Punching Down the Romantic Style Influence on Me - The Balance

The Power of Understanding Yourself: The Key to Self-Discovery, Personal Development, and Being the Best You - Dave Mitchell 2019

Punching Down the Romantic Style Influence on Me
The Balance

I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines.

Oliver Goldsmith

My first career aspiration was to be the first baseman for the New York Mets. It was a path that I pursued enthusiastically through high school with modest success. Like thousands of other kids, I was a pretty good baseball player. Unfortunately, after my senior year of high school, it became clear I suffered from a debilitating condition — insufficient talent. This condition was compounded by some important physical limitations. First, I was 5′11″, weighed 175 pounds, and had hit exactly four home runs after the age of 15. Generally, teams view the first baseman as a power hitter, so my ability to ground out to the second baseman was not coveted. Perhaps a move to shortstop or second base might have better matched my hitting skills; but I am also left-handed.

In baseball, left-handers are generally relegated to the outfield, first base, or pitching. Outfielders usually fall into two categories: power hitters or speedsters. We have established my power. As a baserunner, I was told I had “good instincts.” “Good instincts” on the bases is code for “runs like he is carrying a piano.”

“Pitcher!” was the enthusiastic solution offered by one of my coaches before he discovered that I was not “warming up”; that was my fastball. When that ever-optimistic coach asked me what other pitches I threw, I told him that I could vary the speed of my pitches.

“So, you can throw even slower?” The coach was clearly impressed that my fastball wasn’t my slowest pitch. Unfortunately, throwing progressively slower is not considered useful to your team. The other team, yes. Not your team.

So, my baseball career transitioned to slow pitch softball before joining my basketball and football career in retirement. And while I never fulfilled my dream of playing first base for the New York Mets, I did experience the coaching techniques of many people from T-Ball to American Legion. All of these coaches imparted wisdom — some because of their sports acumen, others for their qualities as a human being. Dave Decker fell in the latter category.

Coach Decker was a teacher, not just of sports but also of science. Literally. Like so many high school coaches, Mr. Decker was involved in the sport both because of a love of education and youth and the desire to augment his teaching salary. I liked Mr. Decker the science teacher. I loved Coach Decker. He was unlike any coach I would ever have.

Nearly all my coaches, regardless of sport, were yellers. Yellers use decibels to get your attention. It is a proven strategy in athletics and I am certainly not going to argue its merits. Yellers also seem to be very critical of players. Truth be told, they are probably no more critical than nonyellers. But when the yellers criticize you, everyone in the gym, on the field, heck, in the general vicinity, know you have been criticized. Many players respond quite well to yellers. Me, not so much.

Coach Decker was the first coach I played for who was not a yeller. Coach Decker approached coaching like he approached teaching. He was patient. He explained things. He maintained a calm, steady demeanor. He was tactful, caring, and empathetic. The season that I played with Coach Decker was my favorite baseball season. Coach Decker was a Romantic — and, like Adrian the Expert, he was another of my mentors.

It is interesting — for many reasons — that the season I played for Coach Decker, although my most enjoyable, was my least successful statistically. I had always been a good hitter, if lacking in power. The fact that I rarely struck out and had good strike-zone awareness meant that I hit for a high average and walked a lot. I could even steal a base here and there (remember, “good instincts on the bases”). Coach Decker installed me as the lead-off hitter, fully expecting those skills to payoff. Unfortunately, I started the season hitless in our first five games spanning nearly 20 at bats. Coach Decker, nonetheless, would write my name at the top of the lineup and continued to encourage me as I fought through my slump.

I am certain that any of my other coaches would have become frustrated with my lack of productivity, perhaps criticized me, and most certainly would have dropped me to the bottom of the lineup if not bench me altogether. Dave Decker did none of these things. Eventually, my hitting came around and while my final stats were hopelessly damaged by my early season struggles, my confidence was not. I learned that I responded best to being appreciated and encouraged. My Romantic preference was already fully formed even in my teens.

All Romantics want world peace; they just go about it in different ways depending on their secondary style preference. All Romantics also thrive in environments that are rich with appreciation. And, like all primary preferences, they are influenced by their second style.

A Romantic with a Secondary Expert (lowest score B column, second-lowest score A column)

Although tact, diplomacy, and situational awareness are all hallmarks of the Romantics, perhaps no pairing of styles is more cognizant of being appropriate than this combination of preferences. The marriage of emotional sensitivity with risk avoidance and security creates a mind that is fine-tuned to properness. You can make a very good case that this combination is the nicest — which is the reason I refer to the Romantic Expert as the Best Friend.

