Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson was my ‘Truth bomb non-fiction’ choice for 2021’s reading challenge. I picked up the book a while back on a trip to London after a friend had mentioned the concept to me, and hadn’t got round to reading it until this year. Perhaps it was because I unconsciously didn’t want people to judge me reading such a provocative title!
It’s not as provocative as the title suggests.
Erikson proposes that people’s personalities are categorised into four colours: red, yellow, green, blue, but most people are a combination of two. Understanding the traits of each colour, your own colours, and the colours of those you interact with make for a healthier, more successful set of relationships, especially in the workplace. The book presents likely professional scenarios based on the personality traits of the colleague involved and how to address or manage them.
By the end of the book, Erikson shifts focus from relationships to anger and stresses, considering the ways in which we deal with and react to stress depending on our personality traits.
Surrounded by Idiots is actually a really easy read for a text that is all about psychology. Erikson does a fantastic job in explaining quite challenging concepts about human behaviour for, well, idiots! The book is full of real life examples of Erikson’s experiences in the corporate world and between friends which makes it easier to apply to our own lives. It’s also clearly structured with headings, sub-headings, tables, and a quiz to help readers navigate what is quite dense information.
It’s worth taking the content with a pinch of salt though. The Different people display different traits in different circumstances. I think I’m mostly a Red/Yellow combination, but know I’m sometimes Blue… Sometimes Green. The fact that that sentence starts with ‘I think’ is evidence enough. It’s really difficult to detach yourself enough to become self aware, but it has made me a little more conscious of my negative traits.
Who would enjoy this book
People interested in psychology, human behaviour, or those in leadership positions.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable read, which offers a few good ideas for engaging with different people in different scenarios. Don’t take it as gospel though!