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That’s Not What I Meant

Thursday, September 26, 2019 11:28 AM | Anna Matheson (Administrator)

Written by: Bob Fogal, PhD, ACFRE, CAP

A challenge that all fundraising professionals face is how to engage donors and volunteers—and colleagues—whose personalities differ from our own.

Observing that “people differ” is a mundane statement. Such statements commonly show up, though, in discussions about others whom we consider a source of difficulty for us—those we might call “problem people.” When we elevate such observations to include social or demographic  groups, all kinds of biases and prejudices can surface that are not positive attributes in our profession.

Self awareness is essential for the self-management required to manage ourselves professionally.  As we each become clearer about what “makes me tick,” we can identify much more easily how others differ from us in personality and style. I have found that a theory called personality type, as defined and developed by Carl Jung a century ago, is still a good tool for enhancing our interpersonal communication and reducing unconscious characteristics of our personalities.

One key component of psychological type is how we perceive the world and take in information. We (and our volunteers, donors and colleagues) take in an almost infinite amount of information each day. Jung called the mental functions that we use to so this “sensing” and “intuiting.”

Individuals who learn primarily with sensing prefer to focus on individual facts and details. They prefer information and tasks that are organized and presented in an orderly manner. And they are likely to become impatient with complicated and future-oriented explanations and tasks that take a long time.

When we explore a deferred gift with a sensing prospect, therefore, we need to talk very specifically about what their gift will accomplish, sharing information in a well-organized way. The relative simplicity of charitable gift annuities appeals to sensing preference people.

Persons who absorb information with intuition focus on what facts mean and how they fit together. The want information to be introduced with the “big picture” before getting to the details—if you get to the details at all. They really like moving from one big idea to another, and may become impatient if they have to pay close attention to too many details along the way.

Gift officers who prefer sensing will relate easily to others who also learn through sensing. They will have to stretch their capacity, though, to talk “big picture” with intuitive learners. We accomplish this by practicing how to talk in more future-oriented and expansive ways. 

Conversely, intuitive gift officers will talk big picture easily with intuitive prospects, but will have to slow down their brains to pay attention to details and communicate them to others.

In both cases, gift officers will benefit from preparing and rehearsing how to express ourselves when talking with someone who has a preference different from our own. This will test how well what we’re saying and how we’re saying it connects with someone whose preferences contrast with ours.

In a future column, I will discuss further how our preferences impact our interpersonal communication and the decision-making process.


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