My company has invested in years of research developing a program that identifies six key personality types and their corresponding communication styles. One of the six main traits we identified is the “diligent” personality type. People who strongly identify with diligent personality traits are inclined toward perfectionism. By definition, diligent or perfectionist personality types are motivated by data and practical behaviors. They exude confidence in an evidence-based framework and are laser-focused on facts and achieving outcomes, preferring to get to the point of any conversation quickly. These particular skills are often advantageous to any organization when balanced with a healthy component of emotional intelligence. Another upside to this type of particularized communication is that people can count on diligent personalities to be objective and efficient in their interactions.
Problems arise when you are locked into a diligent state. Every problem must be solved, every rock must not go unturned, and every issue must have closure. Perfectionists are also inclined to persuade, over-explain, and offer unsolicited advice. If you identify with these strong perfectionist habits, you may also tend to face challenges when communicating with others. If you can’t keep your intense feelings in check, it can leave others exhausted and tuned-out.
When regulated, perfectionist types are open to the needs of others rather than sticking with a “prove it to me” mentality of engagement. Consider the following tips to help loosen the reins of perfectionism and improve your communication. The ultimate payoff will be a more balanced and healthy relationship with others — as well as yourself.
1. Hold your tongue.
Practice mindful or silent listening. Refrain from providing “answers” to statements unless it is formed as an actual question posed toward you. Most people just want to be heard as they work through their feelings and thought process. They are not expecting you to provide an answer to their issue or problem. Honor their unspoken wishes. Try to adopt the mindset that not every conversation requires your input or an instant solution.
2. Don’t fill in the blanks.
When you are caught up in fact-based thinking, impatience can set in, especially when you believe that you already know what the other person is going to say. When this happens, you stop listening and appear disrespectful. It can cause frustration for all parties involved. There is a fine line between identifying the facts and coming across as a know-it-all.
3. Stop critiquing every idea.
Perfectionism can stifle creativity and innovation. Brainstorming is an effective exercise to overcome detail-oriented biases. Allow thoughts, feelings, and ideas to flow freely — without evaluating, critiquing or questioning. Just try it. There are many ways to get started, including writing down your thoughts and asking open-ended questions.
4. Know when to accept “good enough.”
Not all exchanges require a definitive outcome, and not all tasks must be completed to exhausting perfection. Issues arise when intensity takes over — and you cannot let go. Allow yourself the freedom to feel comfortable with unrestricted outcomes and a less than perfect finale. Remind yourself to “let go” and then ask, “Will this be important, in one week, one month or one year?” Accept that 100 percent closure isn’t always the other party’s priority in the first place.
5. Learn mindfulness meditation
Even the most self-proclaimed over-analytical thinkers can learn how to benefit from a mindfulness meditation practice. It takes commitment and patience to get started, but the results can be remarkably rewarding. Meditation can help free closed-mind and build self-awareness. Here is a shortlist of evidence-based facts that highlight many of the wellness benefits of mindfulness thinking. An excellent place to start is with this five-minute meditation that can be practiced anywhere — even at your desk.