can this happen in real life? At this stage, if you believe that such nasty people don’t really exist then you’ve never met a genuine Red. Or the Reds you have met have essentially learned how to be dishonest.

Think about it. What’s the purpose of cutting a person down to size so completely? What were the Red’s intentions? It was to do exactly what you asked. You wanted an honest opinion!

“Say exactly what you think,” you said. It’s possible you even added: “I won’t be angry/ sad/disappointed/suicidal.” “Be prepared,” says the Red, “because here it comes.” By asking for an honest opinion, you released a flood of brutal candor. But you’ll survive—perhaps with your self-confidence a little waterlogged and your ego utterly drowned.

As a consultant, I have explained countless times that when a Red goes all out on an issue that’s important to him, an issue on which he does not intend to give up—well, the storm will be brutal. If you’re afraid of conflict, then you shouldn’t put yourself in that situation. A Red has no problem with conflict. Reds don’t consciously create conflict, but a refreshing quarrel every now and then can be a good thing, don’t you think? It’s just another way to communicate.

A little tip: The worst thing you can do once you get into a conflict with a Red is back off. That tactic can cause you serious problems. More on that later.

“What Are You Doing over There? I Can See What You’re (Not) Doing!”

What’s behind the need to control? Simply put, the desire for control is a phenomenon where an individual needs to have power over a situation in which either groups or individuals are present. Those who have control needs often feel extremely uneasy about having to adapt themselves to a group or a situation and will eagerly come up with various strategies to avoid this. A common form of behavior is to talk constantly, interrupting and ignoring others, in order to maintain control over the conversation.

Reds can probably be perceived as extremely overbearing, but it’s important to note they are interested in controlling those around them, but not in controlling every specific detail of a situation. (Attention to or control over detail isn’t something we can accuse Reds of.) But it is important for a Red to feel that he can influence what people do and how they intend to act on certain specific issues.

At the heart of this need for control is a belief that they know more than anyone else. And because a Red feels he knows best, he will keep tabs on everyone around him to ensure that they all do the right thing. The advantage for a Red is that he gets everything done his way. The disadvantage is obvious: everyone else feels controlled. Some people think it’s a good thing when someone else makes the decisions and holds the baton, but others feel limited and just want to escape.

Many years ago, I worked for a company in which one of the middle managers was quite Red. (She was also a bit Blue—see the section on Blue behavior.) When she delegated tasks to the employees the effect was quite amusing. She usually had no problem relinquishing certain things; she was even good at delegating enjoyable tasks, something many executives can find difficult. However, since she was Red, she was very quick in thought and action. In practice, this meant that she hung around after she had delegated a specific task—and if the task wasn’t done immediately she would simply go and do it herself. When the employee in question got to that item on his to-do list, he often discovered that it had already been done. 

Note: The deadline hadn’t been reached yet.

Because this middle manager was Red-Blue, she did a much better job than what the employee would have had he been given the chance. Red means fast; Blue means high quality in implementation. Unfortunately, criticism of the employee’s sluggishness was not slow in coming. As the Blue part of this manager was precise with the details and the Red part gave criticism very readily, she was perceived as quite rigid. Which brings us on to the next section.

“I Try to Care About You, but It Would Help If You Were a Little More Interesting.”

Have you ever met a person completely without feelings? No, I thought so. Once again—Reds are not typical relational people. Nothing wrong with that, as long as the person you are communicating with has the same focus as you. But if a Red speaks to a pronounced relational person, like a Yellow or a Green, he can be perceived as very coldhearted or inhuman.

Let me illustrate this with an example from my own personal experience.

I had a colleague, whom I always appreciated very much (notice that I start with the positives, to avoid ruffling feathers—very Swedish of me) and still have great respect for as a professional but also as a good friend. Okay, it’s the infamous Bjö rn again.

A few years ago, we were having a tough period in the company. Fall had been a difficult and strenuous time: long days, late nights, and frequent weekend work. We had worn ourselves out, we had worn one another out, and we had worn out our respective families. We were on our knees. We really deserved a quiet and restful holiday season.

For the company holiday party we went to a Japanese restaurant. We had taken our shoes off and were sitting on cushions, each holding a glass of sake in his hands. In typical Swedish fashion, we looked at the menus while, at the same time, keeping an eye on what the others were thinking of ordering. Of course, most of us didn’t want to order something that no one else chose.

Except for Bjö rn. He glanced quickly through the menu and declared what he had in mind. He was ready now and quickly grew weary of those of us who hadn’t decided yet. Needing something to do, he started a conversation. At the time, my daughter had just changed schools, and Bjö rn was inquisitive.

“How did everything go with the new school? How’s the little lassie doing?” Pleasantly surprised by his concern for my daughter, I started to tell him. After about twenty seconds I noted that Bjö rn’s eyes began to wander. He looked around the restaurant with a facial expression that said: Why is he telling me this?

He looked at me with a smile I interpreted as You know me. You know how I function. I don’t actually want to talk any more about that! And he quickly began talking about something completely different.

Ordinarily, I should have been a little bit offended, maybe even insulted. How can anyone be so insensitive? Especially when the other person is talking about something that he himself inquired about?

Does this mean that Bjö rn is coldhearted or that he cares nothing for other people? Not at all. He cares just as much as anyone else, but when he realized that everything was fine with my daughter he simply lost interest.

In usual fashion, he announced that the channel of communication was closed. Instead of sitting there hemming and hawing, pretending to be interested in more or less meaningless details, he said exactly what he felt. 

Remember that we’re talking about interpretations and perceptions here. The intention behind a particular behavior is one thing; how we as recipients perceive it is another. Personally, I just wanted to laugh the whole thing off, because I knew Bjö rn very well. I knew that he would never dream of hurting anyone deliberately. When he tramples on people’s toes from time to time it’s never intentional—it just happens. In reality, he is one of the warmest and most generous people I have ever met. It’s just that you have to know him to understand this.

