Book Summary: Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson - Hustle Escape (2023)

Book Summary: Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson - Hustle Escape (1)

Book Summary: The Key Ideas

#1: Communication happens on the listener’s terms. Information is rarely received as the sender conceived it. To communicate effectively, we must adapt our style to the listener’s.

#2: The four types of behaviour. The DISA model suggests there are four core types of behaviour, denoted by four colours (Red, Yellow, Green and Blue).

#3: Adapting and giving feedback to different behaviour types. Reds want direct, respectful communication and space to lead. Yellows want friendly communication and space to innovate. Greens want slow change, recognition and space to recharge. Blues want accurate detail and a focus on facts.

#4: Complementary and challenging combinations. The most challenging combinations are the behavioural opposites (Blue & Yellow and Red & Green).

#5: Stress factors and response of behaviour types. Each behaviour type has different stress triggers and handles stress differently.

Book Notes: The Key Ideas in Detail

Premise of the Book

Thomas Erikson is a behavioural expert from Sweden. Having spent two decades helping organisations and teams understand their behaviour through the DISA system, the book is a comprehensive look at the practical application of this model.

DISA stands for Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Analytic Ability. These four terms are the primary types of behaviour, and each is associated with a colour (Red, Yellow, Green and Blue, respectively).

The aim of the book is to help readers get past the mentality of assuming we are surrounded by idiots and instead become fluent in the language of behaviour.

Key Idea #1: Communication happens on the listener’s terms

When we communicate a message, the recipient filters it into a message he understands. A message will very rarely be received entirely as you conceived it.

In other words, we need to adapt our communication based on the behaviour type of the recipient.

“You help other people understand you by creating a secure arena for communication – on their terms. Then the listener can use his energy to understand rather than to consciously or unconsciously react to your manner of communicating.”

There are just two situations where you can communicate effectively without adapting:

  1. When you are alone in the room.
  2. When all the other people in the room are exactly like you.

The rest of the time we should consider other’s behaviour, embracing the power of diverse teams over singular behaviour types.

“Behaviour patterns are like a toolbox. All types are needed. Depending on the occasion, a tool can sometimes be right and sometimes be wrong. A thirty-pound sledgehammer is great for tearing down walls, but it’s hardly the thing you want to hang a picture in the foyer.”

Our behaviour types are the result of heredity and environment. This idea can be visualised as an onion of several layers.

Book Summary: Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson - Hustle Escape (2)
  • Core Values: Deeply embedded beliefs for which it is almost impossible to change, often embedded by parenting.
  • Attitudes and Approaches: Things we’ve formed opinions on based on our own experiences.
  • Core Behaviour: Core values and attitudes form our core behaviour, which is how we act when there is no external influence.
  • Moderated Behaviour: People around us tend to see our moderated behaviour, however, whereby we adapt to the situational context.
  • Environment: These adjustments are all influenced by the outer layer of our environment.

The trick of communication is to figure out what is under the surface to understand core behaviour types.

Key Idea #2: The four types of behaviour

The DISA model is a popular and simple way of assessing types of behaviour, breaking out behaviour types into four colours as per the below image: Red, Yellow, Green and Blue.

Book Summary: Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson - Hustle Escape (3)

Red Behaviour

Core Traits: Reds are highly ambitious and driven, competitive and comfortable taking the lead. They speak their minds and prioritise speed and efficiency. They have a strong conviction in their version of reality.

Perception: Reds can be seen as dictatorial, controlling and tyrannical. They might not seem interested in trivial conversation and tend to be focused on the topics that matter. Often this blunt communication can come across as aggressive.

Body Language: Reds exhibit clear and distinctive body language. They keep their distance from others, have powerful handshakes, often lean forward aggressively, make direct eye contact and controlling gestures, and speak quickly with a strong voice.

Yellow Behaviour

Core Traits: Yellows are relentlessly optimistic and often the most popular of the behaviour types. Their focus is on developing relationships and they are highly persuasive. Yellows generally exhibit a high level of energy and curiosity.

Perception: Conversations with Yellows are often one-sided streams of unprocessed thoughts. Yellows typically turn conversations to themselves and are very poor listeners. They are often seen as careless with projects that require longer spells of concentration and significant follow-up.

