If, as Forrest Gump’s mom declared, “Life really is like a box of chocolates,” then different personality types may be the surprise fillings inside–and indeed, it’s true that “You never know what you’re going to get!”
But in the office, you need to know what or rather who you’re dealing with, because those surprise fillings can become major problems. Learning how to deal with people and their unique personalities is a crucial first step toward team building, and away from in-house conflicts.
Sometimes the toughest lesson to learn is not the one about other people–it’s the one about yourself. What are you full of? What feelings are filling you right now? Knowing what makes you tick—and what ticks you off–may be as important for you to understand as any insights you may seek into the hearts and minds of your most challenging co-workers.
Personality types are just that–they’re real sets of attributes that make us who and how we are. Understanding them can help us learn how to accept people as they are and work with them harmoniously. They aren’t supposed to become convenient pigeonholes we use to stereotype folk. Stereotyping limits people–our expectations of them and our ability to relate to them.
Personality types are markers we can use to guide us carefully and wisely into our relationships with other people. They can also help you understand yourself better. Do you recognize the kind of work environment you need to be your best self?
Do you recognize it when something is missing–not quite right? Are you aware of your reactions in these moments? Are you unconsciously aggressive? Do you murmur and complain? Do you become defensive when accused of being aggressive or of murmuring and complaining?
As aware as you are of other people’s behaviors and the impact of their actions on your work-life, it may help you to be aware of your own behaviors and how they impact those around you. Taking time for self-reflection, especially during prickly workdays, will change the picture from “What’s happening to me!” to “What’s happening to us and how can I help?”
Self-reflection is an exercise in selflessness and empathy for others. It’s not, or at least it should not be, an opportunity for self-abuse or abasement. You’re not all wrong all of the time–and neither is anyone else. Self-reflection can smooth a few ruffled feathers; bring a more balanced and stable perspective; and help your whole team move forward by moving closer to each other instead of protectively distancing yourselves from each other.
Life really is a little like a box of chocolates, but nobody expects you to be the sweetest piece in the box everyday—just palatable.