I’d like to articulate three powerful reasons to become a student of personality types.
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Prov. 16:23)
One of the best reasons to try to discover someone’s personality type is so that you can more effectively communicate with him or her. We probably all have family members or friends who refuse to listen, despite our best attempts to convince them of the need to prepare. Sometimes part of this is because of personality differences. For example, you could spend all day explaining how logical it is to prepare, but if you are talking to a Red it is going to be like water off a duck’s back. Here are some tips on how to approach the subject with the four personality types. There is no guarantee that these strategies will work, but they’ll certainly improve your odds. (Really, they can help you communicate more effectively in any context.)
Blue: Keep things logical and fact based. Avoid emotional pleas, rants, and conspiracies theories. A Blue will likely view these as irrational and will be turned off, so do not talk about a zombie apocalypse! When it fits, use material from authoritative sources that the person is likely to respect. Here are some examples of what you could say: “I can’t believe the National Debt just broke the $18 trillion dollar mark. Somehow I don’t think Washington is ever going to change. What do you think will happen in this country if we just keep heading down this road?” Another approach might be to say, “I was working on my emergency kit this weekend. You know, the CDC has come right out and said that if there is a serious emergency people are going to be on their own for at least three days. I’m not crazy; I just want to make sure my family is taken care of if something like that happens.” Or, you could say, “We’ve started putting some of our retirement savings aside to invest in silver. The experts we’ve read have recommended 5% of your portfolio be invested in precious metals and we were nowhere close to that. I’ve looked at how silver has performed over the last 10 years, and it has actually done really well. You might want to think about it yourself.”
Green: Emphasize that preparing gives you more control over your life. Try to build a foundation by breaking preparation down into small steps that can be understood, organized, and controlled. If you pile too much onto a Green all at once, they may be overwhelmed and decide that the situation is beyond their control. This could cause them to give up on it altogether. For example, you might say, “Sometimes I’m amazed at all the ingredients that go into store-bought foods. I’m thinking of starting a garden so that I can know exactly what we are eating.” “Did you see any of the news footage of those riots? There was no way the police were going to be able to provide security for everyone who lived in that neighborhood. It makes sense to me to have some way of protecting your own home during difficult times.” “After all the volatility in the stock market over the last few years, I’ve decided to start putting some of my savings into silver coins. I like the idea of having something physical that I can touch rather than putting all my trust in mutual funds and bank accounts.”
Red: As much as possible, introduce them to prepping in fun, interactive ways. Don’t talk about all the horrible scenarios you’ve played out in your own mind, because if the person associates preparedness with negative emotions they are very likely to avoid the subject. Describe in positive terms the benefits of preparing. For example: “Our family is planning to go camping over the weekend next month. Why don’t you guys come with us? I think it will be a lot of fun.” “I was always worried about my husband since he has a family history of heart disease, but after taking a CPR course I feel much more relaxed and confident since I know what to do.” “Remember how we were talking the other day about crime rates going up in the county? I found out that there is a basic pistol class being offered in town in a couple weeks. Maybe we could sign up and go together?” “I was thinking of building a solar dehydrator as a fun project to do with the kids on Saturday. I know you are more handy than I am. If you are not busy, could you come over and help? I’ll fire up the barbeque for lunch.
Yellow: Relate prepping to real-world events and personal experiences. Give them chances to imagine themselves in a survival scenario. Keep things simple and high level at first, and offer to show them what you’ve done if they need help with the details. A Yellow will probably tune you out if you spend 15 minutes discussing the pros and cons of Kydex vs. leather holsters. For example: “Did you hear about that town in Ohio where no one could use water from the tap for two or three days? What do you think we would do if something like that happened here?” “Wow, that was a great movie. Have you ever thought about what you would do in a survival situation like that?” “I was so glad I had a first aid kit with me when my son cut his arm at the park last year. I don’t know what I would have done without it. Do you keep a first aid kit in your car?” “If a tornado like that ever came through our town, I would want to be one of the people who had extra food and supplies that I could hand out to our neighbors. I sure wouldn’t want to be one of the refugees wondering what my family was going to eat the next day.”
