Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Quantifying Someone Else’s Personality

Some would argue that you can’t put a number to a personality but I am attempting to show here a way to “measure” someone else’s personality traits within the context of how you perceive them using your own values as a reference. It is also intended to allow for the fact that these traits are dynamic in nature and will change over time. 

All the studies I took on the subject, in the past, always seem to try to put them into a fixed box and I had a great deal of difficulty accepting that notion especially when I put it in reference to friends who seem to demonstrate a tendency to have shifts in the traits from one time or another and, being male, noticed that to be even more prevalent on how the opposite sex reacted to me with pretty much the same conditions in place on my side.

And when I look at the image at the top I find I fit into all boxes now quite a lot and maybe that is a sign that as you get older you can develop a more well-rounded personality and jump in and out of it as the situation dictates. Some days I find myself more one type than the other and the same is true about the time of day.

So I suggest the scale depicted here in the coloured bars denoting two personality traits with how comfortable or uncomfortable I happen to be with those in the other person. The first one shows that I am extremely comfortable with number 1 but quite uncomfortable with number 2. And since I don’t like the concept of a fixed position or box, they are relative to mine and have many degrees or levels of intensity much like a gradient scale has.

So Number 1 could be Cooperative/Uncooperative and Number 2 could be Respectful/Disrespectful in the measure below. I am extremely comfortable with the first (very cooperative) and not so with how they show respect for others (quite disrespectful). So you would have to decide how important each trait is and perhaps put them into a hierarchy as well either mentally or even hard-copy versions for business use.

Now some are saying why would you do this and what purpose does it serve. Well the Internet has seemed to spawn a number of problems in communicating with others, in that it is quite sterile in how it deals with human contact. You do not sense the same things in a conversation with others in a chat window like you would face-to-face. You certainly can’t get their body language (without video help), voice inflections and accents would be mostly muted or difficult to convey and their mood is very hard to discern as well. ALL CAPS could be seen as anger, shouting, even rude and can be seen as being very happy if mixed like in the phrase "you are wonderful TYVM".

So you might be involved in a group discussion from many countries (and business is now facing this since so many are worldwide now) and want to assess someone as a new member of that group and try to find a number of desirable traits all of you want to have in that candidate. This measuring scale, depicted above, can help set reference points for the parties to share and come to agreement on where they see the “candidate” fitting on each trait. So a sales manager in Quebec, Canada, might be able to get an understanding going with the Marketing Department in Atlanta, Georgia, USA on how an effective advertising program would work in that part of Canada using the personality scales to help drive home the point.

The reason a lot of US-based operations (and for that matter the rest of Canada) fail so badly in the province of Quebec is they fail to understand the significant differences in personality between the two and a lot of hard work goes all for naught. They try to force their own approach on one that does not accept it the same way and it ends up being much like the “Talk louder and slower” approach to speaking to a “foreigner” that some Americans use abroad. It just doesn’t work and ends up leaving a sour taste in the “foreigners” mouth and they grow to dislike each other instead of trying to work out their communication and personality differences. I had lots of personal hands-on exposure to this in action and it is a reality and I am sure is not just restricted to that locale. Add other languages into the mix, religion and lots more miles and it gets even more complex and the Internet largely ignores these important differences.

Understanding others is sort of a passion with me and I take great pride in getting better and better at it. I have been told that I should work as a diplomat because of how I approach others initially in a potentially contentious environment but the truth is, if you tick me off long enough, you get both barrels backed by an uzi, bazooka or tank depending on how inflexible the other person gets. A dynamic personality can jump from one end of the scale to another in a short period of time if the right conditions appear and can help explain why someone who was calm and very cooperative switches very quickly in a short period of time. Simply stated, someone just really "pissed them off" in a big way and so you get the brunt of your actions back at you. That is honesty/dishonesty in action and can even go hard left off the scale which some see as going overboard but it can also be perceived as "straight-shooting". 

Sometimes agreeing to disagree and walking away is the best way to deal with these situations and using that personality trait measuring system helps tell you how far apart each of you are from one another. You can either let the sleeping dogs lie or undo the leashes and let them go frolic in the fields and have a party. I like the second one a lot more, thank you.

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