Wharton professor and best-selling author Adam Grant writes: “‘That’s who I am’ is a missed opportunity for growth. Personality is not your destiny. It’s your inclination. No one is limited to a single The way you think, feel, or act. What you become has nothing to do with the traits you have. It’s what you decide to do with them.”
I agree (not just Because I have an “amiable personality”). In my work as an executive coach, I help leaders reflect on how what they say and do — and what they don’t say and do — affects those around them.
After conducting 360 feedback interviews, I find myself often providing this feedback to the people I mentor based on what their colleagues have observed over time:
“You talk more than you hear.”
“You ask your colleagues about their jobs, but you don’t ask about their personal lives.”
“You won’t Actively seek opinions and viewpoints that differ from your own.”
“You are not succinct enough, or you are not saying enough Quick.”
“No matter how much detail your audience wants or needs to hear, you articulate in great detail I got your thoughts.”
And a lot of times, the response I hear is: “Well, it’s just me personality.”
This is when our real work begins.
When we respond to feedback with “this is the way I am”, we are essentially abdicating personal responsibility for our actions and impacts. While there’s plenty of scientific evidence to support the way we behave as a combination of nature and nurture, for other people, whether you’re born with a tendency to talk more and listen less — or are you raised that way.
It’s important that you consider how your words and actions make others’ jobs or lives easier or harder — and show that you care about that, too.
Based on my family of origin, I can reasonably assume that I was born to talk more than listen, and the way I grew up positively reinforced this behavior. This behavior has also been positively reinforced in my role as a keynote speaker and a business school lecturer, like “this is my job.” However, in my role as executive coach, parent, partner and friend, listening is as important (if not more important) than speaking. So, despite my natural and cultivated tendency to speak, I have learned when and how to adjust my approach.
Like many of us, I’m drawn to people who appreciate “I am who I am” — especially so I don’t have to work as hard. But it also means I have to go the extra mile to ensure I have a diverse style and approach among friends and colleagues. A large group of people who prefer to talk rather than listen is less likely to consider multiple perspectives, take a methodical approach, and show empathy , or realize that there are important things they don’t know or understand.
I realize that my biology and sociology are not destiny. Therefore, I bring to my work and life developed a growth mindset—a belief that I can change, learn, develop, and adapt. Ultimately, it means I care more about my impact on others, rather than doubling down on “I am who I am.”
That’s not to say I don’t get old habits and behaviors or that I don’t screw up when I’m stressed or not paying attention. I do all of those things. But then I read the room and cleaned up any interpersonal I might have caused Relationship chaos, get yourself back on track.
So next time you get feedback on your approach, don’t refute it by saying “it’s just my personality” , try to start the conversation by acknowledging your ability to do something different:
- “I recognize that my preferred behavior is…”
- “I know I have…”
- “Although my preference is X, I know I can also Y…”
- “That’s my preferred behavior when I don’t think about it…”
- “The reward my family got is…”
- “I can easily depend on…”‘
“I realized I have a habit…”
All of this shows that you recognize that you are not who you are— You can choose what you say and go to the next step.