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1 Jan 2015

When They Talk About Us It’s Them

This entry is part 5 of 10 in the series Real-time Personality Assessment

When they talk about us, it's really about them.

When they talk about us, they open windows into their personalities.

“How people describe you says more about them than it does you,” is something I often say when I show people how to assess personalities in real time. Adrianne Palmer asked me to expound on this. For example, if someone says we are disorganized, he is saying organization concerns him. Whether we are or not is a matter of who is judging. In this case he is.

People often throw their own emotions on us when they talk about us. Shakespeare’s line in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” is an example of it. People who talk a lot and complain about others they think talk a lot is an example too. By complaining about others, they feel better that they do not talk a lot. When someone says we are disorganized, he feels better that he is organized. This is called projectionism. It is similar to the childhood retort, “It takes one to know one.”

To make this work people need to talk about something. It works when they talk about us. The Rorschach Test and House-Tree-Person Test (HTP) are professional tools that do the same thing. People talk about what they see in inkblots. They draw a house, tree and person then talk about them. In this sense then, when they talk about us we are their inkblots and drawings. Doing so with everyday things also opens windows to their personalities.

No two people though describe inkblots, houses, trees and persons the same way. It is subjective. When they talk about us, it is subjective too. We are far more complex and deeper than inkblots and drawings too. Their descriptions then will tell us this about them:

  • They are like that or think they are, or
  • If a compliment, they desire to be like that or, if a criticism, have concerns of being like that.

Whole groups of people can throw the same emotions onto others. Scapegoats emerge this way. They become a lightning rod for those emotions. Thus, an extroverted group will think we are too introverted, an introverted one too extroverted.

In the end, the only person who can really know you is you. When they talk about us, they open windows into themselves.

Series Navigation<< Real-time Personality Assessment (Pt 4): ExtrapolationWho Are the Always Late Personality Types? >>

11 Responses

  1. It is important to understand ourselves!!! And it helps to get others’ perspectives. That doesn’t mean talking ABOUT others but talking WITH others – but only with those with whom it can be an open and honest discussion…

    1. Mike Lehr

      Yes, John, you’re right. The point of this post though is to learn about others from what they say about us and others. Since we all look at life through filters, we can understand others once we understand their filters. Still, I contend that when others describe us, they are telling more about themselves than about us. For example, an HR person asked how I would get to know some executives without meeting them. I asked her if they wrote the reviews for their people. She said that they did. I told her I could learn from those or any other documents that they wrote. The reviews would have been the best though.

  2. As the Lead over a retail staff; often workers step outside of their procedural authority and do tasks not meant for them. We have to address this issue far too often. Yesterday I discovered an infraction like this directly in front of a staff member who asked me, “Okay. So let me ask what is it about someone besides you doing that that makes it so bad?” I answered, “Because it isn’t THEIR job.” (I didn’t yell the word ‘their’ just emphasized it.) “I’ve worked here long enough to know the procedures and 99% of any exception to the rules that may come about. And if one comes up that I don’t know how to handle the bosses trust me to come to them and question, not just to guess and hope that I did the right thing.” And after all of that she looks at me and says, “Well, I guess to me I’d just be glad someone was trying to help out and lighten the load. I’m glad when someone tries to help me!” To which I said, “To really help is to do it the right way and the right way is to let the person assigned the job, do the job unless they ask for help. That’s being helpful.” And she starts walking off and is saying, “Okay, well. Guess I just can’t see the harm in trying to be helpful.” Any tips/advice on how to get through to workers like this?? I would greatly appreciate it! And yes..haha…I’m asking for your help! Thank you so much!

    1. I’ll be interested in Mike’s response as well… For me, there’s one piece of information missing: Was the effort being made endangering anyone’s safety, was it extremely costly to the organization in the way it was being done, was it interrupting other tasks far more impactful? I think the operational approach I’d seek if I were leading would be this: If you see any job you feel comfortable doing when your responsibilities have been met, go ahead and do it.

      There’s a dairy bar my wife and I go to whose staff always gets my attention. When not waiting on customers, delivering orders, or cleaning the booths when people leave, they are always doing something: wiping down the prep area, getting supplies, making things neater, … To me, that is what I would wish my staff to do!!!

      1. Yvonne Martin

        I agree with not standing around and you should always occupy your time. If she, or anyone, has done all duties required then by all means, there’s always something to clean, straighten, or sweep. And no, it isn’t any earth shattering responsibilities but they are procedural. The problem with retail product is it’s always handy when your Inventory count is correct. That way when a customer is calling by phone and you are at a computer where Inventory says you have three of those items left, you can confidently take the person’s order. It’s especially frustrating at Christmas time when a customer is counting on an item for a gift, they pay for it and within the next couple of hours get a phone call back saying that our Inventory was off and we’ll have to do a Refund. One time a gentleman was called and his reply was that he had placed the order with us after having been at a shopping mall most of the day, thrilled to hear us say we had one for him, he drove the hour drive back home, had went to the grocery to get a few things and had just sat down to relax and NOW we are telling him we don’t have what he needs?! I like to avoid getting our store into situations like that. So, yes, I really do love helpful, take the initiative people but please, not when it comes to something that will screw up Inventory. And the other area is the Display aspect. There is of course the artistic side to displaying merchandise but first and foremost it must be shoppable. There are ways to display items that encourage shoppers to pick them up and you increase chances of purchase if you can get them to do that. But if a helpful person, while cleaning, noticed that all items were set in a half circle and not a straight line, puts them in a straight line and decides to also put out more stock because there’s now more room to do so…I have to come back and redo it. I have more than enough work without having to go back behind and redo what I’ve already done. Just situations like that. : )

        1. Mike Lehr

          Thank you for the explanation, Yvonne. First, I would always commend an employee for thinking and going beyond what her job entails. Second, I avoid justifying procedures unless there are direct safety benefits as John describes. Procedures exist to facilitate communications which in turns minimizes work. Rather than ask where someone stocked an item, I just go to where it is stocked. Rather than needing to count how many I have on hand, I just subtract the number I took from the total that’s there. Many times there are no right’s and wrong’s to procedures. They are arbitrary for the most part. This avoids trying to rationalize procedures which tend to be fruitless as you found out.

          Third, I would acknowledge that procedures sometimes get in the way of customer service. It’s much quicker to just take something without recording it. Customer service though isn’t about the moment but also the future moments. Fourth, I try to explain responsibility. That means if I have responsibility for the area then I decide how things are to go. It doesn’t mean I’m right or wrong. It just means that’s how I’m comfortable running the place and I would appreciate your support. If anything goes wrong, it’s I that pays.

          Overall though, it’s training and teaching them what you like and expect. This will take 3-10 times perhaps. That includes rewarding and praising them when they do. I would share with them all the customer service problems and successes. I would encourage them to come to me with any problems or decisions. Eventually, they’ll learn more how you like to run things.

          Still, I suspect there are other problems here. If you want, perhaps a phone call would help.

          1. Yvonne Martin

            Thank you for replying, Mike! First, let me clarify that we do have a crackerjack staff for the most part. When Sales per your area of the store are up enough for the CEO of the company to come and praise all of you in person – that’s saying something! I’m not unhappy at all with our workers overall. And I do agree that as far as procedures they are subject to many influences. However…that’s exactly why I do believe when it comes to a couple of area’s that only certain people should be doing them, You can never avoid all customer relation problems no matter how careful anyone is things are going to happen. People are human. Customers get angry and that’s just life and that’s just Retail. I guess the short version of all that I’m trying to say is when certain given tasks like described before are limited to who does them, it lessens the chance of mistakes being made that can result in a customer being dissatisfied. That’s really all I’m trying to promote here is that the customer be happy with our store. If I can take the time to just give one more example? I had just been given Signage to promote a product that was still in a stockroom that I’d have to go and pull. Earlier we had also had another item just come in that I hadn’t been able to get around to yet and it was my scheduled time for lunch. I looked at my co-worker and said, “I’ll deal with all this after lunch.” and I left. When I came back just a few minutes later (thankfully) because I’d forgotten my purse this lady had put the items out on the table with the Signage. She was looking very pleased with herself and said, “See! Now you can just go and relax and have a nice lunch.” I said, “I see that, ” and tried to smile but not sure how successful I was. She was looking directly at the sign and pointing to the product and saying that I could just come back and arrange it really pretty. Finally I asked her to look at the sign and she exclaimed about what a great deal it was that it was $40 off the marked price and how she’d have no problem selling them at that price! “No you wouldn’t if that’s what the Sign belonged to.” And that’s when I told her the Signage was for other items and not the items she had placed it with. She hadn’t even looked to see if the Item numbers matched. She didn’t know to pre-scan the product to make sure it came up what the Signage said. All these little things that tho they are little are not insignificant. Had I not had to come back for my purse we would’ve had customers at the register’s expecting to get $40 off a $90 item. I told her that – heart in the right place- but I’d prefer to tackle projects like this on my own unless I give specific direction. I’m sorry for the length of this. I am going to re-read what you wrote tho because I did see some great points you brought to my mind.

          2. Mike Lehr

            Yvonne, I see better what you are saying. If the team is doing well, I would give a bit more slack. It’s a benefit of doing well.

            Let me ask you this: If someone gave you a gift you didn’t like or need, would you tell her? Someone tried to help, and they made a mistake. They gave you a gift you didn’t like or need. I would not tell them not to give me any more gifts unless I asked for them. You did right though. You followed up. You showed the mistake. She’ll be more careful next time. She was probably so excited about helping you that she couldn’t focus on the details.

            If these folks are willing to help you in this way, then there must be something they like about you. I would take a step back, figure it out and tap into it more. I believe you are doing something very right and don’t even know it. Even good workers will perform mediocrely for a bad manager. It is extremely difficult to get employees to help you proactively. I would gladly trade a bit more work on my part to get a spark of self-motivation from an employee. Employees don’t just help anybody for any two-bit reason. They want to help you! That’s significant.

            You cannot change the direction of a ball that’s not moving. You got the ball moving. Enjoy that. Keep it moving and work to change its direction. Do not try to stop the ball. You might never get it going again no matter how hard you push.

            Yes, Yvonne, you are doing something very right. Find it and embrace it.

  3. Yvonne Martin

    Thank you so much. I do appreciate that! I hadn’t considered a point you brought up but do agree with. Workers don’t want to perform beyond the call of duty for anyone they don’t like. But I have to ask, what about clear cut assigned tasks? Some things are going to overlap into the implied and I agree that that can get kinda fuzzy at times as to who can or should take the job on. However, the wonderful people I work with have the job description of Sales Associate and they all do extremely well at that. No problems at all with assigned and or implied tasks. That part is a well oiled machine. My job description is: I’m a Lead Sales Associate/Display merchandiser. That’s where the conflict is coming in. I’ve worked in this area for 6 years but I’ve been helping do Displays in this room of collectible villages for 3 years. There’s still so much for me to learn! All of my co-workers know and are aware that the display duties are something completely aside from Sales Associate. And that I guess is where my own conflict comes in because giving them more training, showing them how to properly do tasks that aren’t assigned to them – just doesn’t seem to be my call to make. Up to this point I’ve either been redoing what was needed or put things off until my major ‘helpers’ had the day off and I’d do it then. Those tactics are getting old and won’t get me through another busy retail season when it starts up again. I guess the only thing left would be to ask for suggestions from the Supervisors. Thank you for your insight and please let me know if you think of something else. I appreciate it!

    1. Mike Lehr

      Yvonne, much of what you say with these clear-cut assigned tasks are a judgment call. Asking your supervisors is definitely a good idea. Still, any organization that would frown on you teaching someone something new is criminal. Granted, current duties must get done and done well. Assuming that though as it sounds like with you, teach away.

      I delivered training when I had an employer. When I left and the company was sold, someone asked if my time training folks was wasted because the company no longer existed. I said, “No, because it’s not about the company but the people. What I taught people they can apply anywhere. If they choose, they can take it with them. I even had one participant call me eight years later to use a presentation I made for his current employer. He liked it so much he hunted me down. There are few callings more important than helping another human being improve herself.

      Again, assuming all other duties are performed well, I really do not see a problem teaching others duties beyond their job description.

      Regardless, I am certain you will figure a path right for you.

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