What Makes Us as Mad as Hell?



What Makes Us as Mad as Hell?

Temperament Can Reveal Everything About a Person

At the end of this book, I will present you with a history lesson. It is all about Hippocrates’ four temperaments, describing the same differences that this book is all about.

It’s possible to draw conclusions about someone’s behavior based on his temperament. By “temper” or “temperament” I don’t just mean what frustrates a person but rather how he reacts when something unexpected happens. Another way of saying this might be to talk about a person’s disposition. It can be how he reacts to changing circumstances and what sort of energy he has.

But yes, anger is a good and exciting gauge by which to judge a person’s color. Moreover, it’s situational. What upsets one person may not upset someone else in the least. By observing how someone reacts when things go wrong, you can get some important clues. Let me give you an example of a quick diagnosis.

What the hell…!!!

For the sake of simplicity, let’s compare different temperaments to different types of drinking glasses. I would suggest a shot glass for a Red temperament. “But,” you might say, “that little glass doesn’t hold much.”

Indeed it doesn’t, and many Reds function like that, too. It doesn’t take much for them to lose their temper and erupt. It could be about traffic jams, missed phone calls, someone moving too slowly on the escalator. Not getting their own way. That someone is just generally dense. Remember that of all the colors they are the ones most often surrounded by idiots. For a Red, there are many reasons to be irritated. A Red’s strength is that when they explode they rid themselves of any anger or irritation they’ve been feeling. They erupt briefly, but it doesn’t last. The shot glass may be quick to reach capacity, but it doesn’t take long to empty it. They simply empty the shot glass of anger and frustration and they’re back to being themselves. (I’m not referring to how those around a Red perceive things.) 

The advantage is that, for all their raging, it usually subsides quite quickly. A Red can rarely manage to be angry for long. He blurts out what he wants to say, and then he moves on. Sure, he can leave many confused people around him, but that’s their problem. He’s finished with the episode. Then something deeply upsetting happens again, and he just erupts. And again. And again.

Imagine that you pick up the shot glass and pour it out over your desk. Not nice, but quite manageable. You can always clean it up.

But remember the shot glass fills up just as quickly as it was emptied. It will happen again. Many perceive a Red’s temperament as totally unpredictable. It can erupt at any time.

Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s that unpredictable. If you know the person in question, you probably also know what triggers his anger.

However, it’s important to know that a Red doesn’t consider himself an angry person. He’s just given someone a piece of his mind or maybe raised his voice at him. Again, it’s just a way of communicating. But to a Green, it might seem that a Red is angry even when he’s just sharing his opinion. So much is in the eye of the beholder. It’s common that many people simply back off, to avoid confronting the Red and triggering his anger. But by letting their anger get the best of them all the time, Reds miss out on a lot of feedback.

“I Am Very Upset! Do You Even Hear What I’m Saying?”

Even the cheerful Yellow loses his temper: Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Although Yellows generally have a sunny, optimistic disposition, they have a temper as well. Like Reds, they are active, perceptive people. This means that they have a lot to react to. And if you’re quick-thinking and your tongue sometimes gets away from you, well then, things can happen. What comes out your face’s front door isn’t always well thought out.

Because Yellows are very expressive and emotional at the same time, you’ll know in advance when the mercury starts rising. An observant person won’t have any problem noticing that a Yellow is on the verge of bursting. The look in his eyes intensifies; his gestures become impetuous; his voice is raised. All this happens, but it happens gradually.

If the Red temperament is like a shot glass, then we can liken the Yellow temperament to an everyday drinking glass. It holds more and it’s easier to see when it’s full. The level rises a little at a time, and if you’re paying attention you’ll have no problem observing this as it happens.

Now, if we take the tumbler of milk and pour it out all over your desk what’s the result? It will be a lot messier and much soggier than when we poured out the shot glass, right? Many important papers are destroyed, and it requires more than a single paper towel to dry it all up.

But we can still handle the situation. Even this temperamental outburst can be managed without too many serious complications.

There are also advantages in a Yellow’s temperament. He’ll feel guilty that he laid into someone close to him: colleague, family member, neighbor, or maybe even you. So he’ll make an extra effort to be kind the next time you meet. He’ll have an uneasy conscience, something a Red wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

If a person happens to be a combination of Red and Yellow, things can get tough. In this case, there’s a lot of ego in the room, and you won’t quite know what’s happening.

Depending on the driving forces and motivational factors the individual may have, he can assert his own position almost to the point of absurdity. Genuine Yellows can let their egos get in the way most of the time. The advantage, however, is that due to their bad memory, they don’t hold grudges for long. They quickly forget that there were any problems, an ability that can make Greens and Blues find Yellows to be a little bit too exciting.

Beware the Fury of a Patient Man. Beware Indeed.

Do you recognize this old saying? The person who coined it probably had a Green in mind. You may never have seen a Green lose his temper. It may very well be that your good friend, the friendly and gentle pal you’ve never had a serious argument with, hasn’t ever shown even a shred of bad temper.

