Is being unpredictable a good trait to have?

She is so unpredictable

 That was the head teacher’s remark in my report card for the last school term of the second year of my secondary school education. I was not too worried about it and I sort of thought it might be a good thing to say about someone, also my grades were really good so I didn’t think my guardian would pay much attention to the comment.

How wrong I was!!! It was the focus of his talk with me and he never acknowledged my good performance, he was convinced that I must have done something terribly wrong that justified the headtecher’s remark. I was at a loss on what explanation to give because there was no particular incident that could explain why I received such a comment in my report card and I did not feel bad about it.This was over fifteen years ago and overtime I have discovered that I am quite unpredictable in my character and behaviour, I am sometimes unable even to tell how I will react or behave in certain situations but this does not frustrate or bother me in anyway. It makes me feel that I have some sort of control over my life and that people will not be able to easily read me or predict my next course of action.

The thing with me though is that I do not do this intentionally or consciously. I do not set out to be unpredictable…. it is just part of who I am or maybe its a defense mechanism that developed early on during my childhood as I was trying to cope with some difficult situations but I do not consciously decide to be unpredictable. Research I have done on many websites seem to indicate that unpredictability is not a desirable trait and I give you some examples below of what I found interesting about unpredictable behaviour as well as my thoughts on it.
  1. Psychology Today

Has an aritcle titled “dealing with difficult people”, and somewhere in the article it says that ………….

One clue that a person is attempting to intimidate or manipulate you is the use of unpredictable, or protean, behavior—acts that are random and seemingly out of the blue. A dictator keeps his minions guessing—and scared. Some forms of despotism are much subtler: Duke Ellington was known for provoking heated rivalries and feuds among his bandmates in the belief that such strife would make the music hotter.

Erratic behavior is a powerful weapon because it defies accurate prediction. Often, the behavior comes as a surprise even to the person generating it.

Flying into a rage or staring you down and dismissing you summarily are common strategies to keep you off-kilter. Unpredictable actions serve the purpose of confusing potential usurpers and avoiding responsibility. Your boss freaks out, throws things and yells. Some might call him irrational. But the irrationality gives him a leg up.

Erratic behavior served adaptive ends in our past, and it still does. Just as a minnow might cut a zigzagging path to avoid being snapped up by a larger fish, the boss alternately screams and stonewalls to avoid having her motives laid bare.

Okay………….., with regards to the above article, that is not my kind of unpredictability. I have participated in various team excercises where you ask for honest feedback about your character and personality and during all these times, “difficult ” has never been one of them.

The second article I picked still from Psychology today  is titled Unpredictability is in our nature.

In order to get around the world, we make predictions about what other people do. We guess that a friend will remember to make a reservation for a lunch date next week. We assume that a spouse will pick up a bottle of wine to bring to a friend’s party. We expect that our children will choose the same item from the menu at a restaurant that they always do. These predictions work well enough. Often, our predictions are borne out.

Yet frustratingly, sometimes they are not. We make predictions based on our beliefs about other people’s behavior, and sometimes people do not do what we expect. We come to rely on other people’s predictability to the point where their failures to be predictable often lead us to wonder what is wrong with them.

As it turns out, though, unpredictability is a fundamental part of human nature.

I guess what this article is bringing to light is that we are all unpredictable, the issue then is with you that is confronted with an unpredictable situation or outcome and how you react toward it.

2.  Controlling and Predicting Unpredictable Behavior.

A paper authored by de Souza Barba L. Behav Anal. 2015., and I quote from the abstract ………………..

Behaving predictably can be advantageous in some situations, but unpredictability can also be advantageous in some competitive situations like sports, games, and war. Can, however, unpredictable behavior be conditioned? If a contingency of reinforcement based upon the predictability of behavior generates unpredictable responding, is it possible to conclude that predictability is itself a reinforceable dimension of behavior?

3. Cleveland clinic

Wrote an aricle titled  – Alzheimer’s Disease: Caring for People with Unpredictable Behavior . 
The changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease can sometimes lead to unusual and unpredictable thinking and behavior.

Well, this is concerning, it also doesn’t help that there is not a lot known about Alzheimer’s disease . What  I would recommend is for all of us to read more about it and also if like me you have been accused of being unpredictable, it would be good to research more about this disease so that you have the information you need to take appropriate action for your own health or that of a loved one..

 I conclude by asking ……….. what are the extremes to unpredictability? Is it such a terrible thing to be labeled “unpredictable”, aren’t we all unpredictable but in varying degrees? Is being unpredictable the same as being difficult?

What are your thoughts on this, kindly share in the comments.



  • Jerome

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