What would have been the correct answer to Bjorn’s question about my daughter?


It would have been enough.

“It Takes Strength to Be Alone, and I’m the Strongest of You All.”

The word “egotistic” comes from the Latin word “ego,” meaning “I.” My I is, therefore, my ego. Linguistically, we have consequently chosen to put some kind of equal sign between people with strong egos and being selfish. Naturally, there are many people in our world who are selfish and egotistical. The world is teeming with them. Again, I want you to remember that we are speaking here about perceived behavior.

If we look at how a Red communicates, we can understand why many perceive him as egotistic:

• “I think we should accept this proposal.”

• “I want that assignment.”

• “This is what I think about it.”

• “I have a good idea.”

• “Will we do this my way or the wrong way?”

Add a sharp eye and distinctive body language and you will see someone who will take what he wants. He will fight for his interests. He will tell everyone who will listen that he is capable of doing whatever he undertakes. Some people, especially Greens, find that this “I” form of speaking is unsettling. A Red’s “I” message occupies their minds. (They share this trait with Yellows, who also have strong egos.) 

But we’ve learned to take care of one another. We know that being solitary is not the same thing as being strong, that we need one another to survive. Cooperation is the model, and I’ve preached this for over two decades. So we think it’s egotistic when Reds speak only about themselves. They make sure to help themselves before helping others. They are often willing to trample on someone else if they see an opportunity to advance themselves. They may not do this consciously, but the effect is the same.

Reds often come out the winners in discussions. They see this as a natural part of a conversation. They always know best and will assert that everyone else is wrong. It suits their ego to behave this way. The aftermath of this method is that they lose friends, people can dislike them, and they are cut off from information because no one wants them in the group. Once they’ve noticed this, they may well just decide that all the other people are idiots.

A few years ago, I was one of six people who was seated at the table having an evening meal. In some anguish, a man, Green-Blue, told me he was not feeling well. He couldn’t live up to the responsibilities his employer laid on his shoulders. He was hard-pressed by his burdensome workload, and he found it difficult to sleep at night. This caused even more stress for him because he knew that if he didn’t get a good night’s rest it would be even harder for him to perform at work. His wife, sitting beside him, tried to hide her discomfort. The situation was certainly not comfortable for anyone in the room. Everyone at the table offered encouraging remarks along with cautious questions about how he thought he might be able to reverse the difficult situation. We all expressed our support as far as we could.

Except for the Red. After ten minutes, the only Red at the table finally had enough and tore into the distraught, stressed-out little devil.

The Red’s analysis was as clear as day: “I think you complain too much. You’re just earning your salary. I’ve never been sick, and I think people worry too much; I would never end up in your situation, and I really think you should pull yourself together.”

What a dinner that was! Let’s be honest—Reds are the ones who always believe they are surrounded by idiots.

How Yellow People Are Perceived?

Funny, entertaining, and almost divinely positive. Absolutely. Again—this is their own interpretation. If you ask other people about Yellows, you may well get a somewhat different picture. Many people will agree with what you have read up to now, but you will also hear other comments. It’s especially fun to ask the Blues. They will say that Yellows are selfish, superficial, and overly self-confident. Someone else will say that they talk too much and are bad listeners. Combine that with the observation that they can be distracted and careless. Suddenly the picture is not as flattering.

When a Yellow hears these comments, one of two things can happen. Either he gets deeply distressed and genuinely hurt, or he sets off a ferocious argument. It depends. What’s striking is that, over time, none of this criticism will really torment a Yellow very much. On the one hand, he’s a bad listener, and on the other hand, he has what some psychologists might call a selective memory. He simply forgets the difficult bits, and with his positive ethos he finds it easy to say to himself that he doesn’t have any faults or shortcomings.

Let’s have a look at what Yellows struggle with—even if they don’t always know it.

“Hello, Anyone There? Listen to What Happened to Me! You Want to Know, Right?”

At the beginning of this chapter, I pointed out that Yellows are very good communicators. I would like to repeat that now.

Yellows are very good communicators. With an emphasis on “very.” None of the other colors come close to the Yellows’ ease in finding words, expressing themselves, and telling a story. It comes so easily, so simply, so effortlessly, that you can’t help being impressed. It’s common knowledge that most people don’t like speaking in front of others. They get heart palpitations and sweaty palms, terrified of making fools of themselves. This is totally alien to Yellows. Making fools of themselves isn’t part of the deal, and if the improbable were to happen you could always laugh it off with another amusing anecdote.

However, it may be too much of a good thing. Regardless of what you are good at, there is a limit, a time to break off. Yellows, especially those without self-awareness, don’t have such a limit. It would never even occur to them to wrap up; if they have something to say, out it comes. The fact that no one else thinks it’s important is neither here nor there.

A Yellow behaves exactly like most people—he does what he’s good at. And he is good at talking. There are countless examples of Yellows who completely dominate a conversation. Then add a hefty dose of poor listening and an interesting (read: one-sided) communication takes place.

Many people become hugely frustrated by this limitless verbosity. It’s often perceived as egocentrism. The terms “windbag,” “verbal diarrhea,” and “motormouth” were more than likely coined with Yellows in mind.

Countless times I’ve experienced the following: A group of people are sitting around a boardroom table. The top dog in the room expresses an idea; it can be about anything at all. When the time comes for comments, all the Yellows will reinforce the idea by repeating the exact same thing, possibly with their own words. (I would like to say to the women reading this that I am aware of the fact that this is more male behavior than female.)

Why do they do that? Well, first, it’s important to signal when you are in agreement, and second, they can say it so much better.

