Posts Tagged ‘psychological profiles’

The Open Mind

Some doors are set so that they may be used as an exit, but not as an entrance.  To say the gate is open doesn’t necessarily define how wide the opening is, or what can pass through it.  If a cat can barely squeeze by, the cow might have problems with it.

If a person claims to have an open mind, it doesn’t mean they are open to any and all proposals.  They will still be inclined to set some restrictions on what they will or won’t allow to be worth their consideration.  They will be likely to say they’ll be open to reasonable suggestions, but the caveat will always be what they consider to be reasonable.  And a lot of that will be determined by both what they think they have discovered, and also by what they have been taught to believe.  Yet, there is no axiom that would require either of those prerequisite beliefs to be true, or even based on any truths.

Once a position is adopted, and the person adopting it believes they are correct, those who would disagree with them will most likely be thought to be either flawed in their thinking, or unreasonable if not easily swayed.  Fact is, reason has little to do with it.  Reason considers probabilities and obstacles in a transition, whereas emotion defines the points of the beginning and end on a map.  Additionally, emotion is what is used to determine preferences.

This is often true, in fact, almost entirely with choices in fashion.  The self image desired while wearing a certain pair of shoes may have little to do with the benefits of, or the assistance the shoes will be with comfort, standing, walking or running.  And so it is with virtually everything a person chooses to buy, emotion will win out over reason almost all of the time, regardless of how analytical, practical, or logical they think they have been in making the decision.

So, while we may want to counter some unreasonable idea (ex: witchcraft) with logic, what we may be struggling with is the subjective emotion of fear:  Fear of being out of control; being wrong, being ridiculed instead of praised, or becoming despised by others who might strongly disagree with some new idea or decision that is in conflict with “the way things are done”.

If a person is not open to new ideas, trying to get them to consider them can often create tension.  And when made to feel tense, the fallback behavior you might expect from them may be predictable according to their personality, temperament, and social style based on what they feel is at risk by allowing some new proposition to be deemed valid.  Here are four general groups of styles, and how people in those subsets might respond (fallback behavior) to pressure to take on a precept that opposes something in their preexisting belief system:

1.) The assertive and emotionally controlled (DRIVER) may feel their authority, and thus their control is threatened, so they will likely dismiss you and become autocratic.  They may say something similar to:

“That is nonsense.  We don’t have time for that, and besides, I’ve already made my decision.”

2.) The unassertive and emotionally controlled (ANALYTIC) feels to be wrong is the greatest threat they ever feel.  They will likely avoid you, or at least avoid any deadline that adopts your proposition until they’ve had time to collect their own data to refute it.  Their data may not be accurate or true, but it will lean towards validating their own previously held opinion.  They may never confront you, but if you press them hard enough, they may be inclined to find an ally that will come to you and ask you to “lighten up”.

3.) The assertive and emotionally responsive (EXPRESSIVE) needs more than anything else not to lose their sense of worthiness that earns them applause.  They cannot stand having their ideas made to look ridiculous in front of their peers, or even total strangers, for that matter.  So, they may attack you, at least verbally.  I will not presume to spell out how they might respond as I did above for the driver, but you can presume it might be harsh with insults, rude language, and even fighting words.  You may not wish to hurt people’s feelings by acting that way, but while they rave on, your feelings are not a primary consideration as much as their need to feel like they are winning.  Even if you back off or give in to them, it does not mean their attack is over.  They might even come back with more rebuttal the next day or next week, and might want to fire a few volleys at you as the “opposition” whenever the subject comes up.

4.) The unassertive and emotionally responsive (AMIABLE) does not want you to dislike them, and is also concerned that some bad decision could cause others in their group to dislike, or even hate them.  If you press them too hard, they might appear to acquiesce if they cannot run away.  But they won’t.  The need to not be hated is likely to be too strong for them to dare risk that the “Emperor’s New Clothes” are invisible.  The other three won’t admit it easily either, but their reasons (motivation) are different.

While my overview using a tool of character analysis might be interesting, there are far deeper reasons other than my observations for why people think (or do not seem to think at all) as they do.  For those who wish a less superficial picture just based on reactions determined by style, there are many options available for reading things far more academic, and with much more detail given to specifics from a number of valid sources.

Lots of intelligent writings might help a person move beyond myth and superstition, along with disposing of all kinds of irrational presuppositions and prejudicial opinions.  I’ve run across three in particular that are absolutely brilliant books: One is by a physicist, one by a Neurologist, and one by a philosopher–all of these authors are vey highly respected in the scientific field and academic community.

