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10 Ways To Improve Your Adaptability
by Dr. Tony Alessandra

Knowledge is power. You should use wisely your powerful new knowledge of the behavioral styles. Use The Platinum Rule to understand yourself and others, to improve yourself, and to build bridges to those around you. What it's all about is being sensitive to others. A person who truly practices adaptability is more tactful, reasonable, understanding, and nonjudgmental. Here are some added tips to help you build rapport and become more adaptable to others.

1. Reach out and touch someone.
Think of a "difficult" person with whom you'd like to communicate better. Which of the four styles best describes that person? (He or she probably has a different personality style from yours.) But think for a moment: What motivates that person? For a Dominant Director, it's control; for an Interacting Socializer, recognition; for a Steady Relater, camaraderie; and for a Cautious Thinker, analysis. In each case, there's something in their background that propelled them in that direction. Don't condemn-understand! And then ask yourself: What can I do that will reinforce what this person needs most?

2. Don't overdo it.
Remember that not everyone knows-or cares-about the behavioral styles. And they probably don't want to think they're being categorized by you, either. So I suggest that you show some restraint. You're probably asking for trouble if you attempt to jazz up the office party by doing an instant, colorful analysis of the Big Boss's personality style.

3. Don't be too quick to judge.
Being able to recognize the styles is important, but adapting to them is even more vital. So be careful about judging someone's style too quickly -"Oh, he's a Cautious Thinker, and I don't get along with Cautious Thinkers, so I won't waste my time with him"- and making irrevocable decisions based on your perceived compatibility. Your knowledge of the styles should expand your relationships, not limit them. So don't use The Platinum Rule to stereotype or pigeonhole others.

4. Use self-knowledge as an insight, not an excuse.
Knowing your style is a wonderful way to improve yourself. For perhaps the first time, you'll see your strengths and weaknesses as others do. But don't use this as a crutch to justify unacceptable behavior, thinking thoughts like, "I'm a Dominant Director. So I'm naturally impatient and domineering." Or "It's okay if I don't follow up because I'm an Interacting Socializer."

5. Work on improving your adaptability.
Relationships, like money, must be managed. With attention and practice, you can learn to handle relationships in a way that allows everyone to win. For starters, whatever your style, here are some simple actions that'll help improve your compatibility.

6. Learn to motivate by style.
Whenever you face a task, at the office or in the home, with colleagues, friends, or family members-it's likely that a big chunk of your effort involves attempting to motivate others. You can use your knowledge of The Platinum Rule to explain the challenge in a way that each type can best relate to. Here's how you might inspire each:
Dominant Directors: Be straightforward: Here's what's wrong, here's how it came about, here's how it's likely to affect us. "So," you might say to them, "let's get working on ways to conquer this problem." Give the Director some measure of control that will inspire him or her to further achievement. "You're resourceful," you might say. "I don't have to tell you how to do your job. The point is: The decision's been made. Now it's up to us to show how we can perform."

Interacting Socializers: Explain that while meeting this challenge may be difficult, it'll also distinguish those who do. Remind them, if it's true, that you've come to count on them; cite their awards and accomplishments. Repeat the good things others may have said to you about their work. Explain how their status and visibility could be raised. "This is a rare opportunity, not a setback. Every set of eyes in the place is going to be watching us. It's our chance to shine. And we can do it!"

Steady Relaters: The Relater is particularly cool to change, any change. So support his or her reluctance. Tell the Relater warmly, calmly that this problem just comes with the territory. Stress that it's not going to affect the teamwork we've developed, and that, together, we can surmount this hurdle. Promise to sit down with them later to see what impact it's had on them. And if it's had a negative effect, pledge to work with them to remedy that.

Cautious Thinkers: He or she will want to know in more detail the reasons behind the problem or the challenge. So be organized, thorough, and precise in your explanation. Provide documentation, and explain as fully as you can any new procedures or plan. "Here are the facts," you might say. "So our best bet is to fully understand the problem and then logically figure out how to attack it."