A few years ago, I was with a management team studying group dynamics. I had just purchased a cell phone with a stopwatch. Using this, I could time who had spoken in the group and for how long.

In the room were the CEO and his seven closest associates. Peter, the sales manager, was really Yellow and he had only had one point of the nineteen on the agenda. Take a good look at the ratio 1:19. This represents around 5.3 percent of the agenda.

The CEO opened the meeting, but pretty soon a clear pattern emerged. Peter had opinions about every single item on the agenda. I used my stopwatch and was fascinated by what I saw. He spoke 69 percent of the time. Yes. It’s true. Thirty-one percent went to the other seven, including the CEO himself.

If you’re Yellow, you may have already charged on ahead in this book, because you possibly recognized yourself and thought that this was a very unfair example. Everyone else is wondering how that’s even possible. How can one person dominate the conversation so fully? It’s possible because Yellows have no problems delivering opinions, views, and advice regardless of whether they know anything about the subject or not. A Yellow has a generous approach to his own ability—when an idea pops up in his head, he simply opens his mouth.

People say that for Reds thought and action are the same thing. For Yellows, I would suggest the idea that thought and speech are interrelated. What Yellows share is often completely unprocessed material that just tumbles out of the big opening on their faces. Sure, it might be well thought out, but it’s usually not. What’s most deceptive is that, almost without exception, it sounds very good. Yellows know a thing or two about presenting an idea so that it always sounds fantastic. If you’re unfamiliar with this particular person, you may very well take everything he says as true—a serious mistake.

Very often a Yellow is both entertaining and inspiring, and as I said, they can inspire people to new ideas. But should you get into a conversation with a Yellow, you need to be observant so that when he catches his breath you can quickly insert a comment. Or simply close the meeting.

“I Know It Looks Messy, but There’s a Method to the Madness!”

A Yellow would hardly admit that he’s careless. But he has no natural way to keep track of things. He finds working in a structured way boring. Then you have to fit the mold and follow the template. If there is anything that Yellows avoid, it’s feeling controlled by fixed systems.

The solution is to keep everything in your head, which doesn’t work. It’s not possible to remember everything. So inevitably the Yellow forgets and those around him think he’s careless. Missed appointments, forgotten deadlines, and half-finished projects all because once his mind has finished the task he doesn’t go backwards. He goes forward. Leaps to the next project. Deals with other things.

Details. To complete a project, you usually need to be precise about details. Yellows don’t like keeping track of details. I would even venture to say that they’re not interested in details. They paint with broad strokes.

Generally, Yellows are very good at launching things. They’re resourceful, and with boundless creativity at their disposal, they can kick off various kinds of projects. But they’re not as good at finishing things. Finishing anything 100 percent requires an ability to concentrate that a Yellow rarely possesses. He gets tired and moves on. And so we think that he’s careless. He thinks that his work is good enough. My goodness, why worry about trifles? This turned out quite well, after all! The fact that threads are hanging from the shirt or that the document is full of spelling errors is not as important as thinking up new things.

This is repeated in many different spheres. I have a few acquaintances who are hopeless at keeping time. They are always pleased and excited to think things up, but they are optimists when it comes to time. It makes absolutely no difference what time you suggest; they will not be on time. Seven o’clock, half past seven, or eight. It’s unimportant. They’re late regardless. And when they talk about it, they haggle down their late arrival from forty-five minutes to a little over fifteen minutes. After a while, they actually believe it themselves. But it doesn’t matter—the rest of us wait patiently because their presence will be the highlight of the evening.

“Look, I Can Juggle All the Balls at the Same Time!”

We need to talk a little about Yellow’s inability to concentrate. He’s always prepared for new experiences. This is the downside to the incredible openness Yellows have for new things, ideas, and impressions. There are so many new things!

And because “new” is synonymous with “good” for a Yellow, it’s best that something new happens all the time. Otherwise, our Yellow friend will lose focus. He can’t be bothered listening to the whole story, the background, and all the details and facts that may actually be relevant. It’s not interesting to him, and he will lose his concentration.

What does he do then? Simple. Something else. He throws up another ball to juggle. The problem with all these balls is that he might be able to keep them in the air for a while, but he can’t get them down into the right box at the right time. Instead, he leaves the room and the juggled balls tumble down right into someone else’s lap. In a meeting, he may very well start playing with his mobile phone or his computer or will start chatting to the person beside him. Softly at first, thinking that no one will notice anything. It’s not true, of course; everyone gets quite irritated. But if no one says anything he’ll just continue. Here Yellows are like little children. They are good at testing the limits. They continue until someone becomes too angry and puts his foot down. And, of course, then the Yellow feels hurt. He just wanted to …

The way Yellows often quickly get bored can have far greater consequences than a little disruptive behavior during meetings. They’re not good at everyday trivial things like administration and follow-ups. As usual, most Yellows would contest what I just wrote. In their own eyes, they are the masters even here. But if we consider the ability to follow up, this could be a serious threat to the effective implementation of a project.

New project—great! Put together a new and dynamic team full of interesting people—check! Get everything going and develop ideas and concepts—are you kidding? Already done that! Working like crazy in the beginning to really get things sped up? Yup. But then? Following up on what is actually happening or not happening in a project is extremely boring. That means looking backwards; that’s dull, and it won’t happen. A Yellow can’t keep his concentration long enough to follow through. He would rather persuade himself that it’s important to have confidence in people and just trust that the project gets done

A funny example happened once when I coached sales reps at a large commercial TV channel. I sat with a female seller, a clever young woman who made big business deals. We had identified some weaknesses in her behavior profile—after she had struggled to convince me that even bad traits could be quite good—and now started to make a plan for how she would proceed in her personal development.

