Surrounded by Idiots: Quotes by Thomas Erikson

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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Are you looking for Surrounded by Idiots quotes? How can understanding these quotes help you better understand Erikson’s message in the book?

Erikson’s framework includes four personality types, and each has a unique way of thinking, behaving, and communicating. He shows you how to navigate conflicts, sharpen your communication, and improve your relationships with your boss and colleagues—all by recognizing their personality types as well as your own.

Here are some top quotes from the book with explanations.

Book Quotes With Explanations

Surrounded by Idiots is a guide to understanding yourself and the people at work who just aren’t like you. Bestselling author and communication expert Thomas Erikson asserts that there are four personality types, and we all fall into one or more of these categories. 

Using real-life examples, Erikson goes through a variety of professional scenarios and shows how each personality type would handle the situation. First, he explores the behaviors and motivations of each personality. Then he explains how you can adjust your approach to complement the working and communication style of your colleagues, employees, and bosses.

Here are some of the best Surrounded by Idiots quotes:

“…the most important lesson that you can walk away with is that the idiots who surround you are, in fact, not idiots at all. Instead, they are individuals worthy of respect, understanding, and being valued.”

Thomas Erikson came up with the title Surrounded by Idiots during a conversation with a prominent entrepreneur, in which the man complained to Erikson that everyone he hired turned out to be an idiot. When the man went into greater detail, Erikson realized that this businessman simply didn’t understand his employees. 

Erikson says most people think this way—that if someone behaves in a manner we can’t understand, they must be stupid. He contends that by understanding your own personality type and those of your colleagues, you can stop viewing others as “idiots” and improve your relationships and communication skills.

“By adjusting yourself to how other people want to be treated, you become more effective in your communication.”

Communication happens on the listener’s terms, if you want your message to be clearly transmitted—or you want to convince the other person of something—Erikson says you must adapt to their communication style. 

Erikson acknowledges that some people balk at the idea of intentionally adjusting their personality based on who they’re talking to because they believe it’s a dishonest and manipulative practice. He points out, however, that we already adapt our behavior as part of social etiquette. For instance, you don’t behave the same way with your boss as you would your spouse. Erikson maintains that you can be honest about your values, desires, and beliefs while simultaneously adjusting the way you express them.

“Flexibility and the ability to interpret other people’s needs is what characterizes a good communicator.”

How will knowing your personality and others’ help you in business and communication? According to Erikson, the short answer is that all communication happens in the listener’s language, not yours. He argues that by learning how to communicate in the listener’s language, or style, you’ll become a better teammate and leader within your organization.

“Pressure, demands, and expectations create stress and can make you feel self-critical and powerless. You may find it difficult to sleep or may feel physical pain in your body.”

Erikson says each personality type has its own driving forces—the stuff that motivates them to get out of bed each morning. He says when people don’t give enough time and energy to these driving forces and are pressured to perform in areas that feel foreign, the result is massive stress. 

In his book, Erikson helps you identify each personality type’s stress triggers and predict how each will respond. By doing so, you can avoid the triggers more easily and tailor your response.

Furthermore, if you serve in a leadership role, knowing and mitigating the stress triggers of your employees will encourage a more efficient and pleasant work environment for everyone.

Surrounded by Idiots: Quotes by Thomas Erikson

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Here's what you'll find in our full Surrounded by Idiots summary :

  • A detailed look at Thomas Erikson's four personality types
  • How to navigate conflicts with coworkers
  • How to effectively communicate and collaborate with bosses, employees, and colleagues

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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