Shortly after that first clash, my partner and I discovered a week-long leadership certification program, and we quickly signed up. One short segment caught my attention — the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. I left knowing the difference in personality between Tom and Cathy held the key to their conflict.
I spent the next few days studying personality types, reflecting on Tom and Cathy’s body language, verbiage, and emotional reactions. And I developed a theory.
If I were to assign seats, intentionally placing more space between my two antagonists, it might cushion some of the outbursts. Next, I created a strategic plan for how to change the process so interactions between participants were guided, instead of allowing a free-fall. Then I worked on the last piece of my puzzle. Carefully using specific word selections when I spoke to Cathy or Tom. Taking my infantile knowledge of personality, and using it to address intrinsic needs that the individuals themselves might not understand.
When the next meeting date arrived, I nervously worked to make sure everything was in place. I studied my notes for the umpteenth time, arranged name cards in measured distance from the edge of the table, and sipped water for my dry throat. A few minutes before our scheduled start time, the members filed in and found their assigned place to sit.
It didn’t take long for the first dig to fly from Cathy’s mouth. Tom’s shoulders stiffened as he prepared for battle. But I intervened. I cleared my throat and said, “Time for an icebreaker.”
My pre-arranged activity was designed with these two in mind. My partner doled out a copy of the same image to everyone in the group. We asked them to spend thirty seconds and note silently all the detail they could see. When the time was up, we had them go around the room and share. As expected, the room was almost divided in half. One segment saw a young, beautiful woman with smooth skin, dressed stylishly. The other people described an old hag, also dressed stylishly, but with craggy facial features.
But how could they look at the same image and see such opposite details? This enabled me to go to the heart of our message. Facts don’t change, but perception can. And different personalities often perceive the same facts in opposite ways.
We didn’t fix our personality clash in one meeting, but it was the first layer in a foundational plan. Over time, our polar opposite executives came to respect each other’s differences, even if they didn’t necessarily like the approach. Our team went on to achieve far beyond what we hoped when we first came together. And I started on a life-long quest to study human personality. Little did I know, it would change my life in meaningful ways, especially when the information saved my marriage.
What about you? Are there people who view the same set of facts as you, but see a totally different picture? How does it make you feel?
AnitaFreshFaith @ Work
(Sorry, can’t get my iPad to load my picture, so here’s a link to the image I used in that meeting.)
Anita Agers-Brooks is a Business Expert, Certified Personality Trainer, Communications Specialist, speaker, and writer. She lives in Missouri. Contact her via www.freshstartfreshfaith.org or firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Corinthians 12:6 (NIV)
There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.