Using the Four Tendencies for Happier Holidays

In her book, “The Four Tendencies,” Gretchen Rubin posits that there are four types of people in this world:  Upholder, Questioner, Rebel and Obliger.  You are likely to meet most of them at your family events over the holidays.

The Upholder loves rules and order.  She meets external expectations placed on her.  She meets her own internal expectations.

The Questioner will comply with rules if the Questioner believes that the rules are valid.  The Questioner resists having external expectations placed on her.  She meets her own inner expectations.

The Rebel instinctively rebels against any rules, no matter who is trying to set them.  He resists external expectations as well as his own internal expectations of himself.

The Obliger looks to meet the needs of others.  The Obliger meets external expectations, but resists meeting his own internal expectations.

I have assigned genders randomly.  Men and women fall into all four types.

Upholders want to know what should be done.

Questioners want to know why it should be done.

Obligers want to know what they could do to help.

Rebels want the freedom to do it however they want.

Now, think of these four people in conflict. 

The Upholder will want to know what the rules are and follow the rules.  If someone is breaking the rules, that will be a problem with the Upholder.

The Questioner will question whether the rules are valid and will only want to follow rules that make sense to the Questioner.

The Obliger will look to take care of everyone else’s needs and have a hard time expressing or even recognizing the Obliger’s own needs.

The Rebel will instinctively say no even when it is in the Rebel’s best interest to say yes.  The Rebel may come around later and change to yes, but it will be on the Rebel’s timeline and terms.

This holiday season, think about your least favorite relative.  Where does she fall in terms of the four tendencies?  Does it help to think of that person as just doing what she does best – upholding the rules or questioning everything or rebelling against everything – rather than as being a giant pain?  Do you see that her behavior makes sense from her perspective, even if it continues to be absolutely maddening from your perspective?

What about your favorite person?  Which tendency best describes him?  What are you drawn to in a person and why?

Now, which one best describes you?  If you’re not sure or you just want to make sure or you just love taking these types of tests and learning a bit more about yourself, take the Four Tendencies Quiz at happiercast.com/quiz.  What are you bringing to the table?  Where does your tendency, your beliefs and value system, get in the way of having a better interaction with your least favorite relative?  What could you take from the Four Tendencies to transform your holidays?

Why Bother With Yellow Flowers When You Really Want a Turtle?

“Would you take me to go look at the yellow flowers?”

It seems like a simple request, but it was, in fact, perfectly tailored to meet both my nephew’s needs and his in the moment.

I was visiting my family.  My mother had suggested that I go look at the yellow flowers in her garden and I brought my two-year-old nephew along with me to see them.

He spent less than 30 seconds looking at the yellow flowers.  What caught his eye was the ceramic turtle nearby.  While I checked out the flowers, he happily played with the turtle.  Then, while I waited, he continued to play with the turtle.  Finally, after a bit, I brought him back inside where the rest of the adults were.

We adults resumed our conversation, which was not very exciting for a two-year-old boy.

“Aunt Meredith,” he asked, “would you take me to go look at the yellow flowers?”

Time stopped for a second, at least on my end, as I processed this request.

“I don’t think you want to go see the yellow flowers,” I said.  “I think you want to see the turtle.”

“Yes!” He beamed.  “Would you take me to see the turtle?”

My nephew is two and he can create a win-win situation and sell it to me as being all about me.

I’m not asking you to go that far.  I think it’s better to be transparent and tell the person how the proposed solution could benefit everyone involved.

Still, he is only 2.  And we were able to have a conversation where we each saw and spoke about the benefit that the other person could get out of the same event.

When we are in conflict, we can lose sight of anything other than what we want.  We can’t see what the other person wants and we don’t care what the other person wants.  We get tunnel vision.

When you find yourself getting tunnel vision, when all you want to do is focus on is the turtle, take a step back and look for a way to meet both your needs and the needs of the other person.  Look for the turtle AND the yellow flowers.

Have you tried Dynamic Facilitation?

You've probably been in at least one meeting with a facilitator who used one white board to capture ideas.

I use 3!

Dynamic Facilitation provides the framework to have a difficult conversation successfully. 

