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Are you “allergic” to your partner’s personality?

This week was a special week in the Rous House.  Two years ago, Steve and I hosted 17 Canadian visitors and 83 British friends as we celebrated the commencement of our marriage in Oxford, England!  This week, we celebrated our anniversary at “Kan Zaman” (which means ‘once upon a time’), a fantastic restaurant here in Amman that serves classic and non-traditional Arab fare.  Two years down…fifty more to go 🙂

But more than just an opportunity to have a nice meal out, we also took the chance to reflect on a game we’d played with our team here over the weekend.  The game was called the “Core Quadrant”.

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  1. Quadrant 1: Your Core Quality. Out of a whole bunch of different personality qualities, you select one “core quality” that people (and you) recognize as the key quality they would use to describe you.    Words like “courage”, “generous”, “determination”, “thoroughness”, “spontaneity” – these are all positive qualities.  There were over 60 to choose from.
  2. Quadrant 2: Your Pitfall. Then, as a team you go through a whole stack of “negative” qualities asking yourselves the question: “if a person had TOO MUCH of this good quality, what kind of negative outcome could happen?”.  Typically, we found between 5 and 15 possible negatives for each core quality we assessed.  For example, we chose “calmness” as a core quality.  Some of the “too much of a good thing” negatives we then selected included “passivity”, “boring”, “resignation”, etc.  The person who was the focus of the exercise then went through all the options and selected the one negative word that he or she most recognized in themselves as their pitfall, when their strength essentially becomes their weakness.
  3. Quadrant 3: Your Challenge. Once a pitfall was decided upon, then once again we as a team went through all the positive words asking ourselves: “what’s the positive opposite to this negative pitfall?”  In our example, we had chosen the word “passivity” as the pitfall of “calmness”.  Then, for the positive opposites of passivity, we selected a range of words including “determination”, “drive”, etc.  And once again, the person who was the focus of the exercise chose the one that he or she most admires in other people, or most misses in her/himself.  This word is this person’s “challenge”.  In the core quadrant, this “challenge” is the quality that will most bring you balance.  For example, if “calmness” is your core quality and “drive” is your challenge, you will grow the most as a balanced person if you learn more and more to be “calmly driven”.  You have the most to learn from people who have your challenge as their core quality.
  4. Quadrant 4: Your Allergy. As the last part of the exercise, we once again went through the negative cards asking ourselves “if a person had TOO MUCH of this good quality, what kind of negative quality would emerge?”.  For “drive” as the challenge, we came up with negatives such as “egoism” or “pushiness”.  The cool part of the quadrant is that once you determine your allergy based on your challenge, you’ll recognize that your allergy is a negative opposite to your own core quality.  In our example, “pushiness” would be the negative opposite of “calmness”.  So often, the very quality that we admire in others, in this example we used “drive” as our challenge, we get confused with “pushiness”.  So when you notice you have an “allergic reaction” to someone (for example, a pushy person), actually – there’s also probably something in that person that you have a great deal to learn from, and probably something you admire!!  Not their pushiness, but indeed, their drive.

This exercise is really applicable to life on a team – whether you work in an office, or like us, if you work on a Medair humanitarian team.  Sometimes, you have such frustrating people to work with!!  And yet you’ve got to work together to accomplish a greater purpose!  The Core Quadrant can really help you separate someone’s positive core quality from what you perceive as your allergy. It can help you appreciate the amazing qualities of that person apart from the elements that most annoy you.

One of the realizations I had going through my own core quadrant, when I got to my “challenge” quadrant – was that the three key challenges I recognized in myself were three of the core qualities I most admire about Steve – “kindness”, “unselfishness”, and “helpfulness”.  But the scary part of that realization was that his “too much of a good thing” outcomes were also my allergies!  And guess what?  My pitfall – it showed up on Steve’s allergy list, too!

So during our week of celebrating, we pretty vulnerably got to open up and discuss what we most admire in the other person, but also how that thing that we most admire also becomes the most frustrating thing about one another.  This is what I celebrate two years into marriage:  that more and more I can appreciate the core qualities of my husband and forgive him when those qualities sometimes come out too strongly.  And that more and more my “pitfalls” are lessening as I try to emulate the qualities I love about him so much.  And I love that through this refining process, God is using marriage to shape each of us to become a better reflection of Him!

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