Yet when I suspect a person might benefit from reading any of them, no matter how much I encourage it, I often find that they will not do so.  Further, they will become absolutely certain that it is a good idea to NOT read them, and become adamant about it if they dare peek at a few pages.  Usually after a short conversation I’ll find these people normally don’t read anything of substance, and are not inclined to ever do so.  When they do read, it will usually be some piece intending to reinforce their existing narrow opinions, and that is with rare exception.

Not surprisingly, when a person with an open mind does read them, they will easily see why a person with a closed mind will not get very far into them.  It’s almost like arguing the existence of Santa Claus with a four year old who has already been convinced Santa is real.  Adults are also guilty of that kind of a mindset. It is the same kind of fuzzy thinking held by certain aristocrats and clerics during the dark ages that once a person has been accused of witchcraft, they have to be found guilty and put to death.

Here are the three books I’d mentioned.  Once you have read them all, see how many other people you can find that have read even one of them all the way through.  You may not be surprised to find very few have, but if you’re like me and would want to live in a society where people are open to reason, you may be disappointed:

1.) “The Demon-Haunted World (Science As A Candle In The Dark)” ~ Carl Sagan, PhD;
2.) “ON BEING CERTAIN: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not” ~ Robert A. Burton, M.D.,
2.) “Breaking The Spell” ~ Daniel C. Dennett, PhD


The three books listed above were not chosen to reinforce any opinion I already had, but were referred to me by people whose academic thinking I respect, when I posed some questions that called for deeper answers than a simple conversation would be likely to afford.


Business of Theater and Theater of Business: Part Three (Revised)

The goal is to find the motivation, whether it be for the character on stage, or the character in the boardroom.  But are we just looking for labels?  Is that just some simplistic mindset to determine the motivations of a character in a story?  Or do we just want a quick assessment of our own motivations and of others around us?

If the results are to be very effective, I doubt the process will be all that simplistic, would it?  But if we take simplistic shortcuts, what might be at risk as far as our conclusions are concerned?  I suppose it depends on how simplistic we go about it.  Sometimes the recipe isn’t always successful by what we put in, as it is a failure because of what we’ve left out.

Since so many social labels tend to be judgmental and prejudicial, focusing on those could be counterproductive.  Instead, we want to look at some different ways of assessing observable behavior characteristics, and identify them with non-judgmental adjectives.  The point of doing that is so that we can make sense out of what a person’s behavior tells you about how they wish to be treated.

Please keep in mind that the utility of it is not just in the information or data being looked at, but why it is important.  It’s about what you can do with it that will make a difference on how you might productively read the behavior of others, and become more aware of how they are reading yours.

In order to do this effectively so that we all might easily recognize the characters, let’s take a look at some fairly familiar literary figures.  For some, this might change forever how you see them, and especially how you might see yourself interacting with them.

Perhaps more important than just about anything else you could do with this kind of information is to understand why their motivation could be so different than yours.  I don’t think I can emphasize the importance of personal and individual motivation too much.

Many of you are likely to be somewhat familiar with Mario Puzo’s literary masterpiece, “The Godfather”.  Perhaps more of you saw the movies than read the book, but either way, I’m sure you’ll recognize the characters representing the four sons of Vito Corleone: Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and the informally adopted, Tom Hagen.  As grown men, each of them had taken on distinctively different styles.

As I’ve said before, in drama, what makes a tragic flaw so tragic, is that the character often doesn’t recognize it as a flaw.  To understand the tragic flaw of each of these men, we have to identify their style.  And not just their overall personality, but the specific style they wore within the culture of the “family”.  Doing so will point out their greatest need they want from the group.

In order to be realistic, even for fictional as well as real characters, we must understand the thing that they feel the greatest threat of losing.  I prefer to focus on positive things, but these four men, just like the rest of us, have some primary fear that influences what they want.  Once we’ve identified that, we’ll better understand what drives them; what is their motivation.

Sonny is the oldest son.  He asserts himself.  He is emotionally responsive.  He lets people know how he feels, and even what he thinks.  His father called him on that kind of behavior, when Sonny, in an emotional outburst, allowed potential enemies to have insight on thoughts that would have been to his advantage to keep private.

(Sonny)  “Whoa, now, you’re telling me that the Tattaglias guarantee our investment without…?”

(Later in private, Vito says:)  “Never let anyone outside the family know what youre thinking.”

  Sonny has a strong need for approval, is oriented futuristically, loves an audience, likes his work to be exciting, he makes fast, intuitive decisions, his first question is “who”, makes a great effort to be involved, willingly accepts leadership roles, prefers not to be isolated, perhaps his greatest strength is his enthusiasm, and his greatest weakness is his impulsiveness.  This weakness, along with his primary fallback behavior being to attack, was his signature.  When his father was shot, Sonny’s anger was almost uncontrollable:

“No, no, no! No more! Not this time, consigliere. No more meetin’s, no more discussions, no more Sollozzo tricks. You give ’em one message: I want Sollozzo. If not, it’s all-out war; we go to the mattresses.”

