How Personality Affects How You Handle Sticky Situations and Say It Just Right

Published: 26th August 2009
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To better understand the Say It Just Right (SIJR) Model, you must know more about the people you are "saying it" to before you apply it to sticky situations. If we faced cardboard people everyday, who always acted the same way, we could apply the SIJR Model right away. Unfortunately (some may say fortunately) people are different. These differences require that we not only understand what to say and how to say it, but also to whom we are saying it.

Personality Overlay

The Three C's (Change, Curiosity and Compassion) comprise the foundation of the SIJR Model, and the Decision Points (Costs, Limits, and Power Sources) hammer in the framework. The Personality Overlay colors in the background behind the picture. Imagine a photo of the forum in ancient Rome as we see it today with the rocks, columns, pieces of statuary and gravel foot paths. Visualize an overlay that depicts the way ancient Rome looked centuries ago with intact buildings, temples, magnificent statues and elaborate houses. That overlay shows us the full picture. Without that overlay we cannot envision the way things were. Similarly, when dealing with sticky situations, we encounter people who overlay reactions to the events around them. We must consider these people and their unique personality styles before we embark on a SIJR conversation.

BEST Personality Styles

To simplify our analysis of personality, I selected the styles created by James Brewer, et al., in Power Management: A Three Step Approach for Successful Leadership.

Brewer created a simple but effective survey to determine personality style. Unlike some of the more popular assessments, such as Myers-Briggs, whose styles baffle us and often disappear from our memories (ENFJ, ISTP), Brewer's style types are easy to identify: Bold, Expressive, Sympathetic and Technical (BEST). Furthermore, if you cannot administer the My BEST Profile, you can quickly observe behaviors and deduce one of the styles. To order My BEST profile, go to Bear in mind, however, that behavior drives personality. The better you are at watching people, observing their verbal and nonverbal cues, the better adept you will get at predicting their personality preferences.

Bold Personality. Action drives Bolds. They make quick decisions, focus on results, compete with everyone, show determination to the point of stubbornness, and love to multitask. They communicate in short sentences without elaboration or clarification. They look at their watches frequently and come to meetings on time or early. They demand fast results from subordinates. They prefer not to work on teams because (in their view) teamwork wastes time. The Bold person loves challenges and adventure. A group of Bolds often jumps to a quick decision within minutes of getting a task and then spends the rest of the time looking for new tasks.

Expressive Personality. People stimulate Expressives. They engage others with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. They enjoy going to meetings but often arrive late. When they enter a room, everyone notices them. A buzz of energy seems to follow them. Expressives dress in bold colors--reds, yellows, and oranges. They initiate greetings by quickly saying hello and shaking hands. Although engaging, they lose interest when you talk about your family or other personal issues. They prefer to tell you all about themselves and their projects. A group of Expressives struggles when asked to complete a task because each must talk. Instead of listening to one another, however, they vie for center-stage. At the end of the work time, the group reports that they enjoyed themselves, but they did not reach a firm decision.

Sympathetic Personality. Sympathetics are loyal and unselfish. They do not hesitate to help others so long as they show respect and trust. Most people find Sympathetics easy to be around because of their generosity and concern for others. The Sympathetics' compassion shows in their ability to listen whenever people share problems, home or work related. A group of Sympathetics accomplishes whatever task you might give them. They like to please. Rather than take risks or think outside the box, they tow the line in order to win the praise of their leaders.

Sympathetics thrive on appreciation. They do what they believe you want. Perhaps you can't imagine a sticky situation with a Sympathetic. One of the most difficult things you may encounter in your career is to give a good, loyal, obedient Sympathetic low performance measures or to inform a Sympathetic that his job is no longer available.

Technical Personality. Technicals are logical, organized, cautious, and systematic. They operate by the rules. They search for organization and logic. Often you can identify Technical personalities by the state of their offices. Technicals carefully label files and line up pens in perfect order. They prefer to work alone rather than in teams. When they must work in teams, they tend to hold back rather than become fully interdependent team members. If you put a group of Technicals together on a project, it bogs down because no one steps up to make a decision, and each holds back, preferring not to share his or her true views.

When applying the SIJR Model of communication, we make adjustments according to the personality overlay. This is how it might work.

Bold considerations:

• Bolds will try to re-define your problem in their terms.

• Bolds tend to jump to the resolution before they join feelings with facts.

• Bolds do not share a lot of information when you invite them to talk.

• Beware of too easy solutions. Bolds jump to the quickest, easiest solution.

Expressive considerations:

• Expressives will have no trouble talking and you probably will not have to "invite" them to talk.

• Expressives want to give solutions they feel you want to hear. They want you to like them.

• Expressives tend to turn the problem to their own advantage and persuade you to think as they do.

• Beware of the Expressives' ability to misinterpret the problem because they have trouble listening.

Sympathetic Considerations

• Sympathetics prefer not to talk about problems. They will not share a lot when you invite them to talk.

• Because Sympathetics despise conflict, you'll need to help them identify the issues.

• Sympathetics have no trouble sharing feelings and will easily join feeling with fact.

• Beware of coming to a quick resolution because you don't want to hurt the Sympathetics' feelings.

Technical Considerations

• Technicals have a lot of trouble joining feeling with fact because, in their view, feelings are not logical.

• Technicals will quickly grasp the problem but will not share very much information when you invite them to talk. They are too cautious to share until they feel safe.

• Technicals want to feel a sense of "evenness." Be sure when you negotiate the resolution, you include a balance of things you will do along with what they agree to do.

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