It began to fall apart on the first point: When would she begin?

She couldn’t start that day because it was already past three in the afternoon. And tomorrow was full of meetings. It had to be next week. But she was away then. Maybe the week after that; she would check her calendar and see.

She had lost the match before she had even begun.

“Me! Me!! Me!!!”

Yellows aren’t necessarily more selfish than others, but they always seem to be. Why? Mostly because of their dialogue, since they primarily talk about themselves. And when other people are not sufficiently interesting and exciting, a Yellow will interrupt and guide the topic towards something far more interesting—not infrequently himself.

I remember a seller I encountered during a conference with a pharmaceutical company a few years ago. Gustav exhibited all of the less successful aspects of Yellow behavior, and the problem was that he was completely unaware of it. He very rarely spoke about anything but himself and the things he had done, and he behaved as if he were the one who was leading the conference and not me. I have my methods to deal with those boys. But it’s amusing to study them for a while before I adjust their behavior with a few choice words during the first break.

A few examples: Every time I put a question to the group, Gustav answered. His quick answers would have indicated engagement—if it had not been for the fact that he was often actually spewing nonsense. He simply said the things that popped into his head. He couldn’t keep his thoughts in his own head, and everything just tumbled out. When I directed my attention to one of Gustav’s colleagues instead of him, he simply leaned into my field of vision and continued talking.

When I began directing questions to specific people in the room—simply calling them by name—Gustav answered anyway. Pretty impressive, right? He would speak for a while and then ask Sven, “That’s what you were going to say, right, Sven?” Sven just shook his head. He was used to this. Gustav continued like that the whole morning before I could rein in him. He just charged in whenever there was a gap or a few seconds’ silence.

He never allowed anyone to speak and everything he said was to be taken as gospel truth. He dominated the room without even thinking about the other nineteen people. The funny thing was that everyone was aware of what was going on. But no one had the energy to stand up to Gustav. They just stared at me with slight desperation in their eyes, hoping that I had some way of silencing him.

During lunch, he proclaimed far and wide, so that everyone heard it, that he thought the conference was going very well. By that point the majority of the group hated the very sound of his voice. They could barely put up with him. To save them from their suffering, I had to have a quick feedback intervention with him during the coffee break—something you’ll learn more about when I discuss giving feedback.

“You Never Told Me That, I Would Remember!”

If a Yellow is anything, it’s a bad listener. They’re really miserable at it, in point of fact. Many Yellows I have met say that they are very good listeners—and of course supplied entertaining examples of this undeniable fact—but maybe it could be their memory that was at fault. Basically, they believe that they listen very well, but somewhere along the way to the brain’s storage shelves whatever they heard simply gets lost—poof!

No, it’s not about memory. It’s about how a Yellow is often uninterested in what others say because he knows he could say it so much better himself. He doesn’t stay focused; he begins thinking about other things, begins doing other things. He does not want to listen—he wants to talk.

They’re also quite childish in that they only like doing things that are enjoyable. If a statement or story or just a normal conversation is boring, then they close their ears. Of course, there’s a remedy—take a course in entertaining rhetoric; then you may be able to keep your Yellow friend’s, partner’s, or colleague’s attention. If you can present your message in a more amusing way, he’ll at least remain seated a bit longer. Rhetoric isn’t the art of talking but rather the art of getting others to listen.

If you have a good friend whom at this stage you have identified as Yellow, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In mid-sentence, he opens his mouth and starts talking about something completely different. Bad memory? No, you were simply being tedious. But truly—add a bad memory into the equation and we really are in trouble.

Many truly successful people in society are often better listeners than the general average. They don’t willingly talk as much as they listen. They already know what they know, and to learn more they simply have to hush up and hear what others are saying. It’s a way to absorb new knowledge. This is something Yellows need to understand better if they’re not to be perceived as completely hopeless—or just stagnant in their personal development. They must, for example, listen to the message I have presented in this last section. If they refuse to take it in just because it is a difficult and possibly a boring message, they’ll never learn anything.

How Green People Are Perceived?

So what do others—other colors—think about Greens? The picture is ambivalent. Besides the fact that they are considered pleasant, friendly, and caring, there are other opinions. A person who, out of fear of conflict, says yes but means no—how do you handle him? How do you know what he really thinks?

Reds and Yellows especially have problems with what I call the silent resistance. Remaining silent rather than speaking out. Certain Greens, however, tend to tell the truth behind the back of the person concerned. Therefore, others can perceive a Green as dishonest, even though their intention is only to avoid conflict. In general, Greens always expect the worst and therefore tend to lie low.

Then we have the Green’s inability to change. When a Green understands the need for change but still says no thanks, that leads those closest to him to think that he is afraid of change, stubborn, unconcerned, and indifferent. As usual, we are talking about perceptions. If we ask Reds what they think about Greens, there will be some heavy opinions.

Pigheadedness Will Never Be a Virtue

What do you do with a person who never changes his views? Ever? Not even when the facts indicate that it’s time to take a different path? How do you handle someone whose resolve to continue on the present course has completely taken over?

The difference between Greens and Blues is that while a Blue holds out for more facts about an issue, Greens expect everything to simply blow over, since they refuse to change their minds. They’ve made a decision about something and will not concede. Why? Because they don’t usually do that.

Think about it: It may have taken you your whole life to come to a particular opinion about the dangerous cholesterol in food, about space travel, or about Britney Spears. Suddenly this guy comes along and says that you should exchange your current opinion for his.

It’s not going to happen. The Green is waiting for the right feeling to come over him before he makes any changes. If it doesn’t, well … they’re often rather patient.

Let me tell you about a young man, the son in a family I’ve known very well for many years. This guy is reasonably good in school; his grades are okay. He has many pals.

