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Time for a self-assessment?

behavioralstyle buildingrelationships communicationstyle self-awareness valuingdifference Jun 07, 2020

With all the polarization in the world today around difference -- and altogether too much intolerance for people who are "other" than us, it may be time for a shift in mindset.  Whether it's racial or political or ecological or even mask / no mask, the reality is that our differences are what makes each of us special and interesting.  How can we create a little more tolerance?

It all starts with self-awareness - who are you and what's important to you?  What do you stand for? 

The next step is understanding that other people may have experiences, beliefs and values that are different than yours -- can you try to see them by generating a little curiosity and interest about them and from there, learn to appreciate them? 

And finally, can you actually try to value those differences? Those differences create a variety of perspectives on how to solve some of the big problems facing our world today - on both a micro and macro level.  What I mean is both your world and the world.

When I teach people how to build relationships, I focus on communication and behavioral style.  This too, is a difference that matters, especially in the workplace, but also everywhere.  By helping people to understand that they have a particular style, based on their priorities and values -- and those priorities and values can be very different from other people -- it enables them to move beyond judgment and irritation. 

 A pretty simple online assessment can really open people's eyes to how these differences play out in the workplace.  Different behavioral styles are motivated differently, they experience stress differently, they have different fears and frustrations, they handle conflict differently. 

And, what happens is this:  once we see that people are "hard-wired" differently from ourselves, we understand them more and appreciate that they are different -- not just irritating -- and we can move more readily to acceptance of and even valuing those differences.

There are other things that impact how people work, but I have found that this little tool goes a long way to increasing the tolerance of difference, it breaks down some barriers, and it enables the building of trust, which is so foundational and essential to building effective relationships - in or out of work. 

And just like in our world today, the most difficult and challenging relationships tend to come from people who are our polar opposites.

For example, that tendency that some people have to drive relentlessly toward results can feel like a bulldozer to people who like to work more methodically and inclusively. And that results-driven person may see that style as lacking a sense of urgency. 

Another example is the person who uses logic and information to make decisions.  To her, that fun-loving, enthusiastic coworker seems over-emotional and lacking focus, while the person who thinks work should be fun sees her counterpart as way too focused on rules and plans.

To me, style is a difference that matters.  And I've learned to have a lot of respect for other, bigger, more contentious differences because of my work building teams, building trust and building strong, healthy relationships. 

I believe that communication and behavioral style can be used as a metaphor to foster and further understanding among people who are different in other ways.  Because the same process applies, starting with self-awareness about judgment of differences to knowledge and understanding to appreciation and finally to value. 

This process does not have to take long, if one approaches it with an open heart and an open mind.  It is also helpful to set the intention of furthering better relationships, with more love and less hatred, more compassion and less judgment, more kindness and less meanness.

I learned at an early age that our life here on earth is unpredictable and may be unfairly short, and that things can change dramatically in an instant.  That experience, as devastating as it was, taught me to appreciate every day and every person and every experience - good or bad. 

And whenever I lose sight of that critical truth, life has a way of quickly and painfully reminding me of what's really important. The events of the recent weeks and months have been such a time.  And like my earlier experiences, I need to find meaning and purpose as a result of what I have had to re-learn yet again.  I have and I will.  What about you?  Is it time for a self-assessment?

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