This guest post is by Non-psychologist, D.P. KYSER (aka CaptnDave), and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
Let me preface this article with full disclosure. I am not a Psychiatrist! My background is mostly Naval Aviation (Wings of Gold, baby!), some sales, including owning my own business, running someone else’s much larger business, and lots of leadership experience. Currently I’m professionally teaching & training Military personnel.
First, if you’re freaked-out that The End-of-The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) is happening tomorrow, or December 21st, of January 13th, 2013: relax.
Just stop with the drama and don’t fall for the hype. Do I think trouble is coming? Absolutely. Preparedness is essential, but don’t panic.
Fortune favors the bold, and bold people are not panicked.
Let’s talk about the psychology and personalities of prepping; what drives people to behave the way do, and how we might use this information to better communicate with our spouse, and also friends & relatives that may be included in your prepper network, so you effectively communicate the reasoning behind your desire to be prepared and everyone can get “On-board” with the program.
I must first go back to Plato’s works on personalities. Plato postulated that there are four different basic personality types¹: Phlegmatic, Sanguine, Melancholy, and Choleric. Those of you that have received Sales training have probably seen versions of this (MBTI, Owls and Dolphins, etc.). I’ll spare you the boring College-level analysis of Plato’s work and ideas; I’ll give an overview of it by means of a short story analogy.
There’s a fire in a rather large building! The first person that shows up is the Phlegmatic. He stands there on the corner across the street and looks around timidly, and mumbles to himself, “Isn’t anybody going to do anything?” The second person to show up is the Sanguine. She looks at the fire and happily squeals “Wow, a fire, let’s get some weenies and have us a weenie roast!” (She’s not taking it seriously.) The third person that shows up is the Melancholy. He looks at the building on fire, and noticing the building is ten stories tall, and one-hundred feet wide by about 200 feet deep, pulls out his whiz-wheel and begins to calculate how much water it’s going to take to put the fire out. While the Melancholy is still calculating how many thousands of gallons of water are required, the Choleric shows up. He immediately looks at the first person and commands “You, call 911”, then to the other two people he yells “come on you two, grab that ladder and hose and let’s go!”
While you were reading this story, you’ve probably already thought to yourself, that one sounds like my friend, that one my spouse, and so on. Here’s the point; if we know how people behave, then maybe we can identify what in their personality is driving them to respond or to shut down, and enables us to better communicate with them.
Please understand that it is rare to find someone that is 100% of one personality. Rather it’s more common to find folks that are a mix. A very well-balanced person would be approximately one-quarter of each.
For a better understanding, let’s more closely examine the four people that were at our fire:
First was the Phlegmatic; phlegmatic people tend to be friendly, patient, but often timid, and keep to themselves. You could say many are introverted. They are turned off by the Sanguine’s lack of seriousness. They are scared by Choleric people. Others tend to see them as skeptical, blank, boring…the “limp dish-rag” personality.
Second was the Sanguine; sanguine people tend to be spontaneous, happy-go-lucky, vivacious, and cheerful, some say extroverted. Others like to be around them, but see them as undisciplined, they can’t take anything serious, and they’re a show-off. Sanguine people can’t even spell checkbook balance.
Third was the Melancholy; melancholy people tend to be persistent, thoughtful, very detail-oriented, dogmatic, and faithful. Others see them as slow, too detailed, often suffering from “Paralysis by Analysis.” Melancholy people know their checkbook balance to the exact penny at all times, just ask them! By the way, the building burned down before he came up with the solution to the math problem…
Last was the Choleric; choleric people tend to be confident, adventurous, persuasive, and bold. Choleric people tend to be natural leaders. Others tend to see them as bossy, stubborn, impatient, brassy, yes even sometimes obnoxious, arrogant, and overbearing! Choleric people don’t work well with the Phlegmatic (too boring) or the Melancholy (can’t give information fast enough). Choleric folks tend to interrupt you while you’re answering their question, with another partially phrased question, because you are not answering them quickly and concisely enough! Choleric folks love to fix things and be the hero. If you inform a Choleric you need their help, they will take charge and fix it!
Do you know people like this? As we can see there are good qualities and perceived bad qualities to each of these personalities. If you are trying to convince your spouse to be a willing participant in prepping, and you come to him/her with a detailed spread-sheet with fourteen colors and three pages on how you are going to implement your two-year plan for long-term survival, including the detailed inventory of required equipment, and your spouse is Sanguine…that’s not going to fly.
You’ll notice by their body language – crossed arms. Guys, if you’re wife is crossing her arms after you’ve proposed something – it ain’t happenin’ (Intentional misuse of the English language for emphasis). Conversely, if you’re Sanguine and your spouse is Melancholy, and your approach is, “Com’on honey, this will be fun, we’ll dig holes in the ground and run around in cammies with guns and sharp objects…won’t that be fun?” Another epic fail. What if a Choleric/Melancholy mix asked their Sanguine friend to organize a plan?
There’s probably going to be some disappointment there. However, if two Sanguine people are talking about how much fun it is to go camping and can food, they might be going in the same direction. If two Melancholy people are exchanging Excel spread sheets with colors and graphics and formulas running and…well, you get it, they’ll be in detail heaven.
If approaching a Phlegmatic, show how sensible and safe it will be.
When approaching a Sanguine, show how much fun it’s going to be.
If you’re approaching a Melancholy, show how logical it is, and have your numbers right.
When approaching a Choleric, be clear, concise, and quick with your idea. Better yet, tell them you need their help, you can’t do it alone, and they will likely respond positively (and take over the project).
When I was young I was about 90% Choleric and 10% Sanguine. I thrived in the military with that personality, but when I got out and started my own business, I realized in hind-sight that when I was in the military, the most positive response I got out of people was not because I had the higher rank, but because they knew I cared, they respected my abilities, they knew I knew what I was talking about. My experiences in private business further fostered the good leadership principles, and I became a more rounded person, also taking on principles of the Melancholy, as the business needed detail-oriented analysis. I’d say I even have taken on a bit of Phlegmatic, as my wife says I’m (sometimes) patient and a good listener (I’m trying…I’m trying real hard). Goodness knows the girlfriends I had when I was younger would have never said that about me!
There are plenty of articles out there about convincing spouses and getting friends “On-board”, etc. What I’d like you to think about is the approach. What’s in that person’s personality “Wheel-house”?
So here’s the bottom line; figure out what drives your spouse or friends & family, and to get them on board with what you are doing, don’t over-hype, be reasonable, be patient, and do it in a manner that their personality responds well to.
1 – Additional Reference: Personality Plus, by Florence Littauer, ISBN: 0-8007-5445-X
This contest will end on June 5 2012 – prizes include:
Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution” and a Katadyn Siphon Water Filter courtesy of Mayflower Trading Company. A total prize value of $107.
Contest ends on June 5 2012.