Book Summary: Surrounded by Idiots

Title: Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behaviour and How to Effectively Communicate with Each in Business (and in Life)
Author: Thomas Erikson
Genre: Psychology
Release Date: 2019


Why did you choose to read this particular book?

Let’s face it, most of us sometimes feel like we’re surrounded by idiots. From the title I knew the book was about the four personality types/temperaments. I thought it’d be interesting to see examples of dealing with people with different personality at work.

Summary of book

In Surrounded by Idiots, Thomas Erikson explains four key behaviour types that define how we interact and perceive people. Reds who are dominant and commanding, Yellows who are social and optimistic, Greens who are laid back and friendly, and Blues who are analytical and detail-oriented.

This concept of dominant personality types was first brought forth by Hippocrates way back in the fifth century BC. He stated that everyone can fall into one of the four categories of personalities: red (choleric), yellow (sanguine), green (phlegmatic), or blue (melancholic). Of course, everyone shares traits from all these categories, but we all have a dominant personality.

Red Behaviour

A red person is often described as bold, ambitious, driven, and potentially hot-tempered, rash, or dominant. Their true colors are impossible to miss as they make no effort to hide them.

Individuals with a strong red personality are extroverted and task-oriented, thriving on challenges. They are decisive and comfortable taking charge and embracing risks. It is widely believed that reds possess natural leadership qualities.

Bluntness comes naturally to reds. They have opinions on almost everything and express them quickly and efficiently. They derive satisfaction from winning even imaginary competitions, whether it’s overtaking a slow walker, securing the best parking spot, or dominating a family game of monopoly. To a red, winning is an inherent part of their identity.

Reds often become frustrated with slowness. They are eager to make swift decisions in order to keep things moving. The benefit of this approach is clear. Whenever a task becomes unclear or takes too long, a red will ensure that the momentum is maintained and push things forward. If you want to match a Red’s pace, you must speak and act more quickly.

However, some individuals describe reds as somewhat dictatorial and oppressive. Some even label them as belligerent, arrogant, and egotistical. Reds have no issue with conflict because, to them, it is simply another form of communication. It is crucial for reds to feel that they can influence others’ actions and intentions regarding specific matters. They have a strong desire to control those around them.

Reds must recognize that the path to complete transparency involves adapting to others. By acknowledging that no one can handle everything alone, they can be persuaded to pause and show concern for others.

Yellow Behaviour

A yellow person is an optimistic and cheerful individual with a bright outlook.

Identifying an optimistic and cheerful individual with a bright outlook is as simple as recognizing a yellow. They are the ones who constantly engage in conversation and provide answers instead of asking questions. Those with a strong inclination towards the yellow behavior prioritize building connections with others. They possess an outgoing nature and possess the ability to be highly persuasive. Their enthusiasm, excitement, and willingness to openly discuss their emotions make them stand out.

When it comes to resourcefulness, yellows surpass everyone else. They possess a natural talent for identifying solutions that others may overlook. In their creative mode, yellows are not afraid to venture beyond conventional boundaries. However, it is important to note that not all of their ideas may be practical. Realism is not a significant factor for yellows. Nevertheless, one idea can lead to another, and before you know it, you stumble upon something that actually works.

Yellows possess exceptional skills in rhetoric. They possess an innate understanding that their credibility, as the conveyer of the message, is just as crucial as the message itself. Consequently, they are mindful of connecting with you on a personal level—often by being amiable, extending a handshake, or making personal remarks that make you feel valued.

However, yellows do have their drawbacks. They can exhibit selfishness, superficiality, and excessive confidence. When combined with their tendency to become easily distracted and careless, the overall impression becomes less flattering. Yellows may not acknowledge their carelessness, but they lack a natural inclination for organization. They find structured approaches to be tedious. Above all, yellows strive to avoid feeling constrained by rigid systems.

To effectively engage with a yellow individual, it is important to create a warm and friendly environment. Frequent smiling, enjoyment, and laughter are key. Allow yellows to immerse themselves in the latest trends; they will appreciate your ability to provide excitement, involvement, and innovation. However, be prepared for the possibility of being swiftly replaced if they encounter someone else who possesses greater knowledge about newer developments.

