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If you’re finding some days an uphill battle when dealing with different personalities on top of an already stressful job, you’re not alone.

Research has shown that even if we share similar perceptions about the workplace or industry — for example, we may agree that our environment is high pressure, uncertain, ambiguous or challenging — we’re still likely to respond differently.

In The resilience advantage: stop managing stress and find your resilience, Richard Citrin and Alan Weiss explore how our natural responses to stress and conflict are closely linked to our personality traits. They explore the idea that our reactions are hard-wired and our bodies are tuned to respond automatically, even if we share similar perceptions about our environment with others.

Even when we’re working towards a shared goal or outcome, this melting pot of personalities and hardwired responses can, at times, make us feel like some people are more difficult to get along with than others.

The question is then, how can we use our own hardwiring to our advantage to help us work with different personalities and navigate a stressful environment? The answer is agility. The ability to sense and recognise the differences in the people around us and approach them from a perspective that is focused, flexible and empathetic.

Here are some practical tips on how to apply your inner agility to work effectively with different personalities:

Be open-minded

Bias is instinctive and it takes conscious open-mindedness to avoid making assumptions about people based on their personality traits. We can do this by being curious and inquisitive about them which activates our mental agility. Research by Robert Cialdini, in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, has also shown that finding common ground can bolster your ability to influence a situation if a person perceives the requestor as being similar to themselves.

Be adaptable

Different personalities need different approaches, so it’s important to try to be adaptable in your interactions with others. Psychologist Kurt Lewin developed the concept of field theory, which suggests a person’s behaviour is influenced by a complex set of factors, including their personality, environment, and social context.

By trying to understand the communication styles, work habits, and preferences of those around you, you may be able to adjust your approach accordingly. If you’re unsure, ask them. Practising self-awareness by taking a step back from our own biases makes us more agile in giving and receiving feedback and managing our emotions effectively.

Communicate with empathy

Effective communication is a key component of emotional intelligence. As seasoned professionals we may be conditioned to listen to respond, rather than to listen to understand, a person’s perspective. By being present in each interaction with someone we may be able to work effectively with them by simply listening actively and showing respect for their point of view.

Empathy is a crucial skill when it comes to working with different personalities as it can help to build trust and create a more inclusive work environment. There may be times when we need to be agile, take a step back and try to put ourselves in someone else’s worldview to understand their perspective.  Keep in mind that typically you will only know a small amount about the lives of your colleagues, managers or direct reports.

Embrace diversity

Diverse personalities, backgrounds and work styles bring different perspectives and ideas to the table, which can lead to better outcomes. Psychologist Susan Fiske noted, in her research on social cognition, that people tend to categorise others into social groups based on their traits and behaviours. Working with diverse personalities can help to break down these social categories and create more inclusive work practices.

Focus on the outcome

When all else fails, it’s important to take the personal elements out of the equation and stay focused on the outcome. One way to achieve this is through the concept of flow.

Developed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “flow” is a state of complete focus and immersion in a task. To achieve flow, an activity needs to be challenging enough to require focused attention, but not so challenging that it causes frustration or anxiety. This state of immersion has shown many benefits for productivity and performance and may be helpful in aligning different personalities to a mutual outcome.

The key takeaway in all of this is that no two people are hardwired the same.  With an agile, curious mindset, and an appreciation for different personalities we may be able to find that sweet spot on the tough days. An interesting way to look at it is through the lens of an experiment —  your approach to listening, communicating or understanding another person’s perspective may not land the first time, but with tweaks and adaptations you may see results that benefit you in the long run.

Natalie Turns is an ACA Registered Counsellor and principal at Kardia Collective. She has worked with large corporate teams in change management and communications for 20 years.