Well here we are – at the close of the first day of a nation-wide lock-down due to the COVID-19 virus, with everyone settling into new routines at home in their ‘bubble’ with only those they are living with. The Prime Minister has called for us to be kind through this time – an interesting challenge, perhaps reflecting the lessons learned from the period after the earthquakes in CHCH and the Mosque shootings, also in CHCH. In the aftermath of those events the thing that made the difference was not the structures, systems and processes put in place (although important) – it was how people demonstrated their compassion, concern and care for each other. Being human. Kindness in action.
One might assume that this would go without saying, yet there’s something in our nature as humans that needs reminding of this it seems. Consider the rush on supermarkets despite assurances that there will be a continued supply of groceries, or the stories now of people who are still ‘pushing the boundaries‘ of what is acceptable during an enforced lockdown. Despite the clear messaging of what is expected, the circumstances we find ourselves in seem to bring out different responses in different people.
Of course, this is not news to us. Everyone is different. We know this through experience, and through the efforts of researchers who have studied human behaviour over the years.
I was reflecting on this after having been a part of a group a couple of weeks who were being introduced to the DISC personality profile. For many in the group it was the first time they had been exposed to the idea of a tool that helped identify aspects of their personality and assists with understanding why they approach tasks and relate to others in certain ways. Some will be familiar with a number of these tools that have been around for a while – the Myer-Briggs type indicator perhaps the most well known, but there are others such as Enneagram and the Revised Neo Personality Inventory for example.
The DISC inventory is an effective tool for discovering ‘what makes us tick’ and consists of four key personality types, Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness. Like all of these tools, the real strength comes in understanding how we are each a ‘blend’ of some of the characteristics, yet likely to be more dominant in one over the rest.
The session I was in was expertly facilitated by a person with an enormous depth of knowledge and experience with the tool, and so was able to quickly engage with the group and identify the subtle things occurring as people engaged with the tool and understand how it applied to them. There were a number of married couples in the group which made it particularly interesting as there was plenty of ‘critique’ offered when some of the findings were revealed. All great fun.
As I reflect on that activity I am reminded of two important lessons that working with these sorts of personality profiling tools teach us:
- No Judgement: There is not ‘good or bad’ here – just different. The fact is that we need the blend of ‘types’ in our social settings, be it family groupings, work settings, sports clubs etc. That is what helps us function well in all circumstances. The benefit to us of these profiles is to help understand how our differences can be better understood and accommodated as we work together.
- The Amplification effect: In times of adversity or stress these personality traits are often amplified. Our dominant personality characteristics will likely be more pronounced, more observable – and sometimes cause more offence because we have all retreated further into the area that is more ‘comfortable’ for us, and are therefore less likely to immediately understand and accommodate the ways others are responding to the circumstances.
For those involved in thinking about how we will accommodate the needs of our kids in the uncertain weeks or months ahead, this is important. Already I’ve observed a range of behaviours emerging from those who see the new opportunities that are presented and want to be able to crack on and set up the structures and processes to support that (Dominance), those see the opportunities and set out to build relationships and persuade others about what needs to be done, (Influence), those who want to spend time with others until consensus is reached and ensure that everyone is feeling safe and included (steadiness) to those who don’t want to act until they have all the details right and all the bases covered (conscientiousness).
The fact is, while we may find ourselves reacting negatively to the views of others and the suggestions they make or actions they’re taking, we need all of these things working together. It’s not that one is right and the other is wrong. As we respond to the stress our circumstances bring (or find ourselves reacting to the stress of others) our instinct will be to become more entrenched in the ways of working and thinking that are more naturally a part of our own personality, and be less accommodating or understanding of where others are coming from. It’s a challenge – but it’s a fact.
So in the coming week(s) as we’re coping with adjusting to the different ways of working, let’s be mindful of the fact that our strength compliments another’s weakness and vice versa. In times of adversity we need to understand that more than ever. It will be our ability to work together that will help us overcome the current crisis and find solutions to the problems that face us, some of which we’re not even aware of yet.
In the words of our Prime Minister, “Be Kind”.