Thursday, May 14, 2009

Response to the responses

There have been some thoughtful comments on my previous blog post in which I confessed to being a so called Controller.


One of the questions Krista asked was whether or not I had observed any inconsistency between the Pursuit of Excellence (TPOE) and Nonviolent Communication (NVC). So far, I have observed only very minor contradictions between the two. They have been differences of style rather than substance. In fact, I believe that TPOE and NVC complement each other. They, in turn, tie in nicely with two other concepts I have been studying, namely, consensus decision making and conflict resolution.


I agree with MidnightCafe's observation that "Controller" is an unfortunate label and that something about "leadership" would sound more constructive. I like the way in which Krista used the language of Nonviolent Communication to reframe the labels in terms of needs.


I want to add to the information about myself that I provided yesterday. I am not a pure Controller, what the Pursuit of Excellence folk call a Controlling Controller. When I completed the communication Styles questionnaire, I recognized myself in each of the four quadrants to some extent.

This was confirmed yesterday, during a chat with one of my fellow Pacific Gardeners who also had done the Pursuit of Excellence. He said that he saw me as being close to the middle of the graph, where the four types intersected. However, our Pursuit of Excellence instructor encouraged us to identify our strongest quadrant, even if it represented only a mild preference.

The exercise in TPOE revealed that I had a secondary communication style that moderated my primary one. My secondary personality type is what they called the Supporter. That is the sympathetic person who loves to help others, who will go to the ends of the Earth to save a relationship, and who avoids conflict. The Supporter's downfall is that he or she finds it difficult to say, "No." Hence, his or her needs often go unmet. That was the person whom I used to like to think I was.

So, in TPOE language, I am a Supporting Controller.


My fellow Pacific Gardener with whom I discussed this told me that he was a Controlling Analyzer. The Analyzer is a person who loves to study facts and data. He or she does not like to look foolish. He or she also dislikes being rushed. At the extreme end of the spectrum this person can suffer from analysis paralysis.

He told me that, since he had become aware of the personality types, he had made a deliberate attempt to stretch himself. For example, it does not come easily to him to be spontaneous (like a Promoter). He also may overlook other people's suffering (which a Supporter automatically would notice). So, from time to time, he reminds himself to be sensitive to other people's circumstances, and he also reminds himself to have fun.


On Monday night I experienced an extraordinary example of someone stepping outside of his comfort zone. The weekly meeting of Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community's shareholders was challenging. There was one point, in particular, in which I had a meltdown. As had been the case the last time this had happened, I felt deeply ashamed of myself, and apologized to everyone.

About twenty minutes after I got home, the phone rang. It was one of my fellow Pacific Gardeners. He is not a Controlling Analyzer, like our other co-owner whom I mentioned above. Rather, this person is a pure Analyzer, an Analyzing Analyzer. He examines numbers in spreadsheets and the wording of legal documents in excrutiating detail. He expresses his emotions relatively rarely.

He said, "Hi, Judy. After what happened at the meeting, I just wanted to check how you were feeling now." To say that I was surprised doesn't even begin to tell you how I felt. This question, coming from our resident Analyzing Analyzer, was nothing short of astonishing. I also felt deeply touched that he had reached out to me. I knew that he too was a graduate of the Pursuit of Excellence. I was in awe of the positive effect that his efforts at personal growth had had on him.


Being aware of the weaknesses of my personality type helps me to identify areas in which it would be wise to ask for assistance. For example, I made a snap decision to buy into Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. Last August, I travelled to Nanaimo, a place to which I had never been before. I looked around the city, met the folks who were involved with Pacific Gardens, and did a tour of the construction site. Three days later I signed on the dotted line.

When I look back on that, I shake my head. It's true that I'm glad I moved here. I love my life in Nanaimo. Although we go through wobbly patches, I also love my involvement with Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community. But it was a huge decision with significant, long term implications. If I was faced with such an enormous decision in future, I would force myself to spend more time in Analyzing mode. I also would solicit the opinions of a couple of Analyzers who had no vested interest in the outcome.


Awareness of personality types helps me in my dealings with other people. A while ago, a man -- whom I now recognize as a Promoting Promoter -- let down a volunteer organization to which I belong. He said he would do something for us, and he didn't. As is typical of a Promoter, he is full of brilliant ideas. But his strength lies in starting things, not in finishing them. Now I will take into consideration the fact that he is weak when it comes to focus and closure. Instead of being disappointed in him, I will be realistic about the gifts that he can and cannot contribute to our group.

In saying that this man is a Promoting Promoter, I don't want to suggest that he has been sentenced to that pigeonhole for life. Maybe his self-awareness will increase, and maybe he will expand into the other quadrants in due course. But, at this point, he is not a close friend. Other than wishing him goodwill in a general way, I don't care what he does with his life. The only information that feels useful to me right now is an awareness of his personality type insofar as it affects the volunteer organization to which I belong.

Being aware of personality types also helps me to package information when I'm making proposals. I now understand that an Analyzer, for example, will want lots of information and will want time to process it before making a decision. I will allow the time and space for him/her to do that, rather than expecting him/her to get back to me right away.


There are other personality classification systems. Two that I have studied in the past are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram. In the MBTI, there are sixteen types, while in the Enneagram there are nine.

I don't think it matters which system I use. I think they all offer the benefit of awareness that some people view the world as I do and some people view it differently.

Owing to my previous studies, I already knew that when I went into the Pursuit of Excellence. The big Aha for me during TPOE was that the Supporter was only my secondary personality type, while the Controller / Leader / Decision Maker was my primary one.

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