The Birkman Map helps describe people using a four quadrant grid which allows us to have a deeper understanding of an individual beyond just the Birkman Symbols.
Birkman doesn’t simply identify one aspect of a person’s personality - we measure four aspects of a person - their Interests, their Usual and Stress Behaviors, and their underlying Needs.
Many times people ask for a simple explanation of what the four symbols represent. Here it is:
- Interests can be the goals we want to achieve, the things we like to do.
- Usual Behavior is the way we have learned works for us to achieve those goals.
- Needs are how we want the world around us (people and environment) to treat us so we can be effective at achieving those goals.
- Stress Behavior is what happens to us when we are not in that desired environment.
But, is it better for symbols to be in one quadrant, or is it better to have symbols in multiple quadrants?
The answer is similar to question on other Birkman topics—there are pros and cons to both.
If the Symbols are all in one quadrant…
A person that is represented as being all in one quadrant will be seen as consistent with what we expect to see—if I’m “all Red” I will be interested in Red activities, I will go about achieving those goals in a Red way, and I will want to be in an environment that is Red. I will also take the Red behaviors to the extreme when in Stress behavior—but, it will look similar to my productive Usual Behavior, just so extreme it is no longer a productive behavior. Anyone looking on would not be surprised by any of this because it is consistent. So, if someone treats this Red person the way they act, they will be meeting the Red’s Needs. Also, when looking for activities they are interested in, they will likely find others that are similar in interests and most likely the environment will need their Needs—a Red environment.
The possible down-side is that an all Red person will have a harder time understanding that there are other ways of doing things and difficulty realizing that other people can have different interests and want to be treated in different ways. This person (depending on the placement of the symbols and how deeply Red they are) may have trouble appreciating other styles, Interests, and Needs.
If the symbols are dispersed in the Birkman Map…
Someone who has symbols in multiple quadrants may have an easier time with appreciating differences and valuing the personality styles. But, their issue may be that their productive behavior doesn’t give any indication of how they want to be treated. This means it will be more important for them to learn how to verbalize their Needs and speak up about how they want to be treated. In addition, if their Interests are in a different quadrant than their Needs, they have two motivators that are different—one that can be seen (by their hobbies, etc.) and the other that is internal and hidden. People may be surprised at how someone wants to be treated if their Interests don’t “match up.”
The coaching lesson for those represented in only one quadrant is to explore the other quadrants and help the client learn what these other styles bring to a situation—and help them understand how to treat those in other quadrants. For those with Birkman Symbols in multiple quadrants, it may be that they need coaching on speaking up to be able to be treated how they want to be treated (their Needs).