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How different personality types and perceptions allow you to see the world differently.

We’re all familiar with the adage that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. But is it really? Like most things in life, it all comes down to perception.

Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side?

Let’s first explore the concept from a scientific point of view, then we can explore how this impacts everyday perception. When you are standing in your own yard, you view the grass at a 90-degree angle. In other words, you are looking straight down at the grass. When you are viewing your neighbor’s yard, the view is closer to a 45-degree angle. In your own yard, you can see both the soil and grass due to your proximity to each, but when you view your neighbor’s grass, you don’t see the imperfection of the soil. You see a blanket of grass that looks like it’s straight out of the Emerald City in “The Wizard of Oz.” In other words, it’s not your imagination. The grass on the other side of the fence does appear greener, but only because you perceive it as greener–not because it is.

There is a similar effect when we compare our personality against another’s. It’s tempting to believe that people who have different personality characteristics and perceive the world differently have it better. Sensitivity is a hallmark of my personality, and while it is useful when reading the non-verbal cues of others, it also means that I am more prone to getting my feelings hurt than the average person. What would it be like if I didn’t have a constant dialogue running in my head about what I just said and how it was received? Or if I took someone’s words at face value rather than wondering what they really meant? I’ve often thought I would be better off without this hypersensitivity. 

We typically fail to appreciate that our personality consists of many facets–some complementary and some contradictory–and that if we were to peel off a quality we didn’t like, we’d also have to lose the benefits of those characteristics. It’s somewhat of a package deal, folks. Do you wish it felt more natural to be talkative in a social setting? Fair enough, but that means you lose your ability to reason independently from the group. Though you may wish you were more outgoing in social situations, your tendency to not talk to excess in a group setting likely means you are a better listener. Do you long to be less emotional? Fair enough, but that emotional energy helps accelerate the creative passion you value so much. Wish you were more flexible and able to operate off the cuff? Hand over that wonderful ability to intuitively see, make, and follow a plan.

Diversity of Thought

Complicating the matter is the natural push by others to express the behaviors that society favors most. Society has consistently favored qualities such as decisiveness and logical thinking over their counterparts of reflectiveness and emotional expression. Though, in reality, the pairings exist on a spectrum rather than being mutually exclusive. Humans are unconsciously socialized to reflect society’s preferences in our personalities. Quick decision-making has its time and place, but many situations benefit from careful thought and the mitigation of impulsivity. When we see a colleague delaying a decision, it is because they are weighing the multitudes of variables they naturally see, not because they don’t have a ready answer. We may impulsively assume they don’t know the answer instead of recognizing they are going through the mental exercise of considering all sides of an issue to make the best-informed decision. There is value in being able to make a decision quickly. There is a risk in making a decision too quickly without recognizing the complexity of the decision. There is value in being reflective and considering all possible scenarios. There is risk in overthinking and getting stuck in analysis paralysis. Every behavioral strength has an equal and opposite associated liability. That is why diversity is key to success and why we are better when we work with people who see the world differently.

Likewise, those who tend to express emotions may be seen as less stable or impractical, especially in the workplace. But at work and in life, despite all our differences, we share the fundamental common denominator of being human. And humans need connection in the form of empathy and enthusiasm. Guess what? If you dramatically peel back your tendency to understand and express emotions, you’ll lose the opportunity to empathize and connect with others on a basic human level. You may also lose your ease of expressing passion for a certain course of action that may help propel your team to success or the push of encouragement you give to help everyone cross the finish line of that complicated assignment. Is the grass still greener? 

Different Personality Types Lead to Different Perspectives

People are nuanced and complex, and inherent differences in perception make each person the distinct individual they are. Your perception is like your fingerprint, with no two being alike. It can be easy to focus on the challenging parts of your perception and overlook the personality superpowers it gives you. Yes, superpowers. We are all uniquely gifted but spend a lot of time watching others reveal their perceptual gifts in awe rather than marveling at the package we hold.

The Birkman Method beautifully reinforces that we all have the same number of gifts: the same number of strengths, the same number of blind spots, and the same number of opportunities to grow. And you know what else grows? Grass. But only when it has the right soil. Be okay with what you think are the less “pretty” parts of who you are because although they may seem to hold you back at times, they can also drive you forward if you can adjust your perception to see them for the strengths they can be. And make time to water your own grass, too.

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