This might be one of those blog posts that you cut and paste to forward to your friends, family, peers or boss …or you may forget that you read it as soon as you have finished it. My experiences in healthcare leadership have placed me face to face with thousands of people who communicate in remarkably different ways. It has been my experience as a non-medical, non-scientific professional that the majority of the communication problems that exist in the workplace seem to be rooted in the nuances between only two of the four basic personality types.
We often hear statements like “He just doesn’t understand me.” “We are talking about the same thing, but she is on a totally different wavelength.” “I just don’t trust him. He embellishes the truth.” “What do you mean by the word, ‘is?’” Although we might drive the same make of car, live in somewhat similar homes, read the same newspapers (whether in print or on an LCD screen) and even enjoy Lady Gaga, we sometimes really have challenges with communication.
These differences can come from the styles of training, education, or upbringing that we’ve had. Whatever the case, it is real, and honestly, it can be maddening for both sides. One personality type sees the world as completely filled with opportunities. Of course they recognize that there are mountains to climb, but they also embrace the fact that there are hundreds of different paths leading to the summit, and that no one way is the absolute right way to get there. These are people who, when given all of the reasons in the world why something won’t work, can find ways to legitimately avoid those obstacles and make it work. Remember, “There’s a pony in there somewhere.”
Like the creator of the DiSC personality profile, let’s call these people the high “I’s: Initiative, influential, inspiring, impressive, interacting, and interesting.” They tend to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and “Don’t mess with Mr. In-between.” They often do not embrace exact detail because to them it usually doesn’t matter. Theirs is a broad picture painted with pastels that blend easily into one another.
If you are a very meticulous person, both intellectually and emotionally, it is not uncommon for you to want things to be as perfect as they can be. This does not mean that neat people or conscientious people should be categorized in any way because multiple types can have these traits, but if you notice your neighbor on his stomach hand trimming the grass blade by blade with tiny scissors, be worried, my friend, be very worried. Let’s call these people the high “C’s.” They are conscientious, cautious, compliant, correct, calculating, concerned, careful and contemplative. They are the detail people. These are the folks who can discuss the use of one word in a sentence for hours. They represent the Faculty Senate, so to speak.
Without stereotyping anyone, let’s consider the person who made straight A’s all through school. They sometimes become obsessed with those A’s, and would go to almost any length short of cheating to make them. To a valedictorian, an A minus can represent a form of failure. How does this perfection addiction impact their thinking over a lifetime? Where do communication points break down with this type of “no one can do it better than me,” souls? When is enough enough as points are made and subjects are explored. If we don’t know the grading scale, we must continue to push the topic until we feel that it has been completely exhausted. This type of perfection can drive the “We live, we love, we die” people absolutely crazy.
In order for things to make sense to the “Cs,” everything must be linear; your sentences, your thought patterns, your decision making must all be orderly and logical. Black and white and perfection are usually the only things that will bring them comfort. Even with that, they many times will revisit the issue, question it again and again, and then let the person with whom they are attempting to communicate know that they are at fault because their communication techniques don’t match their C needs.
Another trait of these individuals is that they are usually risk averse, and, if you don’t answer them based on their detailed perfection level, some will consider you foolish or untruthful. So, how do we find the common ground?
Let’s face it. Communication can make or break a company, can ignite relationships …or end them. Neither group are bad people, we are just different, and goodness can and does come from both personality types. So, what is the answer to these communication problems?
First, we must recognize and then celebrate these differences. It is absolutely critical for us to find comfort zones and then to celebrate them. An “I” personality answer like, “We’ll figure it out,” may not be what the detailer is seeking, but it certainly is a valid answer. On the other hand the I’s could go that extra step to try to provide the “C’s” with what they feel will meet their needs (in as complete detail as possible).
And if you’re on the other team, make a solemn vow not to avoid the dreamers because a lot of science emanated from science fiction, and they are often times our creators, our artists, and our miracle workers.
So, as we “embrace the differences,” remember that it does “Take Two to Tango,” and that one of you can be creative while the other can strive for perfection. A team like that will never be caught short. As Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
In closing, it was Einstein who said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge…” So, let’s all imagine a better world, a world that is not run and controlled by the economists, but one that embraces the passions of our hearts and our emotions.
We really can have it both ways.