Though he probably didn’t recognize that tendency in himself, his observable behavior often made it very clear to his enemies, and that was his downfall.  He operated around a fear of not getting applause, which is a little bit different than needing approval.  Sonny’s greatest need in life was applause.  Everybody wants some approval.

Many have used the MBTI to profile Sonny as ESTP.  That would be equal to a Driver/Driver, thus highly assertive and extremely emotionally controlled.  I can understand how they might use certain parts of the Myers Briggs pattern to arrive at that conclusion, but they would be wrong.  Sonny’s emotions were NOT what I’d call controlled.  Sonny was certainly assertive, but he was not a Driver.

He was an Expressive.  But he was a Driving Expressive.  The MTBI pattern equal to that is ESFP.  Some would call that the “Performer”, a temperament that is far more into a world of feelings than the driver/driver ever would be.  I am not saying is it wrong to be expressive, but it was a tragic flaw for Sonny to not recognize it about himself.  But his enemies could easily see it: that’s what got him killed.

Fredo was a sickly child.  His mother was constantly vigilant about how he felt.  Much of his early childhood revolved around how he was feeling.  To some degree he was pampered, and concessions were made for what was expected of him.  As he got older, he was less and less happy about the way he felt others perceived him.  For a long time, he was quick to give in and go with the flow.  When made tense, his first fallback was to acquiesce, even when being slapped around by Moe Green in Las Vegas:

“Aw, now that, that was nothin’, Mike. Moe didn’t mean nothin’ by that. Yeah, sure he flies off the handle every once in a while, but me and him, we’re good friends, right Moe?”

But as the story develops, we see that Fredo never felt accepted in a way that validated his own self image.

“It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!” 

And so it is for that reason the tension he felt from a lack of “respect”, though not exactly hatred at all, seldom went away as he got older.  Because of that, acquiescence wasn’t working for him, though it was his primary fallback.  So, he tried the fallback behaviors of the other styles, and the tension still didn’t go away.  When he moved to over to the fallback behavior of the Driving Expressive (ESFP),  the “What’s in it for me” he felt no one seemed to care about, drove him to attack, thus betraying his own brother.

This reaction, plus certain flamboyance in social behavior while trying to fit in, caused some critics to assume Fredo was a Driving Expressive, or ESFP.  Yes, Fredo wanted approval, but it wasn’t the fear of not getting him applause that drove him; it was the fear of not being liked, and worse, the fear of being hated.  In the end, just wanting to be liked and be accepted back into his family, he was hanging around to take his nephew fishing.  It was predictable that he would be willing to do that, so it was easy to plan his demise.

So within the framework of the “family”, he was not an Expressive.  In this culture, Fredo was an Amiable, although no doubt, he was a very Expressive Amiable.  It was his need to be seen in the company of physically attractive women that drove him far more than any emotional attachment he might feel for them.

In a scene where men were shooting at his father, Fredo was incapable of taking any positive controlled action to defend him, or even retaliate.  He just cried.  In spite of this ineptitude, his own self image was that he was capable of handling great responsibilities, thus a bit “Idealistic”.  And so, the MBTI that would closet match to his style is INFP.

Tom Hagen was not Vito’s natural son, but as he grew up, he became more and more the one whose “information” could be trusted.  Tom was thorough, a detailed thinker, and oriented to detail.  He was generally never seen as impulsive, and less likely than some to make mistakes, or leave out necessary action steps.  While others are focussed on actions and reactions, Tom does his homework, and focusses on what to consider before taking action:

“I found out about this Captain McCluskey who broke Mike’s jaw…Now he’s definitely on Sollozzo’s payroll, and for big money. McCluskey has agreed to be the Turk’s bodyguard. What you have to understand, Sonny, is that while Sollozzo is being guarded like this, he is invulnerable. Now nobody has ever gunned down a New York police captain — never. It would be disastrous. All the Five Families would come after you, Sonny. The Corleone Family would be outcasts! Even the old man’s political protection would run for cover! So do me a favor — take this into consideration.”

Even though eventually the “family” did act to retaliate by killing McCluskey, they did take what Tom said into consideration.  But it was Michael that went from that to the idea of some benefit to pointing out the Captain’s involvement in corruption, drugs, and organized crime.  And as his father before him would have done, Michael turned to Tom Hagen for confirmation that the family had people in the media that could help make McCluskey look dirty in the public eye.  And of course it would be Tom that would arrange things.

One of the reasons he was often seen as correct in his assessments of things, was that he had an overwhelming desire to not be wrong.  It was this same obsession in another piece of literature that seemed to drive Dr. Watson to distraction when dealing with Sherlock Holmes’ painstaking habits.  Sherlock always seemed to want to put every single piece of evidence under intense scrutiny before making a decision.  Sherlock Holmes took great pride in this, for he believed it to be the way to avoid impulsive, and thus possibly erroneous decisions.  Nothing was more important to him than that.