At the outset, I would like to point out that when we speak about young people, in this case a teenager, we must be careful. This isn’t a fully developed behavior profile or character. Young people still have things to learn about life in general. All impressions are not definitive.

So what’s the problem?

This young man has his own ideas about what is true and false. And wild horses couldn’t get him to change his mind. It may be something he heard from a friend or something he saw on television or something he picked up in school. When this knowledge or idea, irrespective of its source, has been established in his consciousness, it can’t be dislodged. It makes no difference how often his parents point out the facts or how tough they are when they present the evidence—his point of view is clear. It doesn’t even matter if they point out the danger in this or that way of thinking; he persists in his belief.

Think about it. You supply all the available facts, and the guy says that he understands. He agrees that it sounds logical. Other people could feasibly do it that way, with good results. But still, he’s not prepared to change his point of view. Some people would call this pigheadedness.

What’s the reason for this? Excellent question. It may be a result of where he first got the information. If a friend says that you can earn just as much money collecting trash as a newly qualified doctor can earn, it doesn’t really matter if it’s true or not. If the same friend suggests that you can’t be arrested for drunk driving if you drive your car after drinking three beers, then this becomes the truth, even if we, with all the facts at our disposal, know that this is simply not the case.

If this guy is told that he’ll get a terrific job if he just works a little harder at mathematics, it becomes true. If he got this info from his best mate, it simply has to be true. If a Green trusts in a particular individual, that individual’s word becomes law. This makes it easy to exploit Greens, because they can be a little naï ve and gullible. And unfortunately, certain people take advantage of this fact.

Sometimes this obstinacy becomes a strength, no doubt about that. But when those around them perceive it as pure pigheadedness, it can create problems.

“Why Bother? Nothing Is Worth Caring About.”

Since Greens rarely make the first move and almost always allow others to step up first, you can easily get the impression that a Green is not especially interested or engaged. And often that’s the case. He is more passive than he is active, and this has an impact on his behavior. Not much is going on there.

And what does it really matter? If you stay at home—nothing can really go wrong then, right? What Greens fail to see is that most other people want to do things. They assume that everyone thinks as they do and stays on the sofa. They are satisfied with doing nothing. Anything that upsets this standpoint becomes a threat. The result? Even more passivity.

On one occasion, I heard a Red-Yellow boss describe his employees as uninspired and uninterested in their work. It tormented him because no matter how hard he tried to entice and insist, they never left the starting block. He presented numerous ideas—some of which were very interesting—but nothing happened. It can be like that with Greens. They recognize a good idea as quickly as anyone else. But, for example, while their Red colleagues sprint off with the baton, a Green just sits and waits. Often they’re waiting for the right feeling to convince them of an idea’s merit and if that doesn’t happen, well … they wouldn’t do anything anyway, so they get what they want. Why not just wait and see if the urge to act goes away?

This particular boss called in his employees and asked them how they viewed the business. He was worried about the evident lack of discernible commitment. A couple of the men, who were lower middle age, said straight-out that they couldn’t think of anything that was worth getting involved in. The boss became extremely frustrated. He tried everything but got virtually no reaction.

This can also happen in a marriage. There are stereotypes for everything. Like that some women might be drawn to the strong, silent type, for example. Nothing wrong with that. But after they’re married and she realizes that this is all that he is—strong and silent—she may not be as happy. And when she makes plans and he says he doesn’t care, she gets frustrated. And so she makes even bigger plans. And he clutches the armrests on his favorite recliner even harder.

This is the paradox. The bigger the plans, the less likely it is that a Green will commit. All he wants is peace and quiet.

Here’s an example: I’ve been writing fiction for twenty years and really hoped to become a published author one day. Everyone in the family knew this. Not that I made a huge deal out of it, but I didn’t hide my ambitions, either. One Green close to me understood how important it was for me to succeed. I have repeatedly spoken about my dream, explaining how it would make me feel if I succeeded as an author of fiction. Yet this Green never asked how my writing was going. Maybe a comment every five years that I shouldn’t take things so seriously or I will only be disappointed. And when I said things like: “This year it will happen. Now is the time, damn it. I’ve got to work harder to succeed!” the response was: “Wow. That’s a lot of work.” Lots of work is a Green’s greatest enemy, just because that’s exactly what it is—work. They live in a mind-set that everything should be easy.

This form of indifference and lack of commitment can kill the enthusiasm of even the most inspired person. I had to learn to rely on others to find the energy to struggle on with my writing. But a Green doesn’t understand this. He doesn’t want people to be too involved, because it’s just bothersome. Instead, let’s just sit here and do … nothing.

What’s Thought in Secret Is Said in Secret

Greens are reluctant to take a position on sensitive issues. They have just as many views and opinions as anyone else, but they don’t like shouting them from the rooftops. The reason is simple—it can cause a fuss.

The consequence of this tendency is a rather abstruse manner of expressing themselves. Instead of saying, “That’s impossible,” they may respond with something like, “It appears that there are a few challenges in delivering that.” Sure, both statements mean the same thing: “We won’t manage to do it in time.” But by using a less direct means of expression, you take fewer risks. If you take a clear stance on something, then you have to stand up for it.

For a Green, it’s better to be safe than sorry. By expressing himself ambiguously, he avoids taking responsibility for the matter in question. He doesn’t have to risk his good name if he’s uncertain. If he hasn’t taken a position in support of something, he also hasn’t taken any position against something. You hear how illogical this sounds, right? But if you’re Green, you know exactly what I mean. A woman I met once said that she believed what everyone else believed.

But are Greens perceived as unclear just because they want to save a relationship? No, not at all. Greens just aren’t as precise as the other colors. When a Red says that he absolutely hates listening to Eminem, a Green would say that he remembers better singers. When a Blue says that he has lost five pounds since last Tuesday morning at 10:03, a Green says that he’s lost a few pounds lately.

