May 6, 2012

Personal Communication Style

As I consider why I struggle in my role as Enrollment Advisor, I am faced with the question:

What kind of personal communication style do I have? What kind of personality do I possess?

Personal Communication Style

There are three main types of communication style: Aggressive, Passive, and Assertive. Typically, we all communication in each style, depending on the need of the moment. There are valid times when we must be aggressive, and other times when we must be passive. The optimal style is Assertive, which simply means that one has a solid foundational belief in the value of others, and strives to be fair (to themselves and to others).

I started my life as a passive communicator. This is common for children and teens. Children and teens are used to having others make decisions for them, and whether they like the choice made, they tend to accept it because it came from an authority figure (Parent, Teacher, Police Officer, etc.). Teens go through rebellion to help them learn to assert their feelings, and to begin to make choices for themselves. Parents are wise to acknowledge that this represents a healthy mental development, and that they should help their teens through this period of self-awareness. Healthy parent-child relationships will foster this process, and the teen will learn to understand themselves better, and understand the role their parents play in their development.

Parents who fail to help their teens develop this self-awareness tend to have an aggressive/passive personality combination.  Both parents can be aggressive or passive or they can be split (one each). In either case, the teen is forced to learn how to become aware of themselves on their own, and often the choices the teen makes are unwise (for example, drugs, alcohol, premarital sex, self mutilation and crime). It further perpetuates the downward spiral when parents refuse to learn how to communicate with their children. These children grow up, and often, they do the exact same thing to their children. The cycle continues, and instead of healthy relationships you find a plethora of unhealthy and destructive ones.

My personal communication style is Assertive. I tend to respect others, understand they have rights and opinions, and I am accepting of their own style and uniqueness. My style is reflective, and I am self-aware. I still struggle with some Aggressive tendencies -- the need to be right; and I still choose at times to remain Passive, when I should be more Assertive (allowing others to make decisions for me). This mostly is due to laziness, and my unwillingness to take sides. I prefer balance, and I like to keep everything on an even keel. This aspect of my communication style lead to my divorce. I should have stood up, I should have voiced my opinion, and at times, I should have aggressively stood my ground.

Personality Profile

Recently, I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Profile test to help me understand my personality better. In doing so, I realized that my personality is firmly set one way, and that while I do have other characteristics (we are not one type only), I am far more logic oriented than expressive.

I realize now that my struggle with the process of conversation is firmly rooted in my personality profile. As an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) personality, I prefer things to be a certain way. I spend a great deal of time on self-awareness. In fact, I would say that I spend 80% of my time thinking about myself -- not as in prideful thinking (I deserve this, I need this -- me, me, me)' but, as in thinking about how I process information, how I understand, how I interpret data. I am always thinking about the world, the people, and the problems I encounter. To put it another way, I am a problem-solver, whether it is my own problem or another persons. I love to think logically about how to do things, how to make them better, and just how they work.

The Thinking part of my profile is very strong. I am introverted, and I like to think. No brainer here -- this has always been the case with me, even from childhood. I am a thinker, and a scholar. Therefore, my conversations are internal, and not external. In truth, I could pass the entire day without talking to another person, and not be upset or feel as though I am missing out on anything. I talk to God all the time, and I listen intently to hear His Still Small Voice. I listen to God. I interpret what I believe I am being told to do, and I converse with Him to understand His will. I read the Bible. I listen to others preach the Word, and I generally spend my time trying to grasp the significance of His will for my life. It is all encompassing, and I love it! I love the time I spend with the Lord.

People, on the other hand, tire me. I listen mostly, but not actively, and I really don't like to listen at all. I put on my extroverted face to deal with people. I smile, and I engage in conversation because it is polite to do so. I would rather just sit and think. I would rather be quiet and contemplative.

My job requires that 4-5 hours a day, I converse with people. It is tiring for me. I put on my extroverted face and go into the job and I converse with them. I am not good at it. I try, but mostly I fail. I come home exhausted. I don't want to talk on the phone or listen to anyone else for the rest of the day.

As I contemplate the ramifications of my communication style and personality, I see that the best job for me to do is one where I don't have to be around people all day long. I don't mind talking over the internet, and I always have enjoyed having friendships with others in my home schooling group, etc. I just don't want to spend hours with other people.

My personality suggests that I would be a good teacher, a professor. It also suggests I would be a good scientist or researcher. I could also be a good engineer.

I don't like math, so ditch the scientist and engineer. I do like to write, and I enjoy teaching others, so that is why I believe that I would make a good professor. I need down time, time away from others -- so a researcher or scholar would work well too.

My education is leading me into teaching. It is something I might enjoy. I don't know, really. I just know that I need to be challenged, and I need to be able to spend significant time alone with my own work. I could be a writer too, and write from home (perfect case!) or I could teach from home (online -- ooh, yes!) However, what is the likelihood that I could do either? Not certain at this time.

So as I consider my options, this is what I see for my future:
  • The Lord has me on a path that takes me to higher education
  • I am graduated (for all intents and purposes) and ready for the next level
  • I like studying
  • I like to write (though I am going through a period where I am struggling to write well)
  • I like teaching others what I know and helping them to improve their skills
  • I want a flexible schedule so I can have quiet time to think and ponder all that God is doing for me
  • I want the freedom to come and go as I please, and not be stuck in a room for 8 hours every day
My goal is to accomplish my PhD within the next 5 years. Three will be for study, and 2 for dissertation. I am confident that I can do this, and with the Lord's help, I will find a job that suits both my conversation and personal style. I can do this, I know I can. The Lord is able to do this through me, and for me, and I rest and trust in His Sufficiency.

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