Thursday, May 24, 2012

Talk to me

Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.
Carl Jung

For work, I was recently invited to attend a 2 day seminar on communication. They coached us on various communication styles and how to deal with others who may have a different approach than ourselves. One particular activity I found interesting and useful was when they had us fill out a survey about how we react in certain situations (both stressful and not) and based on results of that we were grouped into 4 different categories. The four categories were: Feeler, Thinker, Sensor and Intuitive. And while everyone uses all four of these functions, we tend to prefer some more than others.

Those who are predominantly Feelers communicate mostly about (duh) their feelings. They talk about their lives, family, experiences openly and go about situations mostly based on emotions. Feelers make decisions based on subjective views, what they think is right in an individual case. Thinkers are logical, well organized, they like structure and stick to morals/principles. Therefore, Thinkers tend to be objective in their judgments and believe that rules should be applied across the board.

Sensors are those who are very "in the moment", leading them to like immediate results in all decisions or actions. They can be seen by others as rash in decision making, but they are simply enjoying the experience whether it be jumping out of a plane or trying out new foods. Intuitive types see the bigger picture, they aren't ones to get caught up in the detail. They are more philosophical, able to come up with new ideas, theories and views. You could say most inventors, theorist, visionaries would fall under the Intuitive bucket.

The funniest part was seeing that a room full of accountants/auditors came back with results showing not a single one of us were Feelers! I guess it goes to prove the stereotype that accountants are 'boring' holds true! (Haha) Majority of the room was Thinkers (myself included). But we did have a few Sensors and Intuitives as well. The rest of the discussion was how to deal with others who may not be the same as yourself. If you are a Thinker, you will never get your point across to a Intuitive if you stick to the plain vanilla, using organized charts and slides method, instead try talking about the broad overall impact of the issue and be prepared to answer questions that are out of the box. Similarly, if you're trying to do a sales pitch with a Sensor, Feelers can't expect it to be a productive meeting if they spend the first hour talking about their weekend and family vacations and expect to carry the entire discussion just talking out the facts. Sensors would want a quick 30-60 minute meeting on the essentials with visual representation (slides or print outs).

I think you get the point, but what I took back from this activity was to start thinking more about what kind of person I'm dealing with and adapt my communication style accordingly. Just because I am a Thinker doesn't mean the other person is also. Just because I like things to be in a neat organized pile according to size and color does not mean that my spouse/child/coworker/friend will do the same and expecting them to do so is setting them up for failure. Respecting their views, even if they differ, is important, and once you acknowledge how your views differ from theirs, learning how to communicate in a manner which is productive and healthy can lead to a successful interaction. Statistically, women tend to be Feelers and men tend to be Thinkers but this gender divide isn't always true. And, sometimes nonconforming individuals can face opposition. We've all heard (or thought) that men too in tune with their feelings are wimps or effeminate, while women who are Thinkers are aggressive and 'control freaks'.  I agree that labeling people a certain way isn't fair, but understanding their nature and working with that instead of just judging them can actually help you to relate to one another.

What I took away from this exercise was the ability to be able to connect with other people in a way that I was not doing before. There are plenty of people in my life who I click with immediately, we are on the same level in our thoughts, likes, dislikes and lifestyles so getting along well is natural to us. But, there are those relationships in my life where my approach varies greatly from others and we may not always see eye to eye. I can think of examples in the workplace, in immediate family and in close friends too. So, I can't just up and leave this situation, because I am either forced to interact with these people in a work environment or I am tied to by family. These relationships are valuable to me, and I may have been going about them all wrong. I think what I've done in many occasions in the past is simply ignore our issues. I am logical, cautious and sometimes too stringent in my ways to see others views, so for me to understand how people think/act on emotions rather than rational reasoning is hard. I'm not saying they are wrong. Emotions are very important too, it's just not who I am, so for me its hard. I think in the past I have made it come off as them being "wrong" and that strained our relationship, but then I've slipped our problems under a rug rather than deal with them so we go on about our ways holding differences in our hearts about each other all because we are not accommodating the other person and their unique nature. This training course led me to realize the relationships I have in my life are important to me, and maybe if I approach them in a different manner I can make the other person see my view also, but first I need to bend to see their view. Bending or realizing your differences doesn't make anyone better than the other, it only leads to the path of understanding.

Look at it this way, you can't see the world from your own eyes all the time, sometimes you have to open them wide enough to see things from everyone's perspective too. A Thinker woman is not necessarily a bad thing. Such women in the workplace are highly successful, because most companies appreciate individuals with structure, discipline who provide timely results. Even within the home, things would be chaos if there isn't some form of routine to follow and someone to implement it. In the same way, a Feeler man is actually a wonderful thing no matter what society tells you! Imagine a man who actually expresses concern for your emotions, who sympathizes that you had a long day and rubs your feet! (I said imagine, not expect! haha). But overall, the point is we should start thinking from the point of view from another person, to try understanding each other and seeing how we can work with them rather than against them.

Here are a few links to see your personality type:

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