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EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

Building Rapport with Different Personalities

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When it comes to personalities, no one clicks with everyperson on earth - that's what makes interactions sointeresting (and sometimes frustrating).

You can count on the fact that, during the course of yourwork, you'll meet people with a wide range ofpersonalities, including several that push your buttons.To work effectively, efficiently, and enjoyably, you canlearn how to create positive or neutral interactions withpersonalities that would otherwise drive you into ragingmaniac mode. Needless to say, this can be a lot harder thanyou imagine.

While we can't address every personality type, we'veselected three types with whom many people have a toughtime, and offer a few specific tools that we at InnoVision Communication haveused to increase understanding and build rapport.

  • The power junkie
  • The withholder
  • The eager puppy

THE TYPE - The power junkie

In every meeting, this person tries to wrangle control and power from others she perceives as threatening to herstature. Wanting to be the top dog and seen as the mostknowledgeable, the power junkie will interrupt, squelchideas, intimidate others, and dole out tasks - even if herrole isn't to assign responsibility.

A TOOL - Acknowledge talents using respectfullanguage

Generally, the power junkie just wants recognition for hertalents and acts out based on insecurity. By acknowledgingthis person's expertise in a specific area and seeking heropinion, you'll help quell her fears of appearing stupid ornot having her expertise recognized. Don't retreat fromcommunicating your recommendations or counsel simply toplacate this person, but don't be so attached to being rightthat you end up in a power struggle with a powerjunkie - no one really wins.

THE TYPE - The Withholder

Also insecure about power, thewithholder doesn't share information that will help you doyour job, even though it may ultimately benefit him. Inexplaining what he needs from you, he may leave out thefact that core decisions about the project haven't beenmade, or that there is a bigger budget than he hascommunicated to you. The reasoning behind this actionmay be to hang on to perceived power, to make himselflook better, or to test your abilities and trust in him.Whatever the case, the withholder is setting you up for avery hard-won success, if not outright failure.

A TOOL - Clarify, clarify, clarify

The best approach to take with the withholder to is askclarifying questions every time something is unclear oryou've received a mixed message. Follow up eachquestion with a statement clarifying why you ask, and howit's a benefit to the withholder -- i.e., making his job easier, providing a product that meets his expectations,representing him in the best way possible, etc. Finally, payattention to the "red flags" you're perceiving, clarifyingwhat you're able to do and what's not possible, given theinformation or resources you've received. List allthe information you need to ensure a successful outcome, or beclear about what outcome is possible with the informationand resources you have. If neither of these seems possible,seriously consider refusing the project.

THE TYPE - The eager puppy

So enthusiastic about his work and the project, the eagerpuppy answers way too prematurely. While his vivacity is refreshing, it can be contagious. Before you know it, meeting participants have agreed on a solution without examining or knowing the full story or assessing the reality. Solutions have sprung fromideas and opinions, not informed research. Needless to say,the result is a solution that doesn't fit the problem (because the solution predated an assessment of what the problem actually was), leading to an unhappy client and more work in the long run.

A TOOL - Slow it down

Agree on the purpose of the meeting at the start, and spellout what points or answers the discussion needs to cover inorder to reach that goal. Whenever the conversation veersoff from the key point of the meeting, lasso everyone backin. You could say, "That's a topic we may have to coverduring the course of the project. For now, let's work on[the purpose of the meeting] to ensure that we address the keyreason we're here today." Another effective way to slowdown the eager puppy is to ask probing questions. Whenpeople are taking ideas as fact (not asking questions thatcan help qualify or expand the idea), it is a sign that theyare ratifying the idea as the next action item. Step in and ask a question to halt this common meeting phenomenon. Forexample, "Before we even start talking about an onlinenewsletter as the answer here, do we know that theaudience has online access? What do we know right nowthat will help us identify realistic next steps?"

In closing

The starting point for honing your facility for skillfulinterpersonal relations is knowing your own personalityand how you react to others. Then expand your toolbox formanaging your own communications and reactions so that youdon't get upset when you encounter apersonality that doesn't gel with your own.

This information provides food for thought rather than counsel specifically designed to meet the needs of your organization or situation. Please use it mindfully. The most effective communication plan should be tailored to your unique needs, so don't hesitate to get individualized assistance from a communication expert.

Jamie Walters is the founder and Chief Vision & Strategy Officer at Ivy Sea, Inc. in San Francisco, CA. Coauthor Sarah Fenson is Ivy Sea's Guide to Client Services.

Last updated: Mar 7, 2000




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