Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Big Life

Driving home, Iris looks at me and says, "I would really love to see you and Jonathan and Will all together in the same room at the same time."

"Why's that?"

"Because you're all such big personalities. It would be exciting to see what happens."

"Uh, huh. What would be exciting about it?"

"Think about it. Whenever you and Jonathan get together, you don't wast time on small talk or ideas you've already figured out. You dive right into new topics that leave most people's heads spinning. You wrestle through concepts and ideas with no holds barred. People around you just sit silently trying to follow and keep up, even the ones who are normally outspoken and confident."

"You think so?"

"Yeah, for sure."

"And Will?"

"Will walks into the room and he's bigger than life. Everyone else seems a little bit smaller by comparison. Except that you don't. You and he are like this perfect complement to each other. You might think that there wouldn't be room for both of you, and yet there's more than enough room you and everyone else. It's like two big complex puzzle pieces fitting together."

"So you'd like to see the three of us together?"

"Yeah! What do you think would happen?"

On Monday, in Doberman vs Poodle, Faith wrote about a view of personalities based upon degrees of responsiveness and assertiveness (see chart below).

Faith commented that she sees herself nominally as an Influencer (upper right quadrant), but that she'll often drift into the Driver role (upper left) when circumstances require it. Faith also pointed out that others may see her as a Driver more frequently than she sees herself in that role.

As I read Faith's post, my initial self-assessment was similar to Faith's. I see myself primarily as an Influencer and then as a Driver when circumstances dictate it. It's also easy to imagine that others may see me more as a Driver than an Influencer.

However, the more I thought about it, I realized that there are situations where I exhibit most if not all the characteristics of the Steady (lower right) personality.

And when you get right down to it, there are situations in which I'm plain old Compliant (lower left). Let's nail down exactly what you're looking for and I'll go get it done.

Stepping back, I can see that at any moment I may take on the characteristics of any one of those personality types and at that moment, that is exactly who I am.

Like Changing Outfits
Iris once commented that we tend see personality as this static thing that changes slowly and infrequently. She wondered aloud, "Why don't we see personality as we do clothing? Why not see it as something that can be changed whenever you want to?"

At the time I thought it to be an insightful comment and interesting concept, but now I see it as more than that. I see that changing our personalities like we change our clothes is the default case; the idea of a static personality is an illusion sustained by the fact that most of us don't change contexts all that frequently.

For example, in the Assertiveness/Responsiveness model that Faith presented, any one of us can manifest any of the personality types given the right circumstances. Not only that, but we can do any one of them in a big way. Put enough pressure on a great Influencer and she can be come an overbearing Driver. Fill a room with big personalities and the same Influencer slides into the Steady role. Leave no one at the helm, and even the most reluctant Compliant becomes a Driver.

Given the right change in circumstance, the corresponding changes to personality type are rapid, dramatic and real.

Putting the Puzzle Together
So, if given the right circumstances, any one of us can manifest any of the personality types, then it's not unreasonable to believe we could each manifest just components of an alternate type. For example, you could be a patient Driver or a fast-paced Compliant or a matter-of-fact Influencer. Working with others, you could adopt the personality components that complement the group, filling in the missing pieces.

This is all hypothetical, but it would seem that taking this approach would make it possible to fill your life with many big personalities and still always have room for more.

Just thinking aloud...

Happy Wednesday,

1 comment:

  1. OK big guy, you have dashed off (one day after Faith’s post) what I have been batting around in my head for at least a month now.

    Here’s a couple more angles I would add. I think the basic concept of classification is very useful at first – at least, I found it tremendously useful to explain the behavior of people around me, and to a certain extent my own. That garrulous aunt who used to drive me up the wall? That overbearing cousin who keeps ordering people around? That nitpicky brother-in-law? All can be neatly explained by identifying their personality type. It even helps me work with them ongoingly – I know to emphasize facts and figures with my brother-in-law, actions and results with my cousin and people and fun with my aunt.

    It’s also useful when looking at one’s own actions in the past. I can see that I’ve typically been Compliant when around my mother, but an Influencer around certain friends. I think the pitfall comes when I project it into the future. When we start saying things like, “Oh, I’m a Steady type – I don’t want to raise objections at the meeting”, or “I’m a Driver – I just don’t know how to tone it down”, that’s when we start limiting ourselves. And I think it’s because we have unknowingly converted “Communication Style” to “Personality Type”, which as you pointed out, Tef, is something we consider fairly static.

    Also, each of these behaviors can be done well or badly. A Driver can direct tasks well, but may also come across as overbearing or pushy. The Steady type is valued for being supportive, but could also be weak and indecisive, and so on.

    Just last month, here at work I was at a training class where a similar classification was presented as ‘color energies’. So the Driver would be a Fiery Red, the Influencer a Sunshine Yellow, the Steady an Earth Green and the Compliant a Cool Blue. So we just use different energies at different times and in different situations, with no implications on personality or static-ness. We may have a strongly preferred energy, but as long as we remain aware that we have a choice in the matter, it’s all good.


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