And so it was that the very likelihood of wanting to not be wrong, and therefore with a tendency to be slower to action, was why Michael (under the advisement of Vito) removed Tom as the Consigliere when faced with an imminent war with the other families.  Since Tom didn’t necessarily see himself in the same way Michael did, he didn’t understand the decision, and it hurt his feelings at first.  But Tom was not a man to dwell in his feelings, at least that others would be able to notice, for very long.

Although he was “out” as far as the war council was concerned, he was placed in another position.  Since his powers of accurate observation and details of accountability would be put to profitable use, Tom was able to fit in well with the assignment without further conflict or controversial behavior about the organizational restructuring.  The justification of this move, perhaps more than anything else revealed in the story, as far as the culture of the family was concerned, establishes that Tom was an Analytic.

But he was a Driving Analytic.  Though perhaps more in a world of his perceptions than needing quick closure, Tom regularly used objective judgement to make decisions.  His logical MBTI would be ISTP.  He was the “Mechanic”; he knew how to fix things.

This brings us to Michael.  Early in the novel he showed signs of wanting to be in control of decisions that effected him.  He enrolled in college to not allow the family business to determine his role in life.  Yet even as the family presumed his student status might protect him from the draft, Michael joined the Marines.  And he did so without consulting his father, or anyone else.  He surprised some of his family when he took a controlling role in avenging the assassination attempt on his father.  He asserted himself that he be the one to do it.

“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”

Later, after being out of the country for some time, his reputation for taking calculated risks instead of impulsive ones like Sonny had, prompted his father to turn more of the business over to him.  Michael tended not to allow others to read his emotions.  When made tense, emotions seemed to show, but it was a part of his fallback to become autocratic whenever “control” might be at risk.

After his father’s death, Michael took the calculated risks he felt were necessary to insure that he was unquestionably in complete control of all of the family business.  It was quick, decisive, and goal oriented.

So though maintaining more emotional control than the others, he was almost, though not quite as assertive as his brother, Sonny.  Remember, Sonny was an Expressive, but Michael Corleone was a Driver.  Specifically, an Analytical Driver.  The MBTI comparable to that would be ENTJ, the “Executive”.

And how about Vito himself?  A tremendous range of experiences and circumstances helped mold his style.  Vito was an intelligent man, and thoughtful.  His thinking and planning abilities helped him to connect with even the most analytical.  That he had a vision of the future, accepted leadership, and could fight when he had to made him understood by expressive people.  And even more so that he understood them.  He built relationships based on respect which was his bond with amiables, and his ability to manage change and be decisive earned him the respect of drivers.

There was a bully in the community.  He was a well connected extortionist, and therefore commanded great fear, as well as being the powerful one who could grant favors.  Don Fanucci was called The Black Hand.  Vito, without waiting for any other authority to approve of it, took care of Fanucci.  He didn’t need to take credit for it, as it was assumed quietly that no one else but Vito could have been that assertive and kept his cool about it.

In the story, a husbandless woman in the neighborhood was being evicted because her little boy had brought home a puppy, an action that would prove to be in conflict with the landlord’s inflexible “no pets” rule.  She shared her fearful frustration of not knowing what to do or where she and her son would live with her friend and neighbor, Mrs. Corleone.  Vito’s wife brought the lady to her husband.  She believed he might be able to at least advise her, if not intercede on her behalf, but it was the intercession which he took on with a controlled determination that was the cornerstone of establishing his image in the community.  Vito would be seen, not just as a replacement for the extortionist “The Black Hand”, Don Fanucci, but in very much so a matter of deep respect, as “The Godfather”.

As Vito negotiated with the landlord, he did so with some genuine feeling and empathy for the woman’s situation.  And it because his wife had arranged for the lady to ask for a favor, that he additionally felt it would have been dishonorable to refuse to help her.  When the lady’s landlord seemed unbending, abrupt, condescending, and rude, Vito did not lose his temper.  Though he was a man of action, he maintained a very controlled disposition.  He knew how to allow the man to understand who he was:

“Do me this favor. I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighborhood about me. They’ll tell you I know how to return a favor…”

Vito understood the value of reputation.  When others know how you’re known to behave, they will believe what that tells them you are far more that what you might wish to tell them you are.  What we do speaks louder than what we say?  And once he knew the landlord understood it, it was easy for Vito to tell him the woman’s son could keep the little dog, and that the widow’s rent would be reduced.

