the three-quarter principle

4 drinks

Images: Alice Pasqual, Carolyn V, Mazniha Mohd Ali, Jack Carter – Unsplash

I come from a family of five children. I’ve served in people-focused work for most of my life. It didn’t take me long to figure out that other people are very different from me.

I’m not proud to admit that for a lot of those years, the varied preferences, opinions, and ways of doing things often caused me frustration, irritation, impatience, and at times, a critical demand that others yielded to what I wanted.

In college, I was exposed to my first personality assessment and began to grow in my self-awareness. Later, as part of my job and my work in leadership development, I have used a lot of those tools. I have gained further insights into my personality, my learning and work styles, and some of my core motivations. And I’ve learned about others also.

Not everyone is just like me.

Some assessments are quite complex and differentiate a multitude of variations with subtle and scaled distinctions. The most simplistic assessments usually group people into four quadrants.

From those assessments, my eyes opened to the fact that, across that four-quadrant diagonal, some individuals would strongly desire or appreciate ways of doing things that were the complete opposite of my values and perspective. 

In a simple four-quadrant model,
my preferences only occupy one-fourth of the possibilities.

In other words, when I get to do things my way, three-fourths of the other people in the room are likely giving up their preferred option. 

This realization has helped me to consider life through a new filter. Instead of entering a situation and hoping that I enjoy everything about the experience, I am learning to be satisfied if I enjoy twenty-five percent. I now recognize that the other seventy-five percent of the experience – that would not have been my preference – has been quite enjoyable for the other people there.

This consideration has changed the way I think about almost everything. I do not want my selfishness to rob others of their opportunity for satisfaction. When I enter a life or work setting, I try to remember that it is not all about me. When I humbly desire that other participants feel comfortable and enjoy their experience also, then my twenty-five percent satisfaction rate becomes less a complaint and more a success.

Today, I say that if I like the majority of what is happening around me, then I am missing out – missing out on the richness of voices and ideas and options that complement and challenge mine. I am missing out on creative, relevant, and necessary thoughts, timings, and styles that I would not discover by myself. I miss out on the full beautify and uniqueness of God’s wisdom and design.

I am so much less without the other seventy-five percent. I am not willing to miss out on that richness, even if it means a bit of discomfort for me.

What helps you welcome diversity in your life? 

discomfort with diversity

diverse handsHow great is my committment to diversity? Do I give lip-service to the concept or do I live out my convictions with my attitudes and my actions?

I have been considering these challenging questions a lot in the past weeks, after reading two posts that tied diversity to discomfort. The basic premise explained that diversity will cause discomfort for me.

When I work, worship, or play with people who are different from me, they will present words, ideas and ways of doing things that are different from my personal preferences.

That might be more discussion or less than I like. More noise or less. Different music. Different flavors. Different values. More technology or less. More detail or less. Quiet work space or open collaboration. Different colors. Different styles. More emotion or less. More time together or more time alone. Spend more or spend less.

Because not everyone is like me,
if I am comfortable all the time, then others are not.

I work with diverse teams and with a great variety of people from all over the world. Each of my friends and each member of my family is different. If I truly want to invite, encourage, and empower the unique people around me, I must feel uncomfortable some of the time… and not just tolerate the discomfort, but really embrace it as a means to greater diversity.

  – gender – race – age – nationality – personality – religion – family background –
– economic class – political party – experience level – strengths and weaknesses –

All of these differences can cause discomfort and even conflict… but they are the source of rich diversity at home and at work.

diversity

Photo credit: estherase / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Instead of having a goal to make everyone happy; we could each willingly accept unhappiness some of the time, knowing that means someone different feels satisfied.

Rather than seek my own way, I am slowly learning to become more comfortable with my discomfort and celebrate – and even intentionally seek out – diversity that challenges me.

How do you react to situations that make you uncomfortable? What do you do to embrace diversity?