Can You Handle Your Opposite?

"To know one thing, you must know the opposite" - Henry Moore
Not only do opposites attract but they make each other brighter!

I love having friends over in the summer for a drink by my garden pond. It’s so relaxing and I enjoy sharing the colors and textures in my yard.  The question usually surfaces pretty quickly as to whether or not my husband and I garden together. That’s an easy question – NO! Don’t get me wrong, he helps a lot when I need it. He has built me some incredible arbors and he built our peaceful multi-stream waterfall that is the centerpiece of our yard. To be honest, I’m glad that he isn’t a crazy gardener like me – our tastes are opposite and well, I don’t think that our ideas would mesh.  I’m a bit of a control freak and he isn’t. It’s great for a marriage! 

There’s a house a few miles from us that is absolutely stunning with puffs of color everywhere. It’s a beautiful kaleidoscope of flowers standing to attention arranged as if a painter staged a set. I regularly see an older couple outside tending to the garden in harmony. They both wander about doing their own thing and seem so peaceful and diligent in trimming and watering. I always think of how the scene would be at our house if my husband and I gardened together. My vision involves me chasing him with a hose or shovel for moving something or clipping a bush that I don’t want touched. Good thing he doesn’t like to garden….. 

Numerous people share hobbies and it really strengthens their relationship. On the flip side, not all couples enjoy the same things. At the very least, we all need to try something once to see what will bring us together. I quickly learned that I don’t share my husband’s passion for jet skiing and snow skiing. Instead, we play off of each other and follow our own hobbies, yet share our love of other mutual social activities. Our opposite interests work well together and keep us happy while our marriage grows. We need to respect each other and understand what drives us. Likewise, we need to understand what drives us nuts about each other. Like a plant in the garden playing off one another, one person’s strength is another’s weakness and we can learn so much from each other.  

“If everybody is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction” – Sam Walton

There’s no doubt that I am an extrovert - no to the extent that my husband is – but an extrovert through and through. I admit that it has taken years for me to understand and have patience with introverts.  A few years ago I worked with another manager who was a thinker and very much an introvert. It was unnerving. I clearly remember a lunch meeting when we were tossing ideas around and she just stared at me. Thinking. And thinking. Thinking. I thought that I would lose it. I did what all extroverts do – I began chatting away to fill the silence and I’m sure that she wanted to tape my mouth shut because she still wanted to think.  That day haunts me and it was at that point I committed to trying to understand and accept introverts. 

Personal and business relationships are so important. Not enough of us take a step back to try and understand one another. Most of us are fast paced and steam ahead without considering how our style may turn off (or scare!) a partner or colleague. My commitment to building relationships with the “aliens” (introverts) led me to the new book by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, PHD  The Genius of Opposites – How introverts and extroverts achieve extraordinary results together.  

In her book, Jennifer not only shares her own clashes with introvert and extrovert relationships, she outlines a 5 step process to help us in our own lives. She shares a 5 step process with an ABCDE approach which really leads the reader through an eye opening experience. She offers great chapter summaries and stories. After reading this book you will walk away agreeing that “Opposites are most successful when they stop focusing on the differences and use approaches that move them towards results”.

Here are the ABCDE’s that will help you move towards results with those that your work with: 

·         Accept the alien: You can’t change people but you can try to understand them better. Focus more on how you can partner than on how your opposite drives you nuts.

·         Bring on the battles:  Start seeing disagreements as a necessity and as a positive to find effective solutions. Challenge your opposite in a healthy way and watch the growth and collaboration.

·         Cast the character: Quickly ascertain each other’s role and “cast” him or her to work on bringing out the best in that person’s role. If you understand your characters you can help orchestrate success.

·         Destroy the dislike: Above all else, respect each other and don’t let the opposite style annoy you or cause issues. Act like friends on the outset and you will be.  Accept that we are all different stop fighting it.

·         Each can’t offer everything: You can’t personally offer everything and we all offer something. Accept and embrace diversity. Look at differences as a positive and play off each other’s strengths. Don’t fight it and become respectful partners.