Green Behaviour

The Green person stands out as the most prevalent and average category among the various colors. However, this should not be viewed negatively. While reds are driven by performance, yellows are known for their creativity, and blues strive for perfection, greens possess a remarkable balance. They gracefully counterbalance the more extreme behavioral traits of others.

As a result, greens do not draw as much attention as the rest, often bringing a sense of tranquility to any situation. They make an effort not to offend others and usually aim to blend in. Naturally friendly and dependable, greens are reliable individuals. If a green person commits to something, you can trust that they will follow through. They prioritize maintaining good relationships with everyone, even going so far as to assist those they may not particularly like.

Greens prioritize safety over taking risks. They tend to avoid taking a firm stance on sensitive topics and prefer to express themselves in a vague manner. Their main goal is to evade responsibility by being ambiguous in their communication.

A green individual values security above all else. They strive for stability and avoid engaging in unpredictable ventures. Their preference is for everything to be predictable, and they are less likely to commit to grand plans. Their ultimate desire is peace, and they approach life with the mindset that things should be effortless.

The dominant quality of the majority of the population is green, which explains why we often struggle to embrace change wholeheartedly. The unknown is always perceived as intimidating.

Blue Behaviour

Blues are not ones to draw attention to themselves, but they are always aware of what is going on around them. They carefully analyze, categorize, judge, and appraise.

If you walk into someone’s house and notice that everything is meticulously organized, chances are you’ve encountered a blue. They possess a blend of pessimism and realism. Blues tend to avoid taking big risks in order to maintain a stable and predictable life.

At times, a blue may hesitate to start something new because they struggle to evaluate the potential risks involved. However, they typically find solutions by developing sophisticated systems that can effectively manage any potential risks that may arise. The advantages of this approach are clear. Blues are not easily caught off guard by unexpected events, unlike others. Ultimately, this saves them a significant amount of time.

When it comes to assembling furniture from IKEA, a blue individual approaches it with careful consideration. They diligently read the manual before starting, ensuring they understand every step. Reds, on the other hand, are confident in their ability to complete the task effortlessly. Yellows, full of excitement, tear open the packaging, eager to have fun putting the furniture together. Blues, however, take their time, reading the instructions twice, meticulously examining each component, and verifying that everything matches the pictures provided.

Blues often struggle to initiate new projects because they have a strong desire to be fully prepared. They are perfectionists, believing that being 95% correct is still 100% wrong. This mindset often leads them to never truly finish anything, as they constantly find more things to improve.

When communicating with a blue individual, attention to detail is crucial. To effectively reach them, one must be precise and thorough, ensuring they have answers to every question.

Conclusion of Surrounded by Idiots

The purpose of Surrounded by Idiots is to highlight that no group should be composed solely of individuals of the same type. Diversity is the best way to put people together and achieve decent dynamics.

What stood out for you

Definitely has some basis and if one can bring their mind to these human differences, then can be used to either engage better or for ones advantage.

Key Points

Surrounded by Idiots provides a comprehensive understanding of group dynamics and equips you with the necessary skills to navigate through potential challenges in your personal life. Recognizing and adapting to the unique qualities of individuals is crucial in fostering harmonious relationships. Each personality type possesses distinct strengths and weaknesses, which can be leveraged to support and uplift others. Your ability to be self-aware, as well as your willingness to collaborate with individuals of different personalities, determines the progress you can make. For instance, a blue personality can assist a yellow personality in becoming more grounded, while a yellow personality can encourage a blue personality to embrace spontaneity.

What you dislike

I do like a story, but this author seems to be friends with everyone and always coming across wonderful examples. I call bluff.

Also I do think there was some repitition.



Has the book met its objective?


What would you change

Remove repetition, could be explained via summary.

What type of reader would enjoy this book

Most people who read this either say ‘Ahh, that explains it’ or zealously defend individuality.

Would you recommend this?

Yes, I would, but feel free to skim read.

Final Verdict:

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