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Maybe There’s More than One “Right” Way

Recently I took a trip to Europe with my daughter. It was part personal and part business. I have known for about a year that I would be taking this trip. She has known she would be going along on the trip for about six months. We both had ample time to prepare.

That's as much similarity as there was, though, in our preparation. The way that she prepared was nothing like the way that I prepared. That's because we have a fundamental difference in our personality styles and preferences. In MBTI language, I have a strong preference for judging and she has a strong preference for perceiving.

What that means is that I like to be – no, I need to be – prepared, organized and methodical well ahead of time. By contrast, she prefers to do things closer to the last minute, keeping all of her options open and retaining some level of flexibility for as long as possible.

The day of our flight encapsulated all these differences. Our flight did not leave until 7:30 p.m. Our need to exchange currency and go through security in the international terminal led to my decision that we should arrive at the airport by 4:30 p.m. That necessitated leaving our house shortly after 3:00 p.m. on that day.

I was completely packed and ready to go the day before. My daughter was not. We came home from the office around noon on the day we were scheduled to leave. I just wanted to do some last minute things around the house, to write a few love notes to my husband and son who were not accompanying us, etc. She, on the other hand, arrived home but left immediately again. She had errands to run. She went to the library, the bank, the post office and the drugstore while I fumed at home, furious that she had not done these things in the days leading up to the trip.

When she returned from those errands, she packed. Finally. I was feeling somewhat frantic because of the last-minute nature of her preparations. She wasn't phased by it in the least, even though she did not finish until about five minutes before it was time to leave.

As it turned out, everything was just fine. There was no right or wrong in the methods that either of us chose. It boiled down to being nothing more than a simple difference in style. My anxiety about her last minute preparations was all for naught. Her eye rolling at my very early preparations was also all for naught.

Neither one of us was more effective than the other. We both got done what needed to get done in time to leave for the airport by my 3:00 p.m. deadline. Although we each looked at the other’s preferences as being somehow deficient, it turns out that our own preferences worked out just fine for each of us. We laughed about these differences throughout the trip. We had a good time, especially since we gave each other space to exercise our preferences at times as well as had respect for each other's preferences, too.

There’s no way we would have enjoyed the trip as much as we did if we did not understand that these differences are merely preferences, without casting aspersions on them. I know in the past that I've traveled with people and allowed myself to constantly fret about last minute preparations and schedules when we haven't been ready well ahead of time. I know that what I perceived to be a lack of organization in others caused me to judge them rather harshly. And I know that people who prefer perceiving tendencies often think that I'm far too uptight.

Gaining awareness and understanding about others’ types has helped me tremendously. I can relax, knowing that others will get done what they need to when they need to. Most people want to be effective, and they don't have to be effective in the way I’ve defined effectiveness. It's okay to be different so long as the outcomes are agreed-upon and achieved.

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