Retail Truth #208 – Chip Averwater

We can’t treat them the same when they’re not.

Treating everyone the same is an admirable philosophy based on the equality we all strive for. Only it doesn’t work.

We can speak bluntly and directly to some employees; others require a soft touch, couching even gentle suggestions in affirmations. Some are motivated by our 3dcover_72dpi[1]approval, some by teamwork, some by duty, some only by money – and some by nothing we can offer.

We learn how to interact and what responses to expect largely through trial and error. But an understanding of the personalities underlying those responses can reduce frustrations and improve communication.

Used with permission of the author.

Copies of Retail Truths – The Unconventional Wisdom of Retailing by Chip Averwater can be purchased at

Understanding the People You Work With – by Richard Rejino

There is the old adage, “if we didn’t have to deal with people, we wouldn’t have any problems.” The problem, however, is that the success of our businesses depends on people, whether they are employees or customers. So, how can everyone get along, and how can you learn to communicate effectively with your employees or co-workers?

Personalities come in as many variations as there are nuances in music. But if we learn to identify certain cues, such as body language, speech patterns, appearance and interests, they will give you an insight into an individual’s personality, which can lead to a better understanding of how and why they think the way they do.

While we are all different and unique, studies show that behavior in people who are alike is more predictable than we think. All of us fall into a specific personality type. Knowing how to identify them can help you motivate your employees, recognize their natural strengths, and find the best communication style to make yourself understood. One means of identifying personalities is the Myers-Briggs Test, (the link is a free online example based on the Myers-Briggs test).

The more you learn about personality types, the more you will use your knowledge in everyday situations. For example, I once interviewed an employee whom I will call David. During the interview he was polite, on the quiet side, and gave thoughtful answers to every question. He had previous retail experience and spoke in great detail about what did on the job. He used phrases such as, “I felt like I was doing a good job,” and described his goal as “making people happy.” The (emotional) verbal cues he gave identified him as someone who wants to please others and that needs affirmation. The detail with which he spoke about his previous job indicated that he was a stickler for details and routines. I ended up hiring him, and after working with him a short time, he demonstrated exactly what his cues had shown: very detail minded, a stickler for neatness, very routine-oriented, good customer service.

But David liked to talk, and if I asked a question about his work he would describe every detail about a situation. I, on the other hand, just wanted a straight answer to my question. His propensity for over-explaining things could have created a situation where I would avoid talking to him. By understanding that his need to explain details was his way of understanding a situation, I learned to be very specific with my questions so that he wouldn’t deluge me with unsolicited details. And if I wanted to talk to him about general business issues, I knew that I needed to do it at a time when I could genuinely listen and consider everything he had to say. As a result, my working relationship with him was strengthened from knowing his tendencies and him knowing mine.

The following books are great resources to learn more about Personality Types:

Please Understand Me: Character & Temperment Types – Keirsey and Bates

Do What You Are : Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type – Tieger & Tieger