Column | And in this Corner: Know the type?

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Fact: I have met and talked with tens of thousands of people over the course of my professional career. This includes my time as the business manager for a rehearsal studio/production company, the years organizing national educational seminars for school teachers, my years with the Long Beach Marathon and through to my civic life and Bixby Knolls.

Another fact: I like people who are strong in personality and strong in their identity of character or type. I love people of all types, but when I come across particular folks of a certain personality type, I try to encourage them to be as much them as they can be. Some personalities just stand out more than others. I am overjoyed to speak with and share a moment together as both for entertainment and an enriching experience. Strong personality types fascinate me, especially in contexts of being a strong opposite of other types of people I know, or what you would call “the average citizen.” How we all blend, coexist and interact with each other daily is nature’s miracle.

“What a piece of work is man.”

There are a few quirky personality types in particular that have stood out to me over time, for better or worse. I wish there was an illuminated directory that said “I am this type” that we could see just above everyone’s head as we walked around so we would know what to expect. You might want to avoid a few types that rub you the wrong way (like talking to The Passive Aggressive?) However, some new folks you would want to spend an entire day with.

Here are a few of the quirkier or odd types that stand out. Know anyone like these?

The Looper – I am still good friends with a guy of this type– a total heart-of-gold enthusiast. He can tell me the same story (and often does) as if it was the first time he’s told it and the first time I’ve heard it. Same story. He has the same energy and enthusiasm each time, and the same inflections. This is all impressive since I happened to be there with him at the time to live the story the first time. Sometimes I have to have him cut to the punchline for time’s sake but if he’s on a roll I just let him tell the story—– again.

The Hard-of-Listening – I worked with a guy who would be in meetings and start talking to the group. Once his mouth opened his ears turned off. You could answer his question at that moment or give input to the particular problem, chime in on the issue or scenario on topic, but he kept talking as if there were no sound vibrations getting to his ears. Finally, someone had to say “Hey!” to snap him out of it to realize people were talking to him. The pattern repeated throughout every meeting. I have wanted to test out a theory that once he started talking, I could leave to go use the restroom then come back and he would not notice I had been gone.

The Single Tasker –Ever talk to someone who just won’t respond? You can be four feet away, and you won’t be recognized or acknowledged until the person finishes the text, the email or whatever had their undivided attention at that moment. This is a hard one for me because I get impatient. In my head, I can picture doing five tasks around them while waiting for a response. (Somewhat related to the Hard-of-Listening).

The Delayed Responder – I have met a number of these types in a professional environment. You say something to this person, or ask a question, and their eyes immediately lock on yours but no other movement. You can see that the light is on, the wheels are turning, but the pause is so awkward and there is a dead silence while you wait for any words to come out. You almost second guess if you upset them, said the wrong thing or maybe weren’t heard at all. One time, I asked a guy like this a question, and I had time to run next door to Subway to order a sandwich and make it back before he started to speak. I worked with another guy who laughed on delay. I would tell a joke or funny story, his eyes locked in on mine, his eyes smiled, his mouth opened, and then I could count to ten before a long, squeaky laugh would come out. He’d hold that look and squeak for a good twenty seconds.

The Long-Winded-Slow-Detailed Type – This person gets from A to B by way of every other letter in the alphabet. Shares all the long, tedious and insignificant details in a story. In my head, I am screaming “Get to the point!” I also visualize myself being anywhere else in the world. I once asked a guy what he was working on and then endured the longest year of my life in his 10-minute response.

The Tangent/Train of Thought – There was a Fred Armisen character on Saturday Night Live named Nicholas Fein that was the epitome of this type. These are the types of people that start a sentence or a thought then stop. Another word or two in thought. Then stop. And then do it three more times. The words are mostly unrelated or as if a true conversation is already happening. I suspect they hear it in their head but for the people being spoken to you almost have to say, “spit it out please,” to get the one coherent idea. It feels like a bad Uber drive in stop-and-go traffic.

The A.D.D. – This type asks a question and then asks a second question unrelated just as you get the words out to the answer the first question. At some point I just stop attempting to respond. I nod a lot and let the person answer their own question. They appreciate a good listener.

The “Yeah, But” – A glass half empty person. Or glass empty, period. A conversation comes with every excuse to not take advice or to take action. This person talks about problems, being in need or being stuck on something, but truly doesn’t want a solution or be helped. Maybe they are happier being unhappy?. You can offer some really sound advice, but the response is always a, “yeah, but…” and there would be some reason for it to not happen. Me: “You should call the doctor about that gangrene.” Them: “Yeah, but my car isn’t working well.” I am usually pretty exhausted after the conversation and need to sleep it off—– or burn some sage.