As you read this book I encourage you to take the time to really think about someone who your opposite is and how you can partner with them for results. Try to understand them and learn what each of you can bring to the table.  Answer the questions at the end of each chapter to influence your relationships to bring about effective solutions, new ideas, and really bring out the best in others.

As you share hobbies or daringly garden with your partner, be open and accepting. You just never know what you can grow together!



Don't Be A Lawnmower!

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; They listen with the intent to reply" - Stephen R Covey

A cactus encounter with the lawnmower - Thanks Honey!
Although I have a lot of plants in my gardens, we still have quite a bit of  (crab) grass to mow. We also mow a portion of our field for a  fire guard and to keep the weeds under control. To some degree it seems to help a little bit with controlling the bugs. It seems that the more I dig up the yard, the more mowing we end up with towards the field. Depending on who is mowing, one never knows what the yard will look like. I have learned in more ways than one that lawn mowers can be very dangerous tools - particularly if the driver is impatient or inexperienced!

For many, mowing the lawn can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to unwind. Our neighbor across the street mows his (crab) grass at least weekly, if not more. He loves doing it and even mows a part of our yard by the street. His rider mower is quick and effortless. For him, the time just flies by. Our house is a bit different. My husband and sons seem to think that the faster that they drive rings around the yard and zing by my plant beds, the better. Um.. NO!

When the Kosak males mow, they become lost in their own little world. They block everything out as they ferociously mow. They hear nothing and apparently, see nothing. My evidence? They have repeatedly mowed over some plants, knocked a few new trees, and pulled out a new tree or two by accident dragging it across the lawn with the mower. Last week my husband mowed over a few cactus in my cactus garden. That required skill to actually accomplish. The cactus are elevated and in gravel beds. The evidence is featured in the pic above. He didn't even really try too hard to cover up the crime. Yes, he heard from me! I was livid!

Just as my plants are cut by accident and without intent, so many of us "cut" people in conversations without realizing it. We operate within our own thoughts and too frequently block everything out.  We fail to listen and this can have negative consequences - particularly if you lead teams. Are you "cutting" people down without realizing it? Are you blocking out what they are saying both verbally or ignoring body language? Are you the speeding lawnmower in the yard and carelessly running over people as they try to talk? If so, it's time to shift into low gear and turn the noise down.

The best leaders are hands down the best listeners. I think that listening is one of the most critical people and leadership skills. They engage with people and value what they say. They earnestly learn from others and are open to hearing what others express. They don't make judgements. If  you are a speeding lawnmower - STOP! Take the time to listen and open your heart to hearing what your people are saying.

Being a great listener encompasses so many other leadership traits. That's why listening needs to be the basis for all of your interactions. Here are the keys to being an effective listener:
  • Listening shows others that you care about them and value what they have to say.
  • Engaging yourself with others can be so rewarding and life changing for both of you.
  • Stop your brain from thinking how you will respond. Listen to every word and see every gesture that your companion is making. They may not really care what you say in response.
  • Just shut up. Listen.
  • Under no circumstances should you interrupt. Ever. If a peer stops talking, wait until they are truly done before interjecting. Some people really need to think before speaking to get their point across.
  • Always be empathetic and don't ever judge.
  • Don't always try to solve a problem. Sometimes people just need to talk. I need to remind my husband of this constantly. Just listen. 
  • Watch body language closely. You can learn more if someone is guarded in what they say by looking for nonverbal signals.
  • Make eye contact all the time. Focus on them, not you.
  • Maintain and open and positive stance and facial expressions. People are reading you as well. 
  • Acknowledge that you are indeed listening by nodding your head or murmuring.
  • You may need to summarize what you hear to make sure that you heard correctly. This reassures people as well. 
  • Be flattered and honored that people feel comfortable expressing their feelings or opinions to you. This builds trust.
Don't be a lawnmower and cut conversations without realizing it. It angers and upsets people. Trust is broken and poor listening can have crippling effects on a team.

Sometimes all I can do is sigh after looking at the wounds on some of my plants after they have been mowed. You know what? Some wounds just never completely heal. Remember this when you cut someone off in a conversation or aren't truly listening. Don't leave them with a wound. Commit to being a better listener today!