Seek Those Who Don't Act Right Like You


Beginning with our first success in childhood, we become attached to what we believe are our strengths in temperament and talent, which enabled us to win.

Why not? They seemed to be what makes us popular.

We also are drawn to people who seem to act right -- like us. We instinctively project onto them other traits we admire, even when they do not have them. In so doing, we narrow our view on what's the right way to do things, missing many opportunities and friendships.

Are You Neurotic, Open, Extroverted or Agreeable?

Apparently the NSA knows. An MIT Media Lab team, led by Patrick Tucker, author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move?, found that your metadata -- including the way you use your phone, how you make calls, to whom, for how long and so on -- can show your personality.

To discover and cultivate individuals who are different from you, begin by discovering which of the personality types in the widely used five-factor model of personality bests describe you:

Neurotic: A higher than normal tendency to experience unpleasant emotions
Open: Broadly curious and creative
Extroverted: Looks toward others for stimulation
Agreeable: Warm, compassionate and cooperative
Conscientious: Self-disciplined, organized and eager for success
Make Our Differences Work For Us, Not Against Us

As an introverted journalist, I often acted outgoing when interviewing, yet went out of my way to forge a friendship with the chief financial officers in the media outlets that employed me because they acted more introverted. Even so, our multiple differences proved mutually beneficial. Usually CFOs are more linear, measuring success by numbers-based metrics, while my success depended on intuiting what people really meant, what they might be hiding and what to ask whom to get the best and most balanced story, written in ways that even those who were not familiar with the situation could understand and want to read.

Once our CFO and I could find a way to talk so we could understand and trust each other, we found multiple ways we could be mutually supportive. My CFO helped me know what to ask and how to understand reports I received, both when trying to understand a massive anti-trust case and when investigating a complex embezzlement. I helped the CFO set the context for presenting to our company board the need for financial changes in how the company operated.

Inevitably, that mutual support fostered learning, a strong friendship and a capacity to be more patient and adept at helping each other over time.

Hint: Enjoy a more accomplished and meaningful life with others by adopting a mutuality mindset in how you approach each interaction.