Personality Triads

Personality Triads

Johann Theron 

Humans live in a world that is both hard and soft driven by hard and soft sciences doing things that result in hard and soft landings. It would be fair to say that one can expect hard and soft individuals because of these characteristics, which will likewise result in hard and soft organizations.

While it appears that these characteristics are binary and therefore easy to manage, it is not. The question is more about where on the continuum between hard and soft each individual, each organization and each situation were, is and will be in future.

It can be compared to being a left or a right brain-oriented person. The question then is how do you identify somebody that is somewhere in the middle? This is where the jerk-part comes in.

These characteristics have only received little attention in academia since it was only coined around 2009. However, some research have been arguing for it as follows:

The LTS (light triad scale) demonstrated excellent reliability and validity, predicting life satisfaction and a wide range of growth-oriented and self-transcendent outcomes above and beyond existing measures of personality. In contrast, the Dark Triad was negatively associated with life satisfaction and growth-oriented outcomes, and showed stronger linkages to selfish, exploitative, aggressive, and socially aversive outcomes.

The idea is that “light triad” people are the good guys, while “dark triad” people are the bad guys. That may be so, however, there are a couple of scenarios possible here:

  1. That the good or bad guys will remain in their respective good or bad dispensations, in other words, they won’t switch over to bad or good sides for some reason.
  2. That nobody is in the middle, because if they were, they could only be identified as an irritant or as jerks. In other words, people rocking the boat.
  3. Since we are dealing with devious and delightful people, the scenario also exists that a devious person can present himself as being delightful and vice versa.

It may be easier to understand this complicated issue by way of examples:

  • Elon Musk could be a light triad guy diving into the dark triad world by dating a woman that appears to be somewhat dark oriented. To gain his trust, she would have had to convince him that she would never become a jerk.
  • Joe Biden could be a dark triad “big” guy that manipulated good people into thinking he is also a goodie. His good wife is totally convinced of his goodness.
  • In contrast Donald Trump may be viewed as persuasive rather than manipulative, which would make him a jerk.

There are various ways to describe jerks, one of which are people that are in the “middle”, or as people who are disagreeable (not always though) and then there are those pushy, persistent (not always though) people.

You might assume that these relatively unlikable people are successful because they’re smarter and more creative — better at coming up with original ideas than their more affable peers.

For the study, cited on Research Digest, researchers Samuel Hunter and Lily Cushenberry focused on individuals low in a trait called “agreeableness.” Disagreeable people, according to the definition they used, tend to be argumentative, egotistical, aggressive, headstrong, and hostile — a.k.a. jerks.

As predicted, disagreeableness had nothing to do with how creative students were while generating ideas on their own. But when it came to groupwork, disagreeable students were significantly more likely to have their ideas used in the final product — especially if the other group members were disagreeable, too.

Apparently, there are quite a few jerky people around motivating further research on this matter. The “not always” qualification points to binary people that (not always) refuse to deviate from their light or dark “principles.” And it seems that low-level sociopathic behavior communicates well to other humans.

Basically then, the first deduction could be that managers should be jerky. After all, they would be in the best position to manage both light and dark bodies reporting to them. They can communicate with the sociopaths, and everyone else falls into line because they are not as driven as the sociopaths toward careerism or dark organization behaviors.

Sociopaths express dark triad traits:

The Dark Triad is a term used in psychology to describe three aversive yet functional (subclinical) personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

Narcissism consists of dominance motivation, a sense of entitlement, and perceived superiority combined with intolerance to criticism. Machiavellianism includes facile social charm, deceitful behavior aimed at undermining others, and a reliance on manipulation. Psychopathy shows itself in low or absent empathy, high impulsivity, heartless social attitudes, and interpersonal hostility. Taken together, the most powerful tendency underlying all three Dark Triad traits is a knack for exploiting others.

From an evolutionary perspective, otherwise socially “dark” traits may be selected if they confer an advantage. Psychologist Peter Jonason and colleagues (2009) argued that Dark Triad traits facilitate success in short-term mating: “[S]ubclinical psychopathy is associated with a lack of neuroticism and anxiety, which may facilitate the pursuit of one’s goals through adverse conditions… Similarly, narcissism is associated with aggrandizement, and Machiavellianism is associated with being socially manipulative, both of which may aid in reaping benefits for oneself at the expense of others, especially in initial periods of acquaintance.”

This leads us to the second deduction regarding people that are willfully or intuitively able to move from one extreme to the next. Generally, such people would not be management material, although managing projects could be a suitable career for them.

One example is the previous mayor of New York — Rudy Guiliani — or maybe even General Flynn, both who are now diving into the dark triad pool. But these possibilities are extreme and organization oriented; normal examples are just divorcees, people who got fired, or people that lost a dear family member.

Another example of people changing from light to dark or vice versa, could be creative people. Generally, such people are light and while investigating a specific problem, they would dive into the dark detail required to find a solution. If sociopaths dominate the discourse however, such people are actively excluded.

However, for them to remain creative is a problem because society does not like people sniffing around for problems all the time. They think of them as jerks because a sniffing dog is associated with sniffing for a place to soil the carpet. The thing is, creative people cannot change, despite them changing from light to dark and back on a regular basis. One example is musicians; they never stop playing their music.

What we end up with unfortunately, is that society eventually kills off all its creative bodies, because they are jerks, and then exchanges them for manipulative dark triad people acting like more agreeable jerks. And so, society ends up being unproductive, speaking pidgin language and driving revenue instead of profits i.e., society goes bankrupt.

Original Article


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