Vito Corleone was in his comfort zone, and the landlord was not in his.  And all of this is noticed because of the power of clearly defined images drawn from how they acted.  The process is to establish a recognizable pattern from observable behavior characteristics (character analysis: understanding the motivation, and the predictable style of behavior it leads to).

Whether Vito understood the process or not, it was clear that he knew how to handle different people based on the way they showed him how they wanted to be treated.  He knew the value of being seen as, and how to convince others it was to their advantage to also be seen as, “a reasonable man.”  And so it is the measure of those skills, that I call Vito the “versatile manager”; he had the ability to deal with other people who’s styles were different from his own, with very little tension caused by it.

This ability or management skill made it seem he had almost a sixth sense when it came to reading people, and thus showing some respectable empathy for how they must be feeling.  His strategies and tactics showed he understood very well exactly what it took to “motivate” others”:

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Later, after an attempt on his own life and the death of his oldest son, Vito was very effective convincing the heads of the other families by appealing to their thinking and their feeling when he offered concessions and called for a truce, without allowing them to really know what he had on his mind:

“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you or my boy to me? I forgo the vengeance of my son. But my youngest son had to leave this country because of this Sollozzo business. So now I have to make arrangements to bring him back safely cleared of all these false charges. But I’m a superstitious man. And if some unlucky accident should befall him, if he should be shot in the head by a police officer, or if should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he’s struck by a bolt of lightning…then I’m going to blame some of the people in this room…and that, I do not forgive. But, that aside, let say that I swear, on the souls of my grandchildren, that I will not be the one to break the peace we have made here today.”

If we have to place him in a home quadrant, I’d say he was a Driver.  When he negotiated, he did so from what was obvious to others as a position of strength.  But he was an Amiable Driver (powerful use of relationships-more than anyone else in the story).  That puts him near center right next to driving amiables, analytical expressives and expressive analytics.  Using the MBTI, Vito was ESTJ.

But in fairness to the Jungians, Vito Corleone was in the story, the definitive “Guardian” of a way of life with its own set of rules, and own set of values based on a concept of respect so profoundly important within the sub-culture he adopted.  And it is his own values of what he senses is important to security and his social order that set him apart from other “guardian’ types.  You see, he wouldn’t likely be eager to join the PTA (unless he could completely take charge of it), because that institution already operates by somebody else’s rules.

I’ve mentioned the The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and also Social Style Profile Patterns.  Which do you feel would be quicker, if not easier to use as a tool for the character analysis of Vito Corleone?

1.) That he was more prone to extroversion over introversion, oriented to sensing more than intuition, more into his thinking than his feeling, and seeking closure over being open-ended?  Or, would it be better to tell you:

2.) His greatest need was to be in control of things, and that when made very tense, when sensing (fearing) his ability to maintain that control was threatened, he’d be likely to become rather autocratic?

I like the second assessment, but is it over-simplistic?  Well, I suppose that would depend on how one arrived at the conclusion.  The process of collecting data to plot someone on graphs for the MBTI is similar to the process of determining their social style.  Behavior has to be observed, particularly when involving decision making.  And values need to be assigned to adjectives that describe them.  Then, the data has to be collected and compared to how it ranks within a bank of information on the behaviors of others within a range of normal psychology.

Further, it’s helpful and practical to have certain elements of style charted out so that what you know generally about them is more clearly defined.  It was that very thing that gave me the defining words I used in description number two above.

Of course you want be able to identify basic need.  But you also want to understand how they make use of time, what is important to them as they relate to others, how they view tasks in general, and what is their orientation to decision making.  In other words, their primary question of what, why, who, or how, are they most likely to put the maximum effort towards, what they are most comfortable accepting or rejecting, what is their greatest strength, and also their greatest weakness.

And it also works backwards.  With a valid summary of style elements, it’s easier to take what we observe and determine the style a person is likely to be more comfortable in.  For example, if I see an individual generally avoiding involvement, tends to be cautious, is more interested in “how” rather than “what”, and is better with planning than execution, given a choice between driving, amiable, expressive or analytical, I’d say they were an analytic.

But using the four graphs used to determine MBTI, the only one I could be fairly certain of is introversion over extroversion; introversion is a part of the signature for all analytics.  But I cannot certain about the other three graphs.

There’s a fifty-fifty chance they could be intuitive or sensing.  All but the Expressive Analytics are more predisposed to be in a world of the their thinking rather than their feeling, and the Driving Analytics lean to perception more than judgment.  Thus the Driving Analytic tends to be more open ended, while all the other analytics have a stronger need to get closure.

Don’t get confused here.  Being unhurried and thoughtful does not tell you they don’t want closure.  It tells you they don’t want to FORCE closure at the risk of error.  It is BECAUSE they have that need, and more than anything, do not want to be wrong, that they as a group tend to be seen as the kind of people that want to postpone or avoid deadlines altogether.

