Are you a St. Bernard, an owl, a lion, or a chameleon? Read to find out
Published - 04/07/21 - 07:00 AM | 905 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Natasha Josefowitz
Natasha Josefowitz
As we are reentering groups of people in our communities following a year in isolation, we have the opportunity to observe ourselves in how we relate to others. Isolation has changed us; for some in perceptible ways, for others in imperceptible ones. We are all different from who we were a year ago. We each have an interpersonal style. Has this style changed? To this end I have chosen four styles of relationships to others defined by the animals represented. Everyone has a characteristic interpersonal style that is their preferred way of relating to other people; even though they may change styles to accommodate particular situations, under stress we revert to one’s particular style. Returning to community after a year’s absence is stressful. This is why we have a unique opportunity to observe ourselves. All inter-personal styles have strengths and weaknesses. Weaknesses are strengths used to excess.

Let us start with the St. Bernard. St. Bernard people are helpful and friendly. They are warm-hearted and their main concern is the welfare of others, wishing to protect. They are open and responsive to the needs of others, looking for ways to make their lives easier. They try to avoid being a burden to others. The downside is that they may be pushovers used indiscriminately due to their good nature. St. Bernards avoid conflict, dislike arguments, and can be seen as impractical, gullible, and too submissive. St. Bernards need to learn to be more assertive. Being genuinely helpful and caring about the feelings and well-being of others, is really a wonderful way of relating to people. Their basic style is altruistic and nurturing.

Let’s take the owl. Owls are analytical. They are thinkers, planners, are concerned that things have been thought through. They see themselves as objective and fair, in control of emotions. The down size of owls is that they are loners, being nitpickers. They don’t trust others for getting things properly; they have issues with spontaneity. They are seen as rigid, unfeeling, suspicious. They see themselves as independent and self-sufficient. They respect logic, facts, and wisdom. They know they should be more trusting, but have a hard time being so. They are methodical and fair.

The lion likes to be in control. Lions like to compete and win. They are assertive, ambitious, self-confident, forceful. They want authority, responsibility, and leadership. They push for immediate action, challenging others, and are risk-takers. Lions can be ruthless, arrogant, dictatorial, and combative. They despise indecisiveness. The down size of lions is that they can be slave drivers and bullies in their drive for task accomplishment, ride rough shod over people. Lions don’t always acknowledge that they can be more considerate.

Chameleons are different. Their concern is being a good group member. They are willing to adapt and change and like to be seen as flexible. They know a lot of people and want to be known by a lot of people. Their main concern is the welfare of the group and its membership. They are curious about what others think and feel. They are open-minded and experiment with how to best act. The down side of a chameleon is that they are seen as wishy-washy and unpredictable. Chameleons wonder whether they should be more decisive and hold on to their opinions, which is hard for them to do, and are not sure what their own opinions really are.

Most people don’t fit into just one category, but use a combination of different behaviors under various situations. I can think of other styles of relating to others such as the kitten, used by people trying to be childlike and playful; this can be acceptable in some situations or seen as seductive. I also thought of the laughing hyena; people who relate to others by making everything into a joke, which can become irksome. Then there is the lone wolf – the person who stays out of the conversation, not engaged nor engaging, and ends up being overlooked and dismissed.

As you read this, do you identify yourself more with one style of relating than another? Do you get a gut reaction “yes, that’s me”? Your initial reaction is probably the right one because as one ponders, it is easy to rationalize and put oneself in a different category while we see ourselves in a better light. Before the pandemic, I admit to being a lion and a St. Bernard, but will tilt more to the St. Bernard as I re-enter my community.

Natasha Josefowitz is the author of 21 books. She currently resides at White Sands Retirement Community in La Jolla. Copyright © 2021. Natasha Josefowitz. All rights reserved.
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