Voices from Real Life



Voices from Real Life

The book you are holding in your hands is a translation from Swedish of the fourth edition of Surrounded by Idiots: How to Understand Those Who Cannot Be Understood. When the Swedish edition was published, about fifteen thousand people in Sweden read it. I wrote this book because for many years in various context at training courses, lectures, et cetera, people always asked me, “Where can we read more about this system?” Up until now, the answer has always been nowhere. Then I wrote this book, and now you’ve read it.

As a writer, I always want to know what people think about what I have written. Because I also write fiction, I know how hearing the truth can be like an electric shock, but at the same time, I like to challenge myself. So, I interviewed four people with entirely different profiles, asking their views about the system itself but also about how they see their everyday lives—based on the color they have. As you read, pay attention to how they answer the questions (not just to what they say). You can learn just as much from how they respond as you can from the responses themselves.


CEO of a Private Company with Approximately Fifty Employees. Mostly Red, Without Any Green or Blue. A Small Dab of Yellow.

What do you think of this tool? DISA language?

I think it seems to be an effective way to avoid misunderstandings. I understood immediately what it was all about, so I think the book could have been shorter—half as long, maybe. I would have concentrated the text more. I don’t like repetition. But sure, it’s a useful tool. Last Christmas I gave a copy to all my coworkers as a gift and asked that they read it. And almost everybody did.

What is the most important takeaway for you from the book?

That I no longer have to beat around the bush. Now my staff know that I’m not an evil despot; I’m just Red. They understand that I’m not angry just determined. The most interesting thing was reading about Blue behavior. I’d never reflected on why they saw things so differently than I do. Now I understand that the process itself is important for them, which is why they take such a long time.

Anything else?

No. Well, Yellows. I’ve always wondered about them. All that babble. I have some acquaintances who are like that. They just sit down and blow a lot of hot air in your face without really saying anything much. My neighbor’s like that. He plans all the time, but none of his plans actually take off. It doesn’t bother me, but his wife must be insane by now. And at my company, the Yellows get too little done. But it’s not a major problem, in my opinion. I just stand firm and demand that they deliver. I can live with their sour faces. I’m not there to be soft and cuddly.

What is your experience of Green behavior?

Sure.… Yes, well, what can I say? [Helena takes a long pause and looks out the window.] They’re needed, too. Loyal and dutiful. But in all honesty … I’d never realized that they talk behind my back. But it’s definitely true. They’re phenomenal at spreading rumors. Even making the smallest change starts off a storm of gossip in the lunchroom. Speculations about one thing after the other. Usually completely incorrect and based on wrong information. It would be easier if they just came straight to me with their questions. I mean, how hard can it be to step into the manager’s office and just ask? They know that I’ll always answer honestly, so beating around the bush is frustrating. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that we have to just be honest with each other at this firm. Is that so hard?

Why do you think they don’t share what they’re thinking with you?

They’re afraid that I’ll get angry, of course. I’ve never thought about it before. They think that I’m short-tempered, because, on occasion, I raise my voice or glare at someone, but that just means that I’m trying to highlight that what I’ve said is important. [Pause.] Personally, I couldn’t care less if a conversation is a little tense; it’s not the same thing as being angry. But it was news to me that some people actively avoid strong individuals. What I don’t understand is how this happens between grown-ups.

You consider it immature behavior—not saying what you think?

Immature. Dishonest, actually. A lot like a child who refuses to admit that he took the chocolate chip cookie, even though he wasn’t allowed to. I know that he did it, so what’s the point denying it? That’s something I really don’t understand. Just admit your mistakes! Why is that so hard? Admit what you’ve done or not done, and then we can move on. But denying it or avoiding it … it drives me insane.

Okay. Let’s consider the other colors. You said that you find Blues the easiest to deal with?

Relatively easy with Yellows. But what about other Reds? How is it working with people that have the same profile you have?

Usually, no problem. We do what we have to do. I have a management team consisting of five people besides myself. I would say that three are Red. Or wait now. Two are Red and one Red/Yellow. One is Blue—the controller. And the last one is … hard to say. He’s both visionary and at the same time focuses on the details. Can a person be Yellow/Blue?

