Often obstacles in relationships stem from personality clashes. You may be asking, “Why doesn’t he like me?” or, “What have I done to offend her?” or, “Why does he seem to get along with everyone but me?” It is important to understand that we all approach life and tasks differently, largely based on our personalities (see my introduction to personalities). Cholerics for instance, generally prefer understanding headlines and leaving the details for others to sort out, whereas Melancholics generally feel safer when they have had a chance to plan everything to the smallest detail. If these two people were assigned a task to work on it might be reasonable to assume that they would work well together, one focusing on the general direction and vision casting, and the other wrapping up all the details, but often this is not the case. The project might fall apart because the Choleric communicates in single word ideas, expecting the other person to intuitively understand what needs to be done; and the Melancholic, frustrated with the abrupt and autocratic style of the Choleric becomes critical and depressive. At the same time the Choleric is getting frustrated with the pessimistic view of the Melancholic and the long and intense conversations he’s constantly being requested to have in order to thrash out details. This type of misunderstanding and frustration takes place everywhere, all the time, because:
- People don’t understand personality styles (their own or others)
- People underestimate the role of personalities in relationships
- People aren’t willing to adjust – “I am who I am and people must just accept me the way I am”
- People see other personality styles as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ – “If they were just more like me”
So here are a few simple suggestions for improving work relations and effectiveness with each style.
Working with Cholerics
- Don’t walk in with a flip file and 57 points to discuss. This will turn them off immediately. Stick to the main issues and give summarized feedback focusing on the bottom line.
- Don’t mumble, stutter or avoid eye contact. Cholerics respect power. Once they lose respect for you it’ll take a small miracle to win it back. Say what you have to say confidently (and succinctly) then let them get on with stuff.
- Don’t be a rules lawyer. Cholerics make and break rules regularly. They are seldom impressed by someone who constantly points out where they’re breaking rules – rather highlight the consequences of their actions for them and then leave. Remember, the greatest people in the world had to beak rules to make progress.
- Don’t get offended at their lack of emotional warmth or lack of sentimentality. Cholerics seldom recognize the need for warm greetings and small talk, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate you or that they’re in a bad mood. You might have to initiate the, “Good morning!” Often the choleric appreciates this and says something like, “Oh, sorry. Didn’t I greet you?”
Working with Sanguines
- Silence kills. An absolutely quiet working environment will frustrate and stifle a Sanguine. Sanguines need regular opportunities to communicate and laugh.
- Watch your negativity levels. Sanguines wilt in a negative environment – they hate sitting somewhere where people whisper intense and gloomy messages to each other. To get a good rapport going with a Sanguine, smile a lot and laugh openly.
- Don’t be a bore. Sanguines want to have fun. Introduce fun and play into your dealings with Sanguines. To achieve this you might want to use music, team building events, Friday casual day etc
- Give them a stage to shine on! Sanguines love to be noticed and appreciated, so give them roles and tasks where this can happen. Let the Sanguine give an announcement at a meeting or sell an idea to a group of people.
Working with Melancholics
- Appreciate and respect their personal space. Unlike many Sanguines, Melancholics prefer to keep to themselves and get on with their work. They often feel threatened and anxious when people invade their personal space, physically or otherwise, and interfere with their work.
- Give them details. Melancholics are not effective or productive when they only have vague headlines and generalities to work with. They want to know who must do something; where; by when; with what; in which manner; etc. This must be communicated verbally or in written form.
- Stick to the agenda. Melancholics are not prone to wandering off the topic in an attempt at humor or some other such distraction. Stick to the facts and avoid generalizations and exaggerations.
- Remember your manners. Melancholics live by rules, traditions and doing the ‘proper’ thing. You won’t make many Melancholic friends by forgetting to say please or thank you, or by raising your voice or any other abusive coercion.
Working with Phlegmatics
- Be sincere. Phlegmatics mistrust loud, opinionated people. Quiet down, look them in the eyes and show them that you have their interests at heart.
- Be gentle. Phlegmatics will open up to people who are tender and kind, and even then it may take a long time to trust you enough to really share openly.
- Give them a sense of security. Phlegmatics thrive in a secure and constant environment. A change of role or even moving their desk can be deeply unsettling.
- Be concerned about their personal life. It is not unusual to find little framed photos of their kids, dogs or other beloved things surrounding their work space. Phlegmatics are sentimental by nature and appreciate it when someone asks about the health of their kids etc. Just remember that they know when the question is sincere and when it’s not.
You might be saying, “But what you’re asking me to do for these people goes directly against my own personality style,” and that’s the whole point. It is because it is so difficult to adjust to the personalities of those around us that we need to be constantly reminded of these simple things; after all, if we expect people to adjust to us then surely we need to return the favor.