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Personal Style, Personality, Motivation — How Can We Learn About Others?

By Kathy Miller on August 21st, 2014

paper dollsHow many personality, personal style, and motivational tests have you taken in your workplace?  Chances are you have thus far taken at least one or two of these types of assessments during the span of your career.  Today it is difficult to find an organization that doesn’t throw around categories or acronyms to describe the “types” of people which comprise it.  Yet when we look behind the curtain of these assessments, very often we find lack of substance.  So do the scores and labels really enable us to understand each other better?  To the extent that assessments really don’t allow us to be better predictors of the behaviors of others (or even our own), perhaps there are better ways to come to understand our co-workers.  Perhaps we can learn more about them, and thereby help them learn more about us, in a more straightforward manner.  Consider the following ways of gaining insight into others:

  • Describe specific work-related challenges and opportunities and ask your co-workers how they like to approach them. Share your own preferred approaches as well, but without implying that yours is best!
  • When confronted with opinions that differ from yours, ask questions that get at the facts and assumptions underneath.
  • Differentiate your own opinions from the facts when you are talking with others.   Invite them to suggest weaknesses in your thinking or areas you may have overlooked.

There are many ways to gain insight regarding our co-workers as well as ways to share insights about ourselves.  If you truly want to understand other employees  and their work-related styles and behaviors, the best way is to ask them questions and listen carefully and openly when they respond to you.  Try out our tools for preparing for conversations with our coworkers.