Yes. A common combination. But no Green in the team then?

[Smiling.] No.

How does your Red behavior function, in general, do you think?

Well, before reading the book and discovering my personal profile I never thought that much about it. I hadn’t really reflected on the way I approach things. But the more I read, the more I realized that I was the cause of some of the problems I’ve had at work. The thing about people hiding their real feelings was only one part of the story. It never occurred to me that some people were afraid or intimidated by the way I behave. There’s been a lot of turbulence when I made decisions too quickly or when things weren’t properly thought out. Of course, I know that I need to think through things before I decide on anything, but it just happens. I get an idea —and off we go! Implemented before lunch.

What are the consequences of these poorly thought-out decisions? Do you have any examples?

Tons. [Laughter.] Once I accepted a job without even asking about the salary. Turns out I had to work sixty hours a week without a penny in overtime. On one occasion, I hired a person who turned out to be totally useless. I hadn’t asked for any references and I assumed that he knew what he was talking about. He knew nothing about the industry or the product. He was a complete scammer. Unfortunately, he cost us a lot before I finally managed to get rid of him. Lots of money wasted, though.

That doesn’t sound ideal. How are things outside of work? How do you manage your personal relationships?

In those areas I think even less. But it’s kind of funny. I showed the book to my husband and asked him to read it. He didn’t, but I highlighted some areas that I insisted he read.

Red behavior?

Red behavior. And he did read some of it. He probably recognized his wife. He laughed a little, but now that I think about it, he didn’t say anything in particular.

Did he make any comments about Green behavior?


How do you work together? As a team?

How do we work together? [Loud laughter.] I tell him what needs to be done, and he does it. Before he’s finished with it, I find something else for him to do and send him off to do it. Later on, I get annoyed because he hasn’t finished. But he’s never finished anything in his entire life. We often laugh about this—I create disorder but blame him. I’m sure he doesn’t have an easy life.

I understand. What would you say your biggest challenges are, based on your Red behavior?

Some people take an eternity to make a simple decision, and it drives me crazy. I know I’m fast, but some people are just painfully slow. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s a friend or a coworker. For instance, we said that we were going to buy an armchair for our living room. Because I work so much, we agreed that my husband would [here Helena raises her eyebrows, and slowly a smile spreads across her face]. I agreed that he had to do all the research. Check online, furniture stores, secondhand shops, and so on. But nothing happened, of course! Two days later, when I asked him about it, he hadn’t done anything at all! So, the following day during lunch, while I was in the bathroom, I found five different options and sent them to him. And when I got home five hours later, he still hadn’t done anything! I exploded at him, and he locked himself in the basement.

Okay, a good example, thanks. How long have you been married?

Fourteen years. We met by chance. I usually say that what attracted me to him was that he could keep his mouth shut when needed, and he still does. But sometimes I wish that he would take a little more initiative and just do things. I’ve never actually asked him what he saw in me.

But how do you resolve your conflicts if he’s Green and you’re Red?

I don’t think we actually have that many conflicts. On the whole, I’m the one who argues if anything happens, but, on the other hand, he can get very sulky.

What do you mean by sulky?

He can walk around for days just moping. Normally, I just ignore him; he usually recovers. But sometimes I get tired of all his sad faces and asking him what the problem is. I confront him, as it were. [Pause.]

What happens then?

What happens then? Well … He says that there’s no problem. That everything’s great. But that’s not true. He’s really easy to read, so I always know if something is wrong. The problem is that he refuses to admit that he’s grouchy. Which usually means that he’s upset because of something I did. Or said. The problem is that I never remember anything. I have to start guessing—which is absolutely impossible. Often it’s about some insignificant stray comment I made in passing, usually something I forgot the minute I said it. And if I don’t guess correctly, then he gets even grumpier. It can go on for weeks. I don’t understand how he copes with it.

But how do you move on? Can’t you sort it out?

Well, we just tend to sweep it under the rug. I forget about the whole thing. But my husband stores the “conflict” in some private archive that only he knows about. That shelf must be completely full by now. [Helena thinks for a moment. You know, I’ve always gotten in trouble for sharing my opinion, for walking my own path. I’ve never really fit in. Even as a child, I did stupid things and took risks. But now I’m glad that I took risks because it’s taken me somewhere. But it definitely hasn’t always been easy.