This is because Greens are not as task oriented as Reds and Blues. Greens don’t speak about facts in the same way. They would rather speak about relationships and feelings, which makes it more difficult to be precise. How do you measure a feeling? Saying, “I love you exactly twelve percent more than last month,” is just not going to work.

“I Know I Should Change This Immediately, but I’ll Just Think About It for a While.”

Here we have the most difficult stumbling block. If you want to make changes in a group consisting of many Greens, good luck. If it’s a major change, you should consider whether it’s really worth the effort. If it’s urgent, you can forget the whole thing. This is what happens in the mind of a Green:

• I know what I have but not what I’ll get.

• It was better before.

• I’ve never done this before.

• The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Sound familiar? Sure, not all changes are for the better, but let’s be reasonable! I’m not saying that it’s always wrong to express these sentiments, but when changes are really necessary it can be very dangerous.

A classic cliché —a little worn now, I know—is to consider how often you change where you sit at the breakfast table. I used to ask this question in the groups I met. Many smiled and said that they sat where they usually sit because it just happened. Sure, I do the same thing sometimes. But if someone were to point out that I was stuck in a rigid habit (or bad habit) I would do something about it. A Green, however, doesn’t correct himself.

When you look at a Green’s reaction to the question, you’ll understand that we’re faced with a problem. I’ve seen adults become white in the face, wiping their foreheads at the mere thought of sitting on the other side of the table. I’ve even worked with a man, Sune, who had such a meticulous lunchtime routine that if he couldn’t follow it precisely the rest of the day was shrouded in sheer darkness. Sune had a favorite lunch spot beneath a painting. He sat there every day at lunchtime, week in, week out, month out and year in. Always the same chair.

If he came into the dining room and saw that his spot was occupied, he would stop short. If he saw this quickly enough, he’d turn towards his backup location, not as good but still an acceptable spot, near a window. If he were forced to have his soup there, he would glare throughout the meal at whoever had nicked “his” spot. Of course, he never said anything. Instead, he just sulked the rest of the day. This is another thing Greens often do—turn frustration inwards and feel awful so that everyone notices it. If Sune’s backup spot was also occupied, he would just go back into the kitchen, the rest of his day ruined.

Let me give you another example. My mother—departed but never forgotten; we’ll never stop loving you, our darling mother—who was nothing if not Green, was always willing to help and took care of her grandchildren whenever needed, especially when they were little. I remember one time when my wife and I were invited to dinner on a Friday night. I had asked my mother to watch the kids weeks in advance because I knew that she needed time to mentally prepare herself for it.

On the day the dinner was to take place, the hostess called: Her husband was sick, and the whole thing was postponed. When I phoned my mum, I explained to her what had happened. We would be staying home that night. She went completely silent. I said that I still wanted her to come over because the children were excited to see their grandma.

Mum was very hesitant. “What will happen now?” she asked.

I said that it would be just like we had planned originally. Because her bag was packed and the guest room was ready, it would be a perfect opportunity to spend a little time together. She hesitated. “It will be completely different now: You’re at home.” She was flustered by the change, and she needed time to think. She promised to phone back.

What was really Mum’s problem? Our change of plans necessitated no change for her at all. She was still going to stay overnight between Friday and Saturday. She could still see her grandchildren. She would, however, avoid having any responsibility for them. I tried to convince her that we could take care of her for once, instead of her taking care of us.

This was a completely new situation for her. We were still there in the house. And that was the problem. My wife and I would be there. Maybe Mum had her heart set on a watching a particular show on television. Maybe she had thought about preparing a special meal for the children. Maybe, I don’t know. She never said anything about it, so we can’t know for sure. But the change was serious enough to warrant extra thinking time for her.

(She came in the end. A nice little side story, quite possibly related to her generation: I fetched her at half past four. She asked why I came so late. I replied that I had promised to be there at five o’clock and that I was actually half an hour early. Her response? She’d been ready since four o’clock.)

“I’ve Never Been So Upset, but for God’s Sake, Don’t Say Anything to Anyone.”

This is the second major dilemma with Green behavior. They despise a squabble. This aversion to conflict also causes many other challenges, such as stubbornness, ambiguity, and resistance to change. Because Greens are pronounced relational people, nothing is more important to them than keeping a relationship together. The problem is that their method doesn’t work.

You can look at conflicts in two ways. The first way is called the harmony outlook, or striving for harmony. Everything depends on being on good terms with others. Reaching an agreement is an end in itself. This means that those who cause conflict are problematic troublemakers. Conflicts are indicative of poor leadership, poor communication, and discord. And so we smother conflict and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Because who wants to be acquainted with a troublemaker?

I once met a coach who used an interesting metaphor for this kind of behavior. She said it was like sitting at the dinner table with a rotting pile of trash in the middle. You know, with mold and flies and everything. Everyone sees that the trash is there, but no one says anything. You brush away the flies and pass the food across the liquefying banana peels without thinking anything about it. Maybe by the end someone wonders if there even really is a pile of trash on the table at all. Finally, one of the dinner table guests says, “We have to do something about this!” That person becomes an agitator, because we now have to deal with this nasty mess of garbage. Couldn’t she have just kept quiet?

Nowadays we know better. The aspiration of having everyone in agreement about everything all the time is an impossible utopia, not even worth trying to achieve. Someone will lift the lid off all that discord that was so effectively and hermetically sealed for such a long period of time—and what happens then? It stinks from a long way off. In the end the harmony outlook inevitably leads to conflict.

The second way, and the opposite to the first, is called the conflict outlook. It basically means that we accept that conflicts exist—that it’s natural. No group exists where everyone is always in agreement about everything.

