I’ve been browsing through The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, written by pyschologist Linda Edelstein. It’s an interesting book, and I’ve enjoyed reading about various adult personality types.
I’ve always believed that understanding is a key component of good relationships — in real life and in fiction, as well. So from time to time, I’m going to share a bit of information regarding Edelstein’s basic personality types. Perhaps this knowledge will help us build stronger relationships — and for the writers among us, create realistic characters.
Today, I’m sharing a few thoughts about conformists.
Conformists are staunch supporters of law and order in society, and generally consider themselves to hold high moral standards.
Life with a conformist can be comfortable. These folks don’t like to “rock the boat” or make a fuss about anything…unless someone goes too far afield of their traditional beliefs and values, in which case the conformist can become rigid and dogmatic. They will then insist on upholding what they perceive as “right”. They can be extremely intolerant, demanding that others conform to their way of thinking.
There’s a bit of interesting history behind the word, Conformist.
In England, Conformists were individuals whose religious practices were in line with the requirements of The Act of Uniformity. These acts — there were several — established rites and rituals for the Church of England, specifying prayers books to be used and the order of services performed. Those who opposed the acts were called Noncomformists.
Today the words have come to mean anyone who “goes along with the crowd” or one who “marches to a different drum”, respectively.
Our society sends very mixed messages about conformity. We place children in classrooms and teach them to behave in very specific ways. We give them rules to obey.
- Sit at your desk.
- Raise your hand to ask a question.
- Walk in single file as you leave the classroom.
At the same time, we speak of individuality, the need to recognize our own uniqueness, and the importance of learning to think for oneself. Little wonder we’re often confused about who we are…and who we’re supposed to be.
Overall, despite our efforts to teach it and instill conformist values in our children, conformity gets a bad rap throughout history. Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke out against it.
So did President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Conformists rarely stand out in society. They’re content to follow others and can make valuable assistants, always well-versed in “company policy” and willing to do what’s asked of them.
In fiction, we find two kinds of conformists. We sometimes see a character who is intent on following all the rules — to the detriment of their own happiness. My latest release, “No Regrets“, features a shy young woman who, in the words of the hero, is stuck being…
“…the prim and proper Miss Richards, the quiet little mouse who never disturbs anybody, has never once told a lie, and who would never think of breaking any of society’s rules.”
Not only Mrs. Gilman, but all the other women as well wore black. They reminded Tom of a bunch of crows perching in the parlor, hovering about, ready to peck the eyes out of him and his mother if they made a wrong move.