Body Language: Yellow body language is relaxed and tactile, eye contact is friendly, and gestures are expressive. Yellows often come close, smile a lot, and talk quickly and empathetically.

Green Behaviour

Core Traits: Greens don’t stick out like other behaviour types. They are calm and tolerant to singular behaviour, friendly, and considered strong team players. They often struggle to say no and are less direct and upfront.

Perception: Greens are obstinate once a decision has been taken. They can also be considered enthusiasm killers through indifference, and their behaviour can appear passive and disinterested. Greens may also be less precise and more non-committal with words in order to preserve relationships.

Body Language: Green body language is relaxed and close. They often tend to lean backwards, make very friendly eye contact, small gestures, and less flamboyant movement. Green voices don’t tend to be strong, but instead soft and slower talking.

Blue Behaviour

Core Traits: Blues are logical analysts, cool headed, risk-averse and detail-oriented. They are more willing to work on predictable tasks and are usually introverted.

Perception: The ultimate perfectionists, blues are not keen on small talk and can appear cold and dismissive. Their fixation on details and checking may also suggest they don’t trust others, as well as leading to slower decision making.

Body Language: Blues prefer distance. Their body language tends to be closed, with direct eye contact, speech without gestures, and a subdued and slow voice.

Key Idea #3: Adapting and giving feedback to different behaviour types

In a perfect world, we can all exhibit our core behaviours. But the reality is that we won’t always get through to others unless we adapt, as well as adjusting our feedback style.

Adapting to Reds:

  • Be quick and brief
  • Cut the small talk
  • Focus on the essentials
  • Don’t sit on the fence – have a clear opinion
  • Demonstrate hard work
  • Confront if behaviour crosses a line
  • Remind that speed doesn’t always produce the right results

Giving Feedback to Reds:

  • Be upfront and honest – don’t sugarcoat feedback
  • Give concrete examples
  • Stick to facts over feelings
  • Be prepared to calmly handle conflict
  • Repeat what was agreed

Adapting to Yellows:

  • Create a warm and friendly atmosphere around them
  • Strip away unnecessary detail and focus on the big issues
  • Empathise with gut-based decisions
  • Give them space to work on new projects
  • Become approachable (e.g. through open body language)
  • Check they have listened

Giving Feedback to Yellows:

  • Prepare a feedback agenda and stick to it
  • Don’t let them eat up the time
  • Give concrete examples
  • Be aware that they might not be fully listening
  • Ensure they don’t take it personally – behaviour not person
  • Get them to repeat what you’ve agreed

Adapting to Greens:

  • Be prepared to listen to what they are anxious about
  • Allow them periods of peace and quiet to recharge
  • Clearly explain the steps of a plan
  • Deliver criticism in private
  • Take command to get things done where needed

Giving Feedback to Greens:

  • Give concrete examples
  • Adopt a gentle approach – Greens can take things very badly
  • Explain the behaviour is the problem, not the person
  • Get them to repeat what you’ve agreed

Adapting to Blues:

  • Do your homework
  • Stick to the task and small talk
  • Stick to the facts and avoid daydreaming
  • Provide the necessary detail
  • Remind them that sometimes speed is the priority

Giving Feedback to Blues:

  • Provide specific and detailed examples
  • Avoid getting too personal
  • Stick to facts
  • Be prepared for counterquestions in great detail
  • Get them to repeat what was said and follow up

Key Idea #4: Complementary and challenging combinations

In a perfect world, we’d have a team that is a blend of all the colours, but there are cases where this inevitably won’t be the case. Here it’s important to understand the natural and complementary combinations, as well as the challenging combinations.

Natural Combinations: Blues and Greens have some natural synergies. Both are introverted and so feel secure with one another. Reds and Yellows have natural synergies for opposite reasons. Both have the same type of energy and enthusiasm for working quickly.

Complementary Combinations: Reds and Blues are both task-oriented, with one results-focused and one detail-oriented. Yellows and Greens are more relationship-oriented, with Yellows being great talkers and Greens great listeners.

