HUMANS 101

Practical Tips For Type-A Personalities

So your strengths don’t bite you in the butt

Photo: Eternity in an Instant / Getty Images

If you’re a type-A personality having a good day you can be bold, determined, achievement-oriented, and get a lot of stuff done.

On a bad day, you can be overbearing, critical, impatient, intolerant, and short-tempered. You can act like an ass, get in people’s faces, and cause all sorts of trouble for yourself and others.

I’m one, so I know.

Trouble starts when you:

  • Are argumentative, stubborn, and hard to get along with.
  • Interrupt people while they are speaking.
  • Don’t listen fully and jump to conclusions.
  • Are too blunt, overly critical, and perfectionistic.
  • Are excessively consumed with winning.
  • Don’t take criticism well.
  • Present your opinions as facts.
  • Raise your voice, get angry and aggressive.

But first, if you’re reading this and aren’t sure what personality type you are, imagine each column of words is a card. Sort the cards. What card is most like you? What card is least like you? Then, force rank the other two.

Image by author

If the fiery red card (type-A personality traits) sits on top, welcome to the club. If it sits second, you’re probably at least an affiliate member.

To be your best, you, like me, have to keep the fire, that occasionally gets you in the dog house but makes you great, under control.

The rest of this article will cover two things:

  • Typical irritants — what can set you off.
  • Tips on how to manage your fiery red (type-A) energy.

Typical irritants — what can set you off.

Being told what to do.

This is a big trigger for me because my basic personality resists authority. Fiery red energy wants to be in charge, not someone else.

Lack of focus.

Because I’m task-focused with an eye on getting things done, if I’m interacting with someone who is all over the place, I can get irritated. Fiery red energy likes to be on point, on task, and focused.

Indecisiveness.

I’m generally very decisive, so I'm not impressed if someone waffles, hesitates, or is unclear. If I’m not in a good place, I may get impatient. Fiery red energy likes precision, action, and moving things forward decisively.

Incompetence.

Fiery red energy often views those who appear to be incompetent as getting in the way of completing a task. It likes being good at things. It appreciates being recognized for its ability to achieve and knows that it takes hard work to succeed. Incompetence can wind us up.

Being out of control.

Because fiery red energy wants to control its external environment, if it finds itself in a situation with less influence or control than it would like, it can get uncomfortable and reactionary.

Tips to manage your fiery red (type A) energy.

Slow down.

We move, think, and want to get stuff done quickly. We write emails fast. How often have you written an email, and just before hitting send, you go back to the beginning and insert, Hello, I hope you are doing well.

We’re goal-focused and want to crack on and climb the next mountain. Remember to breathe. Take some deep breaths every few minutes, and tell yourself, “You don’t have to get everything done today.”

Listen, don’t interrupt.

When someone is speaking slowly or going in a direction already anticipated, you want to jump in, right? Your talkative mind is going nuts. You want them to shut up and finish. You want to tell them to hurry the f*@k up.

However, don’t say anything. Wait until they finish speaking. There’s nothing more arrogant, irritating, or rude than somebody talking over someone else. Bite your tongue, breathe, chew on your fingernails, do anything but interrupt.

Acknowledge, clarify and confirm.

Before making your point in a conversation, use active listening skills like acknowledging, clarifying, and confirming. “So, let me see if I have this right. What’s important to you is closing the deal before the deadline, not waiting, correct?”

Or, “I’m not sure what you mean by intermittent failures. Can you give me an example?”

Or, “Ok. Thanks for letting me know the draft proposal is on target. Now I have an additional question for you?”

Validate what you have heard. Be respectful of someone else’s opinion.

Stay present in conversations.

You might get bored in meetings or conversations with your partner. Someone is droning on about something that you have little interest in. You decide to use the time to think about what’s on your to-do list or what you’re going to do after dinner. You drift off; you’re half gone.

Find a way to stay present. Force yourself to look the other person in the eye. Be aware of your breath and bring all your attention to the conversation.

Use the check-in technique.

A check-in is a great way for you to demonstrate your ability to connect on the human level before doing business. It will also help you and others get the most out of any meeting — one on one, or in a group.

