Knowing Yourself is the Beginning of Wisdom by Peter Metzner

Aristotle wrote that knowing yourself is the beginning of wisdom. In any relationship, whether it be work or professional, we need to feel that we have “enough” control over our lives and ability in getting our needs met.    A life skill is being able to assert what we need and to “train” others to treat us with the respect and consideration that we deserve.  To do this we have to believe that we are deserving, capable and worthy of getting respect.    We  need to be aware that if we don’t mindfully train people to treat us with respect then by default we may be doing it unconsciously.   Thus,  the question must be asked:  If I am not getting the respect or  consideration  I want – how am I training people to treat me?  For example if one is “too” nice, he or she trains people to take advantage of them.   What we experience in our relationships, whether it be work or personal is a co-creation.  When there is a conflict,  each plays a role in the situation non one wants.  Yet we are all too often blind to how we impact others while acutely aware of how the other person affects us.

Throughout History from the Greeks to modern day,  there appear to be four primary personality types.  Although there are differences in ways they are described with some approaches  having more depth and others describing similar aspects of personality in differing ways .. there is a striking thread that is common to each.

Below are the four quadrants that people fall under:

                                                                  Expressive, creative, Free Spirited orientation.


Relationship people orientation _________________|_____________________  Driver,  results orientation

(Soft Skills)                                                                                                    |                                                               (Hard skills)


                                                                                   Analytical, detail, task orientation

Most of us are a combination of two.  I bet y0u can pretty much pinpoint where you are on the grid.   For instance, I fit more in  the relationship and expressive quadrant which is ideal for my work as a coach,  trainer, writer and speaker/teacher.

We can’t know our selves until we know others and we can’t know others unless we know ourselves.   The maxim “know thyself” goes as far back as Socrates and is as important today as it was then.   Psychologist James Hollis stated, “The prevailing source of conflict between individuals arises from differences in personal typologies”  With the  knowledge of your template and insight into others template you can better relate, parent, manage, motivate, mentor, develop and work with others who are different than you.  Had I known this when I was a sales trainer, I could have doubled the universe of people I was effective with.    Also by understanding our own  template of how we view relationships, work and our communication style, we are in a position to have greater empathy, handle conflict more productively and be better able to form more collaborative working relationships as well as more rewarding personal ones.

A hallmark of psychological maturity is being able to fully accept yourself.  This enables us to be able to better accept others.  When we are healthy, we are able to be flexible in dealing with others and willing to own how we impact those around us.   If we slight or hurt someone, the appropriate response is to feel remorse and work at making things right.   Judging someone means we don’t understand them.  Typically we screen out the data or qualities that don’ match our judgement and act in ways that make the other person behave to justify how we already feel.    When we are able to let go of judging and be more “accepting” we can better deal with behaviors that may be unacceptable or counterproductive rather than blaming or shutting someone down.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow discovered – when our relationship needs are met we are freed to pursue higher levels needs like meaning and purpose.  For workplaces to be more productive and to be able to foster higher  performing teams and ‘Peak Performance;   ” a supportive environment allows individuals to work at  higher levels of complexity”.  Kurt Fischer PhD ( Harvard)

With most conflict arsing out of simple differences in personality type,  I am convinced that we all can  “learn” how to better get along with each other.  The next blog posting will address how each type deals with stress and how each may “trigger” the other into anger anger or withdrawal.    Stay tuned!


One thought on “Knowing Yourself is the Beginning of Wisdom by Peter Metzner

  1. I have a lot of work to do and I can live with that. Before taking our class I was aware of some difficulties I had with people but could not understand how I was actually the cause of some of those difficulties. Well, actually I was aware of how positive things in my life and behavior brought out negative responses in some others but I had no idea that being nice to people could cause them to behave so negatively. In order for me to accept that fact I have to accept that some people are as egregious (modern term) as I would rather not believe. As an example, I repair cars at home and in 15 years I’ve only had three customers who did not pay but recently I’ve had customers for whom I’ve completed jobs with bills near $1,000.00 and they have paid a little here and there. I have to blame myself for this because These two customers had asked if they could ‘pay along’ on the job. I agreed thinking that they would be paying while the work was in progress and would be paid out by the completion of the job. Well here I am in Dec. with $1,700.00 owed to me and these people are telling me things like “I have to save some money for Christmas” and ” I got a lot of things hitin’ me right here at Christmas”, as if I don’t. I have to own responsibility for this. Because I depend heavily on my shop work for income lately, I get nervous that I might not make a sale thus compromising better judgement. It is also clear to me that I played into someone’s hands who wants to get service without financial discomfort. Now I’ve had to call them and assert that I need to get these work orders paid by month end and they need to pick up their vehicles. To them I’ve become a bad guy now. Again, I set up this entire problem.

    I find Maslow’s discovery true in my life. I am void of a fruitful relationship at the moment and continue to exorcise the demons of my last one but when I have a good relationship my mind is liberated. School has been extremely difficult for me these past two years and I feel lucky to have the gpa that I have. It’s hard to write and study when one has memories of the past as well as the crouching tiger of present conflict waiting at the door.

    In my exam yesterday I mentioned that leaders should avoid the forming of in and out groups. Dr. Fischer above doesn’t say that specifically but when those groups form animosity usually follows and productivity crashes. My dream job if I ever had to go back into a corporation is to work for one of those companies I’ve heard about in the news that seems to want its employees to STAY. (Wish I could remember their names) one of them was a mail order shoe company.

Thank you for your feedbackl!

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