People Styles at Work...And Beyond
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People Styles at Work...And Beyond

Robert Bolton, Dorothy Grover Bolton

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eBook - ePub

People Styles at Work...And Beyond

Robert Bolton, Dorothy Grover Bolton

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About This Book

As cofounders of the leadership coaching and training firm Ridge Associates, authors Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover teach that good interpersonal communication is essential to getting things done.

In this comprehensive and practical guide, they offer a proven method for understanding the key behavioral styles of those around you (including your own) and explain how you can leverage the strengths and weaknesses of each to relate to others more winsomely.

People Styles at Work... and Beyond teaches you how to:

  • recognize how they come across to other coworkers;
  • read others' body language and behavior to identify the best ways to work with them;
  • make small adjustments that will dramatically increase the quality and productivity of their interactions;
  • find common ground with different people while retaining their individuality;
  • relate less defensively and more effectively no matter how others act.

At work, at home, and even while you're out running errands, your ability to relate to others affects how well you get things done. This book provides a self-assessment to determine which style you are and then uses that information to gauge how you should interact with others.

Now including all new material on personal relationships, parenting, and more, People Styles at Work... and Beyond is the ultimate how-to guide that can help you avoid conflicts and enhance important relationships.

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Information

Publisher
AMACOM
Year
2009
ISBN
9780814413432
PART ONE
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Understanding Yourself and Others
“I could save myself a lot of wear and tear with people if I just learned to understand them.”
RALPH ELLISON
CHAPTER 1
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No Wonder We Have People Problems
AS LONG AS YOU LIVE, you’ll have at least some unwelcome and unproductive friction with others. There are difficulties to be worked through in the best of relationships. In more troubled ones, people problems undermine productivity, erode friendships, and stress families.
Of all the problems we face, people problems are often the toughest to solve. Difficult as task problems may be, most of us would choose them over people problems. Besides, when a task problem is especially difficult, one or more painful people problems are often at the heart of it.
People problems tend to take the greatest toll on us personally. They produce significant emotional wear and tear. They disturb our sleep. Too often, people problems drag on endlessly and continue to deteriorate over time.
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PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER IN FUNDAMENTAL WAYS
It’s no wonder that everyone has people problems. Psychological researchers discovered that 75 percent of the population is significantly different from each of us. Three of four people important to your success and happiness:
• Think differently
• Decide differently
• Use time differently
• Handle emotions differently
• Manage stress differently
• Communicate differently
• Deal with conflict differently
Not necessarily worse. Not necessarily better. But different. Behaviorally speaking, you are in a minority. Everyone is.
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PEOPLE DIFFERENCES TRIGGER PEOPLE PROBLEMS
Social psychologists have found that people with significantly different behavioral patterns:
• Have a harder time establishing rapport
• Are less likely to be persuasive with one another
• Miscommunicate more often
• Tend to rub each other the wrong way—just by being themselves
These facts help explain why it’s quite a stretch for you to work effectively with a number of your colleagues. The more you think about it, the more understandable it is that there are so many people problems at work and elsewhere. Obviously, differences between people aren’t the only sources of interpersonal tension. They are, however, a major factor in much misunderstanding and conflict. Spencer learned this the hard way.
Spencer had had an excellent working relationship with Jan White, his manager for over three years. Then Jan was transferred. Spencer didn’t hit it off nearly as well with Bill Freed, his new manager. It wasn’t that Bill was unreasonable; he was well-liked by most employees. Spencer was puzzled. Why wasn’t he able to work as effectively with Bill as he had with Jan?
Spencer was a conscientious manager who believed that detailed information is essential to good decision making. He made sure his employees filled him in on the nitty-gritty of their work. That’s how he stayed on top of what was happening in his department. Because Spencer appreciated detailed communication, he diligently filled Bill in on all the fine points of each of his projects.
Before long, Spencer noted that in their weekly meetings Bill would often tense up. When Spencer reported on a project, Bill often fiddled with his pencil. Soon, he’d pace about the room, appearing impatient and distracted. Clearly, Bill was frustrated by something Spencer was doing. But what?
At times, Bill said, “Just give me the big picture on this one. I trust that you’ve done your usual thorough job on it.” Spencer, though, was uncomfortable providing what he thought would be a less than adequate briefing. So he continued giving exhaustive reports on all the minute particulars of his work. After all, that’s what he would have wanted if he were in Bill’s shoes.