Given that the Best Friend combines an understanding of the emotional landscape and prefers fact-based, low-risk situations, they are often exceptional counselors of others. They are both patient and considerate, fantastic qualities in a listener. Similar in style to the previously discussed Voice of Reason, the Best Friend is more advisor than teacher, although they are well suited for both. Possessing both tact and patience is uncommon, and the two traits are often confused for each other. The Best Friend’s empathy to others’ feelings provides the origin for their tact. Their desire for reliable, accurate, and consistent processes is the foundation for their patience. Tactful people can be impatient, using their tact to conceal their irritation. Patient people can lack tact, relentlessly defending policies and standards in their quest for quality. The Best Friend displays both attributes.

As the name implies, Best Friends rarely apply pressure to others, preferring a shepherding-like approach to directing people. Getting things done correctly in a manner that does not create conflict with others is their preferred strategy. As with other Romantics, they are prone to self-sacrifice and can be susceptible to over extending themselves to avoid confrontations with others.

They also prefer familiar experiences, approaches, and processes. They are not known for innovation but can be very successful at installing structure to situations that are new. Although Best Friends may not introduce radical change, they are often vital to reducing risk during periods of change through their ability to reassure others and orientation toward rules. They can mitigate the risk of big ideas by providing procedures to ensure quality outcomes.

The potential blind spots for Best Friends lie in the Warrior and Mastermind styles. These scores fall about the 30 midpoint. This can conspire to prolong the Best Friend’s sense of urgency. A high score in column D (Warrior) can reduce the need to a result that is useful in balancing the need for quality. The high score in column C (Mastermind) creates the risk aversion that makes the Best Friend reluctant to be an early adopter of ideas and an initiator of change. These are areas to consider for the Best Friend when engaged in metacognition.

Finally, despite the reputation of the Best Friend for being the nicest of styles, they can be extremely protective of their circle. This is no more obvious than in their behavior with family. It is common for a Best Friend to expect loved ones to comply with very specific codes of conduct. I am reminded of an episode I witnessed at an appliance dealers showroom while doing some training on behalf of Electrolux.

A delightful couple with two young children walked into the store in the market for a new refrigerator. I was observing the sales dynamic as part of the preparation for my class on consultative selling. Based on the rigid behavior of the two children, roughly between the ages of 5 and 10, it seemed clear to me that there had been a “Come to Jesus” meeting in the car before entering the store. Since the Mom was the clear leader of the family, at least in this situation, I imagine she had convened the parking lot discussion. It probably went something like this.

“Okay, we are going into the store to look at refrigerators. There will be lots of interesting things in that store, but I need you to stay close to Mom the entire time and do not touch anything. Do you understand?” Mom would have said this with love but also with a firmness that let everyone in the car: Bobby, Billy, and even Dad, know that she expected unwavering compliance.

“Yes” they would have replied in unison.

Once inside the store, it was Mom who drove the process. As the salesperson approached, Mom explains their situation with all the sweetness one would expect from a Best Friend. “Hi, I’m Janet. This is my husband Robert and this is Bobby and Billy. We are looking for a refrigerator. The one we have is adorable, but it is getting a little outdated. It came with the house we bought 10 years ago and we have just outgrown it. It’s perfectly fine but I feel like we need something a . . .”

Meanwhile, little Billy has wandered away from the family and touches something that makes a noise.

“BILLY, GET OVER HERE!” The sheer force and volume of Janet’s voice rocks the showroom. Billy drops to the ground, as does Bobby, Robert and, perhaps, even the salesperson. Without missing a beat, Janet continues her context.

“. . . so I’m not sure if we want a side-by-side model or a bottom-mount freezer . . .” Sweet Janet has returned.

Keep in mind, the shepherd carries a staff. The staff is not to whack wolves to protect the sheep. No, the staff is to nudge the sheep away from the wolves. Billy just got nudged.

The Best Friend’s resiliency lies in feeling appreciated for their efforts to keep people safe. They are naturally altruistic and thrive when they know that others are aware of and value their sacrifice. They also do best when they are familiar with what is expected of them and others. Situations and environments that contain excessive pressure and chaos are particularly stressful for the Best Friend. Table 12.1 gives a short summary of the Best Friend style.

Table 12.1 The Best Friend Punch Down

Complementary Versus Contrasting Balance

Preferences Versus Vulnerabilities

Impact on Resiliency

· Primary style = Romantic

· Complementary Style = Expert

· Contrasting Styles = Mastermind and Warrior

· Excellent counselor who offers practical advice to benefit others.

