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How to Get Along with Your Coworkers

IMG_0083We spend most of our waking hours at work, dealing with a wide variety of people. From co-workers to clients and bosses to customers, we’re bound to run into a diverse array of personality types. Some of the people we work with think similarly to us, but others have such different ways of communicating and getting their job done that we feel like they come from another planet!

Maybe you work with someone like Andre. Whenever you walk through the door, he greets you with a big smile. When you need an extra pencil or stapler, and sometimes when you don’t, there he is with a new one in his hand. He likes to take everyone out to lunch and catch up on how they’re doing. He knows all his officemates’ birthdays, and brings the same personal touch to his customer service.

While Andre is generally liked by his colleagues, for some of them he can be a little much. Gloria, a reserved thinker, is overwhelmed by his gregarious approach. Colleagues call her “the walking encyclopedia,” and rely on her to find resources and explain new systems. She uses long stretches of time in her office to research and strategize.

Andre wonders why Gloria doesn’t like him. Gloria wonders why Andre intrudes on her space.

Andre’s dominant Enneagram type is Two, the Helper, while Gloria’s is Five, the Investigator. On the surface, the two of them have little in common. With the help of the Enneagram, they can bridge their personality differences and come to a new understanding of each other.

Here are some ways that Andre and Gloria (or you and the people in your workplace) can use the Enneagram to understand each other and work together more effectively.

Find common ground.

While Andre and Gloria have different ways of interacting, their personality types share certain values and motives. Twos and Fives both want to make a significant contribution and fulfill a certain indispensable role on their team. Both of these types have a strong need to be valued for the talents and skills they bring to the office. Other commonalities between Enneagram types might include communication styles, conflict resolution styles, or dominant Instincts. With a new understanding of their commonality, Gloria and Andre can connect around their shared values. They can make active efforts to acknowledge and appreciate each other’s  divergent but equally valuable roles they fill in the team.

Understand and respect differences.

Not only do Andrea and Gloria have different ways of interacting; they also have different needs. Andre needs a lot of engagement with other people, while Gloria needs sufficient solitude to generate ideas. When they look at their relationship through the other person’s eyes, they’re able to develop ways to get their own needs met while connecting with each other. Andre realizes that the best way to help and connect with Gloria is to allow her alone time when she needs it, while Gloria understands that she’ll have a smoother relationship with Andre if she makes an effort to reach out and engage.

Two and Five are just two of the nine types you’ll encounter in the workplace. We wrote an e-book to share what we’ve learned about how all the Enneagram types act at work, and how to collaborate effectively with each of them. In Decoding Personality in the Workplace, you’ll read about nine different people who act a lot like people you know, and discover ways to leverage your own work performance. You can download your copy at no cost by filling out the form at this link.

You’ll get a couple e-mails before you can download the book – one to confirm your e-mail address, and then one that gives you the link to the download page. (See instructions below.)

Happy reading!

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Resolving Conflict with the Enneagram

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Think back to the last time you got into a conflict. Did you see the situation one way while the other person had a completely different way of looking at things? Maybe you wanted to work things out logically but the other person kept telling you to look on the bright side, or asking how you felt about the issue. Maybe it was the other way around.

No matter how much we work on ourselves, sometimes unavoidable challenges, breakdowns in communication, and misunderstandings lead to conflict with others. Conflict isn’t always bad; it empowers parties to increase their understanding of each other and move forward in a way that benefits everyone. In order to keep conflict positive and solution-focused, it’s helpful to learn how others react under stress.

Borrowing from ideas in psychology, Don Riso and Russ Hudson identified three Harmonic Groups, clusters of personality types that react in distinctive ways when facing conflict. Here’s a brief introduction to the Harmonic Groups, with ideas for resolving differences with people of every style.

The Positive Outlook Triad (Enneagram types 2, 7, and 9) wants to look on the rosy side of things. When in conflict, their first instinct is to avoid sweating the small stuff and look at the best possible outcome. At the high side of this style, positive outlook types frame challenges into a broader context and assist others in seeing when conflicts do – and don’t – need to be addressed. The challenge is that sometimes people who use this dominant style avoid actively addressing conflicts when necessary, causing them to grow bigger. Positive Outlook types benefit from having teammates frame conflicts in a positive way, including showing how immediately addressing the problem will help in the big picture.

The Competency Triad (Enneagram types 1, 3, and 5) wants to solve problems using their objectivity. When in conflict, their first instinct is to use logic and analysis to discuss and solve the presenting challenge. At its best, this style keeps the focus of the team on the problem and quickly identifies and implements a great solution to the conflict. The challenge is that sometimes people who use this dominant style get bogged down in details, causing overly long discussions and solutions that miss the big picture. Competency types benefit from having teammates bring in the broader picture and emotional weight any decision carries, by describing it in a solution-oriented manner.

The Emotional Realness Triad (Enneagram types 4, 6, and 8) wants to address the underlying emotional dynamics of problems. Their first instinct in a conflict situation is to express their feelings – both positive and negative – and to learn the feelings of others involved. When used well, all the parties quickly learn where the other stands and proceed to a resolution that takes into account everyone’s desires. The challenge is that sometimes people who use this dominant style can get caught in a never-ending loop of expressing emotions, without coming to a solution. Emotional Realness types benefit from having teammates disclose their honest feelings (in a manner appropriate to the situation), while also steering the conversation to finding a resolution.

Each Harmonic Group, at its highest level of expression, brings gifts to conflict resolution. The highest mode of conflict resolution involves using all three styles: drawing on the strengths of your own style while integrating the gifts of the other two. As we learn to use conflict resolution strategies that don’t come as naturally to us, we bring smoother sailing to life’s challenges. How will you bring all three styles into your office and home this week?