My friend and teacher David Kantor got a federal grant. He installed tape recorders in the homes of 30 families, in every single room and recorded all interactions for six weeks. Then he coded these interactions with a team of Ph.D. students.
It yielded a language to describe observable behaviour, mapping out four layers of people’s personality. The more pressure is on, the more layers of your personality come into play.
The first one that’s always present is the action layer. In any given situation, people move – they initiate something. Other people follow – their drive is to complete things. Yet others oppose – their drive is to correct things. Finally, some people bystand – they look for and provide overview.
For healthy communications, these four are needed in near equal measure. Without movers, there’s no action. Without followers, there’s no completion. Without opposers, there’s no correction. Without bystanders, there’s no perspective.
We can do all four of these, but when we come under pressure, we tend to have a strong, a weak and a stuck position. Move and oppose tends to produce advocacy. Bystand and follow inquiry. Too much of either will get you stuck.
That’s the tip of the iceberg of why relationships can be so difficult and meetings so dysfunctional.
Try a game for the next few weeks. Play interaction bingo instead of bullshit bingo in your meetings.
What do you think your preferred position is? What patterns do you see in your team? What energy is missing? Is there too much of something?
Be brave. Call it out. Hold the heat and make a shift.