Another reason I like the social style model is that it makes it easy to identify where the character is on a summary of style elements diagram.  I’m sure you could come up with a similar one for the MBTI if you know the weight of the adjectives being tracked by the feedback instrument.

But as it is, I only have to think about four patterns on a grid instead of sixteen in order to identify their primary profile.  Then, I can look at that same four pattern matrix to see their secondary influence.  To go much further than that would be to observe a person under extremely tense and pressured situations where they have a lot of trouble resolving any conflict or controversy.  That’s when a number of alternate fallback behaviors seem to zoom all over the place.  And in situations where the tension never goes away, some people might go insane.  I’m finding that harder to predict rather than just observe after it happens.

Though it might help, you don’t have to be a complete sociopath just to be crazy.  That’s why courts allow for it to sometimes be considered a “temporary” situation.  

But for the purposes of doing a character analysis for the average acting assignment, or understanding the people you work with, “crazy” may not be the profile you’re needing, unless you’re just observing people trying to find their cars at the Atlanta Airport.

What we really want to do is learn something from what we observe about the behavior of ourselves, and the other people on that same stage with us.  We want to find a way that points to all kinds of answers about how they operate, especially primary need (want, desire), and primary and secondary fallback behaviors likely to occur when those needs are not met.  It tells us what they are afraid of.  So, with knowing what they want and what they fear, we can understand what their motivation is likely to be.  In other words, what is the offer they can’t refuse?  More than just a way to interpret the character, it tells us how to deal with them, or, as an actor, how to BE them.  

It isn’t really so simple after all, is it?  It requires access to not just input data, but the proper use of the tools to tell you what the data means.  And you have to learn how to use the tools, too, don’t you?  Their are many such tools and models out there, many of them supported by research.

But regardless of the model you use, make sure the information you’re gathering is from people who are honest, and knowledgeable about the person being profiled. Even if you’re certain the instrument being used is capable of giving a clear picture, validity is going to depend on the accuracy of the input data.

There are obvious benefits to understanding people.  For one thing, if we don’t, we might have trouble getting others to understand us the way we’d want them to.  And if we understand each other, we will have the tools to decide how to cooperate effectively.

Cooperation is primary if we want to be able to adapt to change.  And being able to adapt to change, according to Charles Darwin, is far more important to survival than competition, though competition is certainly a part of it.  Only the strong survive?  Well, where is Tyrannosaurus Rex?  I guess he couldn’t adapt fast enough.

So, we learn by understanding how we can cooperate better.  That moves us closer to commitments rather than mere appearance of compliance, doesn’t it?  But most of all, for those of us who are expected to be leaders, and have the will to lead, we can establish the equity in the process, so others will want to help us reach our goals.  And while doing so, at the same time, reaching theirs.  And when that happens, integrity has a chance of becoming the “trump” card again.


“The Godfather” by Mario Puzo was originally published in 1969 by G. P. Putnam’s and Sons.  All the quotations above are from characters in the movies based on that novel as produced by Paramount Pictures, and therefore are not in any way a part of the property of this article, or this article’s author.

The “Z” Pattern of Fallback Behaviors (Revised)

Some years ago while participating in a workshop with several psychologists, I uncovered an idea about a possible pattern of behavior that seems to have some merit, but I’ve found no clinical studies available.  It had to do with going beyond anticipating the primary fallback behavior likely to occur based on the behavior style of a person under stress when the stress does not go away.  Under normal circumstances, the primary fallback behaviors to expect according to a person’s social style profile would be:

*  The Driver (more assertive; doesn’t easily show emotions) ~ to become autocratic (sensing control is threatened).

*  The Amiable (less assertive; emotionally responsive) ~ to acquiesce (sensing a threat of being disliked).

*  The Expressive (more assertive; emotionally responsive) ~ to attack (sensing withdrawal of emotional validation; approval, and applause).

* The Analytic (less assertive; emotionally reserved) ~ to avoid (sensing a risk of being proven wrong, or not allowed the opportunity to be certain).

From any of these starting points, it’s fairly easy to anticipate a primary response from an individual.  But what remains curious is to see was what happens when the stress does not go away.  When their principal modus operandi fails, it makes sense for them to try something else.  So, would not they be likely to try other fallbacks?  And additionally, is the pattern of how they might go through a series of them predictable?

Perhaps the order of them may not be, but what is likely to happen will be an emergence of some kind of pattern.  So far, I see at least an emergence of a pattern that shifts from primary to secondary fallback.  It is the automatic tendency to try “plan B”.  Additionally, since the primary is from home base (where”comfort” lives), it could easily be the secondary reaction that is first noticed by the casual observer.

