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Opposites can produce better outcomes

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

If someone doesn’t mirror your preferred communication style, it’s tempting to label that person a poor listener. You may look for ways to avoid working with that individual.

Yet in many cases, two people with mismatched personalities can still collaborate well. Jessie Kahnweiler learned that lesson.

A filmmaker in Los Angeles, Kahnweiler was in charge of a complicated video shoot when she hired a highly respected director of photography, Liam. While preparing for the shoot, Kahnweiler shared her ideas with enthusiasm. But she noticed that Liam did not seem receptive or excited.

Nevertheless, Kahnweiler put her faith in Liam and hoped for the best. On the day of the shoot, she was pleasantly surprised to see that Liam arrived with a thick notebook of ideas for shots that integrated many of her ideas.

Kahnweiler realized that Liam truly cared about the project, even though he didn’t communicate his passion as visibly as she did. His introverted personality meant that he listened quietly and conveyed his thoughts without showing much emotion.

Reviewing his notes, Kahnweiler marveled at his thoroughness. She saw that he had invested significant creative energy in helping her succeed.

“Liam’s strengths were my weaknesses,” she says. “He is a planner and needed time to sort things out in his head.”

When collaborating with a colleague who exhibits diametrically opposed personality traits, resist judgment. Even if you suspect the person doesn’t “get it,” plow ahead. Offer wide arms of acceptance for those who act differently, and you may find that they produce great results.

— Adapted from The Genius of Opposites, Jennifer Kahnweiler, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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