It is generally accepted that few people can survive all on their own, and almost no one can actually thrive in isolation. That means we need other people in our survival group, and for maximum effectiveness we need to understand each of them well.
Knowing a potential group member’s personality can help you make a much more informed decision about whether or not to invite them to join. I’m certainly not saying that you should accept or reject a person solely based on their personality. It’s just that personality is an important consideration. If your group is dominated by Reds and you are considering asking a Blue to join, be aware that he or she may have some very different ideas about how the group should function. That can cause conflict, but it can also be a great opportunity for your group to compensate for weaknesses in a particular area.
Part of knowing personality ahead of time is also simply setting expectations. Before he joins the group, you might need to warn a Blue that he’ll have to make compromises and go along with the group’s decisions, even if he doesn’t think it is the most logical choice. You might need to warn a Yellow that she’ll have to follow the agreements and rules that are in place even if she doesn’t see the value of them.
Once your group is established, understanding one another’s personalities can have a profoundly positive impact on how you interact as a group. Seeing things through another person’s eyes makes it much easier to “be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:2). Several years ago I was involved in a lengthy email discussion with my pastor over a theological issue. I kept trying harder and harder to explain the logic behind my position, and he kept trying harder and harder to show me examples of good people who agreed with him. In hind sight, I realize that we were talking past each other because of our different personalities. The same thing can happen in a survival group. A Green wants everyone to standardize around the same rifle, but a Yellow wants everyone to pick what feels right for them. A Blue wants to extract promises that no supplies will be distributed to beggars, but a Red insists that starving people cannot be sent away empty handed. How a group finds answers to these conflicts will be different in each situation, but I guarantee compromise will be easier if you know that the other person is acting out of their natural personality type, instead of out of willful arrogance or stubbornness.
If we think about the strengths and weaknesses of each personality type, I’m sure each one of us would like to have all the strengths and none of the weaknesses, but of course no one is perfect. We all have weaknesses and natural tendencies that can get us in trouble. What Sun Tzu had in mind when he wrote that famous line about knowing ourselves is more than just knowledge. We must strive to improve ourselves based on that knowledge. While some people argue that our fundamental personality type will never change, we can’t use that as an excuse for not improving in our weak areas.
How can we do this practically? I recommend two strategies– learn from others and make conscious efforts to practice “thinking outside of your personality”. Learning from others can be as simple as interacting with them and asking them questions. Ask someone of a different personality type what they thought about the sermon on Sunday or how they felt things went the last time your survival group met together. Just being aware of how different people perceive things can open your own eyes to things you never used to notice. My wife is somewhere between a hundred and a thousand times better at reading people than I am. So after we’ve interacted with someone new, I try to always ask her what she perceived. Slowly (very slowly) I am trying to develop this skill by learning from her. In the meantime, I can partially compensate for my weakness by trusting her judgment.
It is more difficult to practice “thinking outside of our personality”, because most people find it uncomfortable, but there is no doubt that it helps. Do you lack people skills? Join a small group at church or volunteer at a local rescue mission where you will be forced to interact with others. Do you struggle with being creative? Volunteer to help the local YMCA put together some material promoting their summer camps. Is organization a weak point in your life? Commit yourself to planning all the details for the next Boy Scout camp out. Is logical thinking something you dread? Put yourself in a situation at work in which you need to set aside your emotions and make solid decisions. Also, don’t just drag yourself through these activities; recognize them as opportunities to grow and throw yourself into them, doing the best that you possibly can. Take training to “think outside your personality” as seriously as you would training in firearms, food preservation, or gardening. Like those skills, it will certainly pay dividends.
Understanding and applying personality types is an extremely valuable skill. I hope through this article I’ve provided a practical foundation upon which you can build. We must all learn and grow as individuals, taking advantage of our strengths and the strengths of those around us and compensating for both our weaknesses and theirs.
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