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PERSONALITY STYLE AT WORK
The Secret to Working with (Almost) Anyone
By KATE WARD
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012HRDQ
All rights reserved.
What Is Personality Style and Why Does It Matter?
Perhaps the best way to both illustrate and explain personality style (at least as humans experience it) is through a simple and probably familiar slice-of-life vignette.
You're riding an elevator down to the third floor in a standard office building. The elevator is carrying a full load of your colleagues, who are headed to their own meetings or out to lunch. Suddenly, the elevator stops between the fourth and fifth floors, and it won't budge. Someone, perhaps the office jokester, immediately rolls out a tension-breaking quip. "So, I guess you're all wondering why I called this meeting," the funny man says with a deadpan, business-as-usual tone. Everyone laughs as a few more captives offer jokes of their own; then the personality types of the individual riders begin to emerge.
One person reaches for the emergency phone to call for help. Someone else suggests a game to play while waiting to be rescued. Another person, partly in jest but with a worrying bit of real possibility, offers a rough estimate of how long it might take for people to use up all the oxygen in the elevator. A fourth person asks if everyone is OK and offers gum or perhaps water from an unopened bottle of water just purchased in the office lunchroom vending machine.
This scenario—getting stuck in an elevator with a bunch of strangers or colleagues—is so common that you may have an immediate connection to the story or even have a similar story of your own that you could relate. Perhaps you've even wondered about two key questions that the story illustrates:
1. Why do people react so differently to the same situation?
2. Why do people exhibit the same behaviors again and again, no matter what the situation?
Answering these questions is the purpose of this book, and the answer is found right in the title: personality styles. So what is personality? The precise answer to that question might fill a moderately large academic library. Here is the definition from the American Psychological Association:
Personality is the unique psychological quality of an individual that influences a variety of characteristic behavior patterns (both overt and covert) across different situations and over time.
In other words, personality is the consistent pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that makes a person unique. Personality isn't a reflection of intelligence, and it's not a measure of skills or abilities.
If you are a parent of more than one child, you can attest to the fact that each child is different. Often your children's personalities are apparent practically from the moment they are born. One child is happy and never fussy from the day she's born. Your second child seems to have been born with a mandate to try to sleep as little as possible and cry at every possible opportunity. Does any of this sound familiar?
Or, observe how your friends interact with others. Do some of your friends perpetually worry about something, while others seem to be unfailingly carefree and fun-loving? This is another example of how different personalities are apparent in everyday situations. While some scientists believe that personality is set from birth, others believe that outside influences shape your personality over time. This nature versus nurture debate is unlikely to be settled anytime soon. Whether you believe that personality is wired from birth or that life experiences fundamentally change your personality, this book will help you because its focus is on using observable behaviors to recognize your own and others' personality styles. Personality style is the way a person acts when he or she is able to do things his or her own way. Most people are consistent enough in their behavior to allow you to predict their behavior. With that knowledge, you can change your behavior in any given situation to minimize misunderstandings and improve communication.
Key Developments in Understanding Personality
As noted, this is not the first book to consider the development of personality and how personality styles affect our lives and our relationships, and it's certainly not meant to serve as a reference tool or textbook. For that, I recommend Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research by Howard S. Friedman and Miriam W. Schustack (Prentice Hall, 5th ed., 2010). Explorations of personality and the source of its development in humans can be traced at least back to the Greek physician Hippocrates more than 2,400 years ago.
Hippocrates (c. 460 BC–c. 377 BC) was a Greek physician who suggested that our personality was affected by the balance and flow of various bodily fluids (humors) through the body. Hippocrates also associated each personality temperament with one of the four elements (fire, air, water, and earth; see Figure 1.1).
Hippocrates believed that people with a higher concentration of yellow bile were choleric. These people tended to have more energy and to be more bold and ambitious than others. Those with more blood tended to be more sanguine and exhibited optimistic, impulsive, and pleasure-seeking characteristics. Phlegmatic people were thought to have an abundance of phlegm and could be spotted because they were calm, quiet, and kind. Anyone with high levels of black bile, Hippocrates labeled as melancholic, since people with this personality were usually independent, introspective, and more apt to be perfectionists (see Table 1.1).
While Hippocrates' science and labels were incorrect, he was right about the four basic temperaments found in human nature, and so this theory has endured for 2,400 years. In fact, it wasn't until 1926 that William Moulton Marston refined and described precisely the four humors that Hippocrates described.
Carl Jung (1875–1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher whose work was influenced by Hippocrates' four humors. He was the first person to label and describe the concepts of introverted and extroverted personality types. These were paired with four functions—feeling, thinking, sensation, and intuition—to create eight personality types. Jung's work, in turn, influenced many others, including Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, who developed The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
William Moulton Marston (1893–1947) published a book in 1928 called Emotions of Normal People. Prior to the publication of this book, most research into personality and behavior had been focused on the criminally insane. Marston thought that an understanding of personality was important for everyone, so he focused his attention on observable and measurable behavior that anyone might notice and interpret. Based on his research, he suggested that behavior should be categorized into four basic styles based on two separate personality dimensions.
He defined one dimension as the individual's perception of the environment around him—that is, whether it was favorable or unfavorable. The other dimension he defined was the individual's perception of his own power within the environment, or whether the person viewed himself as more powerful or less powerful within the environment.
Over time, these dimensions were further refined and different names or labels emerged. The research team at HRDQ called these dimensions assertiveness and expressiveness. The assertiveness dimension is the degree of effort you make to influence others, while the expressiveness dimension is the degree of effort you make when revealing your emotions to others. When put
Excerpted from PERSONALITY STYLE AT WORK by KATE WARD. Copyright © 2012 by HRDQ. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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