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The Color Code

Author: Taylor Hartman, Ph.D.
Copyright: ©1987, 1998
Publishers: Fireside. New York, N.Y.
Book Review by: Cathy Bernatt

Color Code

Nature can be described as being made up of four powerful elements: fire, earth, air, and water. Humans have been described by some theorists as having one of four key personality types correlated to the four natural elements.

Taylor Hartman brings these two ideas together in The Color Code to help us understand more about our core personalities. For Hartman, Fire becomes the color Red, Blue reflects the earth, White represents water, and air is symbolized by Yellow. Our core personality, Hartman believes, is developed before birth. By identifying our core color, we can come to understand our key traits, strengths and limitations. In addition, we can also come to understand the dynamics of our relationships with other people better. Furthermore, Hartman believes that our core personalities apply no matter what culture, sex, age, or race you are from. Each of us identifies with only one key personality color and we can learn to cope better in the world by learning about our key characteristics, how to accentuate our strengths, acknowledge our limitations. After developing that awareness, we can begin to incorporate the strengths from other personality types in our journey to become charactered individuals.


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In section 1 of the personality profile, there are 30 questions. Each question lists four adjectives and we must choose the one that best describes us. In section 2, there are fifteen situations and for each situation, we must choose the one out of four which best describes us. The profile lists many behaviors. "Behaviors are determined by needs and wants. Needs and wants are determined by motives. Motives are our innermost reasons. They explain why we think and behave as we do. They are the driving force behind our personalities. Motives are the principal means of identifying a personality color. Each color stands for one particularly strong motive. Red is for power. Blue is for intimacy. White is for peace. Yellow is for fun." (Hartman, p. 43)

After completing the Hartman Personality Profile, I was intrigued by my results. I scored Blue 16; Red 10; White 9, and Yellow 8. So, according to the test, my core personality color is Blue. Regarding secondary colors, Red, White and Yellow were very close but Red won out by 1 point. When I read Hartman's simplified description of the secondary colors two things rang true. Red/Blue is the most difficult combination within one individual. The Red character will often step on someone's toes to get a task accomplished but feel guilty afterwards for making the other person unhappy which is a Blue characteristic. Actually, I think that I did this with a colleague on occasion during our two-week session at Lake Yamanaka. I felt frustrated by the lack of or the length of time it took to make decisions so I sometimes barreled over her to get results but did not feel good about her feeling bad about that afterwards. The Red/Blue combination struggles with seeking power and searching for intimacy in relationships. Hartman says, "Blues with strong Red secondary experience the most difficult internal struggles. They are also typically the most resourceful of personalities." (Hartman, p. 136).

The other combination that described the way I see myself was Red/Yellow. Hartman describes a Red/Yellow as, "...a natural leader where the Red dynamically directs your life while the Yellow charismatically invites others to enjoy your friendship." (p. 39)

Reading through the primary and secondary personality descriptions, I became curious about what my husband was. I predicted that he was probably the same combination as me but with Red the more dominant color. One of the key issues we have is the harsh way he can deliver feedback and the logical presentation of facts without the awareness or sensitivity of how they are delivered. He often says that I am not logical enough and that I should get over my need for empathetic delivery of feedback. At the same time, he is a real romantic and highly sensitive in other ways which speaks to the essence of the Blue. Interestingly, he scored dead even with Red 15 and Blue 15. His secondary colour was White 11 and Yellow scored on 2. According to Hartman, the Blue/Red mixture is the toughest to reconcile both within one individual and as a combination in relationships. "No other combination of personalities must work as hard to be successfully compatible as Reds and Blues... Theirs is a difficult union, and yet the strong sense of commitment and loyalty they share substantially increases their chances for success." (Hartman, p. 154) I truly believe that my union with my husband is a gift. What I have learned from our struggles together has really stretched me to look deep within, and to grow and become a more charactered individual.

The following descriptions from the Blue and Red profiles, I believe are true of me: Blues love to do nice things for others; want to love and be loved; are gratified when they are listened to, when they feel understood and appreciated; are notorious for revealing their inadequacies, because they value being known and understood so much; expend great effort in making the world a better place; value quality and autonomy. Reds want their own way; want to be productive; want to look good to others; are often control freaks; seek leadership opportunities; like to be in the driver's seat. (Hartman)

As I read through Hartman's book, I reflected on how my personality has evolved throughout my life. In my younger days, I was very much an idealistic and perfectionist. As a result my productivity was not very high, but I definitely had high ambitions of wanting to change the world. I analyzed everything to death and was quite serious and emotional. I had a very strong work ethic and was very critical of others who didn't place value on quality and produced shoddy work. For me, why do anything if you don't do it without your whole heart and spirit. I have ever since I can remember always strove to better understand and improve myself to be the best that I could be. In that journey, I believe I have developed many of the key strengths of the Red personality that help turn my Blue limitations into strengths. Nowadays, I look through a realistic lens balanced with optimism that everything is possible if we really want it rather than an idealistic one where everything seems so overwhelming. I get things done now and love to serve and lead others in becoming the best they can become. Challenging and stretching myself is a lifelong process. As Hartman says, "If you want to be all you can be, like a finely tuned athlete, you must choose to commit to the whole process, not just the convenient parts you like. Becoming your best self means becoming charactered. It means developing muscles (strengths) you never realized you had before and accepting pain (stretching, risking, getting out of your current comfort zone) as inevitable." (Hartman, p. 259-60) Although personality is innate according to Hartman, it is character that ultimately determines the quality of our life. Through free will, selecting positive influences in our lives and identifying positive life principles, we can incorporate the strengths from the other personality types to help reduce our limitations and make us the best we can be. I plan to explore the value of using Hartman's Color Code and Character Code as tools to compliment the Career Anchors and Myers Briggs Typology Indicator when coaching others in career and personal development.

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