Does that mean that this is a person who can’t get angry? Not at all. It just means that instead of turning his temper outwards, it’s oriented in another direction. Inwards.

I would liken a Green’s temperament to a fifty-gallon beer barrel. Can you imagine how many shot glasses it would take to fill it? We could fill, fill, and fill even more before we even start covering the bottom of it. Many Greens function like that. They receive and accept without objecting. This is very much connected to their desire to avoid conflict but also to their inability to say no. They simply agree because it’s easier that way.

Does this mean that Greens don’t have their own opinions? Not at all; they have just as many opinions about things as anyone else. They just don’t talk about their opinions. And this is often the problem. They fill the barrel. Week in and week out, a Green accepts one perceived injustice after the other—note that I said “perceived.” It may take several years before the barrel is full.

Now take this barrel, lift it up, and pour the contents out over your desk.

What happens? Everything will be washed away. The water in the barrel will not only wash away everything on your desk away; even the desk itself and you along with it will go out with the flood, too. There’s no stopping it.

“You said that I didn’t finish the project on time? Really? Really?! Last week, you said that I didn’t do it well enough. Now let me tell you this: A year ago you promised me a new office, and it still hasn’t materialized. And when I was hired here, back in 1997, you said the same thing, and now let me tell you…”

Everything has to come out. Just make sure that you’re not the spark that sets it all off.

The problem is large-scale. Greens don’t release any anger or frustration but control their emotions so as not to create trouble or stand out. But they feel and experience just as much as everyone else does. They just lack the natural tools to release everything. But we can help by becoming facilitators. We can ask questions, invite them in, and look for signals. Look at their body language to see if there are signs of disapproval. Create a healthy environment around a Green so that he becomes comfortable enough to say what he thinks so that he doesn’t have to continually compromise his position. Otherwise, he will turn all his frustration inwards. And we know what this kind of stress can do to a person.

I have my own private theory, which I certainly cannot prove scientifically, but I suspect that this may be the main reason why Greens suffer burnout. They carry anxiety, anguish, and even anger for so long that it eventually makes them ill. It’s a noticeable problem that should be taken seriously.

A Complaint a Day

During an extremely stressful period in my earlier career in the banking sector, I once heard a comment about a Blue. All of us were working every day and night, and many of us were showing the stress. Frustration was hanging in the air.

Our credit controller was in the middle of the whole thing. Nothing got to her. She never even acted stressed. Her face was absolutely indecipherable, and her gestures were as limited and moderate as always. While the rest of us ate our lunch on the go, she took her full sixty minutes and ate in peace and quiet … it was as if nothing could disturb her peace.

Then one of my Yellow-Red colleagues said, “She’s not normal. She doesn’t have any feelings in her body.”

Back then, it sounded logical to me, but when you think about it, it can’t be true. Blues simply have less need to communicate than Greens. So they simply don’t do it. Some things are turned inwards even for Blues. Those who are quick thinkers may wonder if Blues run the risk of burnout just as much as Greens do. Not at all. They have a system to keep stress under control.

Metaphorically speaking, Blues have as big a beer barrel as Greens have, but there is one crucial difference: At the bottom of the barrel, there’s a handy little tap. This tap gives a Blue a valve to release part of the contents of the barrel. He can regulate the pressure whenever he wishes to.

Moreover, the tap leaks. It’s not tight enough to create a perfect seal, and small drops drip most of the time. A Blue’s dissatisfaction comes out in the form of tiny grumblings.

“Just look. Someone has misplaced the pen again! Typical! Now I’ll have to finish this off myself. As usual, I get the most boring task. There’s no structure here. Typical.”

And so he goes on. His pinpricks affect those around him, but what they hear all the time is just a muttering trumpet. The embers don’t fan into a fire. We interpret it as a perpetual whining, but the discontent is real. And because a Blue isn’t sufficiently active to instigate something, he’ll argue about things rather than doing something about them. It’s all based on complaints that others should see what he sees, that he doesn’t have any authority to act, or that he’s simply in a bad mood. But for him, this is a great way of keeping the pressure under control. So the barrel will never need to be emptied out over somebody’s desk, and thus serious catastrophes are avoided.

The way to manage his nagging is to ask counterquestions. Ask for concrete examples. Ask for suggestions for improvement. It may, in fact, be the case that the Blue has solved the problem that is plaguing him, but that he needs a straight question in order for him to step forward and suggest a solution.

What Can You Do About the Fact That People Don’t Get Pissed Off in the Same Way?

With these simple observations in mind, you can quickly form an idea of what type of person you’re dealing with. Pay attention to how he reacts under stress and pressure.

But, at the same time, remember that no system is perfect. These are only indications, and they apply only to individual colors. Be sides, as I wrote previously, different situations can give rise to completely different forms of conduct. Generally speaking, the more important a particular thing is for a certain person, the stronger his reaction will be.

See for yourself. If someone insults your neighbor, you might think it was unfair. But you don’t make a big scene out of it. However, if someone were to insult your husband or wife, you would be absolutely furious. That’s just one example. There are many levels and degrees of difference to reflect on.


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