How To Be A Chameleon Without Losing Yourself (Episode 298)
As we focus on looking inward this month, it's time for another book review. While this book addresses the DISC personality assessments, it goes beyond a letter to create a fun set of stories that are great for whole families to read together. I know we just did! In his book, The Chameleon: Life-Changing Wisdom For Anyone Who Has A Personality Or Knows Someone Who Does, Merrick Rosenberg does a great job of helping us see how personality differences play out in real life - using the analogy of birds.
I love this concept of being a chameleon - not to lose yourself by simply being a people-pleaser, but to learn how to adapt to situations in a way that brings out the best in who you are engaging with.
"Chameleons do not manipulate situations; we adapt to what is. We make small suggestions that can create big impacts. We gently help others see the path that is for the greatest good of everyone involved."
I love this book so much that not only did I read it, I went back through and read the whole thing aloud with my family, flagging notes all along the way. And those notes are now what is compiled in this post.
In this book, instead of simply breaking things down into DISC as I did in the previous post, it takes the concept of personality styles to birds, personifying them as an Eagle, Parrot, Dove, and Owl.
It guides you through 22 little parables about these birds and the interactions they face, with the wisdom of Xenia, the Chameleon, and her friend Xavier. Complete with quotes and summaries at the end of each chapter, it takes the parables and shifts them to real-life application, and, as you'll see below, there is a lot packed into this little book.
As You Grow, You Will Change
This is an important concept to consider. When we think about personality styles, a common question I get is if they change over time. And my answer is yes and no. There are key elements that are a part of our human nature. No matter how much I may adapt to situations, I'm going to be more results-driven, as this is a core part of my nature.
That being said, the more I grow, the more I understand about who I am and who I want to be. And, for that reason, while we may change, if we are truly seeking to know ourselves, it may be that what shifts is us stepping more and more into who we naturally are at our core.
For me, when I was young and eager to gain the acceptance of others around me, my high I/Parrot personality really shone through as I wanted to feel that affirmation. As I've gotten older, I've become way more direct and D/Eagle driven as I've gained confidence in who I am. My Parrot style is still there, yet I've allowed other aspects of who I am - my Eagle and Owl - to develop and grow more as I gain a deeper understanding of when each style is the most helpful to what I want to accomplish.
This isn't about changing who you are every time you're around someone different. This is looking at flexibly adapting to situations to connect with others, and recognizing when your own unique strengths are helpful, or when it's best to allow someone else to step up with theirs.
It's Not Wrong If It Comes Easy
I think so often we write off the skills we have when they are "easy" for us. Just because something comes naturally for you doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. Part of my skill as a coach is the fact that I've naturally coached my whole life - I was the "Dear Abby" type of friend everyone would share their challenges with. I love answering questions, not from a place of knowing it all, but oftentimes turning the question back on the individual for them to seek their own answers.
I was drawn to the beauty of sign language and loved the various ways of communication. I got my degrees in American Sign Language Interpreting and Psychology. Coaching has always been an aspect of how I have shown up as a friend and support to others.
Does that mean I shouldn't coach, since it comes so naturally, or is that a powerful affirmation that this is my calling? I'm a relationships coach that thrives in helping families learn to communicate in a way where they can truly meet each other where they are. And, if you've listened to my podcast at all, you know I end every week with the tagline I truly believe in - the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
The more we show up authentically to support one another by truly using our strengths, the better we all are. And those strengths aren't intended to drain you but to give you the fuel to keep going and sharing your gift with the world.
Another great line from the book says, "If you judge your creativity based on the works of others, you will inevitably perceive yourself as inadequate."
Recognizing your strengths is so valuable in your ability to keep flowing - not just trudging your way through life as one big challenge. Your work - and life - should feed your spirit, not drain it. Those things that come easy may be the very things that make you feel most alive.
Learning To View Others From THEIR Eyes, Not Your Own
It's not just about treating others as you want them to treat you. I love how Rosenberg separates the golden rule in two ways.
When it comes to values - integrity, honesty, kindness, compassion, empathy - you definitely treat others how you want to be treated.
However, when it comes to things like approaches to work, parenting, collaboration, and more, you are way better off treating others how THEY want to be treated.
I want to be treated with clear communication and a bottom-line goal - when it comes to decision-making, it's best to get to the point quickly. However, when working with someone who is more like a C/Owl, it's important to take the time to address the details so their questions are answered and they can move forward with confidence. They're going to most likely gain insights in a way I wouldn't because of their eye for details, for example.
There are many ways to reach a destination. While we may all be in alignment that we want a common goal of kindness and honesty, that's going to look different for each of us in how that is best received - maybe it's a direct comment, maybe it's a very indirect yet affirming note of appreciation.
"What matters more to you - how you see yourself, or how others see you?"
Is there a case for both? If you view yourself as a great listener and others view you as a pushover who doesn't share your own opinion, is that what you want? On the flip side, if others think you're a great listener, and you're completely drained by others, pay attention to whether you're being taken advantage of and how you may draw some boundaries that don't completely drain you.
What Are You Pushing For?