How has your risk-taking benefited you?

Sitting and thinking about things leads nowhere. It makes no difference how great your plans are if you don’t get off your butt and carry them out. I didn’t always know where I was going, but that never stopped me. I’ve had some tough spots, went bankrupt, lost my job, and things like that. Not that much fun, but those things brought me to where I am now. The way I see it, it’s not how much you know or how clever you are, but what you actually do. And I have always been good at that. Doing things.

What advice would you give to people who meet you? What should they keep in mind?

[Pause.] Don’t be intimidated by the fact that sometimes I’m a little too pushy. Don’t back off just because I can raise my voice a bit. I’m not angry just because I push people. But also that they have to get the show on the road. My husband and I often talk about how different we are at delivering a message. While he gives the background for ten minutes and then comes to the point, I go straight to the point and tell people what’s important. Maybe I throw in a little background info, but probably not. People should keep in mind that you can work without talking all the time. Put your energy into the task at hand instead of a bunch of other things. You can socialize on the weekend.

Håkan Seller of Advertising Space on One of the Major Commercial TV Channels. Mostly Yellow but with Some Splashes of Green. No Blue or Red.

What do you think of this tool? DISA language?

Really great! An incredibly useful tool that more people should know about. I recognized so much of myself in the book, too. It was brilliant. I showed the book to everyone I know, and we just had to laugh about how accurate it was. I’ve read most of the book, mostly about Yellows. I don’t agree with everything, but most of it was spot-on.

What parts of Yellow behavior did you think were most accurate?

That we Yellows are very creative and resourceful. People are always telling me that. Also, I’m adept at solving complex problems, because I can see solutions in a different way than everyone else.

What do you mean by different?

Einstein once said that you can’t solve a problem with the same mind-set as when you created it. Or something like that. I think that’s exactly right. That’s why I always approach any problem with new, fresh eyes. My customers always appreciate my creative thinking. And I’m really good at winning people over. I’ve always found it easy to charm people; it is a kind of natural talent actually. I know lots of people; I always have. And I’m great at public speaking. In school, I was president of the student council and often spoke to the entire school.

The entire school?

Yes, to all the students. Or not to all, not really. Okay, usually to my grade. All the freshmen. But there was always a great atmosphere, and people liked it. Since then, I just love talking in front of people. I’m often asked to be the spokesman in different contexts.

Can you give me some examples?

Oh yes. When there are projects at work, for example. I’m always the one to report back to our bosses. I give a great presentation at client meetings, too. If there are several of us from the firm, I do the talking.

What do the others think about that?

No problem. They like avoiding it. Lots of people have difficulty talking in front of people, as you probably know. Were you a psychologist? I know a girl who’s a psychologist. She works at a prison; seems very interesting. She says most of the prisoners are pretty miserable, which isn’t hard to believe. I wouldn’t make it being locked away like that.

I’m not actually a psychologist. I’m a behavioral specialist.

There was one thing in the book that I didn’t understand—areas for improvement.

What did you think that meant?

The book talked about how Yellows are quick to make decisions, and that’s true. But I disagree with the idea that my decisions aren’t well thought out. I’m very analytically inclined. I always do thorough research. I gather all the facts before I decide on anything. So in that regard the report book was off base.

I understand. Are there any other discrepancies?

That I use too many words when I criticize. That’s completely wrong. I’m very concise and articulate, so I don’t think that was accurate. Also the bit about following instincts and going with your gut—that’s actually a good thing, not a weakness.

To go more on feeling than on facts?

Exactly. Humans are emotional beings. So we should use our feelings. Especially me. I’m very intuitive, so it’s something I’m really good at. Not everyone has good instincts, so that’s a real asset.

That may be true. Do you think people can develop their instincts over time?

No. It’s something you’re born with. You either have it, like me, or you don’t.

Then it is too late to do anything about it?

No, it’s not too late. That’s was not what I meant.

But you said if people didn’t have a gut feeling they couldn’t develop that skill?

Okay, maybe I was exaggerating. But it’s definitely important!

Do you ever need to keep emotions in check and use logic instead?

