ManagementSocial Interactions

How Temperaments Color Emotions

When you enter the room, what are the emotions you arouse in your coworkers? Are they excited to see you? Do they dread when you stop by? Be honest. The most direct path to success is seeing yourself as others do.

Teamwork and leadership are all about relationships. The better the relationships, the more productive the team is and the more impactful the leadership is. When we are speaking of relationships we do not mean there has to be friendship. In fact, there are times when friendships complicate, even impede the ability to lead. Effective work relationships are not about friendship. They are about mutual trust and mutual respect. Understanding temperaments build trust and foster respect.

Last week’s post introduced Dr. William Moulton Marston’s DISC model for understanding temperaments. As practitioners, we focus on how theories and models yield positive outcomes. Let us dive deeper into temperaments and we will tie in our earlier discussions on emotions.

Temperament describes the general nature of people and animals—docile, aggressive, cynical, trusting, inquisitive, etc. Marston’s four basic temperament types are represented by the letters D, I, S, and C. People with a directing temperament, D’s, like being in charge, speak more than listen, and often lack tact. They tend to seek power and authority for themselves and dislike being controlled or constrained. People with influencing temperaments, I’s, like to be the center of attention. They strive to be charming and sociable. If you have a friend who seems to always be ‘selling something’ there is a pretty good chance they are highly influential. Sustaining people are steady, calm, like to be helpful, and are generally good team players. They find working for a common goal rewarding and are generally strongly loyal. C’s, are conscientious, meticulous, and have a strong attention to details of subjects they enjoy. C’s can spend hours deeply focused with little need to socialize.

Given our affinity for things that are familiar, unless people become aware and work to understand temperaments of all types, they simply accept as settled fact that theirs is the ‘most correct,’ ‘most appropriate,’ and ‘most valuable.’ Subsequently, like temperaments tend to be compatible socially; birds of the same feather flock together. D’s like to hang with D’s and S’s relax with S’s because they have a lot of overlap.

Everyone has varying degrees of each temperament. The more polarized an individual’s temperament, the less of the other temperaments they tend to exhibit. Look at the representation on the left. The D and the I share a large area of commonality. On the right, is a representation of two individuals with more polarized temperaments. Consequently, their commonalities have less overlap. With less in common, there is a greater likelihood of tensions and conflicts between them.

A moderate D can have significant overlap with a moderate S whereas individuals with more polarized temperaments will have greater differences.

The natural attraction between similar personality types is an emotional response. If we compare the interoception model for emotional responses (discussed in Blog “How to Improve Leadership Skills through Emotions”) to the DISC model of temperament types, we can make some valuable inferences. D’s and I’s are predisposed to take action. This places them towards the top of the scales. S’s and C’s tend towards acceptance, the lower portion. So, what D’s may see as exciting, S’s may feel anxiety and be reluctant to move forward.

Someone who does not feel drawn to change and values relationships the most may come to view an aggressive manager driving for results as unpleasant. They may even begin to feel intimidated or even fearful.

Emotions help assess situations and events rapidly, instinctively. Once experienced, the emotion arises easier in the future. Aroused repeatedly, the emotion becomes a habituated response. Our emotions about situations also extend to our feelings about people. There is someone you can think of right now. Now that if you have looked up and seen them, you would experience a negative emotion. This makes it hard to reframe our relationships.

Now, think of one of your relationships that are defined by tensions, uncomfortable feelings, and awkward silences. Where does each of you fall on the temperament spectrum? How wide is the gap?

The following steps will help you bridge the gap:

  1. Respect the other’s frame of reference and their values.
  2. Move away from judging and try to understand their point of view based on their values.
  3. Share your own perspective without trying to convince or persuade.
  4. Explore the overlap between your perspectives.
  5. Allow the other’s strengths to offset your limitations.
  6. Implement collaborative solutions.
  7. Build on your successes to continue to strengthen and build the relationship.

With time, consistency, and collaboration your relationship will continue to grow stronger and thrive. You will have created a mutually supportive relationship with a shared space that accommodates differences and draws on the strength of diversity.

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