7. Tailor your criticism by style.
Telling someone they need to improve is difficult but often necessary at work and at home. The key is to tell them in a way that doesn't put them on the defensive, that appeals most positively to their personality style.

Some possible approaches:
Dominant Directors: Stress the result wanted and, as far as possible, let them come up with ways to achieve it. Set a time for them to get back to you with a progress report. For example, you might say, "Our goal is to totally eliminate billing errors. If anybody can do it, we can. Let's make this a major push, and let's get started right now."

Interacting Socializers: Don't be vague. Specify exactly what the problem is and what behavior is required. Have the Socializer repeat the agreed-upon changes back to you so there's no chance of miscommunication. "We're being scrutinized by the big bosses on how well we deal with this problem; our reputation as a department is at stake. So I need you to get cracking on this plan. Top priority. I'll send you a memo underscoring what we've talked about here. Any questions?"

Steady Relaters: Focus on performance, not personality. They're sensitive, so go out of your way to explain that there's nothing wrong with them personally-and stress empathy. "You can understand, I'm sure, what it'd be like to be one of our customers and suffer this problem. We both want to keep these customers happy and our team morale high. So please help me in trying to eliminate these errors."

Cautious Thinkers: Be specific. Say precisely what's being done wrong, outline the steps for correcting it, and set a deadline for completion. Plan another meeting in a week or two to see how those steps are working and whether midcourse corrections are needed. "We're probably not going to lick this thing all at once," you might say. "But let's get a good remedial plan on line-and then we can take it from there."

8. Improve your family ties.
"You can pick your friends," the old saying goes, "but you can't pick your relatives." That's true, and it's likely there's somebody in your family who's difficult for you to deal with. Let's briefly examine what to expect from each of the four styles, family-wise, and then suggest how differing styles can become more compatible.

Dominant Directors: These types often run into difficulty in family situations because they consider themselves results specialists-but families are often more about controlling damage than achieving results. Directors are usually flops as emotional backstops, and their tendency to make every decision a negotiation can wear on other family members.

Directors are also likely to have lots of firm ideas about how other family members can perform better. If others get upset at such constructive criticism, the Director will probably withdraw rather than have to wrestle with the emotional fallout.

If you're a Director, you can better adapt to your family by: Not always taking charge. Let someone else make some of the choices. Learning to laugh at family foibles. It's just a home, after all, not a contest for cumulative points. Keeping silent sometimes. Let others see if they can figure out the answers, which, of course, you may already know. Verbalizing and enjoying positive emotions. Make an effort to give praise and maybe offer rewards-say, taking the family out for dinner or to a play or a ball game-if the kids get good grades or do well in sports. This will make you more human and more approachable.

Interacting Socializers: They like laughing, joking, and acting silly together and want to be accepted by the family for being dynamic and fun loving. But they prefer relaxing and not having to deal with conflicts. They want to feel that their family is close-knit and can solve most of its problems by verbalizing its feelings.

The Socializer household is sometimes chaotic. That's because Socializers so often operate spontaneously, without much thought as to final outcomes. One house-hunting Socializer, for example, fell in love more with each home he saw until, finally, he realized he'd made offers and given deposits simultaneously on five different pieces of property. It took some fancy legal footwork-and considerable family debate-to get out of that one!

If you're a Socializer, you can help guard against some of your own excesses by:
Watching your tendency to jump to conclusions. When there's a family crisis-say, a bad report card-find out all the facts before making a statement or a decision you'll regret. Firmly disciplining children if the facts point to misbehavior. Avoid succumbing to your natural fear that the kids may not like you if you punish them. Getting into the habit of writing down significant dates and events-and then keeping the list with you. Maybe you can keep a master schedule at work, home, and perhaps even in the car so you can stay on track! Organizing the family activities more efficiently (or getting someone else to do it, or help you with it).

