Making Plans with the Hogwarts Houses
Sorting people, real and fictional, is a huge part of the fandom – but adjacent to that, and something I really enjoy, is looking at how the different Houses behave in certain situations. I immensely enjoyed my colleague Lorrie’s article about how members of the Hogwarts Houses work together on group projects – so much so that I thought I would bring a similar lens to my area of expertise: making plans. As an extroverted Ravenclaw, I am usually the one taking the initiative in planning things – be they as small as an outing to the movies or as big as a group trip to another continent. And in working with other people on this, I have seen the feats and foibles other Houses bring to the planning process.
Gryffindors are amazing at taking the initiative. They are often the ones who will suggest the activity in the first place. No plan is too big or too bold.
Except with Gryffindors, that is often as far as the planning goes. They tend to skimp on the details and think in broad strokes. We see this in the Harry Potter books all the time: Harry’s version of a plan consists of “We’re going to go to the Department of Mysteries and save Sirius!” How? How will they save Sirius from an army of Death Eaters? How will they get through Ministry security? Unimportant – the Gryffindors will figure it out as they go along.
In fact, this is the perfect illustration of the Gryffindor/Ravenclaw dynamic at work:
‘The Department of Mysteries?’ said Luna, looking mildly surprised. ‘But how are you going to get there?’
Again, Harry ignored her. (OotP 736)
The maddening thing about Gryffindors, for all the other Houses, is that their plans somehow work out despite the complete lack of details. If Gryffindors say they’re going to London, they will somehow end up in London. I have come to use this as a descriptor when making plans.
‘I’m planning a writing retreat at the end of the month!’
‘Awesome, what’s the plan?’
‘It’s in the Gryffindor stages.’
This means that the plan currently consists of “I intend to go on a writing retreat on a certain day” and have not thought any further than that. Except I’m not a Gryffindor, so this is only the very early stages of the process for me, rather than as far as it goes. Ideally, Gryffindors will have one of the other Houses pick up the ball and run with it, but if need be, they’ll make things up as they go along. The plans will still happen, probably with an adventure or two along the way.
In planning, there are two dichotomies among the four Houses: Gryffindor/Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff/Slytherin. Ravenclaws are the opposite of Gryffindors when making plans; they will figure out every little detail.
In fact, the first time you hear about a Ravenclaw’s plans is likely to be at the point where the plans are nearly complete and there’s already at least one spreadsheet of information.
Ravenclaws thrive on research and knowledge. When traveling, they will be the ones who dutifully compared every Airbnb in the area, cross-referenced train schedules, and have a handy list of the admission times and prices of every stop on the itinerary. There will be Google Docs with hyperlinks, there will certainly be color coding, and there may well be more lengthy emails than anyone cares to receive.
Ravenclaws can be a little intense, particularly for folks who just want to go with the flow and don’t need the whole vacation booked in advance. However, they are excellent to have around, particularly for more complex plans where coordination is required or when lots of money is in question.
An ideal partnership is when the other Houses come up with the broad contours of a plan and then charge the Ravenclaw with certain tasks. “Can you find hotel rooms for 12 people close to the city center?” Yes, we’re on it!
The Slytherins are eager to do what they want to do and will employ any trick to steer the group toward that.
When the Slytherin invites you to the movies, then the perfect showtime that allows dinner beforehand will just happen to be at the theater five blocks from their apartment. If the Slytherin is looking at flights, then the flight offered will just happen to be on the airline they have a credit card with. And they are very good at building perfectly logical cases for why their choice is the way to do it.
The Slytherins work backward compared to the Ravenclaws. Where the Ravenclaw will do the research and explore every option before deciding the optimal one, the Slytherin will quickly pick the optimal one and then build a case for why it’s the best. In the absence of Ravenclaws in the group, Slytherins will often get their way – the Gryffindors don’t care about details, and the Hufflepuffs just want everyone to be happy. But if a Ravenclaw decides the optimal answer is a different one from what the Slytherin chose, or if there are two Slytherins both doing this, then things can get fraught.
The Slytherins are the likeliest to strike out on their own if overruled by the group. The Hufflepuffs believe that everyone should be happy and will pour energy into ensuring it’s so; the Ravenclaws believe in their very souls that there is a right answer that will please everybody; the Gryffindors don’t sweat the small stuff. But the Slytherins sometimes decide that they want to do things their way, with or without the others. (Introverted Slytherins are especially susceptible to this my-way-or-the-highway behavior.)
The sneaky among the Slytherins will often whip votes and reach out to people one by one to convert them to their viewpoint – beware the emails on the side or the one-on-one texts when the group is discussing. They are especially effective in smaller groups of five to ten people, where they only need a few swing votes to get their way.
On the plus side, Slytherins are good to have in large groups because they make decisions. They are never paralyzed by too many options; they won’t spend their days googling further or trying to build consensus. “Which hotel should we stay at?” The Slytherin will pick one and break the logjam of indecision.
Hufflepuffs are the opposite of Slytherins because they are eager to build a consensus that everyone can live with. When they take part in making plans, there will almost certainly be multiple choices provided for everyone.
We want to see ‘Secrets of Dumbledore’! Would people prefer Thursday, Friday, Sunday, or Tuesday? Which theater does everyone like? Should we do 3D or IMAX?
The Hufflepuff stage of plans is the one right after the Gryffindor stage: They do want to figure out the details, but not until everyone has had their say and participated in the process. The discerning Hufflepuff will at least narrow down the choices rather than making them open-ended – rather than asking which theater to go to, they will offer two or three options for people to consider.
While a Hufflepuff making plans will often result in the most people being satisfied with said plans at the end of the day, the process also requires the most participation of everyone in the group.
On the other hand, Hufflepuffs are usually content with someone else taking the lead, rather like the Gryffindors are. They will defer to the bigger personalities as long as there is no conflict, but if there is conflict, they must mediate.
Therefore, Hufflepuffs thrive in making plans with smaller groups. If it’s four people going for afternoon tea, the Hufflepuff will make sure everyone is happy with the when and the where. But if the groups are larger – or there are multiple stubborn people in play – then the Hufflepuff struggles. To ensure everything is fair and no one is discontent, they will insist on going back to the drawing board until a solution is found that pleases everyone. Particularly if an overruled Slytherin won’t go along with the consensus, the Hufflepuff will require voting, revoting, and ranked-choice voting, certain that consensus can be built with enough effort.
All the Houses bring a lot to the table when making plans. The Gryffindors get the ball rolling, the Hufflepuffs keep the peace and involve everyone, the Ravenclaws do the research required, and the Slytherins make decisions when needed. The most successful outings will often involve a group that has at least a few of each House’s traits sprinkled in.
Readers, what has your experience been like in making plans? Does it line up with your House affiliation?