In Dynamic Facilitation, the facilitator uses three charts at once:  Perspectives, Solutions, and Concerns.  Each person who speaks provides his/her Perspective on or data about the problem.  The person is also asked to provide a potential Solution to the problem.  If a person has a Concern about a potential Solution, that is included as well.  Then the person is asked, given that Concern, what the potential Solution could be.

Dynamic Facilitation is solution-focused, but not in a way that is stifling.  Dynamic Facilitation moves people from focusing on the problem, which can cause feelings of helplessness, frustration, powerlessness, to focusing on the solution, which motivates action-oriented, powerful change. 

1.       Dynamic Facilitation is useful in coaching, as it moves a person from stuck into action.

2.       Dynamic Facilitation is useful for having a difficult conversation between two or more people.  It gets the issues out onto the table to be dealt with and it provides the participants with concrete solutions for those issues.

3.       Dynamic Facilitation is useful for a team working on a tough problem.  It provides the necessary framework to gather data, generate potential solutions, and highlight concerns that may come up.

If you are struggling with a tough decision, if your team is stuck and unable to move forward, contact me.  Let's see if Dynamic Facilitation can help you to move from stuck to solution.

Are you trying to defy the laws of gravity in your conflict?

In their book, "Designing Your Life," authors Burnett and Evans talk about "gravity problems," things like gravity that you cannot change no matter how hard you try.  If you trip and fall, you fall down, not up.  That is just the way it is.  You can waste a lot of time and energy railing against gravity or you can simply accept it for what it is and figure out how to work within its parameters.

I often see people in conflict railing against what I would see as "gravity problems" in others.  They want the other person to change.  It may be in the other person's best interest to change.  However, the other person has no ability and/or no interest in changing.  That is a gravity problem, my friend.

When you see it as a gravity problem, then you can start to make better choices about how to deal with it. 

Sarah is always running late.  She has always run late.  She will always run late.  She pays lip service to wanting to be on time, usually under pressure from John who prides himself on being punctual. 

John grew up in a military family, where being 15 minutes early was on time and being on time was late.  Being late is horrible!  Sarah's tardiness drives John crazy.

When Sarah and John divorce, John wants to meet at a half-way point to exchange the children.  It should work beautifully, John thinks.  However, every time they meet, John is stuck waiting in the car for at least fifteen minutes for Sarah.  It is bad enough when he is stuck in the car by himself, but it is worse when he has two impatient children in the car with him. 

John wants Sarah to just be on time.

John has a gravity problem.  He can want Sarah to be on time all he wants, but that is not going to get Sarah to be on time.  Sarah is who she is.  If he couldn't get her to be timely when they were together, he certainly won't be able to get her to do it when they are apart.

If John doesn't like waiting for Sarah in the car, then he can ask to change the way that transportation is handled so that they each pick up the children from each other at the parent's home.  That way, the children are always waiting at a home, never in a car, for the other parent.

He can ask to change transportation so that they each drop off to each other.  That still might result in occasionally waiting in the car with the kids for Sarah to get home, like if she had plans right before.  However, most of the time, she will likely be home.

If John really does not want to stop meeting at a half-way point, he can intentionally arrive at the half-way point fifteen minutes later than the designated time.  That will make him more likely to arrive about the same time that Sarah does.

Look at a conflict that you have with someone.  Do you have a gravity problem?  Are you trying to defy the laws of gravity?  What is the best that you can do with the situation, recognizing that you do not have control over gravity?

Post-Election Conflict

We have been through the most divisive election I have seen in my lifetime.  I am still trying to make sense of all of it -- the lead up, election night, and the country as it stands now, still sharply divided.

I have seen posts from people across the nation whose families are sharply divided as a result of this election.  There are marriages on the rocks as a result of this election.  There are families whose members celebrated Thanksgiving apart as a result of this election and will likely celebrate Christmas separately as well. 

People are moving as a result of this election.  Hate crimes are up.  Anonymous threatening letters are left at residences, at mosques.  Children chant, "Build that wall," at other children in school. 

People are protesting as a result of this election.  They have taken to the streets, and what was supposed to be a peaceful protest has turned violent in many instances.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "Riots are the voices of the unheard."  This election has brought forth a lot of voices of the unheard on both sides.  The Alt-Right and KKK are celebrating, seeing Trump's victory as a victory for them, for their unheard voices.  Clinton supporters are protesting, seeing Trump's victory as a quashing of their voices.

