Welcome to Insights and Implications!
What’s your personality? Does it matter? Do you need to know the personality type of your coworkers in order to communicate effectively? Read this month’s newsletter to see how the principles behind how the mind works shed light on these questions.
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Recently, I listened to a podcast about personality and the role it plays in the workplace. The podcast host interviewed a principal in a management consulting firm. At this firm, new projects happen every few months, and the company forms a new project team every time. Getting these teams up to speed quickly without the initial hurdles of figuring out working styles is extremely important.
As a strategy, the leader gives every member of his new team a one-page overview of working with him. Written by former co-workers, the overview describes his personality and the most effective ways to work with him – sort of like an owner’s manual.
Interesting idea. Knowing a leader’s preferences and style right from the start can save time vs. the trial and error method.
What would coworkers write about you? What would be on your own one-page owner’s manual?
Your personality is just your habitual pattern of thinking. While there may be evidence that some aspects of your personality are with you at birth, most of your habits of thinking develop slowly over time. You start thinking about yourself and about the world. Without noticing it, your thinking is repeated again and again until it looks like who you are. Your parents help by innocently labeling your behavior. “This is my _____________ (fill in the blank) child.”
It can appear that your personality is fixed and permanent but have you noticed how people change under certain circumstances? I have a friend whose personality would be described as easy-going, light-hearted, kind, friendly, compassionate. But play a game of table tennis and he turns into a fiercely competitive, take-no-prisoners, out-for-blood, nasty character. And I know another leader whose personality was described to me as “Type A – on steroids” because she was so driven and aggressive. Turns out she writes poetry.
Your personality is not like the color of your eyes. It is more fluid and changeable than you realize. Why? It is made up of thinking. Yes, thinking that you do so often it appears to make you who you are, but it can shift.
The advent of personality testing has helped humans navigate our differences, but it has also given personality a reputation as fixed, without any explanation for people’s changeability. What about my mild-mannered friend, the table tennis badass or the type A poet?
An understanding of the logic of how the human mind works is a much more effective tool for navigating “personality” (i.e., thinking) differences. With this understanding comes a set of implications to observe and use as guidance. When you realize that the human mind has a built-in design for success and that the mind works only one way, from the inside-out, you recognize:
- Everyone thinks differently and therefore sees the world differently. Their thinking looks just as real to them as your thinking looks to you. Realizing this fact results in more humility, better listening, the option of forgiveness, and a keen interest in the wisdom of others.
- You are feeling your thinking, not your circumstances. Rather than looking at others to blame or justify your feelings, you can look within your own mind where resolution is possible.
- Feelings are like sensors on your car’s dashboard. They are indicators of what’s going on within your mind, letting you know how (or if) to proceed.
- Built into the design of the human mind is the capacity for insight. Insight changes the way life appears and allows for the dropping away of long-standing, habitual patterns of thinking, ie., your personality.
So whether you are an ENTP or an ESTJ, you can find a way to collaborate well with an ISFJ. Yes, there are differences, but under the surface of those differences is the same mechanics and the same logic governing the human psychological system. With this common foundation, you can build bridges. And your personality, as strange as it it seems, can change.