Our three golden retrievers have very distinctive personalities, as was illustrated when my husband Glenn and I took them all out for ice cream the other night. We walked over to the local ice-cream parlour and purchased a vanilla kiddie cone for each of them. Ben, (far left in the picture) our 10-year old, consumed his like a perfect gentleman, quietly and calmly. Burton, (the darker one on the right) four-year old littermate of Taylor (looking right at the camera), eagerly inhaled his, nearly choking, cone and ice cream fragments flying in all directions and bits lodging in Taylor’s fur. She, in characteristic fashion, ate hers daintily and carefully. She does this at every meal, savouring each bite while looking Burton right in the eye. He wolfs his down in three gulps, and then must watch her peruse her bowl, select each mouthful and chew it thoroughly with infuriating deliberation. It drives him nuts.
Is their behavior is genetically determined, or has it been developed through experience? Nature or nurture? How about us humans, for that matter?
The question of experience versus genetics is one Geil Browning, Ph.D and Wendell Williams, Ph.D take very seriously. Together, they developed the Emergenetics assessment tool that scientifically measures thinking and behavior preferences, based on research into the fields of brain-science, psychometric evaluation and organizational development.
Their research indicates that we all have inborn traits to think and act in certain ways, and that these traits are modified and shaped as we interact with our environments. The combination of genetics and experience combine to create commonly recognizable personality traits.
Each Emergenetics assessment provides a scoring on four common Thinking Attributes (Analytical, Structural, Social, Conceptual) and three Behavioral Attributes (Expressiveness, Assertiveness, Flexibility).
My partner at Authentic Impact, Gordon Parry and I often joke that together we have a whole brain. My thinking preferences are strongly Analytical and Structural (just the facts, Ma’am, and let’s be organized about it), while his are Conceptual and Social (big, blue-sky picture and extremely friendly about it). I’m in the “first third” in Expressiveness, Assertiveness and Flexibility (some would say quiet and fixed) and he’s in the “third third” (engaging and easy-going). Early in our careers, we would likely have experienced a lot of conflict working together. Now we both appreciate the very different takes we have on most situations and realize just how beneficial our different perspectives and approaches are.
That’s the beauty of an assessment like Emergenetics. It helps to give us a vocabulary, or a language to describe our tendencies and to better understand and relate to the thought processes and behavior of others. In turn, this helps our relationships to run much more smoothly.
Now, if I can only find a canine-friendly version, although Taylor, Burton and Ben seem to sort it out just fine on their own without need for a lot of discussion. Just make sure you give each of them their own ice cream cone, and pretty smartly. No dawdling!