Many of us feel unsafe in our own country, more unsafe than we did before the election.

At work, things are no better.  Hate speech has increased.  While some workplaces have been quick to crack down on hate speech, I would imagine that others are more inclined to let it slide.

Trust has been eroded on both sides.  Clinton supporters are shaken by Trump's rhetoric and his Cabinet postings.  Clinton supporters are horrified that all of Trump's negative qualities were so easily ignored by his supporters.  Trump supporters are shaken by Clinton supporters' protests.  Trump supporters want to move on as we have in the past after other elections, want Clinton supporters to just recognize that Trump won and let it go.

There is a quote from "The Way We Were," that keeps running through my head:

Hubbell Gardner: People are more important than their principles.

Katie Morosky Gardner: But Hubbell, people ARE their principles.

There have been calls for people to reach out to those with whom they disagree.  This would be the Hubbell view of the world -- people are more important than their principles.  See the good in them, despite the parts with which you disagree.  After all, we are all people.

There have also been calls for opposition against those with whom they disagree.  This would be the Katie view of the world -- people ARE their principles.  See people for all that they are and judge accordingly.  Don't give them the benefit of the doubt just for being people.

I am wondering if there is a way to hold both Hubbell's view of the world and Katie's view of the world at the same time.  People ARE their principles.  At the same time, PEOPLE are more important than their principles.

We have learned a lot about each other this election season.  We may not like what we have learned, but we do have the opportunity to grow from it if we learn from it.

We need to have discussions with people with whom we disagree.  At the same time, we have to expect that during those discussions, we will disagree.  We need to find a way to be open to hearing what is being said by the other person, while also ensuring that we are heard as well.

Martin Luther King, Sr., said, "Don't hate.  It's too big a burden to bear."  It's true.  Hate eats away at you over time.  It can be easy in the immediate, but it's hard to maintain.  We cannot move forward together if we hate each other at the same time.

Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."  We are in a time of challenge and controversy.  We have been tested by this election.  We will be tested by this election.  We all have a choice to make -- where do we stand?  Can we hold both Hubbell and Katie in our hearts at the same time?  People ARE their principles.  At the same time, PEOPLE are more important than their principles.

 

What to do with an annoying person at work

Let's be honest.  Even if we like our jobs and we like the majority of our co-workers, we all have at least one person we have to be in contact with at work that we would rather do without. 

If we are lucky, that person is external, rather than internal -- clients, customers, other business people from other organizations, etc.  We don't have to see them on a regular basis and we can grit our teeth and get through it when we need to.

When the person is internal, though, we are in a different position.  We may try to grit our teeth and get through it, but the constant gritting of teeth can lead to jaw pain or even a cracked molar.  Moreover, our body is constantly triggered into fight, flight or freeze.  Over time, we become a little extra sensitive or hyper-vigilant to the other person's behaviors which annoy us. 

We may find ourselves actually looking for that little bit that annoys us most just to prove to ourselves that yes, that person still is incredibly annoying and justify our dislike of that person.

We may find ourselves avoiding that person and praying that person avoids us as well (then perhaps noting that they did and feeling left out).

We may find ourselves making snarky comments about the person to other people and/or to the person directly.  Even if we are able to keep from making a snarky comment with our out loud voice, we may still be thinking plenty of snarky comments and our facial expressions may give us away.

So, what can we do about this annoying person?

I know that you want to have a magic wand that will make the other person less annoying.  You don't have that level of control over the other person.  You do have that level of control over you, though.

Take some time to answer the following questions for yourself:  What is it that you find annoying about the other person?  What behaviors of theirs are particularly challenging for you?  Why are they triggering for you?  Should you even be around this other person?  What can you do to be less triggered in this situation (if anything)? 

When you process what is annoying you and why you are triggered, you are able to move from responding only emotionally to analyzing the problem intellectually.  You may find some parts of yourself that you didn't realize existed and might not even like very much.  You may find that if you make a list of the positive attributes of the person and remind yourself of those attributes when you are triggered, you are better able to see the good in the other person and be less triggered.

