How do you cope with different personality types?
Personality clashes or just differences? – Sometimes when we get annoyed with other people's behaviour either at work or in our families we think that it is the other person ‘being difficult', ‘being disorganised' or we think, ‘why can't they be like me or do things like I do?' This is often down to different personality types rather than them being a ‘difficult person'. With an understanding of our own and other people's personality types we can find ways of managing those differences and even capitalising on the strengths of the different personality types.
In reading this edition you might want to think about people who are very different from you, whom you find get on your nerves or you find difficult to deal with.
‘Some people weave burlap into the fabric of our lives, and some weave gold thread. Both contribute to make the whole picture beautiful.' Anonymous
Is personality fixed or can we do something about it? – Without going into a big description of the difference between personality traits and types, I think there are things we can do that can help us work and communicate better with people who are different from us. I use Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) with clients and in my own life to identify and understand different personality types. With MBTI you start to appreciate what other personality types bring to the party. It is also possible to use your least preferred MBTI type, although it takes more thought and effort than just sticking to and using your preferred type.
How do I know what my personality type is? There are many different instruments about but I use MBTI for development purposes with teams or individuals. What is interesting about your MBTI type is that as you mature you often find yourself exploring different aspects of your personality, which you perhaps had not had an inclination towards when you were younger. Hence people often take up surprising hobbies and interests later in life or even change career to something completely different.
In MBTI there are four dimensions that I will describe briefly here, relating to personality clashes that can occur. This is not an exhaustive description of MBTI types. However, if you would like to explore this further as an individual or within your team/organisation then do contact me to discuss your needs.
Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I): This is not necessarily about confidence levels, it is more about how they relate to the world. E's tend to like to think aloud, bounce ideas off other people; they get their energy from being with others. I's tend to think through their ideas before sharing them with others, and they find that time on their own helps them to renew their energy. I's can find it hard in meetings when E's speak over people and talk about things they seem to have not thought through; while E's can get frustrated with I's not talking to them about things, not sharing their ideas until they are all thought through, leaving E's thinking that they cannot get involved.
Sensing (S) – Intuition (N): S's prefer dealing with facts, figures, tangible things; they tend to deal with small chunks of information. While N's prefer the bigger picture and exploring ideas, and will often get switched off by S's going into too much detail. S's often find it difficult to grasp what N's are communicating as they do not provide enough detail and information. It can be almost as if the two are talking different languages!
Thinking (T) – Feeling (F): Both ends of the dimension do think and feel, they just do it differently. T's are logical and rational in their decision making, while F's are very value driven and consider the impact of their decisions on others. They also respond to conflict in very different ways, which can be where the biggest problems can occur. T's can play ‘devil's advocate'; they don't mind, and sometimes even relish having an argument about things. F's, on the other hand, try to avoid conflict at all cost and tend to hate arguments. What T's might consider to be a discussion (and consequently forget about it minutes after), F's see as a row and it will play on their mind for days or even weeks.
Judging (J) - Perceiving (P): J's tend to plan and are organised. They tend to tick things off their ‘to do lists' and complete tasks well before the deadline. P's like to keep their options open; they are flexible, they tend to make decisions at the last possible moment and only get the energy and motivation to complete tasks when the deadline approaches. However, they do meet deadlines, they just drive J's mad as they do everything at the last minute!! And J's can drive P's mad with their nagging and worrying about getting things done!
Think about where your preferences lie and that of colleagues, family members, etc. How does this affect your communication with them and your relationships?
"What an absurd thing it is to pass over all the valuable parts of a man, and fix our attention on his infirmities." Joseph Addison
What do I do if the person I work or live with is so different from me? There are actions you can take to make it easier to understand, get along with and work or live well with others who are of a different personality type
- Learn to appreciate their strengths – Each personality type does have its strengths, which is why in a team you need to have a range of personalities to draw upon all the different strengths. It is often just that their strengths probably don't coincide with our preferences and can grate and annoy us. But by seeing what they add to the team or relationship we can start to appreciate them more.
- Use your own strengths – Think about how you can use your own strengths to get the best out of other personality types.
- Step into their shoes – Learn more about different personality types to help you to understand and appreciate others. It is also useful to step into their shoes and imagine what it is like for them. How do they view the world? And how do they view you!
- Be patient – Keep on reminding yourself that they are not being difficult, they are just being themselves. So if they are hyper organised or do things at the last moment find ways of accommodating this.
- Be aware of your weaknesses – It helps the situation if we realise that our personality type has its own weaknesses and pitfalls that might rankle with others! There is no perfect personality type, just personality differences.
- Stay in an adult mode – Personality differences often result in people getting into very unproductive, or downright destructive, interactions. Staying calm and in an adult mode will help you to manage the situation and the interactions (see the right hand column for details of the Managing Challanging Interactions workshop I am running on Wednesday 17th June).
‘If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.' Pooh's Little Instruction Book
Do you want to find out more about MBTI? At Grovelands, we provide consultancy advice, training and coaching around MBTI in the following areas:
- Effective team work
- Leadership & management style
- Problem solving
- Dealing with conflict
- Individual coaching
For more information or to discuss anything in confidence please call Melanie on 01865 377334 or click here to send an email enquiry. For more information about Grovelands visit our website by clicking here.