How knowledge of personality style helps with conflict

by | Feb 12, 2008 | Sales Culture

What causes conflict? Consider interactions with other people involving differences in expectations, motives, or priorities. And by now we know that people with Gold, Blue, Green, and Orange personality styles have very different values and motivations. Each reacts differently to risk and approaches decisions at different paces. But these differences need not derail your interactions with others.

Conflict frequently occurs. Conflict occurs when you’re in sales and dealing with clients. It also occurs when you are part of a customer service team. For example, are you ever angry when your manager calls a team meeting, and perhaps you have a proposal due? What if your client demands to see you right away; occupying time you promised to your family? Conflict and stress are natural occurrences in our daily interactions at home, our business, or at client visits.

There are three elements of our personality that cause interpersonal conflict. We all go into meetings or situations with our personal expectations, motives and priorities. For example:

  • Motives: Our ideas about outcomes and results might be different from those with whom we meet. Your motive for selling your products and services is rarely the same as their reason for buying.
  • Expectations: We can see benefits from our involvement which might not be appreciated by others. If you look at your proposed solution and its impact to the client, will you be able to meet their expectations? Perhaps your organization works with or supports another organization. What does your team expect to accomplish versus the other team’s needs?
  • Priorities: From our perspective an issue is very important and deserves priority treatment, while others ignore the situation. For most sales professionals the number one priority is close the deal! But this deal might not be the top priority for the client.

In each of these, our expectations, motives and priorities are different from the expectations, motives and priorities of those we are meeting. The result can cause stress and conflict.

Conflict is normal; these example situations are common life situations. Do you ignore this conflict? Fear of conflict is one of the dysfunctions that Patrick Lencioni describes in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”. If we fear or avoid conflict it will stifle the growth of any organization or customer relationship; and we know that building strong relationships is critical to making sales and building winning teams. How can our knowledge of personality types help us?

Conflict can occur whether you are dealing with someone of your same primary personality style or someone that has a different primary color. Golds can be in conflict with Golds as easily as with a Blue, Green or Orange. However, there are characteristics of each personality style that can be stressful to the other colors, and therefore contribute to or exacerbate conflict. For example:

  • Blues can be too idealistic and lack a sense of urgency.
  • Golds can be too inflexible and resistant to change.
  • Greens can ask too many questions and rework things to perfection.
  • Oranges can miss details and ignore policies and procedures.

If we understand our personality differences, it can help us understand what our different expectations are. It will help us appreciate the fact that others might have different motives and priorities as we work together.

Knowing that conflict will always exist, we need to understand the best approach to resolving it with each color. This can save a lot of time and energy in the sales cycle. It can make team interaction more productive and successful. Conflict is resolved with communication that acknowledges the needs and values of others. Let’s look at how to diffuse conflict with each personality type:

  • With Golds define the issues, be respectful and be responsible for your actions.
  • With Blues be pleasant and show empathy for their concerns. Focus on the people aspects for resolution.
  • With Greens avoid emotion, focus on the facts and encourage debate and discussion.
  • With Oranges expect a challenge to the issue at hand, but be flexible and realistic and offer alternatives.

If you are a Gold and they are a Blue, reach out and respond with the empathy Blue’s expect. If you are a Gold and they are a Gold, show them the respect you expect of them. Resolving conflict effectively can take any relationship to the next level.