As a teacher educator, I have been preparing materials for a communication and conflict resolution workshop at the end of this month. My workshop curriculum has evolved over the years, and I am convinced that a primary focus on specific (and somewhat prescriptive) conflict resolution strategies isn’t always the best use of participants’ time. When someone is triggered during a conflict (and emotionally flooded), those nicely packaged and somewhat scripted tools, phrases, and strategies aren’t necessarily accessible—nor do they feel authentic to the speaker in a moment of upset.

My angle in this fall’s workshop is to focus more broadly on self-awareness and personal reflection so that participants can explore their personality preferences and patterns of relating relative to typically challenging workplace scenarios. If we know ourselves pretty well—our strengths, weaknesses, and default reactions, we may be more readily able to pause, take stock, calm our bodies, and reboot or redirect the trajectory of a difficult conversation at work. Further, if we are more broadly attuned to our skills and strengths, we may be more likely to approach our workplace with a greater sense of purpose and agency in the first place.

Tool #1:
Because my university no longer offers the popular MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) instrument for students, I have been reviewing free online tools that build on the work of Jung, Myers, and Briggs, and I found a very user-friendly, abbreviated, and reframed version of the formal MBTI measurement at http://www.16personalities.com/.

The researchers at this London-based company called Neris Analytics, use the acronym format introduced by Myers-Briggs, but they have renamed several traits from Jung’s model and added a fifth trait. The five independent scales below represent five aspects of personality outlined in the following categories:

  • Mind: How we interact with the environment (Introverted vs. Extroverted)
  • Energy: How we see the world and process (Observant vs. Intuitive)
  • Nature: How we make decisions and cope with emotions (Thinking vs. Feeling)
  • Tactics: How we approach work and planning (Prospecting vs. Judging)
  • Identity: Our confidence in our abilities and decisions (Assertive vs. Turbulent)

Survey results feature percentages relative to each scale, indicating the strength of each preference (rather than simply labeling you as a “type”). The website also provides free information about your profile relative to strengths, weaknesses, relationships, career paths, and workplace habits.

Tool #2:
The second tool I have been using regularly in my Resilient Teacher Workshop over the past year is the VIA Survey of Characters Strengths. This scientific survey was created under the direction of Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, and it has been used in hundreds of research studies in 190 countries. Although it is a very simple survey, it helps you to get a clearer picture of your best qualities and strengths so that you can make positive changes for yourself and your work team. The twenty-four character strengths (e.g., creativity, curiosity, humor, and perseverance) fall under six broader categories of virtues including: wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence.

The creators of the survey propose that knowing your own particular constellation of character strengths is a step toward living a more authentic and happy life. In fact, Seligman and his team have conducted research on leveraging strengths that suggests long-term mental health benefits. Participants in his study took the VIA survey and selected one core character strength that was personally energizing and easy to use. Then, they brainstormed at least seven new ways to express that core strength each day for one week. Participants in this study reported experiencing higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression (even six months after the week-long experiment).

Consider using both of these survey-based tools (simply as “indicators” rather than “labelers”) in order to foster personal growth, spark small group discussion, and/or cultivate a more positive, collaborative environment in your workplace.