Oh yes, absolutely. It’s very important to think logically and rationally. I always say that. You have to look at what works and go from there. I think that it’s easier for someone like me, who has some experience. I have been a salesperson for many years, so I know what to take into account.

I’m sorry, but I am a little confused. Just now you told me that it was only gut feeling that was important. How do you reconcile those two things?

You’re twisting my words. I never said that you shouldn’t use logic. [At this point, Hå kan crosses his hands over his chest and compresses his lips.] What I’m saying is that you should go on gut feeling. [Pause.] And facts.

Let’s move on. What was the most practical thing you learned after reading the book?

That Blues are boring. Though I already knew that beforehand. I just didn’t know that they were Blue. But those red-tape jackasses, well … I remember once I was working on this project. Nothing too complicated, and we’d already done the same thing before. A special way to sell a new product line. We had a couple of Blue guys on the team. They were smart, well informed, and everything, but they never got started on the job. They planned and wrote lists and made calculations and messed around with details. But they didn’t actually do anything!

Maybe they weren’t as good at using their gut feeling?

What do you mean?

So you find it hard to work with Blues?

They can’t keep up with me, that’s all.

Has what you learned in the book affected your personal life in any way?

No. I’m the same as I always. I’ve got lots of friends. The parties we organize at home are legendary. The neighbors talk about them for months afterwards.

So you invite the neighbors, too? That sounds very nice.

Oh, no way! They’re boring as hell.

But what do the neighbors talk about then? If they didn’t even come to the party?

[Pause.] Well, man, who knows? Ha-ha!

What advice would you give the people who meet you? What should they consider?

Who meet me?

Yes. How would you like those around you to react?

Let me tell you. Don’t take life so seriously. I mean, we live only once. People should remember that. We should all let ourselves have fun at the same time. And don’t caught up in little things all the time. Move on. Don’t get hung up on things. I don’t. Life’s just a joyride.

Okay, that’s what you believe. But what advice would you give to those who meet you? How would you like to be treated?

With a smile. You can get very far with a smile.

And when it comes to work? How would you like to be treated there?

Same thing I just said. With a smile. The rest will always work out.

[Pause.] Okay. There aren’t any perfect people. We all have our faults and shortcomings, so what would you say your weaknesses are, do you think?

I don’t usually think in that way. My focus has always been on positive things. I like to emphasize the good things in life. If everyone went around thinking about what doesn’t work, then nothing would get done, right?

That’s logical, but every behavior profile has weaknesses. They don’t just go away because we avoid talking about them.

That’s not what I mean. What I meant is that you shouldn’t focus on negative things. It’s better to emphasize the positive. God knows there’s enough depressing stuff in the world already, right? Take, for instance, Green behavior. They worry about everything. They see danger absolutely everywhere. I mean, you can’t go around being anxious all the time. It doesn’t work like that. I have a neighbor who’s afraid of everything. Especially new things, which are the things that I’m good at. Sometimes I think he’s even scared of his own shadow. Or think about Blue behavior. Risk-phobic! Everything is a risk for them. Even if you know the result you’ll get, they’re still focused on the risks. That’s totally incomprehensible to me.

You’re absolutely right! Greens aren’t inclined to change things, Blues get stuck analyzing risks. Do you see any weaknesses in Red behavior?

Cantankerous. That’s what I think about Reds. Lots of them are actually quite nasty. Sure, they’re result oriented and whatnot, but there’s no need to be rude to get things done. Some of them can be so short. You know, you send them a nice long text message, and the reply you get is just: “Okay.” It takes five seconds to write a longer message, it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s so much more personable! I’m always very careful about how I express myself.

So you’ve analyzed the weaknesses in Reds, Greens, and Blues. Do you think that there are any areas for development for Yellow behavior?

Yeaaah … it all depends on self-awareness. Without self-awareness, things can get a little crazy. [Pause.]

Are you thinking of anything in particular?

The part about being a bad listener. That’s important, ’cause if you’re not aware of it, then the conversation can go south. Though sometimes you just can’t sit around and listen. A lot of times I’m forced to take command in meetings and run the show or else nothing will happen. But I can keep things moving along, so it works out very well.

