There are a few ways your actions can set you apart. Be kind and courteous, obviously. But beyond that: learn how to deal with people better. Not just a general “smile more,” but a specific understanding of what makes the specific people in your life tick (and smile more!), and learn how to achieve greater synergy with them by doing what makes them feel better. In turn, greater productivity and greater harmony can be achieved in your day-to-day relationships and interactions with others.
For me, this came with learning personality styles from a variety of sources. Most significantly: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Keirsey’s expansion of the MBTI in his book Please Understand Me, and the DISC profiles.
Socrates aptly said that people make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves. Knowing “thyself” helps you to understand others.
The MBTI is best administered by a professional who is trained, and a certified assessor rather than a self-test as is found online in many forms. People are too often swayed by desired or perceived traits. They want to be perceived as a strong-minded, happy, driven, fun-loving, careful, yet flexible person. The truth is: most of us cannot be all of these things, or at least we are not bent towards being all of these things naturally.
We all have a specific set of strengths and our strengths will not be those of another’s and vice versa. It takes a lot of ingredients to make a cake, and a lot of colors to make a rainbow. We are allowed to be at our best when we acknowledge that it takes all kinds of personalities and traits to create a good working relationship, both at home and in the workplace.
MyPersonality.Info is a great resource for the MBTI, as it links to additional sources on each type. However, again, because people’s “test” results can be so swayed by their perceptions or desires, I find it much more useful to first read Keirsey’s book Please Understand Me in its entirety.
If you’re like every person I’ve ever known who read it with an open mind, you’ll recognize your personality “type” from the explanations and descriptions, and can then delve more deeply into whatever specific type you are.
I also highly recommend looking into the DISC profiles. These profiles are much more concise and can thus be a bit easier to grasp and start applying. DISC is a great tool for the workplace, especially where people are not exactly “getting along.”
For example, I work for an I (An Influencer: a person who places emphasis on influencing or persuading others, enjoys openness, and relationships). An I is typically a more inspirational person. Fun to be around, the life of the party, always up for a good time. (In the MBTI, this person is an ESFP and voted “class favorite.”)
My DISC profile is that of a D (A Dominator: a person who places emphasis on achieving results, worships the bottom line, and is [perhaps overly] confident). A D is typically an aggressive, type-A, this-is-how-we-do-it-so-do-it-or-else type person. (In the MBTI, I am an ESTJ and voted “class ass.”)
Our ability to mutually understand each other’s natural tendencies (and how they drive us to handle life and work differently) allows us to be more productive. Now, we pull with rather than against each other.
An excerpt from my book (Sizzle, Not Fizzle; 2015)