The problem, of course, was that Spencer wasn’t in Bill’s shoes. Bill was. And Bill’s working style was very different from Spencer’s. Even when Spencer saw that his way of communicating was disconcerting to Bill, he clung rigidly to his habitual way of interacting. Because neither person adapted to the other, their working relationship continued to deteriorate.
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PEOPLE DIFFERENCES GENERATE STRESS ON THE HOME FRONT
It’s not just at work that people’s different behavioral patterns complicate their interactions. In ongoing intimate relationships, people are generally attracted to those who are significantly different from themselves. Screenwriter Nora Ephron said, “You fall in love with someone, and part of what you love about him are the differences between you; and then you get married and the differences drive you crazy.”
Don and Charlene met at a party thrown by a mutual friend and started dating the following week. He was attracted by Charlene’s light and carefree manner. Her spontaneity was a welcome antidote to his thorough but plodding approach. Her enthusiasm and humor lifted Don out of his customary seriousness and he found her captivating.
Charlene was equally enamored of Don. Don had an inner strength that made Charlene feel safe and secure. His logical approach and attention to detail saved the day on numerous occasions. Don didn’t talk much, but when he did, it was clear to Charlene that he’d thought things through. There was a quiet earnestness about this man that she liked.
Eight-and-a-half months after their first date, they married. Both held full-time jobs so they split the housekeeping chores. Don, who did the shopping, turned out to be compulsive about purchasing specific brands and storing them in a highly organized way. It was bad enough that he stored the spices in alphabetical order; he insisted that Charlene do the same. Her spirit wilted in the face of what seemed to be bureaucratic procedures in her own home, when it was bad enough to have to cope with them at work. Also, Charlene thrived on an active and bustling charge through life. Don, however, was committed to a quiet lifestyle. Charlene could bear the peace and quiet for just so long. Then it began to feel oppressive. Many of Don’s qualities that once seemed attractive were now perceived as negatives.
Don also became disillusioned with marriage to the outgoing Charlene. He resonated to the word-picture the minister painted during the wedding: “May the home you are establishing be a haven to rest and a place of peace.” His life with Charlene, however, had turned into a whirlwind of activity. She seemed to always be on the go—and wanting him to be part of the whirlwind. Then, too, Don often described himself as a “neatnic.” Charlene, by contrast, didn’t seem to understand the concept of closets and drawers—she left piles of dishes in the kitchen sink and a trail of discarded clothes throughout the house.
Behavioral differences in intimate relationships can be more grating than they are in work relationships. It’s one thing to tolerate bothersome behaviors that only occur occasionally. But it’s quite a different matter to live with annoyances that are in your face every day. Less than a year after their wedding, both Charlene and Don were wondering whether their marriage had been a mistake.
If you are in a long-term couple relationship there’s a statistical likelihood that the two of you are from a somewhat similar socioeconomic background. However, there’s a 95 percent probability that, like Don and Charlene, your partner’s behavioral style is significantly different from yours. We base this estimate on more than three decades of self-reports by people in our workshops, as well as on our observations of couples we’ve met. As you read further, you’ll gain the kinds of insights and learn the interpersonal methods that helped Charlene and Don build a supportive and loving relationship.
We’re not suggesting that it’s more desirable to link up romantically with a person whose behavioral style is similar to yours. When both partners have a similar style, it does not bode particularly well or ill for the relationship. Same-style couples simply face a different set of challenges. We’ll show how two people of the same style can relate more successfully both at work and in couple relationships.
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YOU CAN ONLY RELATE TO ANOTHER PERSON’S UNIQUENESS IN LIMITED WAYS
We are not only different from one another—each of us is unique, bewilderingly so. It’s common knowledge that each person’s fingerprints are distinct from those of every other person. Experts can also distinguish your voice from all other voices. These are surface indicators of an amazing fact: At birth, you were endowed with an individuality of personhood that can never be duplicated. So was everyone else. “It is never possible to completely understand any other human being,” wrote anthropologist Edward T. Hall, “the complexity is too great.”
The experiences of the people you’ve met in this chapter demonstrate that it doesn’t work to go through life merely doing your own thing with whomever you meet. “Different strokes for different folks” is a much better guideline. However, when trying to give different strokes to different folks, you confront a major difficulty: the number of differences between people is overwhelming. It’s humanly impossible to fully adapt to everyone’s idiosyncrasies.
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THE TYPES APPROACH TO GETTING IN SYNC WITH OTHERS
Many theorists and practitioners such as Hippocrates (460–377 BC), “the father of medicine,” and Carl Jung (1875–1961), one of the towering figures of psychology, realized the l...

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