In my experience, all animals including humans, can be roughly divided into four general Personality Archetypes. I’ve named them Bessy-Boss, Ritzi-Rude, Scaredy-Cat and Nellie-Nice, after particular animal examples and mentors in my life. I believe these four general personality profiles have existed through time in the greater Animal World but more importantly, knowing them now can help us understand the human animals we live and work with every day! Most of us are blends of one or more of these main Archetypes, but it seems that one will usually take the lead in our behavior.
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Bessy-Boss: The Quietly Fearless Leader
Bessy was, without question, the most powerful cow in the pasture, but she achieved and maintained that rank and position with quiet strength, without being loud or particularly aggressive.
One of my earliest childhood memories growing up on our dairy farm was that of Bessy—one of my father’s Jersey cows. She was so calm, letting me pet her and brush her—even ride her! But most importantly, Bessy was the undisputed Queen of the Herd.
Bessy was, without question, the most powerful cow in the pasture, but she achieved and maintained that rank and position with quiet strength, without being loud or particularly aggressive. She did not make a habit of rattling her horns, getting in anyone’s face, or engaging in daily fights with her pasture mates.
Bessy-Boss types would rather not use physical brutality or aggressive means to influence others. Instead, confidence, control and follow-through are their management tools of choice.
Ritzi-Rude: The Emotional Over-Reactor
Ritzi was an example of a non-boss that desired a higher status, assumed they are just as important and deserving as everyone else, and was just too volatile or too difficult to get along with. By not accepting their lower situational reality or losing emotional control too often, Ritzi-Rudes play the game badly and rarely get what they want from others. They often make others mad. They are perceived as too combative.or too entitled, or both. Ritzi-Rudes pursue adversarial means to achieve a goal, and instead of getting them what they want, more often it gets them enemies.
Scaredy-Cat: The Unsure Avoider
The next general archetype found in the everyday social landscape is the Scaredy-Cat. I named this archetype after the numerous feral cats on our ranch, particularly the ones that never tamed or trusted. So, too, can Scaredy-Cat people live in perpetual distrust or self-doubt. They may have great ideas but lack the guts to put them into action. They are paralyzed by a mountain of What-If’s. What if I fail? What if I look foolish? What if I upset someone? What if I’m hurt? What if….? Scaredy-Cats rarely get what they want because they rarely ask.
Nellie-Nice: The Trustworthy Queen of Influence
Nellie Archetypes know the “secret sauce” for getting what they need from those with more power or influence than themselves.
Nellie was a member of our seven-dog family pack many years ago. Nellie was not the Top Dog in our family but she was patient, strong, and supremely clever when it came to getting what she wanted from her superiors. Nellie Archetypes know the “secret sauce” for getting what they need from those with more power or influence than themselves. They foster trust and friendship.
Nellie avoided confrontation or any air of entitlement or victimhood, never vexing over what she did not have, but choosing instead to use patience, kindness and friendship. This invariably got her what she wanted from those dogs who outranked her but had the power to grant her requests. In Nellie’s case that may have been only a toy or coveted blanket but human Nellies can get much, much more.
Each Archetype Comes in All Sizes … and Species!
My point in delineating and describing these four common Personality Archetypes and Action Styles is to get you recognizing them in every animal around you, including humans.
When you can see the archetype in people, understand their actions, and recognize what is driving not only their behaviors but the reactions to those behaviors by others, it all begins to make sense. And you can become more effective in your own personal interactions at home or at work.
Do you recognize anyone you know in these Archetypes?