A few weeks ago, my employer paid for the group of us to get personality analysis. We rolled our eyes and convened in a hotel convention room for a day of personality training. This particular method (Emergenetics) had the usual four types of personalities, and each person had their recipe of the four types.
And this one had something I hadn’t seen before: behaviors. As they put it, personality is how you think, but people see how you behave. They are not as related as one might expect. They ranked three kinds of behaviors:
Expressiveness- do you express how you feel?
Assertiveness – Do you fight for what you want?
Flexibility – are you willing to compromise?
At the end of the class, we lined ourselves against the wall according to our percentile of each. I was ranked 95th percentile expressive. So I hung out just below the 100 hanging on the wall.
I was alone. Most everybody else was bunched way over to the other end of the scale. I moved down a little for the next two, as we went through exercises.
Nothing in my life has ever made it so clear to me what an outlier I am. My co-worker friend cocked his head at my amazement and said “duh! You didn’t know?”
No. I had no idea.
Well. I am some kind of geyser of thoughts, feeling and words. This can make some other people uncomfortable. Hmm. I want to analyze and manage it better.
I would like to think of a sort of smokescreen. A sort of white noise setting for myself. Not that I don’t want to be myself, yet I would be willing to adjust somewhat for others.
This weekend, I was thinking of this as I heard a favorite podcaster talk about the death and life of Pete Seeger. Seeger spent his life collecting songs that were very singable.
I love those kinds of songs.
I went to go find some Seeger on YouTube. I found his performance of This Land is My Land for the 2009 presidential inauguration.
Look at him. He is singing a song that every American kid learns. His white hair and beard makes me think of every single kindly gray beard who has been kind to me–so many! –over my life.
He waves his arms “Sing! Everybody Sing! You can do it! I’ll give you the words.”
I was crying. I had to turn it off before I upset my daughter.
Look at all those people together! I felt the togetherness…and the sweet childlike chorus.
In between all the weekend work of mothering and maintenance, I thought this might be the sort of thing that I was looking for. A white noise. I would be delighted to burst into song around people at work.
Singing strikes people and disarms them in ways I recognize and do not understand.
I thought I would love to gift that calm and goodwill to other people around me. That sense of us. Would it be possible?
I started singing some of these kid songs, trying them on for size for use in a corporate environment.
Another thing about Pete Seeger is that he was an activist. He had some strong political opinions.
Politics is power, right?
Power is so nervous. So skittish. It’s hard enough to be confident and secure in one’s own personal field of life. Then add on this political power, and the chaos increases.
I imagined going to a performance review, and singing This land is my land as we prepared to get started.
Business power might not like the reminder that we are the same. The suit there might consider it a threat. “THIS IS NOT YOURS! IT’S MINE!”
So I started singing a tune I really like
I’ve been working on the railroad All the livelong day
I’ve been working on the railroad Just to pass the time away
Can’t you hear the whistle blowing? Rise up early in the morn
I rise up early in the morning. Quite early. I wonder what a boss would read into that?
Dang. These are not white noise at all. Music is not to be trifled with. These kids’ songs are more than I realized.
I wish that songs would not make people nervous.
I wish that my expressiveness and assertiveness did not make people nervous.
These are simple and natural things, both of them. Simple and natural isn’t, in our man-made complicated world.
Sorry Boss, it’s me. There’s no helping it.