The Exaggerator – Every conversation is so over the top that you know that 90% just cannot be true. This person usually has a “tell” like their eyes getting larger or staring harder at you looking for you to believe and encourage the tall tales. One guy told me that when he was out running and “It was so cold that I actually got crystals in my lungs.” Really?

The Braggart – (A cousin of the Exaggerator). I met so many of these types during the marathon years. Lots of bragging about race paces, personal records and training schedules. There have been more than a few like this where they seemed to have done it all, but I remain skeptical. There is no way that the one guy at age 22 had been to every professional sports team stadium, (football and baseball), in the whole country. Another relative is the “Enough About Me, Let’s Talk About Me.” Always talking and never asking.

The One-Upper – Similar but slightly different than the Braggart. The Braggart boasts on their own behalf. This guy plays off of what others say. Probably insecure, maybe the second or third child and needs the attention. Their stories or stats are always “one better” when it comes to grades, seat location to a concert or celebrity sightings. No way did that guy shake Obama’s hand “that one time at that one rally.”

The Low Talker and Close Talker – Straight out of Seinfeld, these people do exist. My ears ring because of too many years of rock ‘n roll, so I need some clarity and volume in conversation. Background noise can do me in. I drove home one night after a show with a buddy who is a low talker. I didn’t hear one word he said and faked it all the way home with nods and lots of “yeses.” A number of times I said, “sorry, I just can’t hear you” and he would repeat himself but at the same low volume.

Close Talkers are space invaders. I had a “close talker” come up to me at an art opening once, and not only did he invade my personal space in a completely uncomfortable way, I watched him shredding his carrots as he ate and spray them all over my hoodie the entire time he talked. I wanted to hand him a box of Tic Tacs and suggest he go stand at the other end of the room.

The “What?” – A terrible listener, has A.D.D., or just doesn’t care. When you try to explain something that is complicated and takes active listening, and it’s really important to you, and it takes three minutes to explain it, and you finish the thought, and you get this response: “What?” Is it an infuriating habit, or were they just not listening? Usually, I start crying and run out of the room. I don’t have the patience or strength to explain it again.

The Dead Pan – No affect at all. Dry humor. Funny, but dry delivery. Speaks very matter of fact. I can never tell if they are happy or upset, bored or under the weather. Sometimes, they can be hilarious unintentionally. They would be a great straight-man for a comic talk show.

The Eternal Sunshine – Exclaims an, “oh, hi!” at the highest pitch. Exuberant and positive. Speaks at decibels higher than the rest of us. No matter how dire, or what bad news there might be, it’s always sunny out. Not a bad attribute unless it’s early on Monday morning and you just aren’t feeling as optimistic or sunny.

Other strong types include the “Um, Like,” (huge use of slang), The Contrarian (argues for the sake of argument), The Chronically Unhappy (wearing a frown no matter the context), The Combative (angry, and looks for the fight), The Scientist (had a drunken guy talk at me for twenty-five minute straight about what “agnostic” meant), The Analyst, The Compulsive, The Intellect, the Salesman, and the Fast Talker.

It makes life interesting doesn’t it? These folks fill up life’s rich pageant and bounty with their variety and the strength of them being them. Some I can tolerate more than others to be honest.

Gosh, I just hope I’m not known as The Dullard.

  1. Anti-anxiety prescriptions spike 34%… I can certainly understand. In my youth I was always freaking-out, worrying about this and that. Mostly, eternity and meaning of life what happens after death. Yikes! Pondering the imponderables can take up a huge amount of one’s day! Booze saved me! I would drink to calm down my harried-mind enough to deal with life. Add to that my entertaining, (I mostly played in Bars/Coffee houses) in the 60’s and 70’s. The audience was mostly messed-up on Pot. I avoided it as I acquainted it with psychedelicslike LSD, Magic mushrooms. As my mind ran at such a frantic pace I truly feared for my tentative hold on reality. Booze!!! Oh, such blessed relief. Numbness was my friend. Not that I was inactive. On the contrary. I felt energized. That was then, this is now. I am 68. I no longer toss and turn worrying about life and death. I still do, but, it no longer keeps me up at night. A week or so ago, I visited a Marijuana store and picked up some edibles. I took one and experienced a peace of mind, similar to liquor but without pesky side effects. I have taken it since then every single day. NO, I have not bought a tie-died shirt and am not joining the Rastafarians. But, life is a bit easier to take. And, is that not what life is all about??? As Nancy Reagan did NOT say, “Just say, YES!

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