The Fine Art of Dealing with Dominant People
Recognizing the Dominant style:
Look for strong confidence, which may even seem like ego or bravado. They are results-oriented and usually make decisions quickly. They are very direct and assertive, even aggressive at times. Most have little patience with details or lots of questions. In a meeting, they will take charge (even if they're not in charge) and drive the discussion towards their goals. Put several in a meeting and you'll have instant, if a bit bloody, entertainment! Some will temper the more difficult aspects of their dominant style with good people skills, but you will still feel the power underneath.
Seeing life from the Dominant perspective:
Dominant people measure others on competency and directness. They look for confidence and see anything less as potential weakness. Without recognizing it, they often "test" the confidence of others early in a relationship through some kind of challenge. They drive themselves hard and usually assume that others want to do the same. They tend to measure everyone by their achievement yardstick. Problems are seen as interesting challenges to overcome, with risk a necessary means to the end. They have little patience for resistance to change or lack of progress. The dominant person is perplexed when people take their assertive behavior personally; they certainly don't intend it as a personal attack.
Dealing with the Dominant:
If you are a detail-oriented person, communicating with a person of dominant style can be very frustrating. They may get impatient with your questions and even perceive you as incompetent because you need to ask them. You may only get high-level direction and feel uncomfortable with filling in the many gaps left behind. The dominant person may not understand why you don't make faster decisions or change direction more quickly.
- Keep your questions to a minimum. Focus on big-picture questions and get your details from a different source when possible.
- Be direct in asking for what you want and in stating your opinions. Focus your confidence on what you do know, rather than feeling the gap about what you don't.
- Don't view the dominant person as incompetent because they don't care about details. Their strength and focus is just in a different area - the bigger picture. Together you make a fine team!
- Be clear about the value you bring to the team/relationship. You can help pave the way in terms of building relationships and getting things done through people.
- Put your effusive personality on ice when dealing with the dominant person and understand their need to get down to business.
- Have a goal to listen 50% more than you talk. This is tough for a people-person but worth the effort.
- Don't rely on an avoidance strategy! Instead, plan for your encounter and fully prepare what you need to say. Practice speaking out when you have a valuable contribution.
- Know that you are the means by which the dominant's goals get achieved. Ask directly for what you need from them to be successful.
- State your personal and professional boundaries clearly. Ask that they speak to you privately and in professional tones when there is a problem. Frequently remind yourself: "It's not personal".
If you have a dominant style, you can achieve your goals with greater efficiency by being aware of the impact your assertive approach has on others. There are times when you can be more powerful by taking it down a notch. By adapting your approach to the situation, you will achieve your results faster.
- Listen more, particularly to the quiet ones. Some of your most intuitive and innovative people may be kept silent by the force of your personality. Make it safe for them to come out and play and you will have a bigger think-tank to draw from.
- Give your detail- and task-oriented people time to catch up to your ideas. A bit of patience and support on your part will result in a major return of effort when they get up to speed. Remember that these people are the engine that implement your ideas. Detail and a solid foundation are their fuel.
- See and use the value of those high-energy "people" personalities. They usually hate task-oriented detail as much as you do, so use them for what they are best at: motivating and getting people working together. They can help smooth out your rough edges!