Lets take a look at an example of a primary and a secondary.  A person may be analytic in their home quadrant, but particularly a driving analytic.  Their first avoidance might go unnoticed, and only when they show signs of unrelenting tensions, and take on their “driver” behavior and become autocratic, do they begin to seem unreasonable and possibly reacting out of desperation.  And, it is possible that they could oscillate back and forth between first and second base for quite some time before attempting to steal third.  That might be conditional to the intensity of the stress being felt.

I think the kind of tension and the perceived weight of risk may also have an effect.  For example, a person might vacillate between primary and secondary before moving on to the fallback behaviors of the other variant styles, and feel no need to try “plans C or D” as long as they hope to get some relief due to “plans A or B”.  A person operating outside their comfort zone will feel some tension depending on how flexible they are, and also how far they are having to stretch.  But it is a reaction to some kind of stress that tends cause us to pull tightly to a home position and allow others to see us in a fallback mode in the first place.

Consider former President Richard Nixon: his reactions to Watergate are examples of radical shifts in behavior under stress.  He went from his primary fallback to his secondary; back to his first, and then through all of them by the time he resigned.

Nixon’s social style profile (by my assessment) was that of a Driving Analytic.  The corresponding Myers-Briggs Type Indicator I mapped for him is ISTP (introversion, sensing, thinking, perception).  He generally appeared rather formal in his business dealings.  He took pride in wanting to appear rationally and logically in his thinking.  He was very loyal to what he believed were his rules rather than those of the “system”.   And eventually that got him into trouble.  His attempts to appear warm and caring were regularly perceived by the public at large to be awkward and clumsy at best.  He was not what you might think of when the word “charisma” is used.

When Watergate raised its ugly head, Nixon said nothing at first (avoiding), hoping to steer clear of giving any validity to the idea that there might be anything at all there worth looking at.  But the problem kept coming, growing bigger.

Soon, he appeared in front of the press, assuming a position of strength (control-autocrat) and announced that all the hullabaloo was just hyperbole; that as president, and for matters important to national security, there was nothing the public needed to know.  But he was under stress, and it showed.  The problem did not go away.

Then, he reverted to the fallback of the analytic by again appearing in front of the press with stacks of books, reports, and papers.  He spoke about his due diligence and meticulous handling of the complex matters of interest to the United States, and that if anything wrong or criminal took place that was the fault of anyone in government, he would find it and deal with it.  The attempt to appear thorough, and that his work was ongoing did not satisfy the public.  So it stands to reason that the tension still did not go away.

Feeling quite frustrated by not getting relief, he then tried the fallback of the expressive – to attack.  This time in front of the TV cameras he attacked those he felt were being unduly disloyal to him, and by that, also disloyal to the country.  He attacked the press; he attacked congress and the senate, and even attacked his own cabinet.  It was not a pretty sight.  By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late.  Impeachment was gaining momentum.  Now, the stress had him near the breaking point.

So, he then moved to the amiable (please don’t hate me) style, and acquiesced.  He resigned.  Had his acquiescence not gained relief, he would most likely have continued to zig zag all over the matrix until the public would begin to see a noticeable image of instability.  But by resigning the pressures let up, and he was eventually pardoned.

In hindsight, there was no real benefit that Nixon should have expected to gain from the break-in to the Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate building.  There was nothing there that could help him strategically.  He just wanted to peek.  And his ego lead him to think he could get away with it.  His rules (not society’s) allowed him to justify his actions–to himself.  But according to practically all of the polls at the time, he already had re-election sewed up.  So, was it a stupid decision?  As things turned out, it was certainly not an intelligent one.

I wish to draw a parallel here to the fictional character of Lieutenant Commander Phillip Queeg played by Humphrey Bogart in the movie: “The Caine Mutiny”.  Feeling himself surrounded by disloyal subordinates who he thought were intending to prove his decisions wrong and usurp his authority, things began to go badly.  In the eyes of his crew, even before serious conflict began, Queeg was not the kind of person to seem “lovable”, or likely to attract any sense of closeness, or even the appearance of it, from others.

His early attempts to resolve conflict and controversy met with no support or validation.  His emotional responses, all of them outside his own personal comfort zone, met with failure.  In the end, he was locked into insisting all his measures were justified no matter how foolish or impulsive they appeared to others.  This left him seemingly in a state of apparent psychosis, and that he was not dealing with it in any rational or logical manner–perhaps the one thing he feared more than anything else.

So had Nixon’s resignation been rejected by a hostile tribunal bent on continuing the impeachment process in order to punish Nixon by forceful expulsion and possible other retributions, I suspect Nixon’s behavior would have become even more frantic as he looked for a way to get loose from his demon.  Then what we might have seen could have been a much closer comparison to Commander Queeg in his final scenes.

