One of the ‘extras’ that the Birkman Map (or The Grid for those using expresso) gives you, beyond some key understanding of yourself, is clues about connecting with others, even those whose Birkman Map/Grid you don’t have access to. You just need to be curious!

This 4 quadrant framework in effect provides a map for all people - all those family, friends, colleagues you interact with and meet day by day. It allows you to make sense in a generalised way of what may be going on for each person. It provides you with a ‘bridge’ to connect and get to know them better. It may even enable you to help them tap into more positive and less stressful behaviours.

Think about the things we experience every day: This child isn’t enthusiastic about going hiking with the family and just wants to stay home and play their guitar and sing; this colleague is very quiet in group meetings but you know they have a lot to contribute; this friend is always trying to convince you into the benefits of a new product or holiday destination; this manager is always focussed on process and details and doesn’t seem open to new ideas; this sibling competes with you over everything and anything and you find it exhausting; this person you lead seems so slow to get things done and you are finding it frustrating…

Almost every interaction will give you a clue to what is going on if you look at it ‘through the eyes’ of the Map/Grid.

Think about it - there are 4 broad possibilities or colours of interests, style, needs and stress reactions. Of course many of us have a kaleidoscope of colours rather than a single colour on any one of the symbols but at least we have some broad dimensions to help us make sense of people.

By observing and listening and asking a few questions you can often understand and connect with a person in a more meaningful way if you keep the Map/Grid framework in mind. It will give you clues to what makes them tick and make it easier to connect with them. You may have nothing much in common and have completely different interests, style and perspectives but even ‘aliens’ can get along and find positive ways to relate to each other!

We will focus on interests here and then cover style and needs/stress in later parts of this series.

Talking with people about what motivates them will definitely begin to build a bridge. Even if it’s something that you don’t enjoy at all, your willingness to understand that they find it genuinely fascinating will almost always be appreciated.

Try this: notice what people talk about, or do, or seem to enjoy most at home or in the work place. The clues will nearly always be there in what they do effortlessly at work, what they volunteer for, what they share on social media or do to relax.

Is it cycling at the weekends, watching or making movies/videos, building models or instrument, developing apps, sharing quotes or recommending books, posting photos of culinary dishes they have created, running kids soccer club, fixing things, amateur dramatics, collecting rare books? There will also be clues in what they seem to avoid!

Now ask yourself: what am I seeing here in terms of the 4 quadrants? Is it creativity and literary or artistic expression (blue), is it hands-on practicality (red), is it influencing and inspiring others (green), is it about ‘history’, collections, data and keeping track (yellow).

Being able to even tentatively ‘place’ what you notice in the four colour framework is simply helpful for sense-making and for comparison with your own interest colour(s). I say tentatively because we don’t always see exactly what is driving the activity. Does someone do triathlons because they love the wild outdoors, because they are ticking off a collection of locations or best times, because they love socialising with fellow competitors or something else entirely…?

An easy relationship building comment for that child, colleague, team member might be as simple as: you seem to enjoy (insert what you have noticed). That may be all it takes to unleash their passion and you may have trouble stopping them talking! If they are still reticent, try something like: what made you start this? how long have you been doing it? what makes you enjoy it so much?

What you will have done is to connect with them on the grounds of what matters to them and the answer they give will provide you with plenty of understanding about what makes them tick - and probably some clues to managing your relationship with them more effectively.

As an example, take the guitar playing child above - you have noticed their motivation (likely musical, literary and/or mechanical) and probably their lack of motivation (possibly about the outdoors but may just be not wanting to engage with family!) so maybe have a conversation with them around supporting them in their motivation and also finding alternative ways to engage them in healthy exercise and family time.

Next time we will look at how people behave and the clues that can give us…