Are you ever bemused when two individuals ferociously debate a point in a meeting, only to walk out the best of friends? Have you been in a chambers meeting where colleagues excitedly share endless, extravagant ideas for a project – leaving some members energised but others confused as to exactly what has been agreed? Do you tune out when someone goes into infinite detail, only to realise that they’ve actually been sharing something really valuable – and you’ve missed out by zoning out.

It’s pretty obvious that we all have our own personal style when communicating, but it’s important to take some time to acknowledge the difference and impact that this may have on others. After all, misunderstandings can often occur when we fail to communicate effectively and this is a common cause of disputes.

"My dear Lizzy, do not give way to such feelings as these. They will ruin your happiness. You do not make allowance enough for difference of situation and temper." Jane Bennet to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (1813).

Mediators will know only too well how vital effective communication is; it’s often the failure to communicate effectively (coupled with raging emotions) which results in parties becoming entrenched within their position. ‘Listening to be heard’ rather than ‘listening to respond’ is a key component to good communication, as is having the ability to adapt your tonality, pace and style to ensure that everyone feels heard and understood and so that a satisfactory outcome can be reached.

Using the colour lens

One great way to recognise how we communicate is using the ‘colour lens’. As a coach I use the Insights Discovery® tool; a personality-profiling diagnostic with reference to four memorable colours (see box). Everyone has access to all these colour energies, but we will have a natural preference towards one or more of these.

Having an awareness of the four colour energies can really help when it comes to have effective conversations. The ability to recognise your own personal preferences is vital when engaging with others, whether it be friends, loved ones, colleagues or clients.

Misunderstandings can often arise when there is a mismatch or misuse of these colour energies – for example, a manager with fiery red energy may give feedback to a team member which is direct and to the point; however this individual may find the feedback hurtful, unkind and lacking empathy if their energy preference is earth green, which is opposite to fiery red. The feedback may be factually correct, but it’s the way in which it’s delivered which may cause conflict to arise.

Working with opposite energies

I recently used the Insights Discovery® tool when coaching two executive board members. Sarah, the operations director, enjoyed fiery red and cool blue energy preferences (action orientated with a bias for detail) and her colleague Peter, the new business development director, enjoyed opposite preferences – earth green and sunshine yellow (endless possibilities with a bias for value and harmony). The tension between these two individuals was palpable. Board meetings became unproductive and unpleasant for all, and tensions were starting to be felt throughout the departments, which even had to be moved to separate floors.

We uncovered the root cause. When Peter returned from a client meeting he would excitably share the innovative solutions he had sold into the client. But Sarah knew that the company systems and infrastructure, not to mention the tight schedules, would not permit the successful delivery of his over-promises. She was frustrated that Peter experienced the positive client engagements, whilst she was left to deal with discussions when things couldn’t be delivered. Peter, on the other hand, didn’t understand why Sarah didn’t share his enthusiasm but did acknowledge how much he valued her ability to turn his ‘crazy’ ideas into realistic solutions. By tuning into the strengths and also challenges that their colour energies offered to their leadership styles, they were able to value the difference in each other. Ultimately they recognised the richness that their combined colour energies brought: Peter had the ability to dream big and innovate but this could only come to fruition with Sarah’s ability to translate it into practical application. Together they were impactful leaders.

Colourful communications

In summary, next time you communicate do so with colour. When we value the differences that we all have, we are able to open up extensive possibilities, build stronger relationships, avoid conflict and create rich solutions.

Teresa Boughey MA FCIPD is CEO of award-winning Jungle HR and works with Executive Boards and Leadership Teams during times of change and business transformations. Her new book Closing the Gap is perfect for business professionals at all stages of their inclusivity journey.


This energy prefers tangible outcomes. When communicating, these individuals like to be bold, brief and to the point and will readily challenge something and/or others. At times of stress, however, fiery red energy can show itself as controlling, coercive and maybe even moving into micromanagement. These individuals are likely to take over and stop listening to others, as they have a need to step back into control of the situation and move things forward.


This energy radiates enthusiasm and sees endless possibilities. These individuals are likely to be highly expressive, often using their hands when communicating. They will often externalise their thinking collaboratively with others, creating endless possibilities with a huge amount of excitement (and noise). The challenge, however, for sunshine yellow is they become so excitable that they may leave others unclear as to exactly what it is that has been agreed by way of an outcome. They may take on too much or get bored as they want to move on to the next bright, shiny, exciting thing.


Individuals who enjoy earth green energy will place a high emphasis on values and loyalty. They will seek consensus and harmony, as it’s important for everyone to be listened to and heard when decisions are made. On a bad day, however, these individuals may withdraw and become quiet, preferring the situation to naturally resolve and for harmony to be restored. When this doesn’t occur and/or where an individual sees no value in the change that is occurring or where the situation is detrimental to others, they will become extremely stubborn, quietly defending their values and beliefs.


Individuals who enjoy cool blue energy place great importance on precise details, as their preference is to have things factually correct. They may appear more reserved when talking to others and would feel incredibly uncomfortable if put on the spot for an opinion that they hadn’t prepared. On a bad day, those with cool blue energy preference may become overly questioning and may even move into analysis/paralysis, using this as a tactic to create more space to enable them to regain composure allowing them to be precise and accurate.

Colour profiling is a refined version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (1944), developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. On meeting her future son-in-law, Katharine had noted a marked personality difference to that of her family and embarked on the research, which she later found chimed with Carl Jung’s Psychological Types. Together with her daughter she co-created the MBTI tool to help women identify the most suitable war-time jobs during World War II and it is still widely used today.