I so remember being the mother who stressed about playdates. I would try over and over again to get my daughter to engage in playdates, yet spent the majority of the time with her sitting in my lap or playing off to herself, just enduring it while I had my social fix.
In my mind, my daughter should have loved going off and playing with all these new friends to be made while I would relax and enjoy my mommy social hour.
And yet, my daughter had no desire for that. The more people, the more stressed she became. She'd take one friend over a crowd any day. I got a hard lesson on what I was pushing. If I wanted to push my agenda, my daughter would endure. And it was a clear message to hear that she was inadequate for not needing the social interaction I did.
When I learned to respect that her introversion wasn't a strike against her, but a beautiful part of why she was able to go so deep with her curiosity and creativity, it awakened a new strength in her.
Now, seeing her as an amazing 15-year-old a few weeks before her 16th birthday, I see a capable woman who can easily carry on a conversation with others and interact when she needs/wants to, and who knows how to solidly recharge alone with nature and in her art.
She's shown me other perspectives, and how to respect the different ways we recharge and stand in our strengths.
Are you pushing what fulfills YOU on your children and partner, or are you allowing them to recharge in the way that fuels THEM?
The Uniqueness In Each Of Us Strengthens All Of Us
There is that saying that opposites attract. And, in so many ways, it's true - we can be so attracted to those opposites that are a complement to who we are, and bring out aspects of us we wouldn't otherwise step into.
However, when tensions are high, that's when opposites repel. When we're under stress, that tends to be when we get frustrated that others aren't seeing things exactly as we are.
"We often misinterpret people's behavior because we use our own lens to understand their desires, expectations, motivators and fears. Since we believe that we see the world as it is, unfiltered by own interpretation, we tend to overestimate the degree to which people will be aligned with our perspectives. Therefore, we expect the people in our lives to like what we like, want what we want, and react how we react."
Merrick Rosenberg, The Chameleon, page 156
How often are we frustrated with others because we would never react in that way. Yet from their perspective, they are just as frustrated that your actions didn't align with theirs.
Maybe, it's not so much about our differences, as much as how we handle those. Are we coming in with an attitude of judgment, with your way being the only "right" way? Or are you, before you judge, first seeking to understand?
Be careful not to draw conclusions simply based on your own reaction. Be open to a different perspective - you may learn something new, and, if anything, you'll learn better where they are coming from so you truly can meet them where they are.
Remember, you can't necessarily change anyone else. However, you can certainly change the way you handle them. And your response will definitely make an impact on how they react moving forward.
Stepping Into The Shoes Of Another
I talk a lot about empathy. We don't have to become another in order to connect. It's simply finding in our own world that similar feeling that helps us connect. While one person may not get anxious about speaking in public, they may be able to empathize with another simply remembering the anxiety they have around heights and how vulnerable it makes them feel.
There is power in mirroring another. We respond to our reflections. When we see others exhibiting similar behavior, we tune in - it's our herd mentality. We are community driven. Yes, even introverts. You look for those who view the world as you do.
And, in order to connect, our best first step is to meet where we are vs. trying to change someone to your viewpoint. Get to know the other perspective. Watch how they act (and react). Tune in to what lights them up, and start to speak that language.
Find something that puts you on common ground - it may be a mutual love of chocolate, or a common desire to do good for our planet, even if you see different ways of doing that. When you start from a place of connection vs. dissent, you have a completely different interaction.
Everyone Is Our Teacher
Ah yes, we are advocates of functional education and believe the world is our school and everyone is our teacher. And those people that rub us the wrong way can oftentimes be our greatest teachers.
"Sometimes we come across people we find difficult to deal with. Perhaps those closest to us have habits that annoy or confound us. These people are not in our lives to be conquered. There are there to be understood so we can better understand ourselves. In fact, our greatest teachers are often those who evoke deep emotional responses as they provide us opportunities to learn."
Merrick Rosenberg, The Chameleon, page 227
Instead of just getting frustrated with others who may view or do things differently than you, look at what you can learn. If anything, you can learn what you don't want to do. There is always an opportunity for a lesson when you're ready to receive it.
We often risk missing a powerful message simply because someone isn't speaking in our language. However, I've learned that stopping and paying attention to the language they speak may make all the difference, like what has come out of my 7-second rule.
Oftentimes what we may view as mal-intent may simply be because we are seeing the actions differently than we'd do them, while the intention actually remains the same. Be really clear on what you are doing, not simply what your intention is behind it - that's harder for others to read.
First off, clearly, I highly recommend reading The Chameleon: Life Changing Wisdom For Anyone Who HAs A Personality Or Knows Someone Who Does.
If you want to dig even deeper, here is a recent interview with Merrick Rosenberg by our 48 Days First Impressions Director, Myhriah Young, where he not only talks about the book but the backstory and a preview of a short movie he's creating based on this book.
And, if you're looking to improve your communication skills and really connect with others, consider taking the DISC assessment and learning more about these different styles and how we can best interact with others.
Pay attention to how you connect - what your actions are versus your intentions, and how they can truly bridge differences to find ways to connect vs. divide. It's time to seek to understand and remember how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
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