“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” —Gandhi

Let’s discuss self-control. You need to invest time and energy into understanding why you react the way you do to certain stressors. You would be wise to study such topics as the brain (ideally your own), meditation, sleep science, and physical health. Understanding the dynamics that drive your own moods and decision-making powers will allow you deeper insight into the decision-making process of the clients with whom you interact with on a daily basis.

Start with any one, or more, of the various personality tests. You might think you know who you are, and you might think these tests are akin to a tarot card reading or numerology. And you may be right, I don’t really have a firm opinion on the science of it all. I just know of my own experience, which includes going for a card reading and checking out numerology. Yes, I’m the consummate skeptic, but skepticism does not mean you have to cut yourself off from new and interesting experiences.

I enjoy my search for self-knowledge and always seem to be gaining new insights on why I do the things I do, why I react the way I do, and in turn I am learning to refine my reactions to better suit my surroundings, my profession, and my personal goals. An added benefit of this insight is that it allows one to better understand and accept (which is far better than tolerate), the actions of others.

Know thyself.

Spend a few dollars—spend a few thousand—on the study of your inner self. Check out the DISC personality test, the Myers-Briggs test, the Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0 test. Do one, both, or all three (or more) and compare the results. Spend the extra dollars on the detailed assessment and opt for an in-person review if you can. There is gold in this research. Learning how others perceive you can be eye-opening.

My own DISC test suggested that people under moderate to extreme stress (nearly every client who enters a Mortgage Broker’s office) tend to perceive me as domineering, aggressive, controlling, etc. Basically, this report suggested my clients might perceive me to be an overbearing ass. Not great news.

Just when I thought I had found my calling, and was truly helping people—apparently, I was instead offending people with my approach, the irony being that my desire to win is actually a desire to see them win. Refinement of my personality was in order (it still is).

The MBTI suggests that I myself am an “INTJ” (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging)—or as one online comment around intjs suggests “an introverted jerk of a man.” I’ll let you Google the acronyms and follow up on the MBTI on your own.

Yes, I enjoy spending hours on end in my office alone working on complex problems and discovering elegant solutions. No, I’m not interested in a four-day-long beach party celebration of another year gone by. #nofundustan in full effect. What can I say? We all gotta be who we are.

Gallup results? I have yet to run this test, instead being focused on knocking out this manuscript—in 12-hour dedicated blocks of weekend time lost in my office and the process.

Once you know who you are, rein in who you are.

Be a little less of you, and a little more of your client. You may not be emotional, but allow your client some space to be emotional. You may not be hyper-rational and may cringe at having to prepare a spreadsheet for a detail-oriented client seeking amortization tables to the penny, again allow some time to prepare such documents.

Do what you can to adapt your style to match that of those with whom you are working. Once you are aware of the main styles that exist, you are able to understand the needs of certain clients faster and more accurately. You are also better able to see where the differences in your personality type will create potential conflict with others and you can avoid that collision with their fixed and conflicting personality traits. You will be able to do so before you have to break out the S word.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Be prepared for who you are, for who they are, and for how you are going to interact. Modify your behaviour accordingly.