During my time at university, and while at the police academy, we were forced to attend courses from a slew of experts. Some of them were downright kill-me-now boring. Others were a little more interesting, and a few were captivating. If gore or weapons were on the agenda, it was standing room only.
For me, the most interesting courses were a series of classes that taught us communication techniques, which revolved around different personalities. We spent hours looking at each personality type, how they react to stress, key trigger points, common ways of exhibiting anxiety, how to communicate best with each type, how to tell if a subject was lying, and a host of other components. It was fascinating. It’s also not really secret information anymore. When I worked at the newspaper, we also underwent personality training, although they called it ‘Color training’. Remarkably, the four main categories of personality types were similar to those I studied as a police officer, but where D. Glenn Foster identified the emotional personality type as a feeler, color training calls them blue (actually, different color training assigns them different colors. What’s up with everyone wanting to assign different colors for everything?).
I’ve taken away a good deal of information from all that training, and I continue to use it throughout my daily life whenever I interact with other people. What I use the most though are the little key phrases they taught us. My notes are buried in the cellar somewhere, but I’m going to try to remember what they are. (While searching for more information, I ran across Amy’s Blog. She’s read Foster’s book and details the four core personality types, but sadly didn’t mention the key ‘trigger’ phrases we learned at the academy. The information she does have up is fantastic though, and I highly suggest paying a visit.)
The feeler feels. She (statistics favor females for this category, but there are plenty of male feelers, too) is very emotional. She gauges everything based on relationships to others, feelings, and emotions. Not a shocker, is it? Each group has a phrase though, something they say all the time and it’s usually a dead giveaway. The feeler’s phrase is: ‘That’s not fair.’ Hmm. This group must also contain all children between the ages of 4 and . . . well, let’s just lump all children in here to begin with.
This is me, which is a bit surprising. In some ways. In others, not (I do have feelings, I promise you). Anyway! The Analyzer analyzes. Makes sense. They deal with facts, not emotions. They like to make lists. And check things off. And even add things onto the list that they’ve already completed just so they can check them off (so guilty!). Now, I do have some of the other categories mixed in, but mostly I’m an analyzer. The key phrase for the Analyzer? ‘That doesn’t make sense.’ Or, ‘Huh, that’s odd.’ I say either of those phrases at least ten times a day.
The driver is your typical passionate person. There’s a misconception that the driver doesn’t feel any emotion, but that’s wrong. This is the person who is driven to accomplish something and puts their entire soul into it. They like to control everything, and they are good at being in charge because they get things done. And now, this is where it gets a bit sticky–I don’t remember the driver’s key phrase. Sorry! I want to think it’s something like, ‘Why not?’ These are the daredevils in life, and the ones who are least likely to be boxed in by societal rules. It’s not that they consciously decide to break them (which they have no problem doing), but more that rules just don’t figure into the equation when the decision-making is going on.
The Elitist is, of course, superior to everyone. At least in their minds. They’re usually easy to spot. I call them snobs. That’s not fair, I guess. Not all snobs are elitist, but I’d venture to guess almost all elitists are snobs. So there you have it. The two things I remember the most about this personality type (at the time, I had a roommate who was an elitist. She was a great friend.) are first, that they ‘temple’ their fingers and hands. It’s an odd mannerism that’s almost always present with someone who has this personality trait. They will also occasionally bring those ‘templed’ fingers to their mouths. The other fingers don’t necessarily need to be folded over. All the fingers can be pointing straight up.
The second thing I remember most about the elitists is that they tend to do what is ‘proper’. I know, most people think your average villain is a typical elitist, and while that can be the case, he or she is also concerned with doing the appropriate thing. Sorry. It just works out that way. And, if you analyze characters, you’ll see this. The mafia boss has no problem executing thirty men, but he will be on time for his mother’s birthday party and he will bring flowers, because it is the appropriate thing to do. There’s a deep sense of etiquette ingrained into this personality type that at times is at cross-purposes with their goals, or even their actions in other areas of life.
It is attention to that complexity and depth that creates believable characters. Our personalities are vibrant, complex, and wonderfully contradictory things and the more we explore them, the more we learn about humanity.
If you’ve never read an article on different personality types, I encourage you to do so. If you’re a writer, it wouldn’t hurt to dig even deeper and perhaps study a few of them. Why? Because knowing how different personalities tick helps you recreate believable characters. If you’re writing a scene about a tough NYC police officer, one who’s driven to succeed, you’d know she wouldn’t burst into tears upon discovering her home burglarized. Period.
You don’t have to study Foster’s personality types, or even one of the numerous color personality types that are floating around out there. But, whether you’re a writer looking to create better characters, a husband hoping to understand his wife better, or a boss interested in strengthening relationships with her co-workers, digging into what makes personalities tick is a great place to begin.