The Character Triangle Revisited

Posted on April 22, 2009 by

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triangle1My friend Toby/ias wrote a comment on the Character Triangle post that I wanted to respond to. Originally I was going put my response down in the comments, but as I started writing more I decided to write my thoughts here as a separate post.

Toby said:

Anyways, So I’m a little confused. Red is driven by things that should be done, blue is driven by things that shouldn’t be done. So what this triangle does is maps out what motivates people do things?
And the blue is typically doctors confuses me. Take Dr. House. He seems more red. He’s driven by what needs to be done, which is to save the patient and solve the puzzle of diagnosing. Does the triangle just look at it differently?

Here, let me take another shot at this. Actions are motivated internally and/or externally.

External is when your mom, your church, your company, or your discipline of study says things must be done a certain way. External action is motivated by organizations, policies, and systems. It’s based on rules and formal relationships that are designed to achieve certain things. That’s blue.

Internal is when you yourself see a problem, injustice, or opportunity and you act of your own accord in response to it. That’s red.

Then there are things you do without a clear motivating purpose, out of curiosity, boredom, or on a whim. That’s yellow.

Of course, there’s a balance. A person with no blue is going to continually clash with authorities, while a person with all blue and no other colors may have trouble finding a sense of self or purpose.

A person uses each of the colors independently, meaning that you can have a lot of red AND a lot of blue AND a lot of yellow, or not much red AND not much blue AND not much yellow. In other words, a person that doesn’t have much red or blue doesn’t necessarily have a lot of yellow. He or she might just be not very motivated at all.

Like you said about House, there are exceptions. But most doctors aren’t like House. That’s why he’s the star of a TV show — he defies the stereotype. But most doctors subscribe to the great discipline of doctorhood and go about their business without turning every day into a…what, soap opera? Is House a soap opera?

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Posted in: Musings