Reading the Body Language of the 4 Personality Types

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Surrounded by Idiots" by Thomas Erikson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How good are you at reading the body language of others? How should you take it if somebody doesn’t give you personal space—or if they cross their arms?

Thomas Erikson, the creator of personality typing by color, explains that the body language of the four colors varies drastically. It’s important to understand why somebody is acting a certain way so you don’t misinterpret their actions.

Here’s a breakdown of the body language of the four colors.

Understanding Body Language

In his book Surrounded by Idiots, Thomas Erikson focuses on how each color communicates—and on reading body language in ways that acknowledge various personality types. Here’s an overview of each:

Body Language: Red Personality Type

According to Erikson, everything about a Red personalities’ body language is direct and aggressive. They shake your hand firmly, look into your eyes, lean forward when speaking, and use sharp hand gestures. He says people with this personality type often wear serious, focused facial expressions unless actively engaged in a fun activity. 

[Shortform note: Psychology Today describes how some men use body language to dominate others (especially women). Lingering and intense eye contact, invasion of personal space, and non-consensual touching (such as shushing someone by touching their lips), are all warning signs that someone is attempting to intimidate you.]

Body Language: Yellow Personality Type

Erikson says Yellow personalities have little to no sense of personal space. They have no problem sitting close to another person, they enjoy hugging, and they touch people frequently. He says this might look like a knowing hand on the shoulder or a joking slap on the back. Yellow personality types smile without obvious reason and have a relaxed, comfortable posture.

(Shortform note: If this is your body language style, it’s helpful to know when another person is feeling uncomfortable by your proximity. If a person feels that their personal space is being invaded, they might back up, clutch a drink or bag against their chest, or crane their neck backward.)

Body Language: Green Personality Type

According to Erikson, Green personality types maintain friendly eye contact, a gentle smile, and aren’t averse to hugging. They are okay with touching if they know you well, but they prefer personal space when it comes to strangers and acquaintances. Erikson says this personality type tends to lean backward when sitting and generally maintain a relaxed posture. 

(Shortform note: Erikson says people with this personality type are great listeners, and their body language supports the theory. To show that you’re listening, experts recommend many of the behaviors listed here. They also suggest using head movements—for example, nodding signals that you understand, and slightly tilting your head communicates curiosity.)

Body Language: Blue Personality Type

According to Erikson, Blue personalities exhibit the least motion in their body language of all the personality types. They’ll sit or stand perfectly still and deliver a message without hand gestures. Their facial expressions are subtle and controlled. People with this personality value personal space, and if you get too close, they’ll cross their arms or legs to signal discomfort.

(Shortform note: “Closed off” body language can be attributed to several factors outside of personality. For example, crossed legs and arms can signal that a person is uncomfortable, nervous, or even just cold. A person might control her facial expressions when she is distracted by something, focusing on appearing professional, or listening intently. When assessing a person’s body language as it relates to personality, it’s wise to observe them over time.)  

Reading the Body Language of the 4 Personality Types

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  • A detailed look at Thomas Erikson's four personality types
  • How to navigate conflicts with coworkers
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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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