Jennifer B Kahnweiler

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!