The whole point of the conflict outlook is to deal with every little dissentient issue as soon as it shows its head. Reds, and also some Yellows, do this naturally. When they see something that doesn’t work, they say that it doesn’t work. This means that problems can be resolved at an early stage. But you have to deal with the issue before it begins to stink.

The conflict approach usually creates harmony.

But a Green will just turn a deaf ear. He’ll do everything in his power to maintain that magical feeling that everyone is in agreement. It’s nicer when everyone agrees, isn’t it? Wouldn’t the world be so much better if there were no conflicts?

Consider a situation all of us have experienced at some point. We’re in a meeting at work. There are maybe ten people present in the room. Add or subtract from this so that you recognize the situation. Someone—the boss or anyone at all—has just completed his presentation and now asks what everyone is thinking. Full of expectation, he looks around, waiting for feedback.

If there are any Reds or Yellows in the room, they will speak about their views on the proposal they’ve just seen. The Reds will love it or loathe it. The Yellows will speak about their own reflections on the proposal. One or two Blues might have a few questions.

What do the Greens do? Absolutely nothing. They just lean back in their chairs and let themselves absorb the proposal. They say nothing at all unless asked a direct question. They look anxiously around, hoping that someone will say that this proposal is, in fact, an incomprehensible mess. The group is too large for them to trot out any dissenting opinions. To say something truly dramatic or negative would mean that everyone’s eyes will be on you, and that’s not going to happen. If they say what they are really thinking, a heated debate will erupt, and since a Green doesn’t want to take part in heated debates—he doesn’t even want to be in the same room as one—he simply keeps silent.

How will the speaker respond? He’ll assume that everyone is in agreement, right? What he doesn’t know is that half the people in the room think it was the stupidest thing they have ever heard. When the truth creeps out—it has to, sooner or later—guess what happens then? Exactly—conflict.

You can be certain that while you are standing at the coffee machine and maybe even while visiting the restroom the truth will come out. When Greens need to relieve the pressure of not speaking out, they talk behind your back. In small groups of two or three people, they will gladly vent their displeasure. And they’re good at it. As long as they think they can escape your gaze, they’ll backbite you in ways you would never expect from a Green.

How Blue People Are Perceived?

Even perfectionist Blue individuals receive criticism. It can be about how they are perceived as evasive, defensive, perfectionist, reserved, fastidious, meticulous, hesitant, conservative, lacking independence, questioning, suspicious, tedious, aloof, and coldhearted. Ooph! The list of shortcomings found in these bastions of bureaucracy often tends to be quite long.

But mainly, Blues find it difficult to begin anything new because they want to prepare very thoroughly. Everything involves risks, and Blues can be almost obsessed with details. Never place too many Blues in the same group. They’ll plan into the next century without ever putting a shovel to the ground.

Furthermore, many Blues are perceived as highly critical and almost suspicious. They miss nothing, and they have a tendency to deliver their observations in an insensitive fashion. They create quality work, but their hairsplitting, critical approach to almost everything lowers the morale of those around them to dangerously low levels. These are people who consider themselves to be realists. When they—in everyone else’s eyes—are, in fact, pessimists.

“Ninety-five Percent Right Is Actually 100 Percent Wrong.”

Let’s be honest from the start. All this keeping track of facts and focusing on details can go too far. There are limits to when it’s reasonable to keep researching. Do you remember the CEO who wanted to buy leadership training? He never left the starting block.

Blues want to have all the information on everything, and this can lead to problems with those around them. People who would be satisfied with good enough simply can’t cope with hearing all those questions and all this relentless poking into details. A Blue believes that good enough is never really good enough.

I enjoy working around the house—changing the decor, hanging wallpaper every now and then. A few years ago, we remodeled our kitchen, and even though I got tremendous help from my family, I did quite a lot myself. I worked and toiled and was quite happy when it was finished. For a DIYer, I thought I managed it quite well.

Hans, a good friend of mine, came by. We’ve known each other for many years, and he’s very much on the ball. He knew that I’d worked very hard and that I felt quite pleased with myself. When he came into my kitchen, he looked around and said quietly, “New kitchen? Looks good. That cupboard door is crooked.”

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t nice to hear that. But for Hans, it was the highest form of logic. He observed a mistake and his sense of perfection meant that he couldn’t ignore it. Besides, he is not a typical relational person, so he couldn’t help saying things as they were. He wasn’t directly criticizing me, only something I had done. Namely, not fitting the cupboard door straight.

Fastidiousness can be expressed in various ways: It can be a person who can’t cope with papers that aren’t perfectly aligned on a desk, who rewrites an email about fifteen times to get it truly perfect, or who works for hours on a simple Excel spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation, just giving it the finishing touches.

They Never Finish Anything. There’s Always More to Do.

Once, I was holding a communication training program for a group of people, all of who were working in the same room. The group consisted of about twenty people. The first afternoon, I handed out the results of the behavior analysis that each of them had taken earlier. Everyone read about themselves with increasing fascination, and most of them seemed very satisfied.

Except for one lady. She was extremely upset by her analysis. It was, in fact, completely incorrect. After confirming with her that it was okay to discuss it in front of the whole group, I asked what it was she was displeased with.

“There’s so much that’s incorrect,” she told us. For example, the analysis revealed that she could be a perfectionist. She wasn’t like that at all. I noticed the tiny smiles appearing on people’s faces. Apparently, her colleagues knew something she didn’t.

I asked her why she thought that the analysis maintained she was a perfectionist. She had no idea. The whole thing was a complete mystery. It was a totally useless tool.

Realizing that the woman was Blue, I was careful not to argue too much. She wouldn’t take me at my word. I was just some random consultant who had been working with this tool for a measly twenty years. What did I know?

