Knowing How You Respond to Conflict: Rhino vs. Hedgehog

When a difficult situation arises, what’s your default mode of approach? Are you willing to charge into the conflict, head-first? Or do you just want to curl up in a ball and make everyone go away?

Knowing your tendencies can go a long way in improving your response to conflict in all sorts of relationships. Nicky and Sila Lee, authors of The Marriage Book, offer two pictures of how people deal with conflict: becoming either a rhinoceros, or a hedgehog.

If you tend to be a “rhino”, chances are you’re willing to get aggressive when dealing with difficult issues. You’ll want to ‘have it out’ in a fight, rather than walk away from the problem. A rhino charges straight in, horn pointed and ready to attack.

But if you’re a “hedgehog”, you’re much more likely to want to avoid conflict. When things get challenging, you’ll want to stop the conflict by shutting down. A hedgehog curls up in a ball and sticks its prickly spines out so no one can hurt it.

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Introverted or Extroverted?

Of all the personality traits or types, “introvert” and “extrovert” are probably the most well-known and commonly used.

But what do these designations mean? And why do they matter?

A few years ago, I was chatting with an acquaintance at work about my plans for the weekend.

“Well,” I said resignedly, “I’m going out to a meet-up happy hour. I’m dreading it, of course, but I’m making myself go.”

“Why are you dreading it?” she asked, puzzled. “That sounds like so much fun!” Continue Reading

Are You a Maximizer or a Satisficer?

Here’s a fun little quiz. Let’s say you need to buy a blender. You want one that will let you make soup in the winter and margaritas in the summer. What do you do? (If you don’t care about blenders, substitute “computer,” “car,” or any other significant purchase.)

||A|| Go to your nearest appliance store, and choose one that looks good.

||B|| Go to your nearest appliance store, ask the clerk for a recommendation, and buy the one he recommends.

||C|| Search Amazon for “blender for soup and margaritas”, read the 3 best and 3 worst reviews of the top 2 options, and buy the one that seems best.

||D|| Start by googling “blender for soup and margaritas,” and read several personal blogger reviews, before going over to Amazon and reading every single customer review for each blender that made the top blogger ratings, as well as some that didn’t. Check Consumer Reports ratings and compare. Visit five different local shops to talk to clerks about what they might recommend. Show them the highlighted spreadsheets you have made of each blender, its pros and cons, customer ratings, and price variations. Two months later, decide that none of the blenders out there are exactly what you want, and so you will just wait until they make the right one. Continue Reading

Tendencies on a Continuum

If I didn’t know better, I might think that title had something to do with science and physics and maths! But I want to use it to talk about life.

We’ve talked about how important it is to “Know Thyself,”  as the ancient maxim states. How can we know which way to aim if we don’t know where we’re starting from? Aristotle talked about virtue lying in the middle of two extremes of vice; but I think it’s safe to talk about a balanced life of happiness lying the middle of two extremes of personal tendency, which aren’t necessarily morally bad or good.

Envision human preferences and action (behaviour) as a continuum. At each end is an extreme, but very few people actually live at one extreme or the other. We rarely meet someone who always wants to spend time in giant roomful of strangers, for example, or someone who never wants to meet anyone new. Most of us tend towards one or the other, but there’s a lot of room for variation, even in our own lives. Continue Reading

Personality Tests are not Horoscopes: but They Can Be Helpful

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A lot of people take issue with personality tests. I used to be one of those people. The objection is clear: No individual unique person is exactly like any other person. And putting people in a box isn’t helpful. And besides, those results never really capture who I am.

It’s true. Every person is unique. No one can be summarized in a simply personality box. And often the results of personality tests are inaccurate.

Why have I come round to appreciating personality tests? Mostly because I began to see them for what they actually are. A helpful rephrasing of accurate information I already know about myself.

Personality tests can’t reveal anything you don’t already know. Continue Reading