These “Z-Patterns”, as I call them, are quite difficult to predict until they actually occur.  For without unrelenting stress, we have no observable behavior characteristics to measure.  This is unfortunate for those who’d wish to have some advance notice of possible sociopathic explosions (such as rage random killing), but the fact remains that a criminal profile does not exist until behavior starts noticeably moving in that direction.  In fact, serious and lengthy psychoanalysis might be required, and even that does not guarantee complete disclosure.

That there even is a pattern tied to the social style fallback behaviors is only a theory, and I have no large pool of empirical data to back it up.  Perhaps behavior that seems chaotic for an individual could be linked to something else?  Maybe it can.  I’m not a neuroscientist.  There are some studies, however, that are beginning to suggest some sociopathic behavior patterns may have genetic roots.  But as we move outside the realm of normal psychology, I suppose the function of a social style matrix could easily break down altogether.

So without formal scientific proof, what I’m observing could simply turn out to be just my way of explaining phenomena.  I’ll have to have more than just deductive reasoning, or I might come up with something no more valid than: “Cows eat grass.  My horse, Buddy, eats grass.  Therefore Buddy is a cow.”

Since I am an actor, I often study characters in plays, and novels.  These are stories.  They are usually fiction, although sometimes based on real people.  Since we are dealing with actions and behaviors that come singularly from the mind of an author or playwright, it is not possible to get real information or feedback, because the “character” doesn’t really exist.

I talked to several of the psychologists about using the models as a tool for directors and actors.  Generally I’m told that the models for style are for and about real people to solve real problems in workplace relationships, so applying it to fiction would be not only silly, it would be a waste of time.  But in spite of that, I’ve continued to use the matrix with some degree of satisfaction off and on now for twenty-three years.  Problems seem to occur when an author or playwright has arbitrarily assigned behaviors to a character that, for the purposes of understanding motivation, seem “out of character” to me.

While the study of behavior of story characters may be interesting, how it applies to real people has some merit, because I’ve seen these patterns play out in real people.  And, so have you whether you recognized them as such at the time, or not.  Sometimes, the “why in the world did they do that?” becomes obvious when we look carefully at what motivates them; both for what they want to happen, and particularly what they do not want to happen.

Motivation is what the actor needs to know. Without it, no stage business is justified.  If a person gets up and walks across the room, there is a reason for it, even if it’s a bad one.  What does the character want/need? Why do they pursue a particular pattern of action? What is likely to be the thing they do next when they don’t get what they wanted? And if that doesn’t work, then what next? And Next? A pattern sometimes evolves, and the intrigue to me is wondering if the pattern is predictable.  I’ve seen it in workplaces; I’ve seen it in politicians, and even in some abnormal psychological profiles, such as serial killers.

The twig snaps. It gets our attention. You and I may want to know what it is. But when a deer in the forest hears a twig snap, it is alerted to potential danger. It waits to see if other twigs snap so it can triangulate the position and direction of movement of some potential threat.  If it hears a whole bunch of twigs snapping, and all coming from different directions, the deer might panic, and make the mistake of running into, instead of out of harm’s way. People do that, too. And they keep running until they think they don’t hear anymore twigs snapping. Sometimes it works. But once in a while, that turns out to be the worst thing they could have done.

The search for a tool for theater has lead me to studies about the importance of determining what observable behavior tells us in many walks of life.  No doubt, it has a place for those who seek the value of qualities associated with good leadership, as well as in cultural issues of groups of people that are attempting to deal with resolving conflict and controversy.

While I think what I’ve described about former president Nixon’s behavior did happen, this article I’ve written here is only a beginning.  It is a set of observations, but perhaps little more.  Before I’d have a right to insist my opinions might be valid for everyone to use to predict accurately any pattern of fallback behaviors, a reasonable amount of scientific thought needs to be applied–perhaps a gallon or two.  So, the caution to you as the reader, is not so much that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, but that I have not yet proven it’s really a cat.


(Other interesting notes:  Nixon also attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, although he never saw combat.  Herman Wouk’s novel, “The Caine Mutiny”, and also the movie itself were released during a period of American history often referred to as the “McCarthy Era”.  Nothing, as far as I would know, in the novel or the movie alluded to Nixon or any other real person , or of any of the investigations covered by The House Un-American Activities Committee, of which Nixon was a member.  My comparison only draws from retrospect of Nixon’s later behavior.  But it was during that era that the young politically ambitious Nixon participated in investigations, and allegations that some of his party’s adversaries had communist, or other “Un-American” affiliations.  While many of these accusations were never confirmed, in many cases serious damage was done to reputations–a circumstance that lead to some historians referring to the era as one of the darkest times in our past.  Although the investigations around “Watergate” were about different matters altogether, some felt due to his previous persecutions and unrelenting personal attacks on others, Nixon “had it coming.”)