Okay, so some Yellows can learn to listen better. What do things look like for you? Do you think you have any weaknesses you could be working on?

[A very long pause sets in.]

Nothing that comes to mind.

Elisabeth Employee at a Public Health-Care Organization A Green with some Elements of Blue. She Has a Hint of Yellow but No Red at All.

What do you think of this tool? DISA language?

It was fun to read the book! I felt like I already knew a lot about my behavior, but I think this has made it even clearer. Now I know that Reds think I’m stubborn, and that I’m a bit cautious by nature. But I want everyone to be in agreement. Cooperation is important to me, and I think everyone should feel like that.

What did you take away from the book?

My son gave me the book as a birthday present. He’s so kind, he always gives me something, even though I said I don’t want any presents. He’s unemployed and has some money troubles, but Filip is caring. It took me a while to get started reading the book. It was actually a little hard for me to get into it, mostly because I was interrupted all the time. But once I got going, I enjoyed it! There are such funny examples. I read the sections about my husband’s colors aloud to him, and we laughed a lot.

What colors do you think he has?

Oh, he’s Yellow. And Blue. At the same time, actually. Can someone be like that?

Yes. It’s absolutely possible. What did you think was funny?

The parts about him being optimistic about time. He always believes that he’ll get way more done than he actually does. And then we hit traffic the second we get in the car. Or he hops into the shower three minutes before guests start arriving. Things like that. But that optimism is part of the reason I fell for him thirty years ago. He’s a good guy, my Tommy.

What will you take with you in the form of practical knowledge?

That I get on well with other Greens, which is good, because there are so many of us! I liked the part about how Greens take care of each other all the time. That’s important. You’ve got to do that. But nowadays it feels as if everyone is becoming more and more selfish, but I don’t think it will stay like that in the long run. I also read a lot about the Yellows, like my husband, and about Blues, like my sister. She is very straitlaced. Very rigid and a little bit uninterested.

Uninterested in what?

In the rest of the world, really. She never asks how things are going, and hardly calls you on your birthday.

Hardly calls? Does that mean she doesn’t call you on your birthday?

Well, she does. But it feels like she’s doing it out of obligation rather than out of genuine interest. And she can be really critical as well. Tommy redid our back deck a few years ago. Then Eivor came—she is my sister—and the first thing she did was start criticizing his work.

What did she say?

The first words out of her mouth were to point out that the deck railing was two degrees off from being level.

Was it?

Well, it was a tiny bit crooked. But why did she have to point that out? He’d been working on the deck for several weeks, and instead of complimenting his hard work, she just started criticizing everything.

So it wasn’t just the railing that she criticized?

[Elisabeth shakes her head.]

What do you think about Reds?

Yes … they’re okay, in their own way. [Pause.]

What do you mean?

They’re very efficient. They get a lot done and they’re quick. Sometimes I wish I had a little more of that ambition in me, but I don’t. I’m just me.

But you think it might be helpful to be a little Red—sometimes?

Yes, sure. But you are who you are. And they can be a bit … tough.

How are they tough?

Well, a little bit insensitive in certain situations. Our department head is probably a Red. He’ll say just about anything. And the surgeons are terrible to deal with. They boss people around however they want.

How does that affect you?

It’s hard for me to deal with conflict. You can’t avoid it completely, I know that, but it’s difficult when everyone is butting heads all the time.

So everyone is at loggerheads all the time?

Not really everyone. And not all the time of course. But we definitely have communication problems. There’s a bad atmosphere, and the management doesn’t listen. A lot of us are suffering in that work environment. I was on sick leave last year.

Have you taken this up with your boss?

We tried to, five years ago. It didn’t help much. It got better for a while, but then things just went back to normal.

Okay. So how are you feeling now?

It’s all right. We have a great team of people at work, and that’s important. We stick together. Many of us have been working there for a long time and we wouldn’t want to leave.

What do you think about your own color? As a Green how do you get on with the other colors?

Well, the Reds are tricky of course. They don’t like Greens, though there are a lot more of us. They complain about us; I’ve heard this personally. They say things; they call us names unnecessarily.

What do you mean by that? Can you give a specific example?