Challenging Combinations: Opposite colours tend to be more challenging. Reds and Greens can be a difficult combination. The directness of Reds may frustrate Greens, while the passivity and slowness of Greens may frustrate Reds. The most challenging combination, however, is Blue and Yellow. There is typically friction from the outset, with one focused quietly on detail and the other talkative and shooting from the hip.

When it comes to the optimal combinations, Erikson has some simple advice. If it’s not clear what behaviour type you are working with, sometimes it’s best to listen for a while. Often, acting Green is the best default strategy if you’re unsure.

Key Idea #5: The stress factors and stress response of behaviour types

The colours can also give us a good idea of what causes stress for people and how they typically respond to stress.

Red Stress Factors: Taking authority away; achieving no results; no challenge; wasting time and resources; mundane and repetitive tasks; making stupid mistakes; lack of control.

Red Stress Responses: Work even harder; hide themselves away; identify scapegoats.

Yellow Stress Factors: Feeling invisible; scepticism; structured work; isolation from the group; “overthinking”; public humiliation.

Yellow Stress Responses: Seek attention even more; excessive optimism; new ideas.

Green Stress Factors: Uncharted territory; unfinished tasks; lack of private space; rapid change; being in the spotlight

Green Stress Responses: Cold, closed body language; uncertain and insecure; internalise blame for mistakes.

Blue Stress Factors: Having knowledge challenged; spontaneous decisions; uncertain and risky decisions; mistakes; emotional people around them

Blue Stress Responses: Excessive pessimism; lethargy; slowing down to avoid mistakes.

You can buy the book here or you can find more of our book notes here. For further related reading, try How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.


Book Summary: Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson - Hustle Escape? ›

1-Sentence-Summary: Surrounded by Idiots offers great advice on how to get your point across more effectively, communicate better, and work your way up in your personal and professional life by getting to know the four types of personalities people generally have and how to address each one in particular to kickstart a ...

What are the lessons from the book surrounded by idiots? ›

Lesson #1: What you say is different from what is understood. Lesson #2: You are a RED if you are bold and dominant. Lesson #3: You are a YELLOW if you talk too much. Lesson #4: You are a GREEN if you hate change and love stability in your life.

What do the colors mean in surrounded by idiots? ›

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.

What are the moral values found in the story 3 Idiots? ›

The result of this study showed that "3 Idiots" movie by Rajkumar Hirani was full of moral value. First, we have to be brave and never give up to get what we want. Second, Do not affraid to talk the thruth to others as long as we are on the right position.

What is the important lesson you learned in the film 3 Idiots? ›

Never study to be successful, study for self-efficiency. Don't run behind success. Follow behind excellence, success will come all way behind you.”

What are the 4 personality types by color? ›

There are four basic personality types, each with a color that reflects their main characteristics: Dominant Red, Planner Blue, Charismatic Yellow, and Stable Green. All can be exceptional leaders if they work from their strengths. Study some of their characteristics in the graphic below.

What are the 4 color personality types? ›

The Color Code is based on four types of personality, identified by color: Red, (motivated by power); Blue, (motivated by intimacy); White, (motivated by peace); and Yellow, (motivated by fun).

What are the 4 color personality traits? ›

Golds will create rules and processes. Blues will follow those rules and processes, Greens will question them, and Oranges will work around them. But each personality will understand the others' behaviors and thus be able to function better as a team and to resolve conflict more efficiently.

What is the famous dialogue in 3 Idiots movie? ›

We cannot forget the famous dialogue from Aamir Khan-starrer 3 Idiots in which the actor says, “Success ke peeche mat bhago. Kaabil bano kaabil. Kamyabi jhak maar ke peeche ayegi.”This dialogue teaches us to be skilful.

Who is the main character in 3 Idiots? ›

What color reflects your personality best? ›

Favorite Color Personality Test: In a summary
Favorite ColorPersonality Traits
RedYou are decisive, assertive, driven, and focused on the goals.
BlueYou are good at motivating and communicating ideas with people.
GreenYou love to learn new things and concepts. You abide by high morals while working also.
7 more rows
Dec 17, 2022

What colors define personality? ›

Red and warm colors in general give a spectrum of feelings ranging from love to aggression. Red is usually seen as the color of love and evokes very strong feelings to people. Blue is typically men's favorite and it is a symbol of calmness and serenity. Blue can also emit sadness and indifference.

