How to Get Along with Those Who Like Things a Certain Way

How to Get Along with Those Who Like Things a Certain Way

We all have preferences for the way things should be done.  But there are people in our lives that insist things be done a certain way and are quite adamant about it.  They tend to be the kind of people that like schedules, detailed plans, and are extremely organized.  I have some experience with these kind of people because I am married to one!  After 42 years of marriage, I am beginning to understand the mind of a person who finds my way of doing things challenging.  We look at the world very differently and that is both a blessing and a challenge.

Recently, my wife and I were shopping for a condo and my wife was super excited about a specific unit we had visited.  I asked her what she like most about the condo and her answer was very revealing about what is most important to her.  She said the thing that she liked the most was that when she opened the closets, everything was neatly folded and in their place.  She had a big smile on her face when she pictured the closet masterpiece. Everything was organized and perfectly set on the shelf.  She went on to say that, “These people are my kind of people!”  My response was, “That is what you liked most about the condo???”  “Do you realize that they are taking all their stuff and that they will not be living with us?”  What I liked most about the unit was that it looked out over the lake and the gorgeous huge swimming pool.  I didn’t even notice the organized closets – they weren’t even on my check list.

If you were to go into my closet you would discover that I don’t value neatness.  The truth is that hanging up clothes and folding clothes neatly is one of my greatest challenges in life (according to my wife).  I’m usually in a hurry and find the tasks of organizing, folding, and putting things away in the same drawer time consuming.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like when things are neat and folded and even can be irritated when clothes are wrinkled, or they are “hiding” from me.  But the amount of time it takes to achieve a perfect fold on a T-shirt isn’t worth the energy for me.  I don’t even know if it is possible for me to fold a T-shirt with any precision.

When you are wired differently from your spouse or someone you work closely, or a friend, it can be a struggle.  One of my greatest struggles has been to understand how to live well with someone who is extremely organized.  I tend to do things in my head rather than writing things down.  I am spontaneous rather than going through a methodical approach of analyzing all the potential options.  My success in life has been characterized by a non-methodical approach to everything.  I have a strong “gut” about what I should do.  It has worked for me.  But I am a challenge for my wife.

The strength that my wife possesses is labeled as METHODICAL in Corestrengths.  She loves order.  In her mind there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.  She wants written schedules and plans.  She still prints out directions for a trip rather than rely on the GPS!  (Honestly, this has saved us a few times when the GPS took us the wrong way).  She loves the predictability that comes from routines.  She doesn’t mind that it slows things down.  She knows things will be done right the first time and she is good with spending the extra time.

From my perspective it can be difficult to work with people who are METHODICAL because the way it feels to me is that they are very RIGID.  Being rigid is the overdone strength of being methodical.  I like when things are organized but I find it difficult to be put in a box in the way things should be done each and every time.  When others are rigid, I find myself fighting against it because it keeps me from exercising my own strengths like being flexible or being spontaneous or quick to act.  I know the same frustration comes from my strengths for my wife.  Tripping over cloths lying on the floor for 42 years hasn’t endeared her closer to me.

To have a successful marriage or work with someone wired different from you requires a mindset of awareness.  Our ministry of Consentia Group is named after the Latin word for awareness – consentia.  Awareness is foundational to relationship success whether it be with other people or with God.  Here are some areas of awareness that I have come to value in order to live happily and even joyfully with someone who is very methodical.

  • Aware of your own strengths and why they are important to you: The reason methodical is so challenging to me is that it requires time and detail.  I am not good and details, and I don’t want to spend time on things that don’t help me move forward.  Being aware of why being methodical is problematic to me helps me to realized that the other person isn’t the problem.  The problem begins with me.  I want things my way because I have my own preferences.  I can recast the issue as my issue rather than blaming the other person.  I don’t have to have my way all the time.  My strengths are valuable but I don’t always have to have my way.
  • Aware of other’s strengths and why they are important to them: Being methodical is a way of making sure things are done right the first time.  People with this strength have the capacity to make life more predicable with less frustration down the road (the T-shirt is in the “right” place when I need it, the receipts are filed by date and category so when we file our taxes they are easy to locate).  These people find great satisfaction in creating that order, predictability, and certainty.
  • Aware of the positive intent of their strengths: When methodical is deployed we are the recipients of their strengths.  We benefit from what they do well.  They are not trying to make our lives miserable!  They are implementing strengths that are helpful and needed.  Even when they appear to be rigid and seem to cramp our style, they are not trying to do hurt us.  They are trying to be productive the way they know best.
  • Aware of ways of valuing other’s strengths and appreciating them: I have found that communicating my appreciation for someone else’s strengths a great way to keep aware of the positive intent of there efforts and grows the relationship.  It is too easy to focus on my own strengths and thinking about the issues someone else’s strengths are hindering my own.  Voicing appreciation and sharing the value of someone else’s approach to an issue lifts other people.  God has made each of us and placed us in the body just as he has determined.  Together we represent the love of God in our world better than we could alone.
  • Aware of how to temper your own strengths for the good of others: Sometimes we need to temper our own strengths and allow the strengths of others to shine and even prevail.  Thinking about the needs of other more highly than your own can be done by not demanding that your own strengths override someone else’s strengths.  Turn down the volume of your own strengths.  For me that requires me to slow down and value strengths like being methodical.

Did we agree on a condo?  We did but we got there differently.  For me it was instinctual and spontaneous.  My wife wrote down all the positives and negatives.  I was ready to make an offer quicker, but we waited, prayed about it, researched some more, and had another visit before moving forward.  I think we will make it to 50 years if I continue to grow in awareness of my own strengths and the strengths of my spouse.  The truth is that she is beginning to rub off on me a little.  I find myself writing things down and not being in such a hurry all the time.  I like to think she is becoming more spontaneous in decision making but I will let her weigh in on that herself.

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.