1. Do you have the ability to fire the person?  If so, that is an option.  You could instead a. try to work it out with that person, b. find a way to move past it yourself, c. build in small, measurable goals for that person that have to do with changing the behaviors that are most annoying to you (and see if that person can meet those goals).  If not, then....

2. Does the other person have the ability to fire you?  If so, you can a. try to work it out with that person, b. try complaining to a person above that person (if any), c. find a way to move past it yourself, or d. look for another job (before that person fires you).  If not, then....

3. Are you on equal footing with the other person?  If so, then you can a. try to work it out with that person, b. try complaining to a person above that person, c. find a way to move past it yourself, or d. look for another job (before you crack a molar from gritting your teeth).

Please note, however, that sometimes we are triggered by people who may actually be dangerous to us, whether emotionally, physically or sexually.  While most conflicts result from good people with different ideas as to how the world works, there are also conflicts that result from one or more people behaving in a toxic manner.  If you are in that situation, your choices are limited.  It is unlikely that you will be able to work through the conflict with this person.  You may find a way to move past it yourself.  You may find that you don't feel emotionally and/or sexually and/or physically safe in the workplace as a whole or around this person in particular.  If you are in that position and your complaints to upper management have been for naught (or there is no upper management to whom to complain), then your options are 1. stay and be miserable or 2. leave.  There is no third option. 

 

 

 

When Your Game Face Makes You Out of Touch With Your Emotions

Our game face, or our poker face, is the face we put on for the outside world that masks what is happening for us internally.  We develop it over time, some better than others, some better at certain situations than others.  When we have our game face on, we can go out into the world feeling like a complete train wreck inside and still look pretty good on the outside.  We may look so good that those that don't know us well don't know that there is anything wrong at all.

I spent a day at the beach last month with my 20-month-old nephew.  He does NOT have a game face.  His emotions are written all over his face and they can swing wildly, depending on what is happening.

A new person?  Huge grin.  "Hiiii," he says, walking right over to meet the person.

However, if you tell him he can't eat goldfish crackers until he has just half a grape more, you get the pouty face, and he won't look at you.

I made the mistake of telling him he couldn't get the goldfish crackers himself (because his hands were covered in sand), but I was willing to feed them to him one by one (because mine were not).  This earned me an angry yell from him, which might be interpreted as something along the lines of, "You are the worst aunt in the world!"

Buddy, you have no idea.  I wish that the worst thing that ever happened to me was that somebody wanted to feed me goldfish crackers because my hands were too dirty to get them myself.

As we get older, worse things do happen to us.  Life gives us life lessons and at some point, we start to develop a game face.  We put it on at school, at work, with acquaintances, with family we don't trust, and so on.  We can get so adept with it on that we can forget what it is like to have it off.

"How are you?" someone asks.

"Good," you respond because that's the polite response, that's what's expected.  It doesn't mean that you actually are good.  It's just surface-level pleasantries.  If you know the person well enough, you may joke, "Do you really want to know?"  And if you truly trust someone, you put down the mask.  You know that when they ask, "How are you?" they really want to know the truth.

The problem with the game face is that it blunts our emotions, so we experience them less and others may not experience them at all.  It is very easy to read my nephew.  You know exactly when you have upset him and why he is upset.  He knows all of this, too.  You can react in that instant to address the problem.  You move through the conflict in five minutes or less (usually), all is forgiven and mostly forgotten, and you move on.

When you have your game face on, it is harder to emotionally hurt you in the moment.  However, by being less reactive to what is happening, you may also be dulling your senses and allowing some pretty hurtful things to take place without your knowledge.  You may internalize them and feed on them later.  You may just internalize them and have them become part of what you say to yourself, without ever processing whether you should be saying these things to yourself. You may never address the issue with the other person and the other person may never even know that there was an issue. 

Think about where and with whom you wear your game face.  Why have you chosen to maintain that facade with that person?  What keeps you from revealing your true self to that person? Are there unresolved conflicts between you?  Or does it go deeper to a lesson you learned from another person before?

Would it help to talk it through with the person who taught you to wear the mask?  (Not necessarily.) 

Would it help to process what is going on for you and whether you want to make any conscious changes?  (Probably.)