I Love the Way you are Different. Now Change!

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Diversity in the workforce and relationships has both an up as well as a downside. In the plus column it lends itself to greater innovation,  energizes relationships, and generally makes for a more interesting place to work.

The dark side of diversity is that we often reject people who have cultural and personal differences. Those examples can be blatantly obvious.

However, when the differences are subtler and have to do with one’s personality or thinking style the sources of personal divisions are less obvious.

This article is about those differences that sometimes divide and create conflict rather than unite people.


This article is about conflict around our normal differences (driven by what we are at our core) and not our neurotic differences (driven by the anxiety generated by the stories we tell ourselves).

 A Case Illustration

They were both senior executives in the same company and had a long history of conflict. They butted heads on everything, kept their organizations in constant churn every step of the way, and both were a pain in the neck for their CEO.

I was called in to help resolve the conflict. My first job was to get to the root cause of their fights. So I gave them both a basic personality test that immediately isolated the problem. It was how they viewed data and each other.

Executive #1 liked working with numbers, enjoyed analyzing statistical information and based his decisions on facts and figures.

Executive #2 was the big picture strategist in the organization. He preferred dealing with opinions and feelings rather than facts and figures and he was likely to avoid delving into details. He also was highly intuitive and trusted his “gut” with important decisions.

Once they understood and accepted each other’s differences years of conflict eventually melted away.

Too Good To Be True?

You may be saying to yourself “Yeah right!” Resolving conflicted situations is not that easy. You are right. It is sometimes much more complex than the case I have just cited.


The principles and steps of conflict resolution are similar in even the thorniest cases.

  1. Seek to Understand.

When we appreciate why others

*Think the way they do (in the weeds or big picture)

* Behave in a certain manner (introvert or extrovert)

* Express their emotions (expressive or guarded)

* Deal with relationships (trusting or suspicious)

We can arrive at an understanding of our differences. As a result we can

  1. Become More Accepting

All of the above polar differences are not necessarily good or bad. They are just apples and oranges. And being accepting of another’s unique style is not to be seen as pressure from them or ourselves to be like them. It can be an occasion for deep appreciation and acceptance of the other which is a prelude to

  1. Embrace the Diversity

Diversity is not just about race, gender, or sexual orientation. It is also about working well with differences in personality and thinking style.

Introverts may prefer to associate with other introverts but most recognize the value of having an extrovert on one’s team. The big picture strategic CEO is glad for the skills of the COO type that can go down into the weeds and keep order in the midst of a ton of data.

So vive la difference.


How have you worked well with personality differences?





About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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