Instead, I asked her to give an example showing that she was not a perfectionist. No problem, she had plenty. For example, she had three children, each of who had three best pals. When she came home in the evenings, there were so many shoes piled up inside the front door that she had to do the high jump to get in. She began by shaking the dirt off the doormat and putting the shoes in order. She confided in me that she used to put size 10 at the back, as those guys went home last, so it seemed most logical. She placed the smaller sizes closest to the door in neat rows.

Then she went into the kitchen. What did she see there? Crumbs everywhere. All of these youngsters had been eating sandwiches, and the kitchen looked like a war zone. It took her twenty minutes to sanitize everything, put everything back in place, sweep, wipe the tables and worktops. Only then could she take off her coat and relax a little.

Her colleagues were in stitches. The woman looked around, not understanding what the excitement was all about. That any of this could even be remotely obsessive was beyond her. Her house was so untidy, that was her point.

The funny thing about this story is that a few years later I met the same woman but in a totally different context. She gave me a big hug and said that the analysis of her behavior was 100 percent correct. Stunned, I wondered how she arrived at that conclusion.

It turned out that she had kept the behavior profile in her purse for a while; the analysis had a list of behaviors and qualities, and every time she found herself doing one she ticked it off on the sheet. In the end, she had ticked all of them off. She liked the profile. An amazing tool, on the whole.

“I Don’t Really Know You, So Keep Your Distance.”

You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Gone up to a person who seems to be a decent fellow and started talking about this and that thinking you’re going to have a nice chat. After a while, you realize that you’re the one doing all the talking. If you have Yellow traits in your behavior, you may notice that there are strange pauses in the dialogue. If there really is a dialogue. You may notice that the other person fidgets a bit, signaling that he doesn’t want to be part of this conversation.

“What’s going on? We’re just talking about the game yesterday, or about what the family did last summer, or where you intend to go on vacation. Do we have a problem, or what?”

Yes, in fact we do, because this person doesn’t willingly speak with strangers. “Wait a minute,” you may say. “We’ve been working together for three months, and by now it should be perfectly okay to ask what his dog’s name is.” But this guy requires a lot of personal space, both physically and psychologically. He needs to know a person extremely well before opening up. Not like a Red, who lets out with whatever he feels; not like a Yellow, who reveals his darkest secrets because he assumes that everyone is interested; or like a Green, who can be personal, but only in small groups and in a controlled environment.

A Blue doesn’t need small talk. He can easily give the impression that he doesn’t care about other people, because he doesn’t cultivate any relationships. Sure, he cares, but his needs are on a different level than everyone else’s. He likes being in his own company and with immediate family.

The consequence is clear for those around him: They find him coldhearted and distant. That personal bubble is obvious, and it can be very chilly, particularly for Yellows and Greens. And so they call their Blue friend a bore. Blues can easily make us feel ill at ease. “Why is he so cold and dismissive? Doesn’t he care about me at all?”

“Better Safe Than Sorry. Think About it—Preferably Three Times.”

A good family friend couldn’t leave her house without first checking to see if her keys were really in her handbag, even though placing them there was the last thing she had done before going to the front door.

Back in the 1980s, when I worked as a teller in the bank, I served people who had waited thirty minutes in line for just one single reason: to check that the balance printed on the ATM receipt really was correct. Much anticipation. The same computer. The same balance. But you never know. Best to check. And double-check. If a triple check had been possible, they would have done it.

Where does this need for control come from? Why can’t Blues trust what other people say or just accept the information they hear? Answer: They can, of course. But if they also check themselves, then all the risks will be eliminated, right? But the fact remains that they don’t trust others. Everything has to be confirmed. And recorded, and documented properly.

Remember, we’re talking here about behavior as perceived by others. A Blue checks everything one extra time because it’s possible to check everything one extra time. When everything has been confirmed, then you just have to make a decision.

I have a good friend who uses Excel diligently. But not like the rest of us. This guy has a special method. He writes a formula and inserts all the data. Before he sends any important files to his senior managers, he does a control check of everything using a calculator.

Why does he do that?! If you were to explain this to a Red, he would declare that guy an absolute idiot. Explain it to a Yellow and he would laugh himself to death. Any Blue will understand the whole thing immediately. There is a theoretical possibility that there could be errors in Excel. Even though he has typed the formula himself, something may still go wrong. Better to be on the safe side.

How do others perceive this? Read on!

“The Only Thing I Can Trust Is Myself and My Own Eyes.”

The guy who questions Excel has, of course, a problem explaining himself. Many people around him have their views about his method of always having to double-check and triple-check everything he does himself and everything everyone else does. They get furious when he, through his actions, clearly shows that he doesn’t trust them.

The other tiny little problem is that everything takes a terribly long time. This can be managed by working more hours. What’s more problematic is the way relationships can suffer because of this habit. How demoralizing is it when you go up to someone to tell him about a possible breakthrough and the first thing the person does is isolate all the different components and call into question every single point?

Of course, if everyone looks long enough they will find mistakes.

Nor is it even sufficient to be right. You have to prove yourself to a Blue. If he considers you an authority in a particular field, he’ll be better at listening to you. The road, however, can be tricky.

I’ve held many training courses and lectures on this subject, and if there are people who ask complicated questions they’re usually engineers, technical sales staff, or financial controllers. Maybe a handful of tax lawyers. Oftentimes their color is Blue, and they’re not impressed with me. Just because I have made my living doing this for twenty years doesn’t mean I know what I’m talking about. (Remember the woman who was accused of being a perfectionist.)

The only thing you can do is accept that among these people, the standard of proof will be much higher. Facts always remain, as we know: If I have prepared well enough I can prove that what I am saying is true. In time, they will trust me.


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