In One Word

In One Word, Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson is…

surrounded by idiots

  • Originally published in 2014 as ‘Omgiven av idioter’ by Hoi Förlag
  • Format: Paperback – Published in 2019 by Vermillion
  • Reading Time: 6 unsurprising days


  • Closing off my New Year’s Resolutions Reading Challenge with a book I received a few Christmases ago from my family. It’s easy to think that everyone who doesn’t think like you is an idiot and, if no one thinks exactly like you (which is something called real life), it’s easy to think you’re surrounded by idiots. This book, however, shows you this isn’t the case. This book promises to revolutionise how you view your colleagues, friends and family by providing four key behaviour types and showing how to effectively interact with people from a different behaviour type in a variety of situations.
  • Language is rather open-ended when talking about the different behaviour types. Sometimes, it feels more like I’m reading the behaviour profiles in a horoscope than in a piece of behavioural research. The good thing about is that it never feels judgemental. It even tries to make Red personality types look good.
  • Exhibits an interesting system but not one that’s new to me. In fact, it’s the same system used by my workplace during a team building exercise and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you have come across the Red, Yellow, Green, Blue personality types in a similar situation. So, I know for a fact that I’m a Blue and, by the information in the book, that hasn’t changed. It probably won’t be new to anyone who knows about the four humours theory either since it’s acknowledged to be one of the theories that influenced this book. I know it’s definitely the Blue in me but I was kind of hoping for a few more recent examples of scientific research that could compliment Erikson’s theory like other personality type theories. It just doesn’t feel like the author has does as much research as they could. That said, it’s easy to understand and will probably make you unconsciously attempt to categorise some of the people you meet on a regular basis, even though the book does stress that the vast majority of people are a mix of these types rather than just one.
  • Very focussed on work situations when showing how to react to different personality types. It gives advice on what kind of work conditions are best for each type, what kind of email to write (a pertinent piece of information for the current climate), how to deliver bad feedback effectively and how to react when they’re stressed. Most of the advice on offer is along the lines of ‘be patient and persistent’ and ‘be open-minded’. Good advice in any social situation. There are a few little useful tidbits on helping colleagues to calm down when they’re stressed but most of the advice on offer in all situations feels a tad generalised.
  • Entertaining anecdotes about the extreme examples of this behaviour from the Blue who was always asking for new materials to the Red who even made tending his garden a competition. At least once, you’ll read one and go ‘yep, that’s exactly what I’d do’ or, several times, you’ll read it and go ‘yep, that’s just what X does’. The best one, which I won’t spoil, is the final one. That one really made me laugh.
  • Rather liked the exercise at the end where we were given the transcripts of four interviews and told to pick out the different types of behaviours. I think there could have been a bit more reader participation involved in the entire book to keep things interesting. I think, if you’ve never encounter this personality type theory, you might find this more interesting than I did. For my part, I didn’t find it as insightful as I thought I would. It might be good to turn to if I’m having a problem with someone but, on the whole, it didn’t really teach me anything new.

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Did you agree with my rating? Can you think of a better word to describe it? Please let me know with a like, share or comment.

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