Stress, resilience and personality - how are they linked? - Business Works
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Stress, resilience and personality - how are they linked?

by Katie Day, RDPI When isolated, negative feelings can become exaggerated as we've lost the point of reference with others and any feelings of anxiety may well become overwhelming. Katie Day, Director of RDPI, looks at how different people react and how understanding ourselves and others can help to manage our stress and develop resilience.

We've all found ourselves in situations during our life where we have felt energised, motivated and excited. At the same time, others around us may have reacted to the same situation in a very different way and found it impossible to share our experience and reactions.

Similarly, we've been in situations where this has been reversed. Others around us are excited and we feel that we want to run away quickly and just 'get out of here'.

Why is this?

The situation is the unchangeable aspect of these scenarios. It is what it is and the same for both parties. Why, then, do some people react very differently from others? It's our reactions that are personal to each and every one of us and therefore represent the variable in such situations.

In terms of managing our stress and increasing our resilience, this information is important to acknowledge and understand. It can become all too easy to feel: guilty; as though we are not being a 'team player'; stupid to be reacting this way; or angry that others don't understand.

What influences our personal reactions?

Most people are aware of the plethora of personality profiling instruments on the market which have been around for many decades. In fact, all versions of these profiles have their roots in the work of Hippocrates in around 400 BCE. At RDPI we have our own profiling tool, the CORE Matrix. As with many out there, it operates on four styles which we call: Collaborative, Ordered, Rational and Explorer. All styles are important and, of course, we have all four within each of us. It is just that most people will have a dominant style (or maybe a mix of two) that will be their 'norm'.

During the many years of using the CORE Matrix, we have found that people's profile has a significant impact on how they respond to different events (both negative and positive).


If you're aware of your style (or personality profile), how might this affect your response to the current global situation in which we all find ourselves?

The following gives an outline of the potential differences.

Collaborative people

These people are more likely to be the natural communicators in terms of social and personal interaction. They are the nurturers, the mediators and bring people together to work and live in harmony.

Potential negative impact of COVID-19:

  • Self-isolation is likely to be highly stressful as they are being denied the personal interaction with people that they need and crave.

  • The inability to be tactile with those they love and care for may well create tension for them.

  • The possibility of tensions within the home environment (with a number of people confined to the same space) is likely to have a greater impact for Collaboratives as harmony is one of their key drivers.

  • The lack of group communication, team building and sharing of ideas could well be a frustration.

  • As they will likely focus on the happiness of others, they may well neglect their own emotional well-being.

Potential positive impact

  • As they are natural team players, they are likely to know how (and be able to) bring people together within the same environment.

  • This trait will also allow them to be able to bring people together remotely to continue communication and social interaction.

  • As one of their key motivators is the happiness of others, they will be aware of the needs of those around them, possibly more than other styles. This includes their immediate friends and family, as well as their local community.

  • They are used to discussing their emotions, therefore the 'safety valve' of expressing frustrations is one they find easy to open.

  • If / when tensions arise they have the ability to defuse situations and therefore impact positively on the emotional well-being of those around them.

Ordered people

Ordered people prefer structure, no surprises and clear time lines, both in their personal and professional lives. They work well to timetables and lists.

Potential negative impact of COVID-19

  • If they have been plunged into home working and have had the structure of the office taken away from them, this may well create anxiety and disorientation.

  • The likelihood of having family members around them whilst they are trying to work from home could create tension and increase their stress.

  • The inability to work within well-defined 'lines' and the need to work more 'fluidly' is likely to be discombobulating. It may well take time to adapt to the new situation.

  • Not being able to walk away from the 'emotional sharing' that could be taking place around them may increase feelings of not being in control.

Potential positive impact

  • Once Ordered people have 'got their head around' the new way of working, they are very well positioned to be able to create structure and form within their day.

  • They will find it easier than other styles to 'lock themselves' away in another room to work.

  • They will be able to put their day into 'boxes', hence recreating the clear guidelines within which they function best.

  • Their clear head and less emotional life outlook will help others find their sense of 'normality' within a rapidly-changing external environment.

Rational people

Rational people tend to be the most logical, analytical, process-driven and 'contained' of all the styles. Whilst experiencing deep emotions, they are unlikely to express them externally.

Potential negative impact of COVID-19

  • Rational people prefer being in control at all times, making the decisions for themselves. This event has plunged them into a situation that is out of their control, therefore logic is unlikely to be able support them.

  • Having to give control to others over how they live their life may well create feelings of frustration and increase their stress.

  • Whilst they may be able to process (to a degree) what is happening, they cannot control the reactions of those around them, with whom they may now be sharing a confined space.

  • Being surrounded by the external emotions of the people they live with and still interact with professionally, could be challenging.

Potential positive impact

  • The ability to rationalise and not buy into emotional states could well be their saving grace in such uncertain times.

  • Their understanding of the process that needs to happen will likely allow them to make sense of the unknown.

  • They are very well placed to be able to self-isolate with possibly less personal impact than others.

  • The skill of living within well-defined boxes of separation will assist them in adapting to the current 'new normal'.

  • Their calm and unflappable manner will help those around them from being dragged into too much negativity and fear.

  • Their global view of their life will allow them to see the bigger picture and find the processes that will bring that into reality.

Explorer prople

Explorers are very future focused. They are likely to see opportunities where others see threats. They are the natural trouble-shooters and operate well in times of crisis.

Potential negative impact of COVID-19

  • They thrive on constant change and movement, so being kept confined within one space could well create stress, frustration and boredom.

  • As their need to explore new avenues and ways of 'being' will have been curtailed temporarily, this could be a source of irritation and stress.

  • The inability to be with lots of people and interact physically could also be stressful.

  • Being stopped from sharing great new ideas and getting instant feedback, along with motivating others is likely to upset them.

  • Not being able to do what they want, when they want, particularly in terms of physical activity, will probably increase frustration and reduce their tolerance levels.

Potential positive impact

  • Explorers are full of good ideas, so, once they have been able to accept the current situation, they will be very good at devising innovative ways to manage (for themselves and others).

  • They are adept at motivating other people, so will likely play a big part in helping those around them stay positive and find solutions rather than focussing on problems.

  • Being very 'future focused', Explorers will look for, and find, the opportunities this current situation offers.

  • They have the ability to be creative in times of uncertainty and enjoy journeying into the unexplored and unchartered.

  • They excel at trouble-shooting and are therefore likely to come into their own and really help other people cope.

So what?

This is our favourite question at RDPI. It's all very well doing a personality profile, but what does it mean to you now and for the immediate and long-term future?

The bottom line is that we are all different, yet are likely to share far more with others than we perhaps realise. This is an opportunity for us all to acknowledge where we may struggle and to find the areas in which we can shine. If we recognise where others may not be coping in the same way we are, we are able to accept differences more readily and strengthen (if we choose to) the parts of our personality that we may not have had the time or opportunity to look at in detail before.

We do have the ability to manage our personal stress levels and also increase our resilience. An understanding of 'self' offers us an opportunity to explore internal, previously undiscovered, aspects of who we are, thus not only managing the current situation more effectively, but also emerging stronger and better than ever.

If you've got time on your hands during the current crisis and would like to get your personality profile, RDPI is offering a special offer - 50% off (= £18 including VAT) during the COVID-19 crisis. Contact them via: RDPI contact us

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