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“The greatest distance between two people is misunderstanding” – Unknown
Have you ever felt that someone’s usual actions were so difficult to understand? That when one action seems so simple an answer to you, others tend to follow the exact opposite path?
Misunderstanding people is so frustrating, isn’t it?
Today’s post is on exactly that.
If we take a second to stop and evaluate our thoughts and judgments towards others’ actions, it’s pretty clear that we’re usually critical. Sometimes an answer seems so obvious to us, yet others can’t follow the same path.
Sometimes I catch myself (silently) criticizing people who are disorganized and can’t keep appointments or plans straight. To me, planning is not only a ton of fun but a logical way to make sure your plans happen. Others, I’m sure, would view the way I organize my life as rigid, inflexible and maybe even illogical.
We definitely can’t control as much as I try to, they would say. Rules are meant to be questioned, and perhaps even broken, they would say.
Once, a friend told me that if they had a rigid schedule there would be no way they could stick to it. I was perplexed!
4 Personality Types To Help You Understand Others
Gretchen Rubin’s framework – The Four Tendencies – was surprisingly refreshing to read about. I went into the first chapter expecting it to be a bit drab – a repeat of the colours framework, or a spin on Myers-Briggs.
Actually, it’s an easy-to-read, easy to understand idea that neatly fits people into four dominant personality tendencies in a way that really made me think. Of course, people will have bits and pieces of each tendency, but the dominant type is the most important.
I love the way she addresses positive and negative aspects of each personality, and how others may interpret behaviour that arises from it.
Here are the personality tendencies in a nutshell:
Upholders are rule-following, law-abiding people who stick to plans and follow-through with everything they start. Whether they are responding to internal or external expectations, they follow-through.
Rubin uses one example that really hit home for me. One of her readers, (a Rebel personality type if I recall correctly) was commenting to a colleague that sticking to a schedule for taking vitamins was so difficult because it had to be followed exactly.
The colleague, a “classic Upholder” responded with a two-word answer: “Grow Up”.
Upholders can be seen as uptight, but on the plus side – they get stuff done!
Questioners are less likely to do something without really understanding why they are doing it. They “make all expectations into inner expectations”. They’ll only do something if they are convinced it makes sense (to them).
Obligers feel best when they please others. They’ll happily meet outer expectations the world throws at them. However, they struggle to meet inner expectations if they conflict with others. These are the “people-pleasers”. They have some great qualities but may undervalue what they want in life.
Rebels tend to reject authority. They resist following plans and meeting expectations, whether they are internally or externally set expectations. I know very few rebels!
Improving Relationships with Personality Types
Theories are great, you say, but how can this actually help me? Well, reading Gretchen Rubin’s book really opened my eyes. (It probably helps that I have the Upholder tendency, just like the author herself).
Taking a step back and looking at why you act (or react) the way you do may help you gain a new perspective on situations.
If you’re an Upholder, for example, try viewing a situation as a Rebel or Questioner would. When dealing with family or friends who are so different to you, this framework is a lifesaver. I can’t tell you how much reading the book on the plane helped me mentally evaluate different situations I saw play out over the course of a weekend with family!
Now, you may be wondering what knowing someone else’s personality type has to do with fostering great relationships. Well, after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book I agree that it has a lot to do with communication.
Sometimes, even when writing this blog I have readers ask me to explain how I manage to stick to a schedule, keep a Google Calendar that isn’t overwhelming, or even “find the time” to keep up with this blog, or actually follow a really strict fitness plan, diet, or business plan.
It’s a difficult question to answer because I simply do it.
I hadn’t realized how much of this may be due to my personality.
Only 17% of the people Rubin surveyed qualified as an Upholder, the lowest percentage of all categories. Instead of judging people’s actions, maybe we should think of their tendencies and understand why they act the way they do.
If you read my post on character, you may remember my discussion on which personality traits or characteristics can make us successful. Maybe it’s less about which personality traits to have, and more about understanding our tendencies
Well, those are my thoughts for this week’s short and sweet post!
What personality tendency are you? How do you think the framework could help you shape your relationships? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Have a lovely and productive week!
P.S. Photography fans, the photo for today’s post (and poster!) is one I took in Dubrovnik, Croatia last year.
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