As we reflect on the Law of the Inner Circle with regard to the people around us, it does beg the question as to what kind of person am I when I am around others?

Question mark

So as you read this post it is important to reflect on your own attitude and reactions to others as well as the behaviour of those around you.

Categorising people may seem unduly harsh – especially if there is no self-reflection. However, what is also very apparent from both experience as well as all the scientific research, is that not everyone is the same in the way they think or look at the world around them.

That means you cannot treat all people the same way. Yes everyone is of equal value and worth, but everyone is different in terms of what is important to them and how they process life and their experiences. Some of those differences relate to temperament and personality, while others relate to deeper character issues.

The Law of the Inner Circle is a good short hand for intentionally deciding who I should spend time and energy with as it forces us to think about our priorities, vision for life and values.

In addition to the categories of VIP, VNP and VDP along with lifters and leaners that we looked at in a previous post, Henry Cloud provides a useful distinction between different kinds of people. The roots of this are in the Biblical Scripture and are enormously perceptive.

As we look at them it is worth mentioning that elements of all three are in each one of us. So while we can certainly apply the framework to others, I myself if  I am realistic about my own heart can see aspects of all 3 within myself. The diagnostic question is:

What does this person do when truth comes to them?

The wise person
Such a person when they are confronted with reality, they will adjust themselves to that reality. They are hungry to grow and learn and relish feedback. When you tell them what they are doing wrong or could improve on, they welcome the input and make appropriate adjustments. My guess is that if you are a regular reader of this blog then you are most likely in this category. However, one challenge you are likely to have is that you assume other people are like you. So when you give feedback to others you have a tendency to assume they too will graciously receive it. However, people can differ radically in the ways they interact with the truth.

Especially when we are in  an area that is a blind spot to us us it is easy to not be aware of what we are missing or assumptions that we are making. The wise person does not take the feedback personally in a negative way, especially if it is given in an attitude of love and respect. Instead they are able to learn and grow from it. They may even thank you for giving them a priceless gift!

Since 2001 I have had a junior doctor working with me for 6 months at a time. Part of the role I have with them as my trainee doctor is to give regular feedback. I remember one particular doctor I had to give some difficult feedback on her communication style. I hesitated how to give it as I was not sure how she would take it. However, when I did I was pleasantly surprised by her positive response and strong desire for me to call her out on future occasions when she lapsed into her previous pattern of behaviour.

Indeed a mark of a wise person is someone who is hungry to learn, grow and develop themselves. The key for you if you are their leader is to keep on giving them feedback and to resource them appropriately. As you do that you will see them grow and flourish.

The foolish person.
When the Bible uses the word fool it is not a measure of their intelligence or IQ. Such people can be incredibly gifted or talented. They can also be very charming or financially wealthy. The problem is when they are forced to confront reality, be that about themselves or their behaviour, rather than adjust themselves they will try to adjust the truth. They will either ignore the truth or externalise the issues or attack the messenger.

When you confront a fool the problem is always somewhere else. They refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Instead they become defensive or look at feedback or you with contempt. They may seek to close down the conversation to prevent them really listening to the issues.

I remember another colleague I worked with many years ago. He had a tendency to keep on upsetting people. Initially I thought it was due to a personality clash, but then I noticed how he kept on upsetting an increasing variety of people whenever I was not around. People who our department never had previous problems with suddenly began getting very upset with us. I talked to this person on a number of occasions and every time he gave me some explanation of why things were the way they were. Initially I was sympathetic, but over time it became apparent that the issue was around this particular doctor. Sadly he lacked the insight to see the role he was playing and it proved very difficult to help him.

Talking to a wise person leads to an improvement in the situation, Unfortunately with a fool the opposite happens. The more you talk about the issue the more your realise how little progress you are making. Indeed it may even get worse and more complicated.

So with a foolish person there has to come a time when the talking stops. Instead they need to be made to respond to consequences. They need to feel the pain from their behaviour and only then will they change. The truth is that all of us are foolish to some degree or other. Indeed the New Testament teaches that Jesus died for fools (see A Day That Changed The World).

When dealing with someone behaving in a foolish manner, then the the challenge is to limit oneself to the consequence of their actions and give them consequences if they do not change.

The evil person
It can sound particularly harsh to describe someone as evil, but according to the Bible that is the final verdict on some people. The evil person is someone who has destruction in their heart and has decided to inflict pain on you. Such people are too dangerous to deal with on your own. Rather you need what Cloud calls, “lawyers, guns and money.” You need to get protection in some form or other, maybe even call the police.

(For a 22 minute video by Henry Cloud explaining this in more detail see here.)

Do you agree or maybe even disagree with Henry Cloud’s analysis of human behaviour? What are your thoughts on these 3 categories?