Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

We all have people in our lives with whom it’s difficult to get along and enjoy. At work, we typically describe this as “personality differences” between co-workers. There are also family members that are “difficult to enjoy.” They are the ones who have differences in values, opinions, habits…the list goes on.

It is just a fact of life; people are different. There are many personality tests used at work to understand how to help teams work better together or used in the hiring process to find the best “fit” for the group or organization. Many of those assessments deal with how various personality types communicate, make decisions, deal with external factors, and engage with others.

I recently discovered another one that identifies four personality types based on how we respond to expectations. It’s from Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies. I loved its simplicity and use beyond a work setting. Much of Gretchen’s writing is about happiness, and this book also makes a case for how understanding personality types of yourself and others can raise your happiness factor due to a better understanding of WHY people behave the way they do. It makes a big difference when you stop taking things personally and gain insight how to best interact with the various personality types.

Through her research, she found that people fall into one of these four tendencies:

  • Upholder – those who meet outer and inner expectations. Expectations others have of us and the expectations we have of ourselves. The Upholder mantra: “Discipline in my freedom.”
  • Rebel – those who resist outer and inner expectations. This is the opposite type of personality from the Upholder and is an example of the classic “personality conflict.” The Rebel mantra: “You can’t make me, and neither can I.”
  • Obliger – those who meet outer expectations yet resists inner expectations. These are the people who won’t let you down and make personal sacrifices to serve the needs of others. The Obliger mantra: “You can count on me, and I’m counting on you to count on me.”
  • Questioner – those who resist outer expectations yet meet inner expectations. Questioners prefer to independently gather facts, decide for themselves, and resist directives that don’t offer a reasonable “why.” The Upholder mantra: “I’ll comply if you convince me why.”

After reading this book, I certainly gained a better insight into why some people are difficult for me. The author outlines how to best deal with each personality at work, with your spouse, and with your children. She also talks about the impact on career choices, given each personality type.

My big take away is this reinforces what I’ve thought to be true. Personality types are hard-wired. While people can change some behaviors and habits, if THEY WANT TO, it is a waste of energy to try to change someone and instead, should accept how they operate by understanding this hard-wiring. That knowledge enables me to more effectively interact with them in a way that will resonate with their personality type vs. unknowingly trigger a negative response.

If you’re interested in taking the quiz to discover your Tendency, it’s simple, takes less than ten minutes, and it’s FREE! Four Tendencies Quiz

It may even be something fun for the whole family to do when gathered together this Thanksgiving. You could have some fun banter about why that crazy uncle of yours has to take the opposite point of view, no matter what the topic. Or, why your sweet aunt makes five different varieties of pie to please everyone’s taste around the table.

Enjoy and embrace our differences – it’s the spice of life!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.