What personality colors work best together? ›

According to Erikson, Red and Blue personalities are one of the best pairings because they're both task-oriented and have opposite strengths.

What is the rarest color personality? ›

1. Red Personality – Leader. Erikson states that red ones are the rarest of the lot in the book.

What is a blue personality type? ›

People with Blue personalities are very aware of their emotions and strive to bring balance into their life. They are often analytical, organized, and they tend to be conservative in their approach to life and relationships. Blues seek security and stability in their lives and are often risk-averse.

What is a gold personality type? ›

Those with Gold color personality strengths tend to be loyal, dependable, organized, thorough, sensible, punctual and caring. They notice and remember facts, like directions and instructions, set deadlines and want them to be met. They enjoy check lists and checking things off the list.

Is White a color or not? ›

Some consider white to be a color, because white light comprises all hues on the visible light spectrum. And many do consider black to be a color, because you combine other pigments to create it on paper. But in a technical sense, black and white are not colors, they're shades. They augment colors.

What does purple say about your personality? ›

Purple as a favorite color is said to represent an artistic and unique individual, who is often very intuitive and deeply interested in spirituality. Lovers of purple are said to be a good judge of character, and a visionary with a great need to participate in humanitarian issues.

What flowers say about your personality? ›

Pink roses mean grace, happiness and gentleness; white roses mean purity, innocence, reverence, and silence; yellow roses symbolize new beginnings, joy and friendship; orange roses symbolize desire and enthusiasm; and coral roses symbolize friendship, modesty and empathy. Lavender roses represent love at first sight.

When you read a great book you don t escape from life you plunge deeper into it? ›

When you read a great book, you don't escape from life, you plunge deeper into it. There may be a superficial escape – into different countries, mores, speech patterns – but what you are essentially doing is furthering your understanding of life's subtleties, paradoxes, joys, pains and truths.

Is Surrounded by Idiots a good book? ›

Overall, I liked the book and I can recommend surrounded by Idiots to others, but I would advise everyone to be critical while reading it and to be cautious with implementing all the examples given in the book.

What do you learn from the book wise and otherwise? ›

This book has a strong message of humanity to mankind. Wise and otherwise upholds the values that are essential for the humankind to survive in this incredible life. As the subtitle says – this book is a salute for life. The life of the undying spirit.

What is the quote about reading to escape? ›

Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss." - from I Feel Bad About My Neck by writer Nora Ephron.

Why do we feel sad when we finish a book? ›

She explained that sometimes the hangover feeling is simple sadness: “It could be that sadness readers feel after the end of the book signals a loss of something valued – in this case it may be a loss of characters to whom we may have connected very strongly, or the loss of the whole world that is presented to us in ...

Why can I read a book and not remember anything? ›

After reading, you may find it almost impossible to retain the information acquired. It may be due to lack of adequate sleep and rest, distractions while reading, poor nutrition, failure to choose the right book, or memory issues such as decay or shallow processing.

What is considered the most boring book ever written? ›

The Most Boring Book Ever Written: An Adventureless Choose-Your-Path Novella by Daniel Pitts, Rudolf Kerkhoven, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

What is the boringest book? ›

Most Boringest Books Ever
  • Little Women. ...
  • All the King's Men. ...
  • Confessions. ...
  • The Notebook (The Notebook, #1) by Nicholas Sparks (Goodreads Author) ...
  • Amos Fortune, Free Man. by Elizabeth Yates. ...
  • The Optimist's Daughter. by Eudora Welty. ...
  • Mrs. Dalloway. ...
  • Brokeback Mountain. by Annie Proulx.

What age is the prettiest book for? ›

8 - 12 years

What is the short summary of wise and otherwise? ›

Wise and otherwise is an eye opening book about various people around us. Sudha Murty has depicted various experiences of a variety of people who came across her. She has described the examples of generosity to the meanest acts one can expect.

What do we learn from the book? ›

Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can't interrupt them; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them. They speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention.

What does learning from the book mean? ›

book-learning. noun. knowledge gained from books rather than from direct personal experience.


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