top of page

The key points of 'Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behavior and How to Effectively Communicate with Each in Business (and in Life)' by Thomas Erikson

Thomas Erikson's 'Surrounded by Idiots' provides valuable insights into the four types of human behavior and effective communication strategies for business and personal interactions. By understanding and applying these concepts, individuals can enhance leadership, teamwork, customer relations, and interpersonal relationships. The book offers practical guidance for navigating the complexities of human behavior in various contexts.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding the dominant, influencing, steady, and conscientious types of human behavior.

  • Tailoring communication strategies to effectively engage with each type.

  • Applying insights from the book to enhance leadership skills and team dynamics.

  • Improving customer relations by adapting communication styles to different behavior types.

  • Managing interpersonal relationships by recognizing and adapting to the four types of human behavior.

Understanding the Four Types of Human Behavior

Analyzing the Dominant Type

The Dominant type, often referred to as the 'D' type in the DISC model, is characterized by their assertiveness, desire for control, and high emphasis on achieving results. Individuals with a Dominant behavior style are often seen as confident and decisive. They prefer to lead rather than follow and are comfortable with taking risks.

Key Traits of the Dominant Type:

  • Direct and to the point

  • Results-oriented

  • Strong-willed

  • Competitive

  • Independent

Effective communication with Dominant types involves being clear, concise, and goal-focused. It is important to respect their need for autonomy and to present ideas with confidence. > When engaging with a Dominant type, emphasize efficiency and effectiveness to align with their drive for results.

Identifying the Influencing Type

The Influencing type, often referred to as the 'socializer', is characterized by their outgoing, enthusiastic, and persuasive nature. They thrive on interaction and are often seen as the life of the party. Their ability to inspire and motivate others is a key strength.

Influencers are typically very verbal and engage in storytelling, using their communication skills to connect with others. They prefer environments where they can express themselves freely and are often creative thinkers.

  • Enjoys being the center of attention

  • Possesses strong verbal communication skills

  • Seeks to inspire and motivate

  • Values relationships and expressiveness

Understanding the Steady Type

The Steady type, often referred to as the 'S' in the DISC model, is characterized by their calm, patient, and supportive nature. They are the stabilizing force in a team, prioritizing harmony and cooperation over competition. Steady types value consistency and are excellent listeners, making them pivotal in maintaining a balanced work environment.

Reliability is a hallmark of the Steady type, and they often excel in roles that require diligence and a methodical approach. Their aversion to change and conflict can sometimes be a challenge, especially in dynamic settings. To engage effectively with Steady types, it's crucial to provide clear expectations and avoid overwhelming them with abrupt changes.

  • Appreciate their need for stability

  • Communicate changes gradually

  • Provide consistent support and reassurance

Recognizing the Conscientious Type

The Conscientious type is characterized by their desire for accuracy, attention to detail, and a methodical approach to tasks. They are often seen as the meticulous planners and analytical thinkers in a group. Conscientious individuals prioritize precision and can be relied upon for their thoroughness in work.

Reliability is a hallmark of the Conscientious type, making them invaluable in settings that require careful planning and execution. They may, however, require more time to make decisions, as they tend to analyze all possible angles before committing to a course of action.

To effectively engage with the Conscientious type, consider the following points:

  • Provide clear and detailed instructions.

  • Allow them time to process information and make decisions.

  • Respect their need for organization and predictability.

  • Avoid pressuring them for quick responses or decisions.

Effective Communication Strategies

Tailoring Communication to Dominant Types

Communicating effectively with Dominant types requires a direct and concise approach. Be assertive and to the point, as they respect strength and decisiveness. Avoid unnecessary details that can be seen as a waste of time.

Dominant individuals prefer to lead and make quick decisions. It's important to provide them with options and the freedom to choose. When presenting information, use a bulleted list to outline the key points:

  • Present facts and efficiency gains

  • Highlight potential challenges and solutions

  • Show respect for their time by being brief

Building Rapport with Influencing Types

To build rapport with Influencing types, it's essential to engage in open and energetic conversations. These individuals thrive on interaction and respond well to enthusiasm and recognition. Show genuine interest in their ideas and stories to foster a strong connection.

  • Acknowledge their achievements and provide positive feedback.

  • Be attentive and actively listen to their perspectives.

  • Encourage their creativity and support their ventures.

Remember, Influencing types are motivated by social recognition and relationships. They prefer a friendly, collaborative approach over a competitive or confrontational one.

Creating Stability with Steady Types

Steady types value consistency and predictability in their interactions. Creating an environment of stability is crucial when communicating with individuals who exhibit this behavior. They thrive in settings where expectations are clear and changes are introduced gradually.

Trust is a key element in building a relationship with steady types. They prefer a calm, supportive approach and are often uncomfortable with aggressive or unpredictable behavior. To foster a sense of security, consider the following steps:

  • Establish regular check-ins to provide updates and gather feedback.

  • Maintain a consistent routine in meetings and project timelines.

  • Be transparent about upcoming changes and provide ample time for adjustment.

Adapting to Conscientious Types

Conscientious types are characterized by their need for accuracy and reliability. Adapting communication to meet these needs is crucial for effective interaction. They appreciate detailed information and a logical approach to discussions and tasks.

Consistency is key when dealing with conscientious individuals. They value structure and predictability, which means surprises or last-minute changes can be particularly unsettling for them. To foster a productive environment, ensure that expectations and deadlines are clearly defined and met.

  • Prepare in advance for meetings or discussions

  • Provide detailed agendas and follow them closely

  • Be punctual and respect their time

Application in Business and Personal Interactions

Utilizing Insights in Leadership

Leadership effectiveness is greatly enhanced by understanding the behavioral types outlined by Thomas Erikson. Knowing your team's dynamics and the individual communication preferences can lead to more effective leadership. For instance, a leader might use direct and clear communication with Dominant types, while offering more personal praise and interaction with Influencing types.

Adaptability in leadership style is not just beneficial, it's essential for managing diverse teams. Leaders who can adjust their approach to match the behavioral type of their team members can foster a more cohesive and motivated workforce.

  • Dominant Types: Appreciate concise and goal-oriented communication.

  • Influencing Types: Respond well to enthusiastic and collaborative dialogue.

  • Steady Types: Value supportive and sincere communication.

  • Conscientious Types: Prefer detailed and logical information.

Enhancing Team Dynamics

Enhancing team dynamics is crucial for fostering a collaborative and productive work environment. By understanding and applying the four types of human behavior, leaders can create teams that are balanced and effective. Diversity in behavioral types is a strength that, when managed well, leads to innovative solutions and a dynamic work culture.

Communication is the linchpin in enhancing team dynamics. It's important to ensure that each team member's voice is heard and valued, regardless of their behavioral type. This can be achieved through regular team meetings, open forums for discussion, and structured feedback sessions.

  • Encourage Dominant types to take on leadership roles in projects

  • Allow Influencing types to drive team engagement and morale

  • Support Steady types in maintaining harmony and consistency

  • Utilize Conscientious types for their attention to detail and analytical skills

Improving Customer Relations

Understanding and adapting to the different behavioral types is crucial for improving customer relations. By recognizing the unique communication preferences of the Dominant, Influencing, Steady, and Conscientious types, businesses can tailor their customer service approach to meet individual needs effectively.

Empathy is key when dealing with customers of all types. Demonstrating genuine concern and understanding for a customer's situation can lead to stronger relationships and increased loyalty. Here are some strategies for each type:

  • For Dominant types: Be clear, efficient, and to the point.

  • For Influencing types: Engage in friendly, open dialogue and show enthusiasm.

  • For Steady types: Provide support and reassurance, maintaining a calm demeanor.

  • For Conscientious types: Offer detailed information and be precise in your communication.

Managing Interpersonal Relationships

In the realm of interpersonal relationships, understanding the four types of human behavior is crucial for fostering healthy and productive interactions. Effective communication is the cornerstone of managing relationships, whether they are personal or professional. By applying the principles from 'Surrounded by Idiots', individuals can tailor their communication style to better connect with others.

Empathy and active listening are essential skills for managing interpersonal relationships. These skills allow individuals to understand and respect the perspectives of others, which is particularly important when dealing with different personality types.

  • Dominant Types: Be direct and to the point.

  • Influencing Types: Engage in friendly and open dialogue.

  • Steady Types: Provide support and stability.

  • Conscientious Types: Offer detailed information and be patient.


In conclusion, 'Surrounded by Idiots' by Thomas Erikson provides valuable insights into the four types of human behavior and offers practical strategies for effective communication in both business and personal interactions. Understanding the different behavior types can lead to improved relationships, better teamwork, and enhanced communication skills. This book is a must-read for anyone looking to navigate the complexities of human behavior and communication.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the four types of human behavior discussed in the book?

The four types of human behavior discussed in the book are Dominant, Influencing, Steady, and Conscientious.

How can I identify the dominant type in a person?

The dominant type is often characterized by assertiveness, direct communication, and a focus on results. Observing their behavior and communication style can help in identifying the dominant type.

What communication strategies are effective for influencing types?

Influencing types respond well to enthusiastic and persuasive communication. Building rapport, using positive language, and providing recognition are effective strategies for communicating with influencing types.

How can I create stability in communication with steady types?

Steady types value harmony and stability. Using a calm and patient communication style, acknowledging their contributions, and providing a supportive environment are effective ways to create stability in communication with steady types.

What is the key to adapting to conscientious types?

Adapting to conscientious types involves providing detailed information, being well-prepared, and demonstrating reliability. Consistency and attention to detail are important when communicating with conscientious types.

How can the insights from the book be applied in improving customer relations?

The insights from the book can be applied by tailoring communication to different customer types, understanding their preferences, and addressing their specific needs. This approach can enhance customer relations and improve customer satisfaction.

Related Posts

See All

The key points of 'SPIN Selling By Neil Rackham

The 'SPIN Selling' methodology, developed by Neil Rackham, is a revolutionary sales technique that has transformed the way professionals approach the selling process. This approach emphasizes the impo


bottom of page