People Have Always Been like This



People Have Always Been like This

The Background to Everything You’ve Read So Far

This chapter explains how I arrived at the research that forms the basis of the information in this book. If you’re not interested in history, or references, or research, or things that take time from your otherwise full life, you can skip this chapter. For everybody else—a long time ago …

In all cultures, there has always been a need to categorize people. When the Stone Age period was over and we became more reflective as people, we discovered that all over the world people were different. What a surprise.

But how different are people really? And how have those differences been described? There are probably as many methods as there are cultures on earth. But I’ll share some examples.

The Greeks

Hippocrates, who lived four centuries before Christ, is considered the father of medicine. Unlike many other physicians of that time, he wasn’t superstitious. He believed that disease originated in nature and didn’t come from the gods. For example, Hippocrates believed that epilepsy was caused by a blockage in the brain. Nowadays this is common knowledge, but back then it was revolutionary.

Humoral pathology, or the theory of the four humors or four bodily fluids, has to do with the four temperaments. According to Hippocrates, our temperament is the fundamental way we react. It’s our behavior or our natural frame of mind. Our temperament controls our behavior.

Hippocrates believed that your health is good when the four humors—blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm—are in balance. When we vomit, cough, or sweat, for example, the body is trying to rid itself of one or more of these substances.

The word chloe comes from Greek and means “yellow bile.” Therefore, a choleric person is controlled by yellow bile or the liver. Fiery and temperamental, choleric people sometimes frighten those around them with their powerful ways. “Choleric” can be translated as “hot-blooded.”

The Latin word s anguis means “blood.” A sanguine person is controlled by the blood, by the heart. Creative and happy-go-lucky, he spreads positive vibes around him. Full of blood and therefore optimistic and cheerful, he has an airy manner. A synonym for a sanguine person is an optimist.

A phlegmatic person gets his influences from the brain. “Phlegm” means nothing more than mucus. Mucus is viscous, which symbolizes a phlegmatic person’s temperament. A phlegmatic person is sluggish and slow in movement.

Finally, a melancholic person has an excess of black bile—the Greek melaina chloe simply means “black bile,” found in the spleen—and is therefore often perceived as melancholic and gloomy. A common synonym for a melancholic person is a pessimist.

And there we have Hippocrates and his theories in a nutshell.

The Ancient People with an Eye for Color: The Aztecs 

The Aztecs were a powerful people who lived in Central Mexico from the fourteenth century to the sixteenth century. They are known for their incredibly advanced civilization and impressive temples.

When they tried to divide people into different categories, they used something they knew well—the four elements: fire, air, earth, and water. To this day, the four elements are used to describe different frames of mind, but nobody really knows if the Aztecs were the first to actually come up with this idea. But we do know for a fact that they used this idea, because they left carvings illustrating this approach.

Fire people were exactly as it sounds: fiery, explosive, a bit hotheaded. They were warrior types who took to the sword to get their own way. Leaders.

Air people were different. They were also determined but considerably more easygoing. They swept in like a captivating wind, kicking up a little dust in the process.

Earth people worked for the village, for the collective. They had to exemplify stability and security. They were there to create long-lasting things, to build for the future.

What about water people? Water was an element the Aztecs had respect for. Water can crush everything in its path, but you can also bottle it—if you know how to do it. Quiet and secure, water people observed everything that was happening.

As you can see, these divisions bear quite a resemblance to the theories propounded by Hippocrates—they’re only different names for the same thing.

William Moulton Marston

William Moulton Marston created a systolic blood pressure test that was used in an attempt to detect fraud. The discovery resulted in the modern lie detector. But Marston was also the author of essays in popular psychology. In 1928 he published his work Emotions of Normal People, in which he investigated the differences in the behavior patterns of healthy people. Earlier, both Jung and Freud had published studies involving mentally unstable people, but Marston was a kind of pioneer who provided the foundations for what became known as the DISA model, the model that is the basis for this book. A few years after discovering Marston’s work (in the 1950s), Walter Clarke developed the DISA concept based on Marston’s observations. As you’ve seen, this is a model used to categorize the different types of human behavior. His work has been an endless source of valuable insights about behavior and human interactions, but it has not been without its critics. However, a great deal of work has been done since Marston’s days, and over the years many other people have been involved in fine-tuning the DISA tool.

Marston found a way to demonstrate how people were different. He noted distinct differences between personalities, which formed the basis for the model used in this book. Nowadays we use the following divisions:

• Dominance produces activity in an antagonistic environment.

• Inspiration produces activity in a favorable environment.

• Submission produces passivity in a favorable environment.

• Compliance produces passivity in an antagonistic environment.

The four letters D, I, S, and C (Dominance, Inspiration, Submission, and Compliance) form the acronym of the DISC profile that is used throughout the world. Marston used the word “compliance”; however, in this book I render this as “analytic ability,” as that better describes the type of individuals.

The dominance trait in any given individual relates to how he approaches problems and deals with challenges.

Inspiration refers to a person who likes to influence others. A person with this trait will always be able to convince others. In simple terms, you could say that dominance is about acting, and inspiration is about interacting. 

The degree of stability is measured primarily by how receptive an individual is to change. A strong need for stability means a person is resistant to change, while someone who enjoys change will have a lower need for stability. This leads, of course, to a number of specific behavior patterns—like a nostalgic belief in the long-lost “good old days” for instance.

Finally, analytic ability shows how willing someone is to follow rules and regulations. Of course, this also produces certain characteristics that are interrelated. Here we find those who can’t accept that things go wrong. Quality is important.

You’ve probably noticed that, regardless of whether it’s a product of modern psychology or the ancient Aztecs in Latin America, these behavoral traits are all associated with the same color. The colors aren’t critical; it’s only a way to make it easier for those who aren’t familiar with the system to make sense of the profiles. As a consultant, I’ve trained people in this topic for twenty years, and I’ve found that the colors facilitate learning.

Marston finished researching this topic sometime in the 1930s. Many others have used his research and developed a tool that, according to the most recent data, has been used by nearly 50 million people for the past thirty-five years. For example, the American Bill Bonnstetter made invaluable achievements in creating definitive tools that help analyze the whole individual. In the United States, a company TTI Success Insights ( offers a comprehensive analysis tool.

But it’s always helpful to remember that though in theory there’s no difference between the concept on the page and the practice, in the real world there’s a big difference indeed.

I’ve described the four main traits that Marston pointed out, but remember that most of us are a combination of two colors.


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