In the almost 10 years that I have been at Atomic Object, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of different projects with a number of different people. During that time, I’ve been relatively successful at interacting with people, gaining their trust and establishing relationships that have enabled me to work through tough situations on projects.
However, despite my relative success of connecting with people, I have also encountered situations wherein a combination of stress and my own personality quirks have resulted in good work being negated because I didn’t recognize those quirks bubbling to the surface in a high-stakes situation.
h2. Why Is it Important?
It is critical, as a consultant, to know what your personality quirks are in order to navigate the diversity of people, personalities, and delicate situations that you will inevitably encounter throughout your career. Without understanding what your personality quirks are and how to mitigate them, you cannot communicate as effectively with your customers and colleagues.
Moreover, you may find yourself in a situation in which your valuable work is negated or not recognized by your customer or colleague because you didn’t recognize particular actions you took that eroded trust and camaraderie—the foundation of being a successful consultant.
I remember one particular situation where I provided a lot of value on a project by navigating risk for the client, balanced technical constraints vs. UI/UX, and provided a set of clear options to the client. However, in one critical meeting, I didn’t take the time to listen or facilitate group communication. This led to an erosion of trust and I had to spend a lot time regaining it.
h2. Dialing Down Your Quirks
To help me avoid unnecessary conflict and improve my effectiveness at communicating with others, I’ve identified 4 key items to pay attention to:
- Identify your personality quirks (recognition)
- Know what triggers them
- Learn how to deal with them
- Recognize how those quirks affect certain kinds of people in different ways
h3. 1. Recognition
In order to effectively work around or control your personality quirks, you need to identify what those quirks are–self-awareness is critical. Many of us implicitly know what our quirks are, but we don’t necessarily do a good job of explicitly recognizing them or systematically keeping track of them.
I recommend making a list (spreadsheet or paper) of your self-identified personality quirks and ranking the overall severity (in your mind) of those quirks. Lastly, reach out to individuals that you trust, review the list with them, and see if there are any quirks they recognize that you weren’t aware of.
h3. 2. Triggers
Understanding your personality quirk triggers is just as important as recognizing what your quirks are. For example, when you are stressed (tight deadline, too much to do, etc.) you might stop taking the time to ask questions or listen to your peers effectively. Instead, you go into “lets get it done” mode and start issuing commands and ignore sound advice. This trait breaks down communication and erodes trust between you and your peers.
For each of the personality quirks that you write down, figure out what causes that quirk to bubble to the surface.
h3. 3. Countermeasures
Once you have identified what your quirks are and what triggers them, the next step is to determine what actions you can take to deal with those quirks. For example, one of your quirks might be a tendency to interrupt people before they finish their explantation of a problem. A countermeasure would be to count to 5 in your head before deciding whether a response is appropriate yet. Another approach would be to take notes as the person is talking. Respond once they have completed speaking and your have finished your notes, which shows that you are listening and taking their input seriously.
h3. 4. Personality Types
Lastly, understand how your personality quirks might affect certain people differently. Some individuals may find that your quirks are benign while others will find them be counter-productive, annoying, or disrespectful–even if you aren’t intending to be any of those things. Situational awareness is crucial and, if you don’t know your audience that well, take a neutral and safe path when communicating until you know more.