by Jane Anderson, Columnist & Featured Contributor
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]HEN YOU’RE DECIDING on a book to read, do you like to see what the author says you’ll learn? Me too! From the author, Jennifer Kahnweiler: “Discover why it can be so hard to thrive in some of your relationships with opposites. You will learn about five essential steps that successful opposites use to navigate the tricky waters of their relationships. And you will discover why these five steps are important, how they can break down, and what practical solutions you can use to achieve extraordinary results together.”
It helps when the author speaks from a place of authority but this book has the added bonus of an upbeat style that seems like Jennifer is sitting next to me at Starbucks, telling her story. Good enough for me! Let’s review.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? As it turns out both have their assets and both have their irritating idiosyncrasies. Where the balance lies is in both types learning to navigate the elements and bring out their differences and even see diversity as a positive catalyst. Focusing on the process and ability to achieve great results instead of getting stuck on their differences, has potential to create harmony in the introvert/extrovert partnership, but it doesn’t just “happen”. It takes foresight and hard work to make the bond. Jennifer Kahnweiler‘s ABCDE 5-step process is a model for developing a strong partnership. We’ll cover the ABCDE in detail when we arrive at the chapter summaries.
Who are these unlikely duos?
I’ve always thought it would be cool to be a genius. Maybe if I hooked up with an extrovert, together we could qualify as a genius-opposite partnership. Jennifer describes them as “Powerful teams that have unique chemistry and achieve outcomes they never could achieve alone.” While they are individually introvert or extrovert, they tend to collaborate with singleness of mind. Even in these ‘well-functioning’ partnerships conflicts and breakdowns can occur. That’s the intent of this book – to show us how to build a strong partnership with those who are our opposite.
Extroverts and introverts are wired differently. In this corner are the extroverts who get their energy from outside their world. They thrive on networking, talking, meeting new people, and think they are always welcome to join in. Then in the opposite corner are the introverts who are energized by being alone and away from people. Introverts aren’t talkative and prefer small, intimate gatherings to the office party. Extroverts move fast and talk faster. Their patience wears thin when having to wait while an introvert exercises a calmer, quieter approach to communicating. Introverts are the quieter, methodical, potentially reticent personality.
This must be why the author puts successfully collaborative opposites into the genius category. To be so different and produce results that appear to come from a single mind would take a spark of genius, or maybe a towering inferno.
How to mix oil and water – The author gives us an ingenious quiz which hopefully you and your opposites take. A scorecard assesses the partnership between opposites with suggestions on how to make the relationship stronger. Each following chapter is dedicated to one aspect of the Genius of Opposites process based on ABCDE. Within each chapter are stories of real situations and solutions to try when working through each ABCDE aspect of the process. Jennifer Kahnweiler doesn’t skimp on how to apply the suggested solutions to you own ‘opposite’ in your workplace, home or organization.
The Steps, some Solutions, and Questions to Consider
Accept the alien, you can’t change them. Good communication is especially critical when there are introverts and extroverts. It’s a challenge to understand each other. Accepting the ‘other’ person means being empathetic and trying to see problems and solutions through their eyes. Before getting irritated, open up the lines of communication so all points of view can be shared.
A few solutions from this chapter: Keep focused on results. Learn about personality styles. Accept that you can’t change other people. Create a shorthand for communicating. Adopt one small thing at a time. Here’s one of the Questions to Consider: What shorthand signal or phrase can you develop with your opposite when you are “missing each other”?
Bring on the battles, disagreements challenge you to find better solutions. In fact, it’s through conflicts that many new ideas are generated. It’s when blending introverts and extroverts who work well together that the most innovative thinking is evidenced and more creative solutions are found. To disagree agreeably is one of the better paths to positive outcomes. In organizations and families there is shared vision. In the extrovert/introvert relationship that shared vision can be lost when differences aren’t resolved. The key is remembering that both parties are working toward that shared vision, albeit in their own way.
A few solutions from this chapter: Remember that energy levels and sources are different Manage crisis together. Have a plan for mitigating conflict before it arises. What questions can you ask that will minimize the damage before, during, and after conflict? Take a time-out. Go outside the office and talk it out. Here’s one of the Questions to Consider: Do you consider your partner’s introvert or extrovert preferences when approaching a sensitive topic?
Cast the character, knowing roles each person plays, and that credit is shared. Value the differences in each other and come to realize that the uniqueness of the introvert and the uniqueness of the extrovert create outcomes that alone would not have been produced. It’s taking the confidence of having each other’s backs to a higher level. Having clearly defined roles, having fluid but stated expectations, and sharing the credit for both successes and failures contributes to the strength of the partnership.
A few solutions from this chapter: Have a sense of self and know what you have to offer. Be an advocate for your opposite. Go over to the other side occasionally and stretch your comfort zone. Your range of support will expand with experience. Provide on-the-spot coaching and experience the benefit of giving and receiving feedback. Here’s one of the Questions to Consider: Are you OK with sharing equal credit with your partner even when you do more work on an assignment?
Destroy the dislike, become friends and have fun. “When you respect each other and act like friends you can talk openly and have fun.” Find common ground, shared interests, and tap into each other’s minds. Don’t force friendship, but through mutual respect let it emerge naturally. If a friendship bond isn’t formed in the end, at least there are no wounds and fragments to pick up.
A few solutions from this chapter: Remember that shared vision? Keep it front and center. It will help both the introvert and extrovert stay focused on the goal. Find a symbol that reminds you of your common goals and values. Balance the need for privacy and the need to share information. Here’s one to gnaw on a little. Laughter is good for the soul. Joking around and laughing at each other’s differences is a demonstrative way to accept them. Here’s one of the Questions to Consider: What are you learning from your opposite?
Each can’t offer everything, but everyone can offer something. Favor diversity. Think of differences as complimentary. What one partner is not comfortable doing, the other one is at home with. Stepping into their natural roles creates a seamless flow where the lines between the extrovert and introvert become blurred. In an extrovert/introvert partnership, it has to be a partnership where one style doesn’t dominate over the other. Being of one mind is the only way to get the best results and the only way to be of one mind is to respect each other, communicate honestly, express ideas openly, disagree agreeably, keep focused on the goal, and harmonize on compromises.
A few solutions from this chapter: When working with clients realize they too, might be your opposite. Use what you know about partnering with your opposite to have a successful, profitable relationship with opposites outside your domain. Get to know your client’s preferences. Let your clients see that you have differing perspectives, but everything can be talked through. Get out the white board and role play. Get to understand different viewpoints and help your clients do the same. Nurture both perspectives and help your clients expand their range of views. Here’s one of the Questions to Consider: How do you gather information on what is and what is not working with clients?
The results of using the ABCDE approach to partnering with your opposite
Keep your eye on the results because that’s where success is measured. This book was a quick read from cover to cover, but starting with the quiz in the first section of the book, I find this text to be an excellent resource for working and relationships at home. Answering the chapter questions regarding your relationships, will forge inroads to better solutions, innovative ideas, and best of all build rapports with others who are not like you,
This is the year when it’s all about politics. How would the presidential race be different if every candidate and their entourage were required to read this book, contemplate the questions and do the work suggested by author Jennifer Kahnweiler? We might not dread turning on the TV and watching one more pointless, denigrating commercial.