I don’t have a specific example, but it’s something you just know. You feel it when you’re dissatisfied. It kind of hangs in the air.

You said that your boss was Red?

Not my immediate boss, but the head of the department. Emphatically Red.

And how do you know that?

Well, he is. It’s clear as day. He walks quickly, talks quickly. Very demanding. Goal oriented. Difficult. He’s made cuts.

If you implement cuts, you’re tough?


So how are things going with the head of the department then?

I don’t know. I’ve never spoken to him directly. But you just know.

You just know?

We’ve heard about other employees who got into hot water with him.

What happened then?

One of them has been harshly reprimanded for little things like arriving late. She was called into the office immediately. But not me. I’m always on time.

So someone didn’t come on time for work and was criticized for that?

She got a telling-off.

What was said?

I wasn’t there, of course, and didn’t hear it, but she told me that it shouldn’t have been handled like that.

Do you think it’s okay to be late for work?

No, it’s not okay.

But isn’t it the head of the department’s responsibility to correct behavior like that?

I guess so, but it depends on how you do it.

Did he scream and shout?

No, but he said that no one was allowed to be late, and if she came in late again, she would get a warning.

How many times had she come late?

Oh, she’s never on time.

Okay. What would you like other people to know about you when they meet you in real life?

How would you like to be treated?

Well, it would be great if people understood that some of us want to take it easy. And that I don’t enjoy things changing all the time. I’d like to get a chance to get to know people a little bit before we just dive into work. Let’s grab a coffee, chat for a while. It’s nice to know people as people, and then we can get back to business.

Anything else?

Yes, we Greens aren’t great at dealing with conflicts. We need to learn to handle that better.

Stefan Economist Working at the Headquarters of a Very Large Company, with Offices in Several European Countries. Blue with Some Hints of Red. No Yellow or Green.

What do you think of this tool? DISA language?

It’s quite an interesting concept. It seems like there’s been a lot of research done on the topic, which I find exciting. I’ve seen a variation of this tool before, but that system categorized people by assigning different letter combinations. It would be interesting to compare the two models.

There are several different tools available. Most of them are grounded in the same basic research, but as time went on they developed differently. The tool I use is particularly accurate.

Do you mean with regard to reliability or validity?

Both. I’d also recommend Marston’s book Emotions of Normal People if you’re curious to learn more. What conclusions have you drawn after reading the book?

It was interesting to see how the author structured it. He wrote about Reds first, then about Yellows, Greens, and Blues. Each new topic was explained in reference to the four different colors. That was good because it means you don’t get bored reading about any one specific color. And I noticed that there was always just about the same number of pages on each color, which is pretty impressive. I wonder how he managed it?

Regarding patterns of behavior, what have you learned so far?

That people are different. I knew that already, of course, but it was interesting to see exactly how we differ. And there were good examples in the book. For instance, I was particularly interested in Red behavior.

What are your thoughts on that?

Their tremendous drive to move forward. I have a colleague with exactly that kind of attitude and drive. Always moving forward, always first in line. His ability to make decisions quickly is very impressive. He ends up making a lot of mistakes, of course, but he corrects them quickly, so I don’t think it’s a huge problem.

Do you work well with Reds?

Pretty well, I think. Sure, they’re often careless, as I said, but you can help them be more exacting. My role is usually to make sure we stick to the plan, and that’s not something Reds are great at. But they’re often quite good at improvising, which is a valuable skill. And they’re brave.

It sounds as if you don’t have any major problems with Red behavior?

No. It depends on what you mean by major, but I’d say I don’t have any big problems with them. But, having said that, I think they have considerably more difficulty dealing with people like me.

What do you mean?

I want everything well structured. Zero mistakes. In this business, we work with finances and there’s no margin for error. This industry demands a rather meticulous type of person. If I’ve understood the book correctly, Reds aren’t interested in details, which is basically what my work amounts to. There would be enormous consequences if I were to be careless with decimal places. It just can’t happen.

Okay. How about the other colors? How do you get along with Greens?

Fairly well. Both of us—at least according to the book—are introverts, which I think is a positive. Then you can devote yourself to work rather than just lolling around chatting. [Pause.]

But Greens like chatting.

