Posts Tagged ‘principles’

Character and Personality #1: Emotionality

by Gary Monti on July 6, 2010

How does it strike you when there is difficulty and someone says, “Oh, it’s just a communication problem.” Where did that world “just” come from? Is the working assumption communications is effortless, straightforward, and accurate over 90% of the time? My experience says otherwise. I’ve found there is a very common behavior that poisons communications especially in times of change – emotionality. But wait, aren’t emotions healthy? If so, what is the difference between emotionality and honest expression of feelings?

Sorting out the difference and being a leader requires wisdom and a working knowledge of both character and personality along with the interplay between the two. This is the pond in which we will swim in this new blog series.

Can We Talk?

Alfred Korzybski, the founder of general semantics, found that as stress increases; the desire for valid information increases in terms of both amount and frequency. However, unless one has a strong, positive character the desire to actively communicate goes down. People retreat inward. This isn’t to say they shut up. Rather, there is an ever-increasing absorption with the question, “What is going to happen to me!?” Minds start racing and projections of the most horrible kind can take over.

While there might be a great deal of talking there actually can be a dramatic drop in communications. Others become objects seen as helping or hurting us in getting to a stable position.

Understanding what contributes to communications or its breakdown helps a leader decide how to plan and execute the next move. This is where character and personality come into play.

Character vs Personality

Character is the inward set of rules by which one operates. In game theory it refers to one’s rationale for making decisions. This is a bit oversimplified but will work for now. “Character” is a rather neutral term. A hardened criminal has a character just as the judge who sends him to prison. Unless stated otherwise, in these blogs “character” refers to rules grounded in professionalism, empathy, and compassion.

Personality comprises the way we choose to gather information and interact with the environment. To contrast: two people can have similar character traits, e.g., the desire to serve mankind, but have very different personalities for expressing it. One could become a therapist while the other becomes a contractor who builds libraries.

Let’s use this context to examine emotionality.

Emotions vs Emotionality

Emotions are quite valuable. They reflect the variance between our expectations and the current state of affairs. Frequently, these expectations are driven by our personalities. For example, if a municipality with limited funds must choose between a mental health facility and building a library the therapist and contractor could violently disagree as to how best to spend the money. They risk falling into emotionality.

Here is where character comes into play. Leaders look at their feelings and ask, “Are they appropriate for the principles at play?” Essentially, the principles come first regardless of the consequences and emotions are expected to shift accordingly. (Important tip: Reads easy, does hard.)

With emotionality decisions are made based on feelings and seeking to either get relief from or indulge them. Think of a two year old trying to get the upper hand.

Where this leaves us is: an honest expression of emotions with a statement of underlying principles (agenda) supports communication with others while emotionality tears community apart.

If it feels like your project is an adult day-care center and you are wondering what to do just send me an e-mail at or visit

Tired of doing things you regret? Wonder why the behaviors continue even though they sabotage your position? Vacillate from submission to aggression when making business deals? Want to stop all this and just stay on your unique path? Wonder where the Hell that path is? Well this is where myth comes into play. Let’s see what you can do.

Specifically, in this blog we’ll circle back onto the first in this series and expand on the purpose of myth as well as set the stage for the next series of blogs dealing with personality and traits. Sounds like we’re going a long way from improving business performance. Bear with me – we’ll get there.

Three Levels of Truth

Some background is needed. There are three levels of truth:

  • The Unspeakable
  • Principles
  • Rules

The Unspeakable refers to the wonder of the universe and being a part of it. It fills your being and is so overwhelming words fail. Yet that is where we have the deepest most meaningful experiences. Think of that feeling you get after riveting an audience with a presentation that covers something much bigger than you – a presentation the preparation of which you disappeared into and then became the instrument through which the presentation was channeled. How would you describe that feeling? Words usually fail. That’s an example of the Unspeakable and participating in it.

Principles are needed because unless you are a hermit there’s the need to express the Unspeakable so you can communicate and make life richer through community. It’s an endeavor that is incomplete, flawed, and frustrating but one that relentlessly pushes from inside to do it anyway.

Principles are essentially a dim yet powerful reflection of the Unspeakable.  Music and poetry exist in this space as well. If you’d like a more engaging expression of this spend $0.99 at iTunes and get a copy of Billy Joel’s River of Dreams and click on this link to see the lyrics.

The Rules comprise the lowest level of truth and derive from Principles. While even further from the Unspeakable rules, when done right, reflect it sufficiently to conduct daily business. Think of a contract. There’s no such thing as a perfect, iron-clad contract because if there were one, it would trap the Unspeakable in a verbal box. The trick, though, is to create the best set of rules you can to support spending more time connected to the Unspeakable in the business community.

Symbols and Cymbals

Back to mythology. In the first blog of this series I talked about needing a personal mythology in order to make sense of life, especially major transitions. There’s another important function of myth – the reconnection with and discovery of what is rich, powerful, and beautiful within you. So, myth works both from the outside in and the inside out simultaneously.

That inward journey can be quite challenging. It’s the realm of symbols. The words “symbol” and “cymbal” have the same root, the Greek “sumballein” which means “to throw together.” Nothing nice and neat about it! Think of those crazy dreams that feel so real. But that is where the richness comes into play.

In business, Excel, Powerpoint, Word, etc., are typically tools for being analytical and precise. In other words, generating the rules. And as stated before those rules only get their meaning by being a reflection of the Principles which reflect the Unspeakable. (This argument refutes the idea this mythology stuff is a waste because it seems so soft or fuzzy and far removed from the Rules.) If this fails to occur rules are a trap. Run!

By going into your shadows and reclaiming the pieces of yourself that parents, teachers, society, bosses, etc., said were useless or detrimental a reunification and integration occurs which – voila – reestablish your connection with the Unspeakable. (See Nietzsche’s Camel, Lion, and Baby in the Mythology blog #5.) Then you can trust that your Rules are, indeed, a reflection of the Unspeakable. When you clang your personal cymbal there will be a joy right along with the professionalism that adds to life!

If you are trying to find your cymbal and want to make some noisy music send me an e-mail at or visit