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Pigeon HolesWhat Type of Person Are You?

I attended a workshop yesterday morning on the subject of networking. The idea behind the workshop was great – to learn how to communicate more effectively with other business owners in order to get more referrals. Although I picked up some useful ideas, I felt uncomfortable with the approach which seemed back-to-front to me. Now, those of you reading this who know me, will know that although I can be opinionated, I don’t generally get stressed by events. So I was puzzled to understand just why I felt so alienated by this useful-sounding and well-intentioned event.

Pigeon Holes

It really all comes down to the issues around classification. The workshop focused on dividing the group into four distinct groups, based on whether each attendee considered themselves primarily to be a “people” or a “task” oriented person, and whether they considered their own style to be generally more extroverted or introverted – the DISC system. There are many such human classification systems and you may be familiar with the Myers-Briggs system which is also widely used.

Of course, we have to use labels to get through life – it would simply take too long to unpack the meaning behind each of the shorthand symbols that our brains use to make sense of the world around us.

What’s My Problem?

So what’s my problem with this? Firstly, Philip Zimbardo’s work has clearly shown that the way people act in different situations can be entirely determined, not by their own background and natural style, but by the constraints of the system in which they find themselves – the overall context. Most of us recognise that in our own lives, we play a variety of different roles and styles in different situations and at different times.

Secondly, although I have no doubt that dividing people into various classification types can yield some useful insights (for example, yesterday I learned just how different can be the reasons for even attending a networking event!) – ultimately, all such arbitrary divisions tell us far less about the subject than those innate things that we all have in common.

The Needs Model

For example – I find it far more useful to consider the different ways that people approach getting their innate needs for attention and privacy met, and discussing tips and techniques for developing rapport with other people regardless of any labels, rather than putting different people into different boxes and saying “This person has this style” and “That person exhibits that style”. Because, the simple truth is that even though all humans share the same set of innate needs (they are listed in this blog post), each one of us is really quite unique.

And maybe this is at the heart of why I don’t find fitting people into boxes to be quite as useful as looking at and utilising their innate abilities and unique strengths. And being told that I am either a dominator, influencer, submissive or complier tends to raise my emotional temperature. Especially when I notice that I don’t “fit properly” into any single category.

And thanks to recent research (as well as ancient wisdom) we should all know by now that raised emotions have the (deliberate) effect of stopping us from being able to think clearly!