When people contribute and have a voice in a meeting they feel more involved. More involvement means better outcomes. It also helps anyone running from one meeting to the next to get more focused.

You can propose a few simple questions, like “How are you showing up today?” and “What would you like to get from this meeting?” or “What expectations do you have from our time together?”

Each person briefly answers the questions; everyone else listens, no interrupting and no commenting. Put a time limit on if necessary. You might enjoy this free check-in generator, which provides dozens of check-in questions.

Practice verbal aikido.

Aikido is a martial art that neutralizes an attack's energy without any offensive or defensive maneuvers. Instead of becoming reactive, verbal aikido handles the attack by first standing your ground, and using curiosity and inquiry before countering.

For example, if someone says, “That’s a dumb idea you have.” Rather than reacting immediately, either defensively or aggressively, verbal aikido suggests you counter with, “Oh, so you think it’s dumb? I’d like to hear why you think so?”

This approach helps the attacker own and explain their opinion before you counter with an explanation of yours. It’s disarming because they expect you to react negatively. When you don’t, you’ve gained the high ground.

Ditch arrogance for humility.

Many type-A personalities struggle with arrogance — believing that our ideas are foolproof, better, and more clever than anyone else. We think the way we do something is how everybody else ought to do it, but that’s just arrogance disguised as trying to look smart.

When we’re arrogant, we alienate people. Everybody thinks we’re an ass because we are.

Arrogance says, “That project you’re working on will never work.”

Humility says, “I have questions and concerns about the project you’re working on. Can I share my thoughts with you?”

Arrogance presents its opinion as a fact.

Humility expresses its opinion as just an opinion and is open and curious about alternative ways of thinking.

Let go of perfectionism and accept who you are — all of you.

We’re hard on ourselves. The inner critic can be brutal. We expect to do everything right. When we screw up, we either deny it or replay it endlessly in our heads. We get angry at ourselves, and we get mad at the people around us, usually the ones we love the most.

Then we wonder why we find ourselves alone, and we tell ourselves it’s because we’re the mad genius, and no one understands us. It’s all bullshit.

We have to accept we’re not perfect. We’re going to make mistakes, and others are going to make mistakes too. Get used to it. Learn to forgive yourself.

Focus on learning, not doing everything right.

Practice mindfulness and or meditation.

As Viktor Frankl famously said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Being aware of our inner world is the key to managing our outer world.

When we notice our thoughts and what is said in a conversation or not said, we can become more present. Instead of finding ourselves in a reactionary mode, we can find ourselves in an observing manner.

When we observe, we are less likely to get caught up in behavior off the mark. We have time to reflect, even if just for a second. That one second gives us time to decide what to say, what not to say, what to do, and what not to do.

Mindfulness and meditation can help us stay more present. Here is an article I wrote about meditation, a lifelong practice of mine.

Learn to apologize sincerely.

If you have a lot of fiery red energy, you have a lot of personal power. You’re likely a leader or someone who has achieved significant success so far in your life. Because you have a dynamic personality, you have considerable influence and impact on others.

When you falter, one of the most powerful things you can do is apologize for your contribution, even if the other party is not doing so.

Take the lead. Don’t pour more gas on the fire.

Remember, it only takes one person to end an argument.

Let that person be you. Own up. Do the right thing, always.

Summary.

Being a type-A personality and having a lot of fiery red energy, is a gift, and it comes with the responsibility to use it wisely.

So here are the tips again to help make you more effective (and probably even more likable) while you continue to make the world go-'round and get shit done.

  • Slow down.
  • Listen, don’t interrupt.
  • Acknowledge, clarify and confirm.
  • Stay present in conversations.
  • Use the check-in technique.
  • Practice verbal aikido.
  • Replace arrogance with humility.
  • Let go of perfectionism and accept who you are — all of you.
  • Practice mindfulness and or meditation.
  • Learn to apologize sincerely.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like, The Junk Drawer Personality Test.

Let’s stay connected. My mailing list will offer you a relaxed note every few months or so with musings, ideas, and what’s on my mind.

Author of the soon-to-be-published book, Be More Conscious. https://www.linkedin.com/in/donaldejohnson/