I was browsing my blog stats a while back and noticed one of the favorite topics (with the most hits and comments) are the personality articles. They deal with personality types (like the INFJ), disorders (like sadistic personality disorder) and introvert/extrovert. Thinking how much I love to entertain the masses (and get more comments), I went digging through all my books on personality, building characters, etc, to find something new to write about. Then I found something from thirteen years ago that I’m pretty sure I haven’t even opened since I brought it home: The Thomas Concept.
Let me give a brief bit of backstory. I was working as a budget analyst for the Washington State Patrol. I worked with a small group of people (eight-ten) on a daily basis, and about thirty on a once-a-week basis. As a way to get the thirty-something people working more like a team, management sent a bunch of us to a seminar called “Understanding People Through Strengths,” also known as The Thomas Concept. The basic idea is to figure out which personality type your co-workers are (The Thomas Concept features eight personality types called Patterns, compared to the sixteen in Myers Briggs), then use that knowledge to interact more constructive with them. It was a huge help to me because I’d been having problems working with one particular individual. I identified which personality pattern she was, then read the section of the book that focused on her type. I zeroed in on the portion called, “Wants Others To…” It basically gave me a summary of how this woman wanted others to respond to her. I started giving her what she wanted, and our working relationship improved drastically.
How does this work for fiction, you ask? Simple. Use the “Want Others To…” section, figure out what your character wants from others, then give him the opposite. Bam – instant conflict.
(This unique person courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)
For the next eight posts, I’ll give the basics of each pattern and offer ways to incorporate it into your writing. I don’t want to take the time to describe the entire system. The Thomas Concept is quite a bit different from Myers Briggs, but works about the same. If you’re interested, buyThe Thomas Concept thru Amazon.
Today I’ll discuss Pattern I. (I’m copying directly from the pocket guide.) This person is stable, quiet, dependable, accepting, steady, loyal, orderly, respectful, consistent, conforming, methodical, attentive, cautious, economical, receptive, practical, hesitant, and systematic. She’s a good listener.
Relationship Strengths: Pattern I people put their focus of attention on the practical situation, make others feel secure and comfortable, wait for the other person to make the first move, follow the leadership of others, avoid confrontation and conflict, and keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves.
Vocational Strengths: maintain established routines, watch over details, provide a warm and accepting work environment, keep things running smoothly, and is a loyal and dependable team player.
Wants Others To: Pattern I people want others to take the initiative in a respectful way, ask for their help, give them encouragement, show them appreciation, and invite them to go along.
Application: If your character is a Pattern I type, the quickest way to throw tension into the relationship is to have someone take her for granted, belittle or ignore her, and be disrespectful. Granted, a lot of personality types would bristle under this type of treatment, but it’s especially painful for the Pattern I personality. She wants to feel needed, to feel that she’s an important part of the whole, even if she’s not in control of it. She’s happy to sit in the background and do her work quietly, but she wants recognition of her work. What others think about her matters to her. So introduce a character for her to collide with and watch the tension mount. She’s not going to stand up for herself–she hates confrontation–so she’ll internalize that stress. Eventually, it’ll have to come out.
Because I’m much more versed with Myers Briggs, I immediately saw that this Pattern I personality resembles the INFJ (Counselor) personality type with a little bit of ISTJ (Inspector) tossed in.
Do you have a character in your story that fits the Pattern I personality type? Use the “Wants Others To” section to add more conflict to her days and see what happens.