· Tends to self- sacrifice and avoid conflict.

· Tactful, diplomatic and appropriate communicator.

· Responds well to genuine appreciation.

· Responds well to environments that are reliable and safe.

· Negative morale and chaotic environments are stressful.

A Romantic with a Secondary Mastermind (lowest score B column, second-lowest score C column)

I must admit a lack of objectivity as it relates to this combination. My lovely bride’s style falls into this category and I have noticed that many of my friends do, too; so I clearly have a special affinity for this style. And why not? They combine the emotional sensitivity of the Romantic style with the charm of the Mastermind style. They are the world’s public relations and marketing person. Although their primary concern is tending to the feelings of others, they possess a degree of risk tolerance that makes them open to life’s adventures. In this regard, their life can be much like the script from a romantic comedy and their role becomes the lead character — the Love Interest.

Replacing the second lowest score of the Best Friend of Expert with a secondary Mastermind relaxes the risk avoidance influence on the style. The Love Interest is more comfortable in loosely defined situations and willing to take some chances — as long as it doesn’t make others uncomfortable. If the Best Friend is the epitome of nice, then the Love Interest is the poster child of fun. Given that the Love Interest prefers fun experiences without any emotional discomfort for others, it makes Love Interests that much more appealing.

One of the Love Interest’s great gifts is their ability to get others excited about the possibilities. They are exceptional at messaging and are very valuable in selling ideas and changes to others who might be skeptical of the consequences. This medium runs both ways, too. Love Interests not only can promote ideas from one group to another but can close the feedback loop by taking the reaction to the ideas back to those that initiated it. In this regard, they are excellent communicators. And while their secondary Mastermind makes them comfortable and even excited about new ideas and experiences, they are just as supportive of others’ ideas as they are their own.

The challenge for the Love Interest is in dealing with situations that are not fun, interesting, or conducive to positive emotional responses. Strict compliance to processes and procedures can “suck the fun” out of an experience. Also, pressure applied by deadlines can strip them of their ability to monitor the reaction to ideas. Drudgery is not particularly appealing to any style, but it is mortally undesirable to the Love Interest.

For example, my lovely bride Lori works as a wine-tasting-room manager in Walla Walla. As professions go, managing a beautiful wine-tasting room in a town known for being “so nice we named it twice” in the middle of a picturesque wine region is about as great as it gets. At least, I think so. I even volunteer to help from time to time because it really doesn’t feel like work.

Having stated that, the process involved in a wine tasting is very structured. There is a specific order that the wines are poured in; there are legal requirements that guide and restrict your approach; and you repeat the same processes over and over and over. The only variable is the client. For a Love Interest, the work itself is not that appealing. It is the variety of clients that make the job interesting. The measure of Lori’s day is less about the amount of sales or the accuracy of the operational controls but rather the number of cool people she got to meet and the new friends that she made. I am forever impressed by the number of people she knows — not just in Walla Walla, but from Seattle, Portland, Boise, and other visitors to the winery. With my style being Romantic/Warrior (see next section), the two questions I ask her when she gets home are: “How was your day? What were your sales?” What she wants to talk about is “Who did you meet?”

So, the area of vulnerability for the Love Interest includes the things that don’t offer them much fun: processes and deadlines. For the Love Interest to maximize their contribution, it may be necessary for them to comply with systems that ensure consistency and to have clear metrics to measure their progress.

Like the Best Friend, the Love Interest thrives in environments where they are appreciated. They, too, tend to sacrifice their own needs — and it is important that this not go unnoticed. But unlike the Best Friend, the Love Interest enjoys a more loosely organized environment where there is some freedom to customize the experience, make exceptions, and experience situations that are outside the norm. Table 12.2 gives a short summary of the Love Interest style.

Table 12.2 The Love Interest Punch Down

Complementary Versus Contrasting Balance

Preferences Versus Vulnerabilities

Impact on Resiliency

· Primary style = Romantic

· Complementary Style = Mastermind

· Contrasting Styles = Expert and Warrior

· Loves to lift the spirits of those around them.

· Likes new opportunities particularly if it makes others happy.

· Conflict and boredom are demotivating.

· Enjoys environments that offer new experiences.

· Does well when their charm is valued by others.

· Restrictive and intense environments can be stressful.

A Romantic with a Secondary Warrior (lowest score B column, second-lowest score D column)

One of my favorite moments during my seminar on The Power of Understanding People is when I explain how Romantics come in three different styles. Romantics are one of the most common preferred styles in the United States, so as many as half my attendees can be in this one group when I have them stand if the B column is their lowest score. I quickly point out that they may be surprised to be standing along with someone else that they don’t think is very similar to them in terms of style. It is then that I mention the influence of the secondary preference. The moment goes like this:

“You all share a primary Romantic style, but you may have different secondary styles. What this means is that you all prefer world peace, but you go about achieving it in different ways. The Romantic with a secondary A column preference gets world peace by providing security. The Romantic with a secondary C column preference gets world peace by providing possibilities . . .”

“. . . And the Romantic with a secondary D column preference gets world peace by killing.”

Immediately, the Crusaders understand their internal conflict.

Like all Romantics, the Crusader is keenly aware of the emotional content within their environment. Unlike the other types of Romantics, the Crusader feels a substantial amount of pressure to drive toward results. This pressure can often create conflict, confrontation, and discomfort — potentially negative and unpleasant feelings for the Crusader. Attempting to reconcile their desire to make others happy as well as their desire to efficiently reach closure is the core of the Crusader’s style. Like most things related to the human condition, this dynamic reflects the Crusaders’ blessing and their curse.

My dog Red, my frequent wander/ponder companion of my youth mentioned in the Preface of this book, was one of my first best friends. One of the things that I admired most about Red was his demeanor. He was fiercely loyal toward his family. He was kind and gentle until he perceived a threat to any of his loved ones. Then he would bark ferociously and convincingly display an attitude that indicated the capacity for extreme violence. Red never bit anyone, but he chased a few uninvited strangers out of our yard. He even treed one particularly shady salesperson.

It could well be that my affinity for Red was due in part to a form of style kinship. Red was a Crusader, like myself. It also could be that Red was a mentor for me. Perhaps it was the observance of Red’s behavior that shaped my own. Whichever is true, Red embodied he Crusader style . . . that of peaceful warrior, righteous protector, the fighter for the cause.

Now, lest you think I am creating a very heroic narrative for this style, the Crusaders have their own plentiful vulnerabilities. For one, since they fight for causes, they can be difficult to reason with. If you believe you are doing something because it is “the right thing to do,” then you are unlikely to be swayed by an opposing perspective. In fact, to compromise the cause would be fundamentally unappealing to the Crusader. And since they choose their fights for reasons that are not fiscal but based on virtue (as they define it) then they will fight to the death. Of course, I mean all of this metaphorically; but the truth remains that there have been no more bloody conflicts than those between Crusaders.

Crusaders care deeply and are called to action quickly. They are not likely to be bystanders; they prefer to do what is necessary to get their desired result for the good of those for whom they fight. Although they are often knowledgeable about the rules, they do exercise the ability to step outside the structure to achieve the goal. They also prefer efficiency to chaos and grow frustrated in environments that are not moving quickly to closure. Their contrasting styles of Mastermind and Expert create some discomfort for both new ideas and compliance to rules. They are more influenced by people and results.

Reconciling the desire for world peace with the pressure to achieve a specific outcome is the crux of their resilience battle. It can be very hard to win and be liked, the two intrinsic needs of the Crusader. Although they want to be appreciated, they rarely ask for payment. Although they want to win, they don’t want others to feel bad about losing. It is a razor’s edge they walk. For that reason, many Crusaders think of themselves as loners who are fighting battles for those they love independent of others’ expectations. Table 12.3 gives a short summary of the Crusader style.

Table 12.3 The Crusader Punch Down

Complementary Versus Contrasting Balance

Preferences Versus Vulnerabilities

Impact on Resiliency

· Primary style = Romantic

· Complementary Style = Warrior

· Contrasting Styles = Mastermind and Expert

· Fiercely loyal to others.

· Fights for causes that they believe in and benefit people.

· May not recognize/surrender a losing “fight.”

· Prefers respect and quiet appreciation.

· Likes to be valued for their devotion to cause and people.

· May burn out or become resentful do to their sacrifice.

Extracting Me Worksheet

There is so much more to be gleaned from your assessment results. Once you have read through the sections of this chapter that reflect your results, write out your evaluation of your scores on the Extracting Me Worksheet. As a Romantic, I know you will commit a deeply thoughtful and emotional perspective to this exercise. Be sure to put your own needs first for once and don’t be afraid to boast about those qualities of which you are proud. As a fellow Romantic, I have provided an example of evaluating your assessment in Chapter 15.