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March 2015, Issue 3

True Colors
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Why Didn't I Say Something?
Internal-External Personality Communication

By Mary Miscisin

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are practically screaming on the inside but contained on the outside? Our internal dialogue can be quite different than our outside communication or behaviors. Our internal dialogue can be quite different than our external communication or behaviors.

Our Internal Compass

By now you’ve likely heard the terms, Introverted and Extroverted*. To further our conversation about personality color communication, I’d like to familiarize you with two more color communication terms: Internal and External. Our color personality temperament can be thought of as our internal compass. It produces a strong urge or drive that tugs us in a direction towards our values, such as harmony, competency, responsibility, or immediacy...

In keeping with the compass metaphor, our personality style is akin to a navigational instrument that measures "the world" against a frame of reference relative to our temperament. The frame of reference defines four personality styles.

Our External GPS

Although we may be magnetically drawn in a certain direction at birth, we don’t always follow our internal compass. In addition to our natural temperament, we are influenced by external circumstances; the cultures in which we are raised, rules of society, our peer group, life experiences, the immediate situation... all influence the direction we go. And just like a navigational GPS, we can get re-routed in an instant if the course we are taking is not getting us closer to our chosen destination.

Which Route Will You Take?

The parallels continue with a navigational GPS and our external communication or behavior. Throughout our journey in life we are encouraged and rewarded for certain behaviors and interactions while discouraged or even punished for other behaviors or means of communicating - so we learn to adapt to our circumstances.

Although we may actually want to head in a different direction or take a different path, the benefits of behaving in a certain way are outweighed by the perceived risks of being our true selves. We have learned that certain ways of communicating are better received than what might come most natural to us.

Internal vs. External Communication

One could argue that it is extremely beneficial to have this capacity to adapt and is the reason for our very survival. Just like the directions East, West, North and South are available to us as a direction to travel, all four styles are available to us. We are free to choose which direction we want to go as the situation demands. Just as a navigational device will reroute you if a certain road is unavailable, your external GPS surveys the situation and determines the best route for the circumstance. It may require you to communicate from a different direction than your top personality style. Research shows that introverts may be more naturally skilled at summing up situations and responding from their second color style or the one that is most demanded by the circumstance. Whereas extroverts have a tendency to more readily respond from their top personality style.

Submitted by,

Eliot Howard
Associate Director,
Student Leadership Development


Mary Miscisin.

Has your color spectrum changed over the years? How?

Describe those changes to your colleagues. Remember True Colors is a tool to understanding others and ourselves. It is a common language because we talk about it and use it to articulate our perspectives to each other. Keep it going.

True Colors Training

Training Schedule for Student Affairs STAFF (SD 410) — Spring 2015  (Download PDF)

Training Schedule for Student Affairs STUDENT WORKERS (SD 417) — Spring 2015  (Download PDF)

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