Steady Relaters: Naturally group-oriented, Relaters enjoy sharing family feelings and reminiscences. And for them, almost everything is a family affair. They like to get everyone involved in making family decisions about things like vacations and major purchases. Many Relaters want home life to be a peaceful retreat where stresses seldom occur, so they often make sacrifices and act as peacemakers.

If you're a Relater, here's what you might do to improve family relations:
Speak up when you're upset about something. Because you do that so infrequently, you'll definitely get your family's attention. Don't be so wedded to the status quo that the family routine becomes numbing. Show some spontaneity! Recognize that disagreements and unsettling events will occur. Such is life! Experience it, don't recoil from it. Be more decisive. Take the initiative, when appropriate, rather than always assembling a family parliament to discuss whether everyone is pleased with everything.

Cautious Thinkers: Family life is often hard, too, for Thinkers, because there's so much about it that's illogical. Thinkers want family members to be cautious, disciplined, and interested in quality. When they're not, Thinkers can seem emotionally hard to reach, even by their loved ones. They're more comfortable thinking about their feelings than expressing them to others. And they may even gravitate toward hobbies and interests-say, computers or novels-that are essentially solitary activities.

If you're a Thinker, you can adapt better to your family by:
Accepting the fact that no one is right all the time-not even you. Taking care to voice your feedback or criticism in a caring way. Easing up by not taking so many events or conditions around the home so seriously. Talking more about your feelings, or what you think of your feelings. ("My sense is that the camping trip wasn't as much fun as usual. I know I was a bit disappointed. Did others feel that way, too?")

9. Remember that your children have personality styles, too.
The principles of The Platinum Rule are universal and apply in any country or culture--and to people of any age or size. Using The Platinum Rule can help parents see how children often aren't trying to be devilish or difficult. Instead, they're acting, just as adults do, in ways intended to meet their personality needs. You can adapt to your child's behavior by using the same methods we've outlined for dealing with adults.

Dominant Director Kids: If yours is a Director child, he or she will probably be a handful: "headstrong," "difficult," or "demanding" are terms you've probably uttered or heard. That's because young Directors show early signs that they're self-contained and interested less in socializing than in results-running the fastest, singing the loudest, drawing the best, or otherwise proving themselves superior.

Another sure sign of a young Director is the quickness with which they shed shyness and seek out what they need. They'll quickly learn to go to a security guard, teacher, clerk, or other adult if they want help in locating something, whether it be a "missing" parent, an elusive fact, or a hard-to-find toy in the store.

But rather than just labeling a Director child, the parent needs to affirm the child's natural need for control over his or her environment. Such understanding can produce surprising benefits. Allowing the young Director to have authority over pets, toys, or his or her own room, for example, may help channel this need in a positive way.

Interacting Socializer Kids: Young Socializers may get reprimanded at school for talking. But for them, talking about any experience, good or bad, is as natural as breathing and almost as hard to curtail. Of the four types, Socializer children respond the most positively to treats and rewards if they've performed well. And, speaking of performance, anything that smacks of potential stardom-plays, recitals, pageants, sports, even cracking jokes-attracts them irresistibly because it fulfills their need for special attention.

As a parent, you can best help your Socializer children by gently reminding them that no one can realistically please everybody all the time and that popularity, while fun and desirable, is not the sole measure of worth.

Steady Relater Kids: You're probably the proud parent of a Relater if you've ever said, "That kid has never given me a moment of trouble." They say "thank you" without being prodded, take a nap when they're supposed to, and may even do their homework without being threatened.

Of course, there are trade-offs. They're not overachievers by nature. So you may need to coax them to make friends, for instance, when you move to a new neighborhood. And you'll likely be forced to lean on them a bit to get them to try out for cheerleader or give a speech at school. To stretch, they're probably going to need a nudge from you and plenty of praise.

Cautious Thinker Kids: These children often seem more serious than their peers and more addicted to organization. Like the Relaters, they enjoy watching and observing. But Thinker kids usually keep their emotions to themselves. They often do well in school because they're naturally compliant and therefore not as likely to question openly the teacher or the rules. In fact, of all the types, these are the kids who wouldn't want to be embarrassed by not meeting commonly accepted standards, let alone failing to meet their own high expectations.

You can help your Thinker children by recognizing their sensitive nature and making a point not to crowd them. You also can spur their growth by ensuring an especially comforting environment-heavy on love and assurance, light on contention-so that they'll be encouraged to emerge further from their shell.

10. Improve your romantic rapport.
Compatibility is the whole point of dating. At work, we may adapt to other behavioral styles to get a certain job done. But in dating, developing rapport isn't just preferable, it's the goal. Using The Platinum Rule will help you understand your partner's behavior. You'll see that he or she is not just "being that way" with you, but instead is acting out of deep-seated needs. Having found that out, the rest is up to you.

Let's take a quick look at how the four styles approach dating and how you might best increase rapport with a partner of another style:
Dominant Directors: Not surprisingly, they're aggressive in courtship. (I've heard it said-only half-jokingly-that Directors favor "love at first sight" because it saves time!) They enjoy the role of pursuer and like to set the unwritten rules for the relationship. Not shy, they'll usually ask for whatever they want and in myriad ways may seek to take command of the relationship. Directors like a lot of control in deciding where to go and what to do. They speak frankly, and their requests can sometimes sound an awful lot like demands.

If you're involved with a Director, you can increase rapport by:
Trying your hand at negotiating, too, such as, "You picked this movie. Next time I get to choose. Agreed?" Repeating, when necessary, that you don't agree with a decision and want your opinion heard. Letting them know you appreciate it when they listen patiently, and are distressed when they don't.

Interacting Socializers: Of all the styles, Socializers report falling in and out of love (or, at least, infatuation) more often than their counterparts. Because they're comfortable with newness and change, it's rather natural for them to keep their options-and their eyes-wide open. They prefer a lighthearted date who'll tell them how much they're admired. And they may look for an especially attractive, socially accept-able match who'll provide the added bonus of favor-able attention.

If you're dating a Socializer, you could:
Lessen the whirlwind by warmly explaining that quiet moments are sometimes appropriate. ("What if we stayed home tonight for a change and just played Scrabble?") Proceed spontaneously on some things, but insist on a plan for other activities. Encourage their dreams-but don't take each brainstorm at face value. In fact, you'll probably want to mentally divide their "great ideas" at least by half before seriously thinking about implementing them.

Steady Relaters: Many Relaters seem to fear rejection in the dating market, so they may not be as quick as others to follow up on their romantic instincts or to bounce back as quickly if rebuffed, even mildly. Sometimes ultra considerate Relaters will act like a doormat, letting the date pick the time, the restaurant, the food, the entertainment, almost everything-until their partner tires of making all the choices. Relaters like to see sincere, steady pursuit by the other person, with the Relater seeking to gauge whether he or she is not "too far out ahead."

You can aid the Relater by:
Injecting some spontaneity into the romance-suggest going someplace on the spur of the moment. Showing them that the two of you can be at odds without it becoming a major conflict. Support them in verbalizing their thoughts and feelings. ("No ... now please don't just agree with me! Tell me what you'd really like to do-go to the party, take in a play, or just go for a long walk?")

Cautious Thinkers: Dating can be hard work for Thinkers because they do so much analyzing of what's happening and the possible consequences. Usually, the naturally cerebral Thinkers prefer a date with some substance or depth, and they want sufficient freedom in a relationship to allow for some "alone" time. In addition, they like their dates to be punctual, organized, rational, and true to their word.

If you're dating a Thinker, you'll want to:
Help them tap their sense of humor by sharing and discussing funny situations. Encourage them to let their guard down occasionally and do something off-the-wall. ("Sure, why not go to the Halloween party in drag? It'll be a kick!") Show them that you don't care about them being perfect; you just care about them.

Copyright Dr. Tony Alessandra. All Rights Reserved.

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