Who Are You - Part 1

The other weekend, I ran into a woman who worked for the Illinois State Police in the human resources department. She told me that she had gotten her doctorate in psychology and since I have some interest in it, albeit from a more spiritual bent, we had a nice talk about Jungian archetypes, personality types, self-understanding and self-knowledge. One thing we agreed upon, since we're both in public service, is that the the bureaucracy is broken and that how we deal with it is dependent upon understanding who we are dealing with. In addition, we both were in agreement that you can't ever change anyone; instead, you have to change your response to that person. We both laughed because we finished each others' sentence. And that we both talked about how we seemed to know ourselves pretty well.

I thought I'd take the time to post a thread about the topic of self-knowledge. In my younger days, I use to think that psychology was too theoretical, cold and clinical. And a lot this self-help pop psychology was pure crap. I suspect that some of it really is crap but that there are some things that really are useful and helpful. But I think it's actually rather helpful in the work place, which I'll get to a little later. The best part is getting to know yourself---honestly. So what does that actually mean? It means knowing how and why you react the way you do to certain circumstances. You can lie to others but you cannot lie to yourself.

A good place to start is http://www.personalitypage.com/html/info.html. It has a nice Jungian view of personality archetypes and the Myer-Briggs types. They describe 16 personality types: http://www.personalitypage.com/html/portraits.html

Carl Jung

But keep in mind that the personality types described are not set in stone. There is no cookie cutter mold. Rather, these are general tendencies that people have and they can also have traits from other personality types. Most people think of personality types in terms of introvert and extrovert but there's much more going on inside people. It's actually kind of fun to look at the list of personalities and find the one that best describes you. Of course, it's equally as interesting to take a personality exam. When I did this some years ago, I was actually surprised by how accurately the personality type described me.

It's good to know your personality type because you can therefore confront the weaknesses you might be afraid to address. It forces you to examine yourself in a different light. At the very least, you have an awareness about the things you might want to improve upon as an individual. And this is important in the workplace because you can anticipate and prepare for being placed in a work situation or project which will exacerbate your weaker qualities.

You might work on a group assignment in the office where some people are naturally the take charge types. And that might rub you the wrong way if you're a more creative, intuitive type and you have some people telling you what to do---and you think it's all wrong. But assessing your co-workers personality type, you can sort of figure out where the conflicts will be and how best to avoid them. Remember: you can't control or change someone but you can change the way you react to them. If you know a certain co-worker will not understand a certain viewpoint because it clashes with how they view and process the world, change the way the viewpoint is presented so that it's something that fits in with how they do see the world. This is especially good to know if your personality types will fundamentally clash, if they're polar opposites. The point here is to avoid conflicts and confrontations.

I once had a supervisor who was quite possibly the worst I've ever had. He was spiteful, he gossiped about and bad mouthed the staff behind their backs, he couldn't give you guidance and was impatient all the time. He made life hell for me and my co-workers. He was someone you could never quite please. Had I known more about personality types back then, I'd have certainly defused situations by having more than one draft assignment to turn in. I would've anticipated that he might not like the product so I would have had several other products to turn in if he didn't like the original one. Furthermore, I'd have accepted that the problem isn't me, wasn't me, but that it's him. If I'd had pegged his personality type, I would have been better equipped to engage him on a much different approach to problem solving that would have lessened the impatience, the quick judgments, and him being dismissive of my work. Still, it wouldn't have made working for the guy any less of a hell, but you take your workplace victories where you can.

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