That’s true, they do. I don’t, though. Unless it’s work related. Then we can talk for a long time. What I don’t like about Greens is that they have a tendency to make a pretense of working. They are often away from their desks, doing something else instead of working, and that slows everything down. It’s a problem.

Do you find this is a common problem in your workplace?


What have you done to tackle the problem?


Why not?

It’s not my responsibility. It’s a management issue.

Have you raised the issue with the management team?


So some of your coworkers pretend to work, and this slows the whole team down. You’ve observed this but haven’t done anything about it?

That’s right.

But why not?

Like I said before, it’s a management problem. I don’t have any authority to act on the issue.

What would you do if you had the authority?

That’s a hypothetical question.

Yes, but let’s just say you did.

But that’s not the actual situation. I’m not interested in management, so I don’t know what I would do.

Just out of curiosity—if your boss asked you for advice on exactly this issue, an employee who doesn’t do what they should, what advice would you give?

Purely hypothetically?


I’d ask the boss to follow up with the problem employee more frequently. Give them feedback on what’s not working, and demand that they change the problematic behavior.

Okay. Can we talk a little bit about Yellow behavior?

[At this point, Stefan crosses his hands on his chest and nods.]

How do you perceive people with distinctive Yellow behavior?

They’re a bit annoying. I just wish that they’d take things much more seriously. Work, to start with. Of course, I realize that you also need to have fun at work, but not for the majority of the day. You can’t fool around all the time during working hours. The worst thing is that they just wander around making a noise, bothering everyone. At times they can be very entertaining, but working is working and playing is playing. There’s also the issue of their total inability to get the facts right. I think they’re very incompetent when it comes to factual issues. They don’t take anything seriously, and that leads to lots of mistakes. For instance, if a pure Yellow individual worked as a controller how would that work out? He wouldn’t even know what to look for. But the really serious issue is that they say so many things that aren’t true. For example, they might say that they double-checked cer tain details without ever actually doing it. Or insist that they’re not careless despite the fact that everyone can see that they most definitely are. The whole thing is wildly frustrating.

Have you ever really gotten to know a Yellow?

How can you avoid it? They pour out their life story to whoever they like, with a total lack of discernment. They think that all of us are interested in their summer house, or their puppies, or their kid’s new tooth, or their brother’s new fishing boat. But all of that is completely and totally irrelevant.

Do you ever hang out with Yellows?

No. I tend to avoid them.


I wouldn’t be able to stand all that talking. They’d talk me to death. I can’t listen to them yammering on and on about everything and nothing. And you never know if what they’re saying is actually true. That irritates me. They hyperbolize all the time; five minutes with a Yellow and I’m at my wit’s end. My brother-in-law always talks about his new position at work. But he describes it differently every time. I’ve asked him what his title is, because I didn’t understand what he actually does, but he always gets very vague. One time I asked how the company was growing and I got a long harangue about how they were just about to take out a world patent on something. But he wouldn’t tell me how that was going to happen and what the details of the project were. It was hopeless.

Maybe he didn’t know the answer?

Then he should have said so! “I don’t know.” I mean how hard can that be? Instead, he exploded with a hundred million things I wasn’t interested in.

What advice would you give to others to help them interact better with you?

Good question. I’d advise them to please respect my desire to be professional and not devote valuable time to things that aren’t work related. They should be well prepared when they come to me with questions. I need lots of background information to be able to give a proper answer.

What are your greatest weaknesses?

Let me think. Sometimes I get way too caught up in details. I know that. I don’t think that it’s an issue at work, but in my private life it can be a problem.

How so?

My wife is rather Red. She thinks that I’m slow at everything, and she’s right. I tend to be suspicious of new ideas. Not that I can’t change, but I often see problems where none actually exist. Sometimes I find it difficult to make decisions and I get anxious. We really need a new television at home, because the current one is on the fritz. But there are so many different models, and I haven’t had the time to do proper research. My wife thinks we just need to take ten minutes and go buy a new one. But what if it isn’t good? How do I know if it’s the type we need? After all, it’s a big investment. So we’ve just been making do with the old one.

Any last thoughts